How Your Phone Will Make You a Better Photographer


Phone photography has come a long way since its flip phone origins. Today, you might not even be able to tell the difference between a photo taken by a phone and a dedicated camera.

I always encourage experimenting with phone photography. Without the extra gear, phone photography can be a great way to hone fundamental skills and techniques. In this article and video, I’ll be demonstrating how you can use mobile photography to become a better photographer. I’ll be photographing three different scenes on the phone, then translating the technique to my dedicated camera, the Canon EOS R5 paired with the 28-70mm f/2L lens.

For a full course dedicated entirely to mobile photography, check out Creative Photography 101 from SLR Lounge Premium. Let’s dive in.

Scene 1: Getting Close To Your Subject

Let’s start with this flower bush. A simple walk-up shot like this might be a little bland and uninteresting.

This is when the small size of the phone becomes useful. I got right up against the bush and focused on the bees buzzing around. I switched to the telephoto lens and composed so that the flowers fill the background. After waiting for the bee to fly to a good position, I got this photo.

Notice the shallow depth of field without using portrait mode. I was close enough to the subject with the telephoto lens that the depth of field was naturally shallow, causing the bokeh.

Next, I switched over to the Canon EOS R5 with the 28-70mm f/2L. This is my go-to camera setup due to its versatility and range in focal length that loosely mirrors the phone. Here’s the initial walk-up shot with the R5 compared to the image taken on the phone.

Left: iPhone; Right: Canon EOS-R

I followed the same principles using the R5. Side by side, we can see the similarities. Simply by getting close to the subject and finding something to focus on, we ended up with a much better photo. Let’s move onto the next scene.

Scene 2: Framing a Landscape

Left: iPhone; Right: Canon EOS-R

When we see a large landscape, we want to capture the whole thing. However, what our eyes see is much different from how our cameras see the same scene. I took the photo with both cameras and the shots were uninteresting with nothing to focus in on.

To get a better image, let’s first find a better vantage point. Then, find something interesting to focus on. With large landscapes, the trick is to find a specific portion of the landscape rather than try to capture the whole place. I found this curving shoreline much more interesting and decided to capture a photo of that.

I rotated the phone to get low to the ground and include some foreground.

I shot the same image on the R5. I tried wide-open first, but I wanted to include more foreground like the phone so I took the same shot at f/5.6 instead.

Left: iPhone; Right: Canon EOS-R

Take a look at the photos side by side. The quality of the iPhone photo is just stunning and the overall scene is much better than the first walk-up shot we took.

Scene 3: Selective Composition With Grids

The horizon line is placed in the middle of the frame.

Like the other photos, our first instinct is to capture this bulls-eye shot. We shoot with the widest lens possible and center the horizon.

Grid settings on the native iPhone camera app, LR Mobile, and the Canon EOS-R (L to R)

This is a good time to use the grid. Your camera settings should have this option regardless of the device. Adobe Lightroom Mobile even provides different grid choices.

Use either the top or bottom third line to line up the horizon. Your image will then focus on either the detailed landscape or the dramatic sky. Decide which element is most interesting to you and let that guide your final image.

I preferred the texture in the rocks and used the top third line and went even slightly further. This way, I captured as much of the rocks as possible using the Ultra-Wide lens on my phone.

The different horizon line positions.

On the R5, I used the widest focal length, which was 28mm. I captured the three different images: The bulls-eye, the sky, and the rocks.

Left: iPhone; Right: Canon EOS-R

I closed the aperture a touch to capture more foreground and waited for the perfect wave. Compare the final images from both cameras.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this article/video. For a good challenge, I encourage you to use your phone more often to capture your images. Not only can you take great pictures, it’ll also help you focus on the core principles of photography. Then, translate these tips and techniques over to a dedicated camera and watch your photography improve drastically. For a full course on mobile photography, be sure to check out Creative Photography 101 from SLR Lounge Premium. There, we teach the fundamentals and techniques behind mobile phone photography and the incredible images they’re capable of capturing. Comment below what you’d like to see next and we’ll see you next time!



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