Smartphone Photographer Mario Toon Interview (Mobile Creator Series)

So, what kind of photographer do you need to be to win contests from companies like Moment?

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A post shared by Mario Toon (@mario_toon)

Well, we decided to talk to Mario Toon, who won Moment’s #superwidechallenge to find out! He’s a self-proclaimed amateur mobile photographer who has some interesting insights into the game.


Mobile Creator's Series


MCS is an initiative to discover and highlight photographers pioneering mobile photography. It’s a series of interviews and collaborations that highlight the potential of smartphones and the innovation of the people using them to push the envelope of traditional photography.

The goal is to inspire new photographers to think outside the box – to create with the tools you have available. Secondarily, we want to dispel the notion that smartphones aren’t comparable to conventional cameras. The artists featured are our evidence.

Without further ado, meet Mario.


Mario Toon (@mario_toon)
Mario Toon (@mario_toon)


So, you may be interested to know that Mario’s Instagram feed is more yoga-centered than phone photography centered.

If that’s the case, then why did we include him?

Well, the thing about phone photography is that it’s much easier than DSLR or mirrorless. As a result, there are comparatively lots more amateur phone photographers. Hell, anyone is an amateur phone photographer – from your Instagram slaying sister to your construction project scouting dad.

In Mario’s case, however, his past experience in art and design makes him more of a pro in the ranks of the amateurs. He’s got pro-level chops too (remember, he won the Moment Super Wide Challenge!).

You’re going to want to stick around for this.

Here’s the obvious question – do you choose to use a smartphone for photography instead of a traditional camera? Is it a full replacement or just a supplement?

To be honest, I’ve never used a DSLR. I was never big on photography due to the preconception that to take good photos, you need expensive and bulky equipment.

My prior education in art and design has taught me that you don’t even need “good” equipment to take good photos. The fact that smartphone cameras weren’t that great until the recent few years has led to a delay in getting into phone photography.

I stumbled upon lenses created by Moment through a friend about a year ago when I started getting interested in mobile photography. My current set up, of a smartphone and a few Moment lenses, is the only set up I’ve had since I picked up photography as a hobby.

Do you think smartphones offer any significant advantages over traditional cameras? Are there serious shortcomings, in your opinion?

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A post shared by Mario Toon (@mario_toon)

I’m no tech buff, but I’m quite sure the quality of photos smartphones can produce nowadays are definitely comparable to DSLRs. The most significant advantage of phones for me is definitely the ease of use. My smartphone is always with me and ready for me to snap a photo whenever inspiration strikes.

As a hobbyist, I wouldn’t say there are any shortcomings in smartphone photography compared to traditional cameras. Of course, the ability to handle the right tool makes a difference, but from what I’ve seen, it’s about capturing the right moment through the understanding of color, light, and composition.

In terms of technology, I’d say the only shortcoming that I’ve experienced is the overly simple, bare-bone Camera app that comes with smartphones (hint, try a different one – there are great free options).

(If necessary: ) How do you overcome the drawbacks of smartphone photography?

I’ve downloaded a bunch of different camera apps to see which one suits my needs.

So far, the Moment Pro Camera app works the best for me, mainly since they’re meant for Moment Lenses.

Smartphones are more than just cameras – they can edit and publish photos too. Do you use any other phone features in the course of your work?

I use photo editing apps to do slight tweaks to the pictures I take. While pre-set filters are fun and all, sometimes what a well-taken picture needs is just a small push in the right direction in terms of colors to make it really pop.

I’m actually planning to buy an iPad, so I can edit my pictures on a bigger screen.

Do you think there is any gear that is critical to enabling mobile photography? What is it? Why?

Being an amateur-hobbyist phone photographer, I don’t think there’s any gear that’s overly crucial for anyone to start shooting with a smartphone. Instead, I believe developing an eye for good shots matter more, along with a solid grasp of the foundations of what makes a good picture.

I don’t want to sound like I’m being sponsored by Moment (I’m not!), but having some lens and filters handy helped me a lot. When I first got my Moment lenses, I always asked myself, “How would this shot look like through this lens? What about that one?”

Asking these types of questions and doing some experimenting got me exploring different compositions with several lenses.

Any secret tricks or techniques you can share for people interested in improving their mobile photography?

I think it was my a teacher in art school that once told me, “It’s not the tools that make the artist,” and I still firmly believe in that.

Have a solid understanding of composition. Dropping a boatload of cash on expensive equipment won’t matter if you don’t know how to shoot a good picture.

Any final words of advice to aspiring photographers?

Experiment, and don’t feel disappointed when your pictures look like shit. Figure out why it doesn’t look right, and make the next shot better.

It took about 15-20 crappy shots before I took the winning photo of Moment’s Super Wide Challenge.

I kind of knew what I wanted, so when the shots came out unsatisfactory, I tried to shoot the scene from different angles, with different lenses.

I’m just happy I caught something I was satisfied with and that people liked it too.

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