One of the great things about photography is the abundance of resources and equipment catered to sharpening your skills. With so many options, however, buying equipment can sometimes get a bit overwhelming, especially for those who are just beginning their photography journey.
When it comes to smartphone photography, the resources and the equipment can be even more confusing. Why? Well, mobile phone photography as a discipline hasn’t been around in its current state for very long. As a result, the terminology and equipment are rapidly developing and changing, whereas DSLR is not.
So, let’s take some time to discuss why you should choose mobile phone photography and which style of photographer you should become.
Why Mobile Phone Photography is the Best Photography
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “DSLRs have been around for decades – if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”
Well, we would argue that at this point, smartphones have been around for quite some time too. Haven’t they made some pretty serious leaps as well? For example, did you know that by 2003 phone cameras outsold digital cameras, and by 2006 they did the same to film and digital cameras combined? It was at this point too that phone companies start prioritizing camera quality. Fast forward 14 years, and you have to assume that smartphones have triumphed, right?
Wrong! The stigma associated with smartphone photography is alive and well, but we’re doing everything we can to bury it. The fact that the newest smartphones feature four or more 100+MP cameras certainly helps to increase the legitimacy of the discipline. Smartphone photography accessories are improving too. For example, add on a Moment lens plus some other gear, and DSLR quality is more than in reach – it’s beatable.
So, become a mobile phone photographer and get some gear! Why would you treat your smartphone photography any differently than traditional photography?
Who is the Smartphone Photographer?
So, you’re ready to begin your journey as a mobile phone photographer, but what does that mean exactly? Well, as far as we’re concerned, mobile phone photographers:
- prioritize the ease of use and cost-effectiveness of their gear. Why would you spend an extra $1000 on photography equipment to have someone with a new smartphone show you up? It’s embarrassing – choose the easier-to-use option.
- need to get out and adventure. It’s much easier to travel with a smartphone and its gear than with a DSLR and its equipment. Seriously, the former can fit into a fanny pack, whereas the latter requires dedicated bags that are cumbersome as all get out. If you want to travel – and we mean tents and hostels, not four-star hotels – then smartphone photography is the only way to go.
- are tech-forward. The technology in smartphones improves leaps and bounds with each passing year. Those of us who have made the switch see the writing on the wall – smartphone cameras will eventually get to the quality of a DSLR (note – some people say 2020s best smartphones already have).
- create seriously excellent content. Don’t believe us? Check out the Mobile Creator Series to get to know some of the best content creators in the game and learn how it is they do what they do.
Based on these couple characteristics, do you have what it takes to make it as a smartphone photographer? Or, do you want to stick with the boring traditional option?
Where to start as a mobile phone photographer?
When getting into mobile phone photography, you may want to take a moment to reflect on a few simple questions and concepts. Taking this time will help you save lots of time and money by starting with the correct essentials.
To make things easier, we’ve come up with a few simple questions to help you narrow down your interests, your level of devotion, and what to buy within your budget.
Smartphone Photography for Beginners Tip #1 – What’s your inspiration?
First and foremost, discover what inspires you! Getting creative with your photography is much easier when you enjoy what you are photographing. Fortunately for you, when it comes to what you can shoot with a smartphone, the possibilities are endless.
Here are just some options available to you.
If you enjoy being around people and you are outgoing, for instance, you may want to consider portraiture. Portraiture can be a lot of fun if you are a friendly person because you get to meet lots of great people and learn a lot about them.
A great portrait photograph tells a story about the person you are photographing, and this can be exceptionally rewarding once you have acquired the skills to pull this off. Portraiture also has a wide range of applications, including (but not limited to): senior portraits, weddings, and fashion. Smartphone portrait photography could be a great route if you are considering photography as a profession.
If you are like me and enjoy adventure, then you may want to consider landscape photography.
I find this to be the most satisfying type of photography because it allows me to slow down and appreciate my surroundings. As a landscape photographer, I have the privilege of recording beautiful places accompanied by stunning conditions.
Landscape photography can be very technical – it often requires lots of planning and a little bit of luck. Some landscape photographs necessitated that I revisit the same scene hundreds of times before I captured the shot I was looking for. As a result, the rush I get when all my hard work and planning finally pay off is unbelievably rewarding.
Smartphone Still Life Photography
If landscapes and portraiture aren’t really your thing, then maybe you’re looking for still life photography.
Still life photography is a great place to start for someone with OCD tendencies since still life often requires you to stage your subject and your studio light – which inherently requires incredible attention for detail.
It’s a rewarding option financially as well; you can get into advertising and e-commerce photography, naturally. There are lots of gigs for freelancers in product photography, so a great smartphone still life photographer can make some serious cash. The upside is that you’re saving money on equipment, so your profit margins could be higher!
Perhaps the most unique style of smartphone photography is macro. Imagine, being able to see 10x what your naked eye can see. Well, with a decent macro lens, you’ll be able to do just that. And, it’s a hell of a lot less expensive than a DSLR macro lens would be.
There are a myriad of options out there when it comes to smartphone macro photography lenses, but there are two really worth mentioning. The higher-quality option is the Moment 10x Macro, and boy does it perform. Moment is the pinnacle of smartphone photography lenses – period. Their macro offering delivers as expected.
If, on the other hand, you just want to dip your toes into the water of mobile phone macro without spending an arm and a leg, then Magniband is worth checking out. For $8, you can get precisely what you need to try macro photography, and it slips over your phone just like a rubber band!
The thing about shooting macro photography is that your subjects tend to small, and you must be able to get down to their level. As a result, being in a decent physical condition is to your advantage if you want to try macro photography on your mobile phone. Note also that sometimes the best macro subjects are creepy crawlies, so if you don’t like bugs, then this may not be the style of photography for you.
Taking photos of things that move quickly on your smartphone is tricky, but certainly not impossible. With the introduction of features like Apple’s Burst Mode on most modern cameras, shooting action photography is easier than ever before.
While a GoPro or some other action-cam may be enticing, how frequently are you really going to use it? Your smartphone is with you at all times and does a surprisingly good job capturing movement. Why waste the money on a single-use piece of equipment? Add a smartphone tripod, a smartphone microphone, and a remote camera shutter with the money you saved. That’ll up your content creation for sure.
As with macro photography, it’s in your best interest to be in good physical shape. If you want to keep up with a football match or active pooch, then you’ll probably need to be able to run a couple of miles without stopping to ensure exhaustion doesn’t affect your photography.
Maybe smartphone photography isn’t your style. Perhaps you like to capture more complete moments instead of just snapshots. This manner of thinking is totally ok – actually, it may be preferred.
Have you ever heard of the term content creator? Essentially, a content creator is someone who, you guessed it, creates content for the internet (i.e., websites, social media, etc.). But the ambiguity of the thing is part of what makes creating content so appealing – you create the content you put want to. You can adapt your skills to work for any number of clients. Content creators take photos, yes, but also rely heavily on video, so it’s a helpful skill to have.
Have you considered a smartphone-controlled drone to improve your video? In 2020 most content creators include drone footage, and you should consider it too!
Smartphone Photography for Beginners Tip #2 – Find your smartphone photography niche!
I covered some of the broadest categories of photography; however, some specialized niches and categories overlap (portrait landscapes, anybody?).
The point is, there is a photography niche for everyone. The earlier you discover your niche, the better off you are because at least then you aren’t wasting your money on the wrong equipment. Instead, you’ll be putting more of your time and effort into something at which you’ll succeed.
A great tip for finding your perfect niche is to use Instagram and Pinterest’s search tools. You can find like-minded people who are succeeding and work to emulate or surpass them. These tools will also give you a chance to see how saturated your prospective niches are. It’s best to find a niche that you’re both passionate about and that you stand a chance of succeeding in.
Smartphone Photography for Beginners Tip #3 – How far do you want to take it?
Now that you have a better idea of what type of photography interests you, take some time to consider your level of devotion. Is photography something you consider a hobby, or is it something you want as a profession? Check out the figures above – how do these numbers compare to what you currently make? Then be sincere with yourself, do you have the skills necessary to be a professional smartphone photographer?
There’s no black and white answer to this question. Consider that most professional photographers (including myself) start as hobbyists before they decide photography is something they want to do full time.
As a disclaimer, becoming a professional photographer is exceptionally difficult, and it can be cost-prohibitive. I generally encourage beginners to try photography as a hobby before thinking about pursuing it further. It’s important to know which side of the fence you are on, so you can make sure you are getting equipment tailored to fit your needs.
Smartphone Photography for Beginners Tip #4 – Save money on camera equipment!
On that subject, you’re jumping into an expensive hobby. Not trying to scare you away, but it’s essential to consider your budget. How much are you willing to put in? Do you want it to be an investment that will pay itself off or one just for your pleasure?
“The best camera is the one you have with you.” That’s sage advice. Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new camera, use the thousand-dollar camera you have in your pocket already!
Most new phones have cameras better than the top of the line traditional camera models from 5 years ago. Take advantage of that. Learn how to use editing software – here are our favorite free options to get you started – and maybe grab a couple of lenses to step up your game. Or, consider a smartphone photography bundle to outfit yourself with everything you’ll need to begin making high-quality content.
Smartphone Photography Contests + Courses
If you like a challenge, you might even try your skills and luck with a few contests and giveaways. It sounds crazy, but my buddy won a professional camera bundle from an Instagram contest sponsored by Sony and The Photo Society. If he can do it, anyone can.
Viewbug is also an excellent resource for contests. You’ve got nothing to lose for trying!
Do you have any tips for helping new photographers jump into this rewarding hobby? Are you one of those new people who need a bit more advice? Hit us up in the comments below!