Mobile Phone Photography

Late last year my friend Gary gave me his old iPhone after he’d had an upgrade. The ideas was for me to get used to using it as a media tool for when we’re out and about and want to upload photographs, tweets, news, status updates etc.
The introduction of smart phones with decent internet access has seen quite a revolution in the constant use of phones by people on the go. You can keep in touch with what is going on constantly with friends, or around the world in the news. For me, having use of an iPhone has proved to be far more about the photography side. With various camera apps offering lens and film effects, it’s been quite a revelation.

There are some who obviously don’t like what has become known as iphoneography. A friend was critical of one of my first posts on Facebook as he said you can tell it’s from an iPhone. To me this doesn’t matter. In that photo i captured an image with an old effect that i’d been trying to get for a while. It was on a beach in Kent whilst visiting a friend, so i can’t keep going back over and over to try and create what i was after. The phone app and a little simple editing was all it took in the end. Of course it doesn’t have to size and quality that the DSLR offers, but it did get what i wanted.

Dymchurch Beach

A beach scene in Kent with an old fashioned look similar to what i'd been after for a while.

One of my favourite apps has proved to be the Hipstamatic. With several lenses and films it offers a very wide range of effects via different combinations. Each combination also reacts differently depending on the light. They may work well in sunlight, but not as well when overcast. Whilst this makes it complicated trying to remember what works best, and when, it does mean having to experiment, and photography has always been about experimentation.


An example of a light leak effect from the lens.

As some of the old style camera apps use the square format, it has forced me to look at how i compose an image. The square format is not new of course, but it’s not what i have become accustomed to using. Again this has made me look closer at what i want in the image.

The phone app has made me look at how i wanted the shoe in the frame with the shadow. I think it works well.

Beached Shoe!

The square format made have to think differently as to how i wanted the shoe and shadow in the frame. I think this works well.

Fish & Chips........

I also took this photo on my DSLR, but i felt this composition worked better in the square format.

I’ve also taken to trying out the iPhone in the streets. Again there purists out there who don’t seem to agree with this, but there also a growing number of people who are using mobile phones for street photography. The slowness of the camera seems poor against a DSLR, but it does make you try and look harder for the moment as you have to think ahead a little more. The lens also give serious restrictions when the light is low, but it’s fun trying it out.


With the sun on the crowds of shoppers the camera coped quite well.


Although this had the low winter light coming from behind the subject, and it was starting to get rather dull in the afternoon, i think the camera copes fairly well.

I also sometimes use the Leme Cam app. It again has a few lens effects, as well as different cameras. Here i tried it indoors in a shopping mall. In the low light it comes out a little abstract.


Taken looking down an escalator.

Back to the Hipstamatic.
Outdoors it copes well with a landscape. There’s plenty of texture in the wall, and again the square format works well.


Quite a nice moody landscape.

A couple more nicely composed moody images taken outdoors.

Power lines

A nice dark brooding sky with the power lines stretching across the frame.


A lovely dark brooding tree photo.

This one is a little different, i’d just downloaded the infra-red film for the Hipstamatic and wanted to experiment as i was walking the dog. I thought this one worked quite well with a late afternoon light with the sky starting to cloud over.


An experiment with the infra-red style fim effect.

The last two photos are of the setting sun. The first is again taken using the Hipstamatic. It shows the square format in use again, and also the way the colour can work with an old film effect.
The second shows a regular photo. It’s taken using King Camera, though it could just as easily been taken on the plain camera on the phone, or something like Camera+. It has very very little editing, and goes to show what a camera phone is capable of, even though this old iPhone doesn’t have the greatest camera built in compared to the latest version, or some other camera phones available.


I really like the effect of this looking into the sunset.


For all the effects that are available on the iPhone via camera apps and film and lens effects, and also post processing, sometimes you just have to go with what nature gives us as it's so wonderfully beautiful!

Most of these photos have had very little post processing, though there are quite powerful apps that can be used, and most of the ones here have been edited on the phone, if at all. You can of course take the photos off the phone and edit them on a PC or laptop. For me it’s been a learning curve without trying to look at the editing side too much.

All in all i’ve had fun so far with the iPhone. The camera may not be the best, and there’s a lack of versatility that you’d get with even a compact camera, let alone a DSLR. But the camera apps add something extra. Of course there are those who will spurn the apps as gimmicky, or not real photography, but to me it’s about trying to create an interesting and/or attractive image. It’s about art. It’s about experimenting. It’s not about who has the best camera, or the best lenses, it’s about using the tool in your hand to the best you can. Of course i still take out the DSLR, it has features that the phone doesn’t. It has lenses to offer greater options, such as wide angle, or telephoto. I can make nice large RAW images. The quality is so much greater, but sometimes it’s not practical to carry around, and so you make do with what you have. A mobile phone with various apps is certainly a tool that can be used to create art, so i for one will be supporting the use of the camera phone as a true photographic tool.



About PurpleT

Much of my photography is art and documentary. I try to capture a scene as i see it in my mind, whether that be black and white, colour, or somewhere in between. I try to make an interesting, and/or attractive image from what i see around me, not just what would be expected, but also subjects that would be seen boring, mundane, or ugly by many. But they all have an interest as art photography. I have also spent nearly twenty years working as a life model, then the human figure in art is very important to me, and is something i try to bring into my work at times.
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4 Responses to Mobile Phone Photography

  1. Cory Bellamy says:

    I enjoyed this post. I’m fascinated by the possibilities with Hipstamatic and iPhone Photography in general. Thanks for the post!

    • PurpleT says:

      Thank you, i’m glad you enjoyed it. There’s so much more than i posted here, but i wanted to keep this simple in the hope it would encourage people to have a go.

  2. Gary Austin says:

    it is kind of strange how in photography its all about lenses and which camera (Nikon Vs Canon) yet no one seems to care what materials a sculpter used or what brushes are used to paint a canvas or watercolour!

    • PurpleT says:

      One painter can have all the very best brushes money can buy, then you get Jackson Pollock suddenly throwing paint around. I see people painting with a stick instead of a brush. I’ve even seen people drawing with grass and leaves. Students have made models of me using sticks they cut with a hacksaw.
      It’s what you do with the tool that counts, rather than the tool itself.

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