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Viewfinder: 001 — 4.10.19

Accepting Mobile Photography

A snowboarder rides a couloir in Colorado. We happened to have an overlook of the line just as this rider dropped in and I was able to get the shot. A lucky moment and a photo that has me stoked on more days in the mountains with a camera.
Let’s talk about mobile photography. For the past two-ish years as my interest in photography grew, my ire for mobile photography grew with it. There’s an entitled purist mindset that I think comes with initial interest in photography. That the tools you use matter, your gear matters. Just like everyone wants Lebron’s shoes everyone wants to know what camera and lens their favorite photographer uses. Because maybe if you get that same gear your photos will look like theirs.

I’ve gotten sucked into the GAS vortex myself. GAS is Gear Acquisition Syndrome, a fun little name in the online photo community referring to focusing more on gear than the photos themselves. “I’ve got bad GAS.” Mine has gotten worse as well since I got into film photography. I see Rosie Matheson’s portraits and want an RZ67, or Joe Greer’s incredible photographs from India and want a Leica. 

But then I find I’m my own contradiction. Many of my favorite photos were taken on a Pentax K1000. An entry level film camera from the ‘70s which is by all accounts unspectacular. Or I’ll come back from shooting and to my chagrin will want to post an iPhone version of a photo I took over the file I have on my DSLR. 

The reality I’m finally accepting is the only thing that matters is the photo itself. Gear truly doesn’t matter unless you have a specific need that can’t be accomplished otherwise such as making large prints.

This acceptance has been freeing for me because I’ve started to view my phone as an asset for creating photos and becoming a better photographer. Phone cameras are so simple the focus can only be on the photo itself. Composition, lighting, subject. It’s also made me think critically about why I do what I do. It’s helped me understand why I love shooting on film and how to work towards transferring the qualities of my film work to my digital work. What I love about a photo when I see it beyond what it was shot with. 

All this to say: Your phone is even more powerful than you think. Here are some quick tips to help you take better photos on your phone:
  • Choose a subject: A nice view doesn’t always mean nice photos. I used to take random phone pics of every overlook I went to in the mountains and was disappointed with the results. Choosing a subject for your image can help you focus your composition and make a better photo.
  • Shooting photos with the sun at your back will light your subject well. The more basic your camera is the bigger difference good lighting has, and phones can struggle shooting into the sun without losing the shadows. 
  • Look for soft light: Overcast days, shooting around sunrise/sunset, shaded areas during bright days. 
  • Use portrait mode if you have it. Seriously it’s pretty mind-blowing how good it is and how much depth it can add to your photos.
  • Simple edits can go a long way. Download VSCO, Snapseed, or even some of Instagram’s built-in presets can do a decent job. Learning basic photo editing can take you far (contrast, highlights, shadows, temperature) and you can experiment with it right in Instagram or any of the apps mentioned above.
The best camera is truly the one you have with you. So don’t sell it short. 

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In the spirit of mobile photography, my share this week is John Bozinov. He's a polar expedition photographer who only posts iPhone shots on his feed and they are absolutely stunning. Check out his work to inspire your use of your phone. 

That's it for this week, thanks for reading. I'm looking forward to sharing this journey with you, to share photos and talk in-depth about photo topics that interest me. I'd also like to see some of your work and learn about your interest in photography. Feel free to reply with some of that if you're up for it. See you next week!

-Al
Copyright © 2019 Alex Eaton, All rights reserved.


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