Smartphones. How to reach fine quality photographs in few steps.
“The best camera is the one you have with you” standard quote of Chase Jarvis (Pulitzer Winner)
“The best camera is the one you have in the pocket” my quote… but how perform good quality PHOTOGRAPHS with a mobile phone? So here, I’m giving enough knowledge, tips and examples-on-field to promote shooting with mobile phones, according my experience of about 5 years shooting with mobile phones.
VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: BEAR IN MIND THAT MOBILE PHONE PHOTOS WILL NEVER OVERLAP THE QUALITY OF YOUR CAMERA, DUE TO MANY TECHNICAL REASONS. (SENSORS, LENSES AND SO ON)
I will talk about PROFESSIONAL photos and not SNAP so all the software that I’m talking about is PRO-APP.
Proceeding by steps:
1 - KNOW YOUR CAMERA AND SETTINGS ( AT HOME PREPARATION )
Like a normal camera we have to clearly understand what we have in our pocket and how we can improve our photographs with quick settings in the menu.
I actually use a SAMSUNG S7EDGE so far my tips basing on ANDROID system but I think that also I-phone users could take some inspirational ideas.
a. RAW/JPG – modern mobile phones can shoot even in Raw so set your camera at max quality possible and chance to shoot both raw and jpg. (photo n.1) .
b. PRO MODE – it works like a low-cost compact cameras as you can manage ISO, WB, SHUTTER SPEED, and most important MANUAL FOCUS ( photo n.2 and n.3). I don’t waste time to set automatic focus or zone one even if is quick as a speed of light.
c. HYPER FOCAL COMPUTES AND FOCUS ARRANGEMENTS – I’m using the free-app “PHOTOGRAPHER COMPANION’S” whenever I’ve got doubts about focusing (photo n.4). I set my sensor details and save my lens preset (photo n.5)
d. BATTERY AND SD CARDS – one of the problem of the modern smartphone ins the battery life and the storage. When I’m supposing to shoot with mobile I have with me always a flat shaped power-bank. High-speed sd card are of course the winner in that case, and up to my experience a 32 GB one is more than enough also to store for a while the photos once processed and to manage the APP installed in the phone. Before starting order to spare battery I cutting off wi-fi or BT connections, GPS and sometimes I’m able also to lower the brightness of the screen, but only when I’m pretty sure about my actual light exposition. My habit is to listen music during my shot and I found out a good reader named “Jet Audio” that owns a good quality and does not drink your battery as a Ferrari.
2 - TO USE( AT HOME PREPARATION)
There’s so many APP in the Play Store about photography … but those are the best solution to pushing your photos to the limit. Nothing is free about professional photography, so it is a waste of time to try to find out the cheaper or the free app around the store. This is my bag:
a. BUILT-IN-CAMERA of the mobile phone is the best one. You can easily update and never crash, and who knows the potentials of your cam better than the producers do? Only you isn’t?
b. Already talk about “PHOTOGRAPHER’S COMPANION’S” mentioned in the 1.c of this article.
c. LIGHTROOM FOR MOBILE – It costs 5 coffees per month but it worthy for many reasons. First at all is the editing quality of your photographs, it works directly on RAW as CAMERA RAW in Photoshop. It owns same options basically. So don’t waste time to find-out other (free) app that converts your photos in tiff or png or in other formats. Those kind of APP do not take in consideration lens aberrations, colours or exposure mode of you mobile phone camera and you have to kill yourself order to understand how to manage lately that issue. Forget Snapseed if you want to let your photo being destroyed. It is a good (free) APP for play, not of course a professional one. LR also save the photo in a cool HiRES quality readable for all APP and is able to manage your projects in a proper way with a nice system of folders. You can save photos also in ADOBE CLOUD spearing some space in the SD card. Sad to say that there is no chance to load your presets but you can make new one, save the contents, copy and paste your creation in the next photograph.
d. VSCO-X is of course the best app order to create and simulate Classic Films and the editing tools is very powerful. In the last update there’s also the chance to manage HLS colours but you have always be careful to don’t exaggerate order not to destroy your previous work in LR session. Bad things that is not free so the film pre-sets have a cost and at the moment there’s no chance for the Android Users to work directly with the RAW, but it seems (talking to developers in California) that soon that issue will be solved. As “X” member of VSCO you can access in several services, new film filters and a web platform of sharing photos together with other world-wide users therefore, it is a cool APP to enchant your photographs make friends and get inspired!
e. PHOTOSHOP EXPRESS – This is an amazing free app from Adobe where you can make the final adjustments in your photo edit. Correction of light and colour noise, fog, exposition and contrasts, light, shadowing, black\white , saturation and so on with some pre-set free to use. One of the best thing is that you can save photo at the resolution you wish (photo n.6)
3 - BEHAVIOUR ( ON FIELD )
In my experience, shooting with mobile phone is quite different despite with a camera. Sometimes I feel like have a RICOH GR 2 in my hands. I feel more focused in details, and comfortable as I look around and I see that all guys and girls, young and old people, tourists and locals shooting with a mobile phone without shy and actually I don’t care if I am in an empty square or inside a crowded subway. Smiling and shooting, sometimes I follow also tourist groups to feel free to shoot if I want perform portraits or close-up. Less you appear as a photographer, more you can feel free to take photos even at 20 cm from your subject!
4 - LET’S SHOOTING! ( ON FIELD )
Good camera helps photographer to perform good photo, but everyone knows that it is 50/50 true (or wrong). Without a proper eyes training, we will never able to perform interesting and story-telling or street photos in that case. I assume that the term “composition” is well known from whom is reading my article.
Therefore, I take that shot yesterday inside Metro at Rome, so artificial lights with my mobile phone this is a screen shot from the RAW ( photo n.7 ). Exif are: F1,7 ISO200 SS1/180 – the shot is perfectly focused, but maybe a little underexposed, but I decided anyhow to work the file as I love that shot.
5 - POST EDITING ( ON FIELD \ AT HOME )
a. So I first open my raw in the LIGHTROOM APP and start my processing to light a little more the scene, adjusting some shadows and let the photo less green due to the White Balance that sometimes is not “perfect” ( photos n. 8,9,10). That kind of processing last 5 minutes max and finally I save my work (photo n. 11 ).
b. Therefore it is time to use VSCO-X ( photo n. 12, 13 ) so I decide to simulate a KODAK GOLD 200 FILM (photo n.14) , and adjust a little some tones in that preset order give character to my photo. It takes roughly 2 minutes to adjust. And save photo for the next step.
c. I open the photo with the ADOBE PHOTOSHOP EXPRESS order to make the final adjustments of noise reductions, lights and shadows contrasts, at the end to “clean” my photo in case of noise, as total 5 minutes of processing (photo n.16, 17)
NOTE: before to start this last process check in the settings the format desired for save the photo (photo n.6) as later on you cannot do that!
Of course the step b. and c. could be bypassed if you think that LR process is enough !
So in 15 minutes or less the results is quite good from my point of view. You have a photo share-ready in social networks or in a better case for you, for the editor of a newspaper waiting for the shoot (photo n.18 - screenshot).
I hope you enjoyed my tips and get ready for next Topics!
Davide Dalla Giustina for Progressive-Street community