It’s easy to dismiss our iPhone (or mobile phone) cameras, after all they are hidden in plain sight and right there every time we “slide to unlock” our phones. So you can’t take any “real” pictures with them, right? Perhaps you’re one of the many photographers who thinks that it’s not a “real” camera and that, to get the best images photographically you really need to lug around a giant DSLR complete with all of the lenses you can fit into your pack. Even Ansel Adams had to use a mule to carry his camera gear at one point, right? So how could something some small and easy to use actually take acceptable images?
Well, iPhone cameras, photography, and optics in general, have changed over the years. Gone are the days of needing large camera equipment camera manufacturers and modern optics have dictated that we are now doing more with less. Combine that with the notion that a seasoned photographer will know how to make best use of equipment, whatever equipment he or she has available, and you have a recipe for some great images. Sure, it’s great to have a DSLR available, and most iPhone photographers will still have one at their disposal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also take some great images and make some lasting artwork with your new little buddy, the iPhone camera.
As a working photographer, I play to the strengths of all of my equipment. In the days of old, large format cameras gave me crisp, highly detailed images but they were heavy and hard to work with in tight situations. Likewise, 35mm cameras were great for shooting street scenes because they allowed the photographer to go unnoticed in the urban jungle. Medium format cameras offered a compromise of sorts-they offered large enough negatives so that we could retouch images but in a smaller, easy to carry package. Polaroids gave us instant results so these were often used to test lighting but then their color gamut helped turn them into a funky alternative to “straight” shooting. Now the iPhone cameras have come along and opened up some new possibilities.
The iPhone is portable, easy to use, easy to hide, and not as scary as a “real” camera. The structure of the phone makes the camera easy to angle. If you want to take a picture of the undercarriage of your car, for example, good luck trying to get an 8×10 view camera down there, but, an iPhone? Yes, you can easily hold it and tilt it to get the right camera angle. Also, the convenience of deleting images you don’t like is offered along with easy access to sharing photos with the Internet and social media sites such as Facebook. Trying taking an image using an 8×10 view camera from shot to Facebook in under a few minutes-that’s not likely to happen though, of course, the results will probably be very different. So, if it’s large crisp negatives you’re after, well, you probably want to pass on the iPhone camera anyway, but you can use it to work the angles and get some shots that otherwise would not be available to you as a photographer.
So how to play into the strengths of the iPhone camera? Well, for starters, it’s easy to hold and it fits in your pocket. If you’re one of those photographers who would benefit from shooting a lot more and reviewing your results more, the iPhone can come in very handy here. You should think about adding one to your camera bag if you haven’t already.
The iPhone camera is also easy to get away with. Because so many people have iPhones and mobile phones in general, some establishments that would otherwise ban photography might allow you to get away with taking iPhone images. Supposing you’ve always wanted to take images inside a theater, for example. This is not the kind of place you would be able to sneak in a camera, probably not even a DSLR, but most folks walk right in with iPhones in tow so you have a way into an otherwise restricted subject or area with a camera. I’m not suggesting you compromise nuclear secrets here but this is something you can make the most of, especially in places like restaurants, theaters, stores, and the like. You’re less likely to be evicted, ejected, or otherwise removed if the only camera you’re carrying is actually a phone.
The “easy to get away with” feature doesn’t just stop at location though. Certain subjects are far more likely to open up to the iPhone camera. Since a lot of people have iPhones themselves, they are less likely to be apprehensive about having their picture taking with a mobile phone camera. This can make for great portraits and make it easier to take spontaneous images. Try doing that with a larger camera.