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Mobile phones offer photographers a fresh perspective

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As the novelty of smartphone cameras wears off their role as a serious part of a photographer's toolkit is becoming increasingly common. More professionals are turning to mobile photography as another way to supplement the way they work. We look at how some photographers are using their most mobile cameras to stay relevant, get close and find a new perspective.

Dan Chung/iPhone 4S

A new angle on sports photography

At the 2012 London Olympic Games, photojournalist Dan Chung decided to use only his iPhone to document the various sporting events. According to Chung, the phone enabled him to achieve interesting angles and squeeze into tight spots in the crowded photographers’ pit. 

Chung made the iPhone work for him in this fast-paced, demanding environment by harnassing its advantages wherever possible.

At the pool events, peering underwater at the swimming lanes, Chung was able to lie the phone flat against the glass, reducing reflections and distortion while also staying out of the way of other photographers with their big glass lenses.

Dan Chung/iPhone 4S

In this shot, taken during the marathon event, Chung shot from ground level and used the iPhone’s snug lens position to almost touch the water in the puddle. The result is a highly effective angle on the gruelling race.

Dan Chung/iPhone 4S

Chung was also able to manipulate the iPhone’s low light limitations to his advantage. The resulting blur in these shots adds movement and drama to his photographs taken in the table tennis and gymnastics arenas.

Dan Chung/iPhone 4S
Dan Chung/iPhone 4S

Up close and personal on the frontline

Well-known photojournalist Damon Winter takes his mobile phone with him to cover conflict on the front line, explaining that using his phone allows him to get closer to his subjects. In an interview with Poynter, Winter states that a number of images in his A Grunt’s Life photo series, of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, would not have been possible without his camera phone. 

Damon Winter

In one example, Winter tells Poynter: “The image of the men all resting together outside on a rusted bed frame would never have been made with my regular camera. They would have scattered the moment I raised my 5D with a big 24-70 lens attached. The men were very comfortable with the phone, and it always got a laugh from them when they would see me shooting with it, with professional cameras hanging from my shoulders.”

Damon Winter

Another photojournalist, Theodore Kaye, while not covering war zones, also uses a mobile phone when shooting on assignment throughout Central Asia. Kaye has found that the low-profile of the phone helps him get a more intimate perspective of everyday life, including urban regeneration, generational divides and a resurgent Islam throughout the region.

Theodore Kaye
Theodore Kaye

Freedom in the Australian wilderness

When shooting in the Australian bush, wildlife photographer Kaisa Breeden often reaches for her mobile phone to complement her SLR shots.  According to Breeden, the phone provides a lot of physical freedom, and is unique in that any accessories such lenses and tripods are relatively inexpensive. In an interview with ABC Australia, Breeden revealed that using a mobile phone is particularly helpful for taking photos of rare (and shy) wildlife, such as the baby cassowary (a large native bird to Australia and Papua New Guinea) in this shot:

Baby Cassowaries by Kaisa Breeden

“The iPhone is unobtrusive … it doesn’t look threatening so you can get down to the ground to get a baby cassowary’s eye view,” says Breeden. She believes that shooting up-close or “macro” helps broaden the photographer’s perception of nature: “By looking closely, the world gets bigger and even more wondrous and absorbing.”

Hipstamatic Carpet Python by Kaisa Breeden

Are you a professional photographer who has found a unique or novel use for a mobile phone camera in your toolkit? We’d love to see your work.


Misho Baranovic@mishobaranovic, has worked as a photographer for many years and is prominent in the emerging practice of mobile photography. His street photography has been exhibited internationally and in 2011 he held his first solo exhibition, New Melbourne, in Melbourne, Australia. He is a founding member of the Mobile Photo Group, and the author of iPhone Photography.

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Comments

Total comments: 9
oldmanwalking
By oldmanwalking (Jun 22, 2013)

The value of these images is not in the quality of their resolution and clarity, I think, but in their composition and the access of the photographers. This is especially true of the Damon Winter and Theodore Kaye photographs.

The quality of images from mobile photography is going in the direction of rapid increase. Billions of dollars are at stake, and the competition for those dollars will produce amazing results. These images are but a foretaste.

0 upvotes
wansai
By wansai (May 29, 2013)

frankly I'm not impressed. these look exactly like snapshots from a point & shoot.

The baloney about how he was able to utilise the low light to effect is just exactly that, baloney. I find them to be amateur at best. It looks amateur and it looks like a phone camera failing exactly in the place it can't perform; low light.

That running picture also. Holy blown out sky!!!! Perhaps the photographer should have looked at a small mirrorless instead. You get all the benefits of the small form factor with quality that rivals mid end DSLR.

0 upvotes
RichRMA
By RichRMA (May 28, 2013)

Wow! None of those photographs could possibly be done with a real camera. I can see why the trendy, (lazy?) "progressive" (lazy) photog would absolutely NEED a camera phone...

0 upvotes
Mishobaranovic
By Mishobaranovic (May 28, 2013)

Wow! a sarcastic comment, how lazy.

0 upvotes
bismanapps
By bismanapps (May 23, 2013)

I agree with Richard. There seems to be a lot of "it's just a phone - look what I can do with it" mentality these days rather than treating it as a legitimate camera.

0 upvotes
Richard Gray aka rugfoot
By Richard Gray aka rugfoot (May 23, 2013)

However, Dan Chung did cheat slightly by clamping a DSLR zoom onto his phone (eg those table tennis and gynamistics shots). I noticed an interesting phenomenon on Instagram amongst pro photographers: they seem to deliberately take amateurish shots with the iphone, as if to say, yeah, this is just snapping, it's not the real thing. And yet they want to get on the bandwagon as the same time.

1 upvote
Mishobaranovic
By Mishobaranovic (May 24, 2013)

He used binoculars. Maybe they take shots that are accessible to their audience which in turn grows their following? Maybe they are being smart and not fighting the aesthetic?

2 upvotes
rondhamalam
By rondhamalam (May 22, 2013)

Nokia's and Galaxy's cameras KILL iPhone ...

3 upvotes
Oliver Lang
By Oliver Lang (May 24, 2013)

Your comment lacks any context and as such provides no value.

2 upvotes
Total comments: 9
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