The revolution of digital photography has more recently continued in the improvements of the cameras embedded in the ubiquitous cell phone (or mobile if you are outside of the US). Even the improvements from say the iPhone 3 to the iPhone 4 were impressive. Even so, many don't believe that this tiny sensor with its seeming lack of features can produce much in terms of imagery. Chase Jarvis was one of the first to be vocal about its abilities, and here we highlight a new eBook (PDF download for a mere $5) from photographer Al Smith (www.alsmith.com) and published by David DuChemin (The Pixelated Image) which can give you more confidence and understanding of your powerful handheld tool. They have graciously allowed us to provide some samples from the eBook below. If you like what you read, give the entire eBook a try.
Al Smith: "While basking in the glow of my new multimillion dollar business idea my 8-year-old asked me to take a picture of him on this amazing swing. I shared with him my own concerns about the lack of camera gear and he promptly replied "Dad why don’t you just use your phone; it can take pictures can’t it?" I chuckled to myself, quietly celebrating the simplicity of a child’s mind, thinking he didn’t have a clear grasp of the situation.
I pulled the phone out of my pocket and began to shoot my kids on this amazing swing. I was feeling a bit embarrassed as I held the small screen in front of me with my pinky fingers flying high in the air like the queen drinking high tea, all the time thinking I needed a bright yellow shirt that announced to the world in bold text that I was actually a professional photographer and just didn’t have my gear with me. I quickly started to complain to myself about how limited I was. I longed for the auto focus of the D3S shooting 11 frames per second while maintaining sharp consistent focus on the moving swing.
All my life I have believed that camera phones were just gimmicks or add-ons to help increase sales and were not even worth the circuitry they were printed on. I was embarrassed to be using such a toy to try to capture this moment. Given that I am known to have a stubborn unrelenting personality, I was determined to pull a good picture out of this horrible situation. After a few minutes, and even more cuss words, I began the slow process of separating my own embarrassment from the task of telling a story that my kids and I could share with our friends and family back home. It was right at the moment I captured this picture that I set my gear ego aside and fell in love with my mobile phone as a camera."
FROM THE SECTION "A RECIPE FOR FRUSTRATION"
"The iPhone only shoots in 8-bit colour instead of 14-bit like my D3s. This means its colour range is extremely small compared to that of DLSRs. It is stuck with a fixed-focus 35 mm equivalent lens, autofocus only, a fixed f/22 equivalent aperture, a super cropped sensor, and JPEG-only files. It’s slow to respond with a small shutter speed range that you can’t control (1/15 to 1/2000 of a second) and 90% of the time defaults to ISO 80 of its whopping, again uncontrollable, ISO range (ISO 64 to 1000). If that’s not enough, it has short battery life and is as ergonomic as a slippery brick. It is more like a recipe for disaster and frustration than a camera."
FROM THE SECTION "LIMITATIONS ARE NOT LIABILITIES"
"I would argue that less is actually creatively more. The less you have to think about setting up your camera and which piece of gear to use, the better. It lets you apply more brain power to shooting creatively and will speed up your progression as a photographer. Too many photographers I know are hung up on gear progression. They spend most of their waking hours thinking about it and not enough time away from their desks and studios shooting creatively. Trying to keep up with Joe McNally’s gear fetish is not the answer to making you a better photographer. Joe is one of my photographic heroes and an amazing visionary, but he carries enough gear around to supply a small army of photographers."
FROM THE SECTION "DON'T THROW AWAY YOUR HEADPHONES"
"Another great little tip for reducing camera shake on an iPhone is to hold down the on-screen camera button while you compose the shot and then let go to take the picture. For some reason I find that this gives me less shake than if I push it to take the picture. Another little helpful thing people don’t know or often forget is that you can use the volume up button to take your picture. This can be super handy sometimes when you are trying to be stealth."
FROM THE SECTION "CHOOSING YOUR APPS"
"Make sure all your apps edit in full resolution. A large number of apps don’t edit in full resolution, so be very careful and do your research before you commit to any particular app. I love using Instagram for sharing my photos because there is a very large community around it. When I started using Instagram I found out that it downgraded the image resolution for quicker file transfers. That forced me to get in the habit of shooting with a camera app, editing outside of Instagram, and then posting to Instagram from my camera roll. That way I had the original file and all my edits saved in progression in my camera roll. In its last update Instagram fixed that issue but I still think it is important to keep shooting and editing separate in your mind. Nothing is more frustrating than editing a photo in an app only to find out later that it degraded the image quality during the editing process or didn’t save the original file. This is especially important if you want to print the images later."
Buy the eBook eyePhone. Making strong photographs with your camera phone by Al Smith.