Mobile devices and photography

Streets of Vietnam with a mobile phone

Photography is about having the ability to see and capture a particular moment in the best way you can.  Capturing a moment should not be limited to what photographic technology you have with you at that particular time.  While there are a plethora of ways in which a moment can be captured the intent of this blog entry is to talk about capturing the moment, through photography, with mobile devices and processing the resultant photo.  It is not an argument for or against the various ways of capturing the moment and which method is the best.  There will always be those who argue you must have a particular camera or lens or that you should be using film not digital because it has more dynamic range - the list of possible arguments are wide and varied and I am sure a few google searches will provide you with sufficient arguments should you need to justify a particular view.  

I have always thought very little about cameras in mobile devices as the photos I would initially capture mny years ago were very ordinary.  In fact I used to always say a phone is for making calls and a camera is for taking photos.  Now, and especially in the latest release of smart phones available on the market, the camera’s have improved and the associated app’s for photo capture, editing and processing have all improved.  In terms of mobile devices there is now a range of tablets such as the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy with inbuilt cameras, there are portable music players with built in cameras (e.g. Apple iPod) and a whole range of smart phones begging potential users to buy them.  Currently the two most popular smart phones are the Apple iPhone and the Samsung phones. I really started to seriously take photos with the iPhone when the 4s model was released in 2011 and it was at this point that I could comfortably take photos with the knowledge that I could use these photos in my everyday work.

Over the last few months I have run a number of workshops on “iphoneography” for educational groups/institutions, the general public and as an Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE).  These have been well received and also further prompted me in writing this article.  Consequently, the focus of this article is on the iPhone as it is the current phone I am using each day.  The following is a very brief snippet on iphoneography.  All photos incuded in this post have been captured, edited and post-processed with the iPhone 4s.  They are just a random selection of photos that I have taken with this device.

Flowers on the streets of Brisbane

Capturing the photo

The default camera app on the iPhone will allow you to capture both photos and videos and offers some flexibility for changing settings, though this is limited.  In the photography mode you can control the flash and turn on options such as a grid or high dynamic range (hdr) photography.  This is perhaps the default camera that most people start out with on their iPhone.

ProCamera - is an alternative choice and my current choice of camera app.  This app allows you to control a whole range of options from full screen trigger for photo capture to anti-shake features.  It has an inbuilt expert mode which allows you to set and lock focus and exposure which is great for those who like a little street photography where you prefer to zone focus.

Editing the photo

Today the words edit and post-process seem to be used interchangeably when we speak about photography. Editing a photo used to be about selecting which photo to keep or throw away.  On the iPhone - perhaps the easiest way to do this is to view the camera roll in photos and delete the photo that you no longer want.  There is no real easy way to flag a photo or reject a photo like you would in software such as Adobe Lightroom or Apple Aperture.  

Post-processing the photo

Now that you have chosen which photos you want to use they may need a little bit of a touch up or you may even want to convert them to black and white.  There is a plethora of apps available to do this from free to paid.  I have had the opportunity of testing a number of these apps including Snapseed, iPhoto for iOS and Adobe Photoshop for iOS however I have come to rely on Snapseed for my editing needs on these mobile devices.

Snapseed -

This is an awesome, simple to use app, that offers a lot of flexibility.  It is made by Nik Software who are the same people that make the awesome Silver Efex Pro software which I tend to also use on a daily basis for my black and white images.  You can simply choose an option from the side bar (when in landscape mode) and then by sliding your finger in certain directions you can control the various effects/options.  You can compare your changes to the previous version of your image while editing and then save your photo to your photo library (which is what I generally do) or just upload direct to one of the social networking options such as Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.  Alternatively you can send it as an email or open it in another app.

The interface for Snapseed (landscape mode)

Options when choosing "tune image" - extremely intuitive interface

Final edited photo after a little contrast/brightness adjustment - Chang Mai, Thailand

The interface, simplicity and powerful tools of Snapseed make it an awesome software app for making even the most subtle changes to a photo.  If you are looking an app where you can add text over the top of the image then this is not the app for you.  Photoshop for iOS will do that for you, but then again, when working on such a small screen I find that tedious.  I tend to just import the photos to a computer and use something like Adobe Photoshop or Pixelmator to add text and other creative elements.  The following photos have all been post-processed with Snapseed.

On the streets of Vietnam - not the best framed photo, but demonstrates what the iPhone 4s is capable of at night

An alley in Bangsar, Malaysia

Relaxing on the streets of hanoi, Vietnam

Breakfast time - Hanoi, Vietnam

beauty in the light

reflections - Hanoi, vietnam

Riding with friends - Hanoi, Vietnam

Rollerblading on the streets of Brisbane

Food preparation - Brisbane.  Again not the best framed photo - but proof that the iPhone is a great device to capture a particular moment.

Silence in the Monastery - near Thái Nguyên, Vietnam

The Violinist - Brisbane city

Posing for a photo - Federation Square, Melbourne


Sharing your photos

There are many reasons why you take a photograph, however if you are taking it to share with others then there are several choices.  Some of the most popular photo sharing choices currently available include Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook.  If you are one of those that do not like the square look of instagram then you can use an app called squaready that will allow you to choose how your photo will appear when uploaded to Instagram (or other places). The one software app that will help your workflow when working with mobile devices is Dropbox (  It is a great app for sharing many different types of files between different devices and with other people.

Looking for more information on photography on mobile devices

There is quite a large number of web sites and groups dedicated to photography with mobile devices.  Some links include:

The Mobile Photoo Group -

iPhoneography -

The Mobile Photo Awards -








At the end of the day it comes down to you being in the right place at the right time and realising the opportunity and capturing this.


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