Library Stairwell, Boone, NC - 2015
(Click on photo to enlarge.)
Two weeks ago, my oldest daughter dragged me a little further into the 21st century by convincing me to finally trade in my nine year old flip phone for a new smartphone. After a few stumbles (I lost one call by trying to answer the phone with it held upside down), I'm finally getting used to the thing. Of course, one of the first things I had to check out after learning to make calls and to text was the built in camera.
Smartphone photos are made by the billions each day. Most are just typical, boring snapshots, but I have seen some very beautiful and interesting photos made with these cameras. There are websites dedicated to smartphone photography displaying work that is as much "art" as anything made with more sophisticated cameras. So I was anxious to see what my newest camera was capable of.
My initial attempts with the smartphone were in a word, disappointing. Having used DSLRs for several years, I'm used to their level of versatility and quality. The smartphone camera had very little of either when compared to a modern DSLR. Tack sharp photos? Broad dynamic range? Forget about it. I quickly became disenchanted with the thing.
As I went back and looked at some of the better smartphone photography online, I began to notice a common denominator. The smartphone photographers worked within the limitations of their camera, and in many cases enhanced their photos by degrading the technical quality even more with apps like Snapseed. Then it clicked for me - don't ask the camera to do more than it is capable of doing. Work within its limitations, and take advantage of it's strengths. (Its main strength is that it's always handy.) Then use apps, or software on my computer to build on the basic image.
The photo above was a little on the soft side, at least compared to what I'm sued to with my DSLR. So instead of trying to sharpen a soft image (a fools errand, usually), I softened it a little more with software, creating a more pictorialist feel.
One of the things that has kept me interested in photography since I bought my first real camera in 1982 is the never ending challenge of it. There is always something new to try, something new to learn. Now with a smartphone camera, and its inherent limitations, I have a whole new set of challenges to explore and enjoy. And I've learned how to text too!