Local shutterbugs share passion for phone photography

Local shutterbugs share passion for phone photography

October 12th, 2012 by Casey Phillips in Life Entertainment

Photo by Marc Crosby

Photo by Marc Crosby

ABOUT THE PHOTOS: These photographs were chosen from nearly 200 entries submitted by readers. All pictures were taken on smartphones using a variety of camera apps. Members of the Times Free Press photo staff selected their favorites.

The origins of the phrase are muddled, but one of photography's most oft-repeated sayings is that the best camera you have is the one that's with you when you need it.

Increasingly, that device is no longer a dedicated camera but the ever more sophisticated optics housed in smartphones.

High-end digital single-lens reflex cameras allow photographers to change lenses for different kinds of shots. However, that added bulk makes them less useful for incidental photos than a camera that is only a pocket away, local amateur photographer Claire Wood wrote in an email.

"I usually prefer my iPhone/Instagram [app] photos over my big DSLR camera because these are the real snapshots of life," Wood said. "My phone is always with me, and I treasure these moments I capture with it."

Wood is part of a growing population of hobbyist shutterbugs taking advantage of the built-in photographic capabilities of smartphones.

According to a study released in September by technology firm Qualcomm, 94 percent of respondents said they use their mobile phones to take photos. Smartphones accounted for 27 percent of all photos taken in 2011, up 10 percent over 2010, according to a December 2011 study released by the NPD Group.

Taking over

The technology for capturing those photos also is increasing rapidly.

Camera phones began entering mass production in 2000. The first, Sharp's J-SH04, was released only in Japan and featured a camera with a 0.1-megapixel imaging sensor.

By comparison, most modern smartphones have at least a 5-megapixel sensor. Some, including the recently released Samsung Galaxy SIII and iPhone 5, have 8-megapixel cameras. Currently, the Nokia 808 Pureview, released this summer in Britain, features the most advanced mobile camera with a monstrous 41-megapixel sensor.

Easy access to mobile phones with more capable cameras has helped smartphones close the gap with dedicated point-and-shoot cameras.

In a March 15 story posted on Bloomberg.com, reports from Colorado-based research firm IHS showed that digital camera shipments for 2012 were expected to be 4.3 percent lower than in 2011. Smartphone shipments this year were expected to increase by 35 percent, according to the firm.

"The cellphone camera is becoming more accepted as the primary camera," said Pamela Tufegdzic, an IHC analyst, in the Bloomberg report. "Smartphones are cannibalizing the point-and-shoot, digital-still camera market."

Close at hand

Local hobby and professional photographers said that, although they currently lack the manual controls necessary to replace interchangeable lens cameras, instant access to smartphones makes them an important tool.

Bill Mueller, president of the Chattanooga Photographic Society, has been taking photos since he was a teenager and began seriously shooting five years ago. His primary camera is a Canon 5D Mark III, a DSLR that retails for about $2,000, but for documenting everyday life, he prefers the convenience of his iPhone 4S.

"If I'm out someplace and see something that strikes me, I take the phone out and take a picture of it," he said. "It's definitely replaced a point-and-shoot for me. Instead of throwing a little camera in your pocket, you always have your phone with you."

For years, Mueller said, mobile phone cameras were almost worthless for serious photography. Since the arrival in 2007 of the iPhone, seen by some as the world's first true smartphone, however, that opinion rapidly has changed.

Despite having only a quarter the resolution of the iPhone 5, the first-generation iPhone's 2-megapixel camera and large screen made it the first device to bridge the gap to dedicated equipment, said freelance photographer David Humber, 50.

"Before that, I didn't have anything I would even consider a camera," he said. "The iPhone was the first thing that was put in my hands that I could see some good, practical uses for."

The increasing quality of optics in smartphones combined with their constant connectivity to social-media services have made them the go-to device for documenting everyday life.

"I don't even take my camera anywhere anymore since I got my iPhone," said Wendy Sprague of Rossville in an email. "[The phone] takes way better pictures."

Social slideshow

Last summer, online photo sharing and social-media site Flickr reported that the iPhone was responsible for more uploads to the service than any other source, including DSLR and point-and-shoot cameras.

According to a Sept. 14 report by TechNewsDaily.com, smartphone-only photo editing and sharing service Instagram has 100 million registered users, about double its size after being purchased for $1 billion in April by Facebook. Of those users, about 7.3 million accessed the site daily in August, according to a Sept. 28 article in tablet-only newspaper The Daily.

Soli Photography co-owner and founder Meghan Campbell, 32, has been shooting weddings professionally for six years. Although her Nikon D700 DSLR is her professional equipment of choice, Campbell said her iPhone has become an indispensable tool for capturing her family life.

"We primarily document our whole life with our iPhone, which is crazy to think about," she said. "You have the opportunity to preserve an everyday memory and share those moments immediately with people through Instagram or Facebook or whatever.

"iPhone-ography is going to become its own accepted art form."

Most smartphone lenses lack optical zoom and don't provide access to manual controls enthusiasts said they require. However, some professionals are finding creative ways to push camera phones to their limits.

On Sept. 25, professional photographer and film director Chase Jarvis released "The Best Camera Is the One That's With You," a collection of his iPhone photographs.

"With it, I hope to underscore, and maybe legitimize, that an image can come from any camera, even a mobile phone," Jarvis said in a video preview of his book on Amazon.com. "Almost everyone in our culture these days has a camera. It's in your pocket and attached to your phone.

"You haven't given that thing credibility, and for me, it changed my life."


Unsatisfied with a smartphone's image quality close up or when shooting at a distance? There is a growing market of add-on lenses that provide a more versatile shooting experience. Available in fisheye, wide angle, macro and telephoto.

Photojojo (www.PhotoJojo.com) offers a trio of lenses in a pack for $50 or individually for $20 to $25. Lenses attach by connecting to a magnetic ring adhered to the phone case.

Olloclip (www.Olloclip.com) offers a single device with three attached lenses for $70. Slips over the phone but will not fit over cases. Currently compatible with the iPhone 4/4s, not the 5.


Not satisfied with your phone's built-in camera application? Try the following to give yourself more control, spice up your photos and share them with the world.

Instagram (iOS/Android, free): Take photos in-app or pull from your library, apply any of 18 filters to add a little flair and then share with more than 80 million other users.

Gridditor (iOS, 99 cents): Choose four filters from a pool of two dozen, navigate the resulting photo grid to blend them together. When you find a combination you like, share it or start over with an entirely new set.

Pudding Camera (Android, free): Artificially re-create the days of film cameras by choosing preshot filters that replicate nine cameras and eight film types. Includes advanced controls for exposure and aspect ratio.

Photo-365 (iOS, $1.99): Take advantage of smartphones' always-there camera and document your year in photos, which then are viewable via a slick interface. A reminder function keeps your documentation on track.

Snapseed (iOS, $4.99): Via an extensive editing suite, adjust every aspect of your photos, from focus and white balance to border width and color saturation.


A digital memory is hard to hang on a wall. However, numerous services are available for ordering physical copies of your smartphone images.

ShutterFly (www.shutterfly.com): Photos uploaded to the Shutterfly can be printed in many sizes, from wallets to 20x30, depending on matte or gloss finish. Prices range from 15 cents (4x6) to $23 (20x30).

Printstagram (www.prinstagram.com): Instagram photos can be ordered as 48 packs of 2x2 prints or 24 packs of 4x4 prints, both $12. Other products include sticker books, spiral-bound books, photo-print posters and T-shirts.

PostaGram (www.Postagramapp.com): Via a free iOS or Android app, select images from an Instagram account or phone memory and send a customizable physical postcard to someone. The first one is free, and subsequent 'grams are 99 cents.

StickyGram (www.StickyGram.com): Via the website, connect to an Instagram account and select nine images to be turned into 50-millimeter-square magnets. $15 per sheet of nine. Free worldwide shipping.


Smartphone cameras, especially iPhone models preceding the iPhone 5, are notorious for underperforming in low light. So what's an iPhoneographer to do? Local wedding photographer Meghan Campbell offers the following tips for shooting professional portraits in the dark.

• Borrow two iPhones in addition to the one being used to shoot.

• Put a flashlight app on them to create sustained light via the LED flash.

• Place the subject of the shot in front of you and use the second and third iPhone flashes to provide off-camera lighting.

• The flash on the iPhone tends to create a blue tint, so during editing, adjust the hue to warm up your shot.