Starting With Mobile Phone Photography

2018. Singapore. No parking for motorcycles. Not bicycles.2018. Singapore. No parking for motorcycles, but this isn’t one.

Yes, I am incredibly late to the world of mobile phone photography. I never thought much about it because the camera unit on the mobile phones I have owned over the years have never been known to be particularly competent. My start to mobile phone photography involvement was totally accidental. You know the usual story: I saw something really interesting and I did not have my camera with me. Besides, I don’t care much about the pixel quality of random street photography anyway. It is more about the moment than picture quality (Though having both would be ideal). So out came the phone from my pocket and I snapped away. And then I just thought, “Hmmm I should do this more often.”

2018. Singapore. Tired man on the bus.2018. Singapore. Very tired man on the bus.

The most important thing to understand is that commercial quality is not the goal for me in mobile phone quality. It is really all about the fun of taking pictures, and that you can do it anytime you want to do it. Bringing a camera and some lenses with me to take good quality pictures on a photo-walk is actually quite an involved mission. In the worst case scenario, you brought that that gear out but saw nothing interesting or the weather was no good. Being at the right place at the right time in the presence of the right subject is totally a matter of chance (Unless you are a working photographer and have actual designated subjects to photograph). Having the freedom to take a snap of interesting moments that happen to flash by anytime I want is actually quite liberating in comparison.

2018. Singapore. The manga fan reading on the train.2018. Singapore. The manga fan on the train.

There is the advantage of being discrete. People don’t get so defensive or antagonised when you point around with a mobile phone (Though there are some that still do. Whatever you do, try not to get mistaken for a sneaky pervert taking pictures of girls.). In fact, most people don’t get defensive as long as you don’t raise the viewfinder or EVF to your eye. Which introduces another fun tip I just discovered. If you are doing street photography with a mirrorless camera, use the rear LCD instead of raising the EVF to your eye. People are just less disturbed when you don’t raise the camera to your eye when pointing a camera with a lens around. Extra points if it is a small camera.

2018. Singapore. MBS Convention Convention Centre.2018. Singapore. MBS Convention Centre. Working on the floor.

The state of mobile phone cameras has also come a long way. The one I have on my phone is totally unremarkable. But we now have mobile phones with multiple lenses to satisfy both wide-angle and telephoto needs in one phone. There are also additional dedicated high-resolution black-and-white sensor and lens units for selected cameras. Some high-end mobile phones can produce RAW files. The only problem is that the best of these setups are only available on expensive high-end mobile phone models. Assuming we change a mobile phone once every 2 years, the continued cost of ownership of one of these high-end mobile phones can add up rapidly over the years. So it is necessary to do your math and understand your own needs – in 10 years the amount you spend on high-end mobile phones could be equivalent to investing in a full-frame camera plus a couple of lenses.

Fortunately, there are some mid-range mobile phone models with cameras that offer decent performance. As mid-range models, there are always compromises. But I really do not need the best for my mobile phone photography. As I mentioned earlier, it is really the fun and accessibility of “anytime photography” that matters to me.

Have fun and keep taking pictures. 🙂


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