The other day, on the home stretch of my morning run, I stopped to snap a photo. The dense fog that morning gave everything around Ballona Creek a mysterious, ethereal look. The diffused sun rising across the water looked interesting, so I pulled my phone out of my pocket and clicked a few frames. Hmm, not as cool as it looked, I thought reviewing my images on screen. Oh well. Then I noticed the bridge, that looked cool too. Maybe that will make a better picture. A couple more snaps. I should get lower, I thought. So I picked my way down the rocks lining the creek bank. More snaps...a little better. I need to get home and start my day, I thought climbing back up to bike trail. Just then, a cyclist whizzed by and disappeared into the fog. Wow, that looks cool...just need to wait for another biker. You see where this is going, right? An hour and 159 snaps later I thought, I really have to get home. I ended up with a handful of keepers from that morning, mostly courtesy of a lovely egret hanging out on the docks. So I guess my point is partly about serendipity, which has a way of showing up whenever you follow your instincts. But it’s also about how easy it is to slip into what I call C-mode (creative mode) when you are shooting with your phone. That’s a good thing.
It turns out that the camera in your pocket is a powerful too for developing your Photographer’s Eye and sharpening your creative vision. Since most of the technical decisions are made for you, a phone camera frees you to focus on the image, which, after all, is what really counts. It also removes a lot of the creative pressure of doing 'serious photography', which ironically makes you more creative. I know I feel a lot more instinctive and spontaneous when I'm shooting with my iPhone. For those pixel peepers obsessed with image quality ('IQ'), I agree we haven't reached DSLR quality in our smartphone cameras yet, but let me ask you: How many iPhone billboards did you drive under this week? Just how much 'quality' do you need?
One key to making great images with your phone camera is taking an intentional approach when you shoot. In other words, be serious, but don't take it so seriously. Lighten up, but make conscious choices. Pay attention to framing and backgrounds. Try variations. But mostly, give your brain a break and listen to your gut. Let yourself get lost in that wordless state where you’re feeling more than thinking. If you can’t remember later what you were thinking when you took those pictures, you did it right.
To see more examples of smartphone camera photos, check out Ken's iPhoneography Gallery
I'd love to see some your favorite phone images. Post a link in the comments or upload your images to Instagram with hashtags #phoneitin and #artofseeing