Technology has certainly come a very long way and in just a short amount of time. One of the most shining examples of that is our mobile phones. Think back to the earliest variations and compare them to what we have now. Amazing! Besides being mini computers, they have become fantastic cameras. The quality of pictures we get these days is phenomenal when compared to just a few years ago. Really, our smartphones have become game-changers in the world of photography. So, I’d like to talk about why smartphones are good for street photography!
1. They’re Always On You
This is just fact. They are really with us everywhere we go. Our lives demand connectivity most of the time. The bonus of this… we have a camera with us all the time! I always try to take my “real” camera with me everywhere I go, but there are occasions where it’s not practical or convenient. And, there’s instances where you’re just not prepared… when a schedule changes and you end up being somewhere you hadn’t anticipated. No matter these days, your smartphone is with you. On the street or anywhere you may end up.
2. Improved Camera Quality
Another no-brainer. The iPhone set the bar for mobile phone camera quality, but Android and others have quickly caught up. I would choose my NEX or my older Olympus over the phone every time, though. The possibilities with those pieces of gear are limitless, not to mention the fact you can swap lenses. But, I’ve gotten some absolutely KILLER shots with smartphones… from my first generation Samsung Galaxy all the way through to my current Note II. Gallery worthy? Debatable. Good for memories and social media sharing? Undoubtedly. And, they’re just going to keep getting better!
3. Instant Upload To Cloud Storage
This is a benefit which is slightly tipped to the smartphone, but only temporarily. Right now, with our smartphones, we can take a street shot and upload it right there to the cloud. I use Google Drive and Dropbox a lot. Then we can access our snaps anywhere with a connection, on any device. No worries about filling up our cards or internal storage! More and more phones are coming without removable storage, so cloud use is almost a must. But, like I said, this may be a temporary advantage. Cameras are here and more are coming with Wi-Fi built in. Which is a real, real good thing.
4. Instant Upload To Social Networks
Social networks have helped to expand mobile and street photography to a level we never would have dreamed of just a few years ago. Facebook, Google Plus, the list goes on. Photography specific sites like Flickr, Instagram and so many others have been pivotal in changing the way we think and look at photography. For me, it was social networks that introduced me to street photography. In reality, they’re what moved me to become an enthusiast! I love sharing my work on them and I love discovering new photographers and their work. With every network having it’s own smartphone app available or baked into the phone, an upload of your work is only a few touches away.
5. Mobile Editing
I believe all smartphones have some sort of simple editor built in, but these pale in comparison to what’s available at the AppStore or on Play! So many to choose from, with so many features! I’ve tried a bunch, and I’m always looking at new ones. Photoshop even unleashed a new one recently. From HDR-like effects, to sweeping panoramas… it’s out there, and it can be done!
6. It’s Inconspicuous!
A crowded street… how many people are looking at their phones? A lot! You’re snapping them, and they don’t notice! If they do, you can just play it off… your fooling with your phone, too! Candid shots? Not a problem with that big, beautiful screen you have. Line it up from a discreet angle and SNAP (to quote Spyros)! You’re a spy, a private detective. It’s definitely less obvious than pointing your camera at them! Sneaky, sneaky.
Even though I’m a novice at street photography, I realise speed is key. Here’s where the smartphone also works well. No worrying about powering on. Changing lenses. Playing with settings. Smartphones are becoming superb at the point and shoot game! Sure they’re becoming more adaptable with changeable settings, but sometimes… there’s no time to muddle through those. Bonus: some phones go straight to the camera with a swipe from the lock screen!
8. Travel Light
Keeping this one simpler, yet. No bag. No extra lenses or cables. Or all that stuff that’s in your bag. Your camera is in your pocket or your purse, and you don’t have to worry about what happened to that lens cap!
9. Goes Where A Camera Cannot
Some facilities will not allow you to bring a camera inside. I’ve been to a bunch of concert venues that won’t allow any cameras with interchangeable lenses. Also, there are definitely some places where I will NOT check a camera bag, stash it in a locker, or leave it in my car. In these instances, any street shots before or after your event, meeting, or whatever, will not be taken with that camera. Well, I mean that camera, at least. You’ve got one on you no matter what.
10. Battery Life
Cameras and smartphones tend to be battery hogs. But, smartphones win the race here. Depending on what your using your phone for, you can shoot, shoot, shoot and the battery will hold up longer. My Note II packs a massive 3100 mAh battery! Power to spare! Because I use my phone more than my computer, I picked up two new aftermarket batteries and a charger for less than $30USD! Try finding camera batteries that cheap! Also available are juice packs, charging cases and extended life batteries… all accessories not available for cameras yet. There are apps out there that manage and save battery life, too. Many free or low cost options.
Any day, I’d rather shoot with my camera. No doubt about that at all. It’s the weapon of choice. Long range snapping, or close up shots… the camera will always win. But, the smartphone has become a trusty sidearm in our arsenals. Easily concealed. Always on us, always loaded, always ready.