UPDATE: Note that each picture is a link that will take you to the originally-sized photo on Instagram.
There is a maxim about photography that I've heard expressed increasingly over the past few years as camera phones have grown more capable: The best camera is the one you have with you. What's usually meant by this is that while a big rig can offer things no smaller camera can, if it's sitting at home or in the car while you're out having fun, it's not doing your photography itch any favors. Small point-and-shoots can fill this slot, too, but it's another thing to carry. For the purposes of this article, I want to share some of the best shots that I've managed to capture with nothing more than my trusty iPhone 4 and its "decent-enough" 5 megapixel camera.
One of the great things about taking pictures on the iPhone (and many other smartphones) is the plethora of apps that let you do on-device editing. This can include cropping, color correction, and image filters. While filters are perhaps controversial among some, I find that for fun, informal photography they can produce striking pictures worth sharing. Because of the moderate resolution of the photos, these aren't pictures I would necessarily print and hang on a wall, but nevertheless I enjoy going back to look at them.
There are many apps that allow one to do this, but my absolute favorite is a social photo-sharing service and app called Instagram. If you're not familiar with Instagram, it's an app available for both iOS and Android that allows users to quickly snap shots, apply simple edits or filters with the click of a button or two, and then share the photo with friends and followers on the service. Friends and followers can comment and "like" photos. It's surprisingly addictive, and is the Twitter of mobile photography.
With that out of the way, let's look at some photography!
The first picture was from a day trip my friend and fellow Newsvine user Chasing took to San Antonio for the annual Fiesta celebration. In the late afternoon as we were walking back to our car, we ran across the church St. John's, an Evangelical Lutheran congregation near downtown San Antonio with a wonderful brick facade. One of Instagram's strengths is a quick enhancement single click button that applies a relatively simple set of heuristic algorithms to improve a broad range of photos. It doesn't always produce good results, but it does so often enough that I usually try it first. Often, it's the only correction I need to make and I won't apply any other filters to the photo.
A similar effect can be seen in the photo that immediately follows, inside Austin Beer Works, a local brewery. Here I've taken the picture in another app, Hueless, a black and white photography app for the iPhone. Instagram allows users to take photos directly in the app itself or import photos from the photo roll on the phone.
At least once, and sometimes a few times, a year, Chasing and I truck out to Wimberley, TX for Market Day, which runs on the first Saturday most months of the year. Wimberley is a small semi-rural community southwest of Austin with a significant artist and craft community, often perfect subjects for a photo excursion. The next three photos are from recent trips.
This third photo shows an interesting effect available in Instagram, an applied tilt-shift filter. Tilt-shift is fun to experiment with, but use it sparingly. A little goes a loooong way. The fourth is a bird bath filled with rainwater and a color saturation filter. The last of this set, the fifth here, is another black and white photo, but this time the filter comes from Instagram's included filters, and not the app mentioned above (Hueless).
Lastly, I'd like to talk about one thing camera phones are really great for, and that's concert photography. Often, professional and prosumer rigs aren't allowed in concert venues, so a small point-and-shoot or a camera phone are literally all you'll have on you. Nevertheless, despite relatively poor lowlight performance, you shouldn't let that discourage you. Many interesting shots can be had even if the focus isn't perfect.
These first two concert photos were taken at this most recent SXSW in Austin, TX. The band is Sleigh Bells, and the photos were taken at the Moody Theater (where Austin City Limits is now filmed) in downtown Austin.
The last two photos are from different times, but I think show off another maxim for the small camera or camera phone user: the best zoom is your feet. Don't be afraid to get close or move to a different position to get your shot. Composition is still possible if you position the camera at an optimal location.
I hope this has been useful, and everyone have some fun!