As a photographer and an iPhone fan, I love mobile photography. I was excited to read EyePhone: Making Stronger Photographs with Your Camera Phone, the latest photography ebook from Craft & Vision. Author Al Smith dives into the world of mobile phone photography, offering a great resource for beginning and intermedia mobile photographers. It’s a good read (with one minor nag that I note below) and I recommend it for anyone with a camera phone. Here’s my review of the book (along with some limited-time discount codes at the bottom of the article).
Introduction and Philosophy
The introductory section of the book offers up Smith’s overall views on mobile photography; he begins by recalling the situation in which he realized the value in the ability to create images with his phone. As it’s been said that the best camera is the one that you have with you, mobile phone photography can take advantage of the “always ready” scenario. From the beginning of the book, the emphasis is on photography over the gear itself, and the author attempts to present the material in a brand-agnostic fashion although his experience using an iPhone for his work is shown in many of his app and hardware discussions.
A quick look at the hardware limitations of even the best camera phone provides a background for a viewpoint that simplicity breeds creativity and that the relatively low quality (when compared with modern DSLR or compact cameras) forces a photographer to focus more on the artistic, rather than technical, side of photography. Smith notes:
…a tool is only as good as the hands it’s placed in and the hands are only as good as the brain’s ability to guide them.
The remainder of the book follows a three-step paradigm that also applies to mobile photography.
Shoot, Edit, Share
As the book moves into a discussion of shooting, it offers a huge plug for the Camera+ iPhone app, devoting an entire page to the merits of this offering. While I agree that it’s a good app, it’s not the only option. Smith calls out the ability to separate focus from exposure, a feature that also exists in Camera Awesome (and probably some other apps as well). There’s a good discussion of the merits (and drawbacks) of the flash available on current camera phones; using the flash in the “regular” way often leads to poor results, but Smith suggests a few modifications and alternative uses for the flash that can help diffuse the light and make it a useful photography tool.
I do question some of the battery-saving advice in the shooting discussion. Smith advocates the use of airplane mode which will disable the wifi, cellular signal, bluetooth, and other battery-eating features of the phone. I’d offer that if you don’t need any of those other features, you probably don’t need to use a camera phone and might be better served by a point and shoot. The advice about how to “quit” iPhone apps given on page 22 is simply wrong – the description reflects a misunderstanding of how multitasking works on iOS.
The portion of the book devoted to editing is decent, and provides a mostly app-agnostic look at photo manipulation on the go. Instead of going into detail about specific apps, the discussion focuses at a higher level on what sort of qualities one should look for in an application, such as the ability to work in multiple steps (and undo), the ability to preserve original files, and more. I enjoyed his take on things and he does recommend a few specific apps at the end of the section.
One of the big advantages of a connected device is the ability to easily share, and the book wraps up by looking at this component of mobile photography. The author is a big Instagram fan, not so much for the photo filters but more for the same reasons that I’m an Instagram fan: it’s a great social network for those who enjoy nice imagery. Some words are said about deciding how much to share (hint: quality over quantity) as well as avoiding sharing too much.
Overall I found EyePhone to be a good read. For someone who’s looking to make better images and exercise their creative muscles, a variety of techniques and ideas are offered that will help a mobile photographer create, edit, and share photos that go beyond the basics and might lead to more rewarding photography experiences.