Camera Phone Photography

A study released last month by the Photo Marketing Association International (PMA) stated that camera phone use has steadily increased since 2006. Over half (53%) of all US households own at least one camera phone, up from 46% in 2007 and 37% in 2006. A survey from last summer showed higher numbers with over 96% of adults reporting they used a cell phone featuring a camera.

Not surprising was the reason why people use their camera phones. Fifty-seven percent claim they use their camera phones as a stand-in for traditional cameras according to the PMA report. Social networking is also pushing up usage as anybody with a Facebook account can tell you. But an increasing number of camera phone users are turning their cell phone snaps into real art.

The key to creating camera phone art is to embrace its low-fi status. Sure, you could buy a camera phone that will take perfectly acceptable photos on par with any point-and-shoot digital camera, but what makes cell phone photography so unique is that it isn’t traditional photography. A camera phones a DSLR, why treat it like one?

Image taken with Nikon D70

Image taken with Nikon D70

Image taken with iPhone

Image taken with iPhone

The first step in turning your camera phone is remembering the rules are different. There are several websites with tips on taking better camera phone pictures including:

The key to all of these tips is to learn the technical challenges of shooting with a camera phone while remembering basic photography guidelines, such as the rule of thirds.

One of the many fun features of Apple’s iPhone is the selection of applications available for creating truly unique images. Like many camera phones, the iPhone’s pictures can be lackluster in color depth. CameraBag by NeverCenter allows you to take photos or convert existing photos through a series of filters, that replicate old analog techniques. My favorite is their take on the Lomo LC-A, but it is also fun taking camera phone polaroids and crisp black and white photos.

Another great iPhone app is QuadCamera by Art and Mobile. It mimics multilens cameras such as the ActionSampler or the Andy Warhol inspired PopCam. All of these options remind me of those old photo booths that filled malls and rest stops in the days before digital photography. QuadCamera can take a series of 4-8 images and allows you to set timing and change color saturation.

I’ve discussed in the past the debate amongst photo enthusiasts about the value of low-fi photography as an art form. A growing number of camera phone users are turning to their cell phones as a viable form of art as seen in exhibits and through numerous Flickr groups and websites dedicated to the form. A simple Google search will also uncover dozens of cell phone photography contests, such as this one from the Times UK.

The next time you take our your camera phone to snap a shot of a friend or a flower, consider making it more than just an average snapshot. You might just be creating a piece of art.


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