Snapping photos with a cellphone camera is a breeze. But loving the results is
sometimes more of a challenge.
Professional photographer Sharon Jones wants to ease that pain. “I love using my
cellphone camera because it is handy and always with me. I can shoot the image, edit and
upload to social media, or send it to a printer, all within a few seconds. I can work on a
photo anywhere ― at the bank, on a plane, and so on.”
Jones has taught mobile photography workshops for the Texas City Art Festival
and for the Galveston Art League. She sells her photos at the Galveston Art League
Gallery at 2117A Postoffice St. in Galveston, www.SharonJonesPhoto.com, and at the
Turquoise Mushroom Gallery in Hondo, Texas.
In the following interview, Jones shares the benefit of her knowledge and
experience as well as tips that every camera phone user will appreciate.
Q: What kind of smartphone do you have?
A: I currently have the iPhone X.
Q: Is that the best smartphone camera?
A: Probably not. I have heard that the Google Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy Note 9
and 9s, and another by Huawei Mate 20 Pro have good cameras in the phone, although I
have not tried them.
Q: Can a cellphone camera replace a dedicated traditional camera?
A: I can only answer for myself. For me, it would not totally replace my DSLR
[Digital Single Lens Reflex, which is a digital still-image camera that uses an SLR
mechanism] or mirrorless camera that I have. The cellphone camera is another tool that I
use in my photography. However, once I started shooting with the iPhone, it has provided
me with a new creative outlet that I did not expect.
Q: Do you mostly shoot with a dedicated traditional camera?
A: I use both equally. I will shoot with whatever camera I have on hand. I shoot
landscapes, portraits and architecture with my cellphone. When shooting closeups of
animals at the zoo or birds and long exposures, I use my DSLR.
Q: What are the key differences between using a cellphone camera to take a
photo and using a dedicated camera?
A: Convenience would be the biggest difference. The cellphone is just easier to
carry around. It’s easy to take a shot with a phone, edit on the iPhone or iPad, and then
upload the picture to the web.
Q: What are the steps you recommend for taking a high-quality photo with a
A: I would start with a good app on the phone, one that allows you to shoot in
RAW mode. I use the Camera+ app the majority of the time. Other iPhone camera apps
are 645 Pro and ProCamera. I’m not real familiar with the Android, but a good app would
be Camera FV-5.
You want to shoot in RAW file mode because it will produce a higher-quality
image than a JPEG file. JPEG files are compressed, and in the process, information such
as color tones are lost and there’s not as much brightness available. RAW files provide a
higher-quality image to edit from.
Then use an editing app on the phone that allows you to save the image as a TIFF
or PNG file. These files take up more space on your phone, but if you want to print a
bigger image without losing resolution ― for example 20 by 24 inches ― then this is
what I recommend.
Q: Once you have taken your photo, how do you enhance the image? What
are your favorite apps?
A: If I just want the basic adjustments, like sharpening, brightening, etc., I will use
an app called Snapseed. And I will do very little to the photo. If I am feeling very creative
and want to composite or add several textures, then I will use a variety of apps. My
favorite apps are Snapseed, iColorama, Stackables, Brushstroke, and Mextures.
Q: What about setting the focus?
A: Set the focus by tapping on the screen with your finger where you want the
Q: I understand you can set the exposure with your cellphone camera--I've
never done that.
A: There are a few camera apps that will allow you to do that in an iPhone and/or
an Android phone. Every app is different, but most will have a +/- icon for the exposure
setting. To set the exposure, one would just swipe with your finger across or up and
down, depending on the app and depending on how much or little light you need in the
image. The native camera will allow you to adjust this by increasing the brightness or
lowering the brightness. Again, it is a slider movement on the screen.
Q: Do you ever zoom?
A: It depends. I do not use the zoom in the phone camera, but in an app if it has a
macro icon, then I would use that. I find the quality of the image for printing large is not
as good when I use the zoom in the iPhone camera.
Q: I recently learned to place a grid over my smartphone camera screen to
help me compose shots using the rule of thirds ― placing important elements along
lines like a tic-tac-toe board creating nine equal rectangles (under Settings, select
Photos & Camera, and then turn on the grid). Is this a good idea?
A: It’s always a good idea to use if you are learning about the rule of thirds and
composition. It’s also good for keeping your horizon straight in the image.
Q: Do you recommend a tripod with a cellphone camera?
A: Yes, I would use a tripod with a cellphone camera for the same reasons I would
use one with my DSLR ― for stability.
Q: Where can a person learn more?
A: There are several books and classes online, including several free tutorial
websites. Below are some websites that offer tutorials for free and/or at a cost.
Q: Any other advice?
A: Read the manual on your camera. Shoot as much as you can and then shoot some
more. Become involved with a photography group online or in the community. Have fun
shooting and enjoy what you are seeing and creating on your mobile device.