How Phone Photography Changed The Way I Compose

Though my phone has been my primary camera for a few years now (and by that I mean what I shoot most with), I’ve always used it on-the-go. Most phone cameras till recently were meant for just that. Wide-camera shots, with lot of editing required. So it fit travel really well, but not much else.

With the new OnePlus 5T though, I’ve begun to seriously rethink my strategy and it is beginning to change the way I compose.

My biggest issue with phone photography was the amount of control you had on light. Even with Pro Modes, this was often not sufficient enough to manipulate light the way you want. The OnePlus 5T Pro Mode is fantastic. Right from incredible macros to bokeh – it is all possible. But photography isn’t about macro or bokeh alone (though the innumerable pages of First Name – Last Name photography Pages on Facebook would beg to defy that statement). It is about composition – and here’s where I find it challenging.

I like the feeling of bringing the big camera up to your face, blocking out the world and focusing on what you want to shoot specifically. A close-up, if you have a tele-lens, or moving as close as needed or as far as needed, with the big camera blocking your face. The DSLR makes you feel invincible – as any photojournalist worth their salt will tell you.

It gives you the confidence of being able to go into situations that you wouldn’t think of otherwise. You walk down dark streets, seedy alleys with the DSLR as your companion, like it is a shield that protects you from anything.

The phone camera, with all its advancements, isn’t quite the same. Nobody takes you quite seriously if you stand in the middle of the road, focusing on something. And without the shield of the DSLR, I find it a little unnerving to stand anywhere and start to compose my shot. Strangely, with the small camera, I feel more conspicuous.

This seems to have a considerable impact on my composition. The OnePlus 5T doesn’t have a great zoom, so you have to physically get up close to get the desired shot, or move more. It is harder sometimes to remove the elements you do not want from the shot. I’ve begun cropping – a lot!

I’ve got some fantastic portraits from phones. But my 50mm is still the favourite lens for it. With the 50mm – despite its fixed focal length – I’m not too worried about getting right up in someone’s face. With a phone, it just feels super awkward – especially when the someone is a stranger.

I have used wide-angle lenses for photography and I know it works great.

One of my favourite photographers, Joshi Daniel is working on a 28mm series of Portraits right now. Which is almost the same focal length as the OnePlus 5T (which has a focal length of 27.22mm and aperture of F1.7). Yet, it is a challenge (mostly in my mind) to shoot with the phone.

It seems like I’ve to relearn composition with phone cameras. And remove old beliefs and biases. While I’m working on that, I do wonder if phone cameras will ever be a replacement for DSLR on the street. We street photographers do need our shield!

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