50 Things I Have Learned about Mobile Photography (and iPhone Photography)

Inspired by Eric Kim’s now iconic 100 Things I’ve Learned about Photography article I’ve decided to make my own list for mobile photography.  I couldn’t make it all the way to a 100, so here are my 50 things I’ve Learned about Mobile Photography over the past few years of shooting, editing and sharing with my iPhone. Feel free to add yours in the comments.

1. There is no ‘magic’ app.

2. There is no ‘magic’ combination of fifteen apps.

3. Taking a photo is much more fun than liking a photo.

4. The best camera is the one you know how to use.  Learn to control your focus and exposure.

5. Not all photos have to be square – think outside the Instagram box.

6. Show your best work! Think before you post and re-post and re-post.

7. That great photo app is probably not on Android ;)

8. A good mobile photograph is a good photograph.  Don’t be afraid to call yourself a photographer.

9. There are no good #selfies.

10. Remember, a hot breakfast tastes better than a cold breakfast looks.

11. Zoom with your feet not with your phone.

12. Backup your shots: The Cloud, Dropbox, a hardrive. Pick two and stick to them.

13. Print, frame, stick and gift your mobile photos.  Just make them real!

14. Likes are a measure of popularity not quality.  They are not the same thing.

15. Friends don’t let friends post pictures of puddle reflections. Find your own style.

16. Find a good camera replacement app and stick to it, practice makes the decisive moment perfect.

17. Don’t edit and cross the street at the same time.

18. Tagbombing is uncool #tagforyounotlikes.

19. #nofilter

20. An honest comment is worth at least a 100 likes.

21. Taking a street portrait? Offer to email the photo on the spot.

22. Turn on Airplane mode for distraction free shooting #zen.

23. A spare battery pack is the difference between destiny and despair.

24. Be confident when shooting, people can tell if you’re trying to be sneaky, especially with a mobile phone.

25. Be prepared, place your favorite camera app icon in an easy to launch spot.  Mine’s in the bottom-right corner (right where my thumb falls).

26. Tap the power button to minimize your camera app, that way you’re ready to shoot after you swipe to unlock.

27. Your first 10,000 photos used to be your worst.  Now, I think it’s closer to your first 100,000 mobile photos.

28. Natural is often more interesting than posed.

29. Learn to use a rule of thirds grid then learn to live without it.

30. It’s hard to tell the difference between a mobile, digital and film print (up to A3)

31. Great photographers don’t care what you shoot with.  They respect vision not tools.

32. Gear acquisition syndrome can afflict mobile shooters.  You don’t need the new case/tripod/lens attachment.

33. You can’t take a good photo with the iPhone flash.

34. The #streetphotography tag on Instagram has lots of pictures of people on streets, but not much street photography.

35. VSCO Cam is the new Hipstamatic.

36. Put your mobile photos on your own blog. Don’t just give them to social networks.  They could disappear any day. I’m looking your way Posterous.

37. Pick up your old camera. You don’t have to shoot everything with the phone.

38. Great photo apps are rare, be kind to the few developers who care.

39. The sillier your case the better the impromptu street portrait.

40. All cameras will be connected within the next five years.

41. Your party photos will probably be blurry.

42. HDR is not a toy.

43. Online friends can and do become real life friends.

44. Share your photo secrets.  No one can steal your personal vision.

45. The best looking mobile prints often have very little apping/editing.

46. It’s hard to follow more than 200 people on any social photo network.

47. Learn to spot the difference between good and bad criticism.

48. Follow the light. Follow mobile photographers who see the light.

49. The more you shoot the more you learn why you shoot.

50. Shoot for you not anyone else.

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ProCamera is available from the App Store for US $4.99

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  • Gianclaudio

    I agree! thank you for mention this points ; )

  • pgc2

    Great commentary, Misho! I agree 100%

  • Emily C

    Great tips and fun :) Love #34! Made me chuckle!

    • http://blog.procamera-app.com/ ProCamera

      Thanks @disqus_nqvhWesffD:disqus :)

  • Jackson Mah

    Thank you very much Misho.
    I am so glad that I saw your article on AMPt.
    Honestly, I have lost myself in iphoneography after shooting, editing, experimenting and posting for almost 4 years (can you imagine I actually started doing this since Nokia N96?!). I almost give up as I really don’t know what to shoot anymore and looking for a fresh idea to shoot is hard.
    But thank you for the last point you’ve made.
    (BTW, I was searching my little online photoblog: cominghomeinpieces.tumblr.com and confirmed it was 4 years ago)

    • http://blog.procamera-app.com/ ProCamera

      Very welcome @jacksonmah:disqus. I know how you feel, i’m glad the last point resonated with you. It’s something I remind myself most days. Enjoyed looking through the blog by the way.

  • Fabs Grassi

    35. VSCO Cam is the new Hipstamatic. haha, ok, it is much more subtle, but i know what you mean ;)

  • munchkin

    thank you for a nice tips. but “35. VSCO Cam is the new Hipstamatic.” really? I see them as a two different apps.

  • tim

    Fantasic tips !!!

  • LRH

    #51–real photographers use real cameras. Or, put another way, as Olympus said, “camera phones are to photography what 3 minute noodles are to cooking.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/ophidianforest MdN

      If it can take photos, it’s a real camera.

      • LRH

        And the 3 minute noodles are the real noodles…what’s your point?

        • http://www.facebook.com/ophidianforest MdN

          You just made it. I’d take 3-minute noodles over your noodles any time.

      • Kari

        False. Its a camera but not a real one, it is a cellphone with a built in toy lens.

        • http://www.facebook.com/ophidianforest MdN

          If you can’t toy with your DSLR you’re probably better off doing commercial stuff, for the money. The stuff that all the media will accept as normal without realizing who made it, how he made it, where, why and in what circumstances, and what the feelings behind it were. Just look at the pretty colors. Stay away from art. Real artists don’t throw money at problems but solve them with what they have. And those people break boundaries and expand horizons, not trained professionals doing things “by the book”. Underground is where it’s happening. It’s about questions, not easy answers.

      • LRH

        So I guess a Fisher-Price or “Dora The Explorer” camera is every bit as appropriate for enthusiast or professional photography as a mirrorless or entry-level DSLR, much less something like a Nikon D800 or Canon 1D-X? Well, since “the tool doesn’t matter,” I guess Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, and the NEX division of Sony might as well just fold up their tents and call it quits then. (Sarcasm)

        • http://www.facebook.com/ophidianforest MdN

          No idea why you’d use fishing equipment to take a photo, also this page is about mobile photography and not carrying fishing equipment around. Dora is the fish from Finding Nemo, right? Why are you obsessed with fish and noodles?

          And yeah, they should call it quits. A good phone is all you need. Best music is made and recorded by starving artists on shoddy equipment, the same goes for photography. Mainstream is so full of snobs unable to see behind acceptable that it deserves to die.

          (No sarcasm)

          • LRH

            And I think it should be REQUIRED BY LAW that you MUST use a real camera to be certified as an official photographer. I’m told there are some countries which do this, & I think that’s good.Snobbery can be a GOOD thing, it separates the real professionals from the hack-job wanna-bes. To use a toy camera & call yourself a photographer is like calling yourself a “doctor” while using a gas-station bathroom as an “office” and using sewing needles and a rusty pair of scissors for performing surgery which you learned how to do from the back of a matchbook.

          • Kári

            And that is how it works in Iceland, just so that people don’t hire someone calling themself’s pro when they turn out to be completely shit & using a cellphone to photograph a wedding.

          • Kári

            And yea…. fisher-price is a company that has also had a toy camera made and makes childrens toys, you don’t seem to know much do you? A good phone is not all you need, can you take photos of nebulas in the sky with a phone? no, can you do low light sports? no, can you do high speed “freeze a bullet” no, so you can see there is not much it can do but it is fun to use a phone but it’s not a serious camera.

    • mishobaranovic

      Did you come here from Connect? I suggest you re-read #31 and question why you are threatened by mobile cameras.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ophidianforest MdN

    #25 – That’s exactly where my CameraPro icon is – sorry, a stray Symbian user here and when I saw “ProCamera” I had to check out what this is about. Nice list! :-)

  • Kari

    Nr28 and 4 are stolen from famous photographers and reworded by you, your a thieving little hack!

    • mishobaranovic

      @9b8b4c7b28646f16e232b96d1367ab06:disqus – Seriously? They are two of the most popular photo quotes on the internet the first loosely attributed to Chase Jarvis the second to Cartier-Bresson. I assumed the majority would know this and see that I was having a bit of fun reworking them for mobile. By the way it’s 27 not 28.

      • Kári

        you mean “i couldn’t make my own quote so I decided to steal it and pretend to have it as my own” You can not change quote’s, that does not make it a quote, it makes it a rip off.

        • luke

          Kari, you need take your meds or something! jesus, who has hurt you in the past! get a life!

    • John C.

      Time to exit your mother’s basement and spend some time with real people. That way you may learn to interact with people without the intensely personal insults. Amazing what a black eye or two will do to change your approach.

      • mishobaranovic

        It’s ok @40ef653d975323d921eebd547c0b388b:disqus I don’t want to sensor on here but I also don’t want it to get agro.

      • Kári

        I spend time with real people, mostly photographing it without a cellphone and without thinking a cellphone is equal to a DSLR.
        A black eye? Are you threatening violence or?

  • Kari

    And no you can not call yourself a photographer with a phone, are you making a living off it? Hell no and not everyone can be a photographer but everyone can shoot like an idiot

    • mishobaranovic

      @Kari – actually you can, and many do. I know a few that are commissioned for their mobile work, often live-blogging brand based assignments. They get paid better than most photo day rates. All are good at both photography and social media.

      • Kári

        paid better than most photo day rates? I call 100% BS on that. Do you even know the rates?

        • Luc

          Kevin Russ does it for a living and he is one of my favorites! our of iPhone and photographers – so before you get on your high horse do some research, also Time and many other magazines have user iPhone pictures on the front cover, so stop being so closed minded!

  • Kari

    Nr 40 is complete bullshit as well

    • mishobaranovic

      @9b8b4c7b28646f16e232b96d1367ab06:disqus – is it? “Rapid expansion of mobile devices is a change in business environment given to us,” Kimura said. “Our task going forward is to find an answer to that change.” Makoto Kimura, President of Nikon. 8 July 2013.

      • Kári

        Tell the sun that which fired tons of people & are going down the crapper as we speak.

  • Kari

    Nr 30 shows your complete lack of knowledge, i and millions others can easily spot the difference between a phone, film and celhone image even at 4×6, perhaps ignorance is why you shoot with an iphone and steal several world famous photography quotes and claim them as your own on this list. Your no photographer.

    • Norshan Nusi

      Total difference in DOF and sharpness!~

      Totally agree with you :)

      • mishobaranovic

        @norshannusi:disqus – DOF yes (which can however be faked pretty convincingly with apps). Sharpness no.

        • Kári

          Convincingly? not really, you can NOT fake DOF convincingly if you know how DOF works.

    • mishobaranovic

      @Kari – I beg to differ. Stick the same focal lens on a film/digital as a mobile phone and you will struggle. I’ve been to a few exhibitions (A3, A4 prints) where pro photographers didn’t want to guess because they weren’t sure. I am a photographer Kari, it says so on my business card. As I said below, it’s a bit of a stretch with the quotes. Everyone knows them.

      • Kári

        And I beg to differ, they must not be much of pro photographers then, if I can see an image smaller than A5 and tell you if it is a cellphone, film or digital then I must be the da vinci of photography then I guess also I have worked 9 years in Commercial printing, for me it is extremely easy to see. And if they can NOT see the difference in dynamic range & color tone then they aren’t any good as photographers.

    • madmommy

      It’s hard to take anyone seriously who cannot take the time to use proper spelling and punctuation. Ignorance comes in many forms.

    • luke

      I guess that’s why many photographers have switched to iPhone, any moron with a finger can take a good picture with an SLR! I think it takes skill to take a really great picture with an iPhone!

  • LOL

    Personally I find out my #streetphotography on a phone to be at least on par with it on the “real” camera. Sure, phones suck where the quality matters (portrait for posters, landscapes, etc), but for some kinds of photography, such as previously mentioned street shooting, there’s a little difference other than significant lag on phones.

    • mishobaranovic

      What are you shooting with @disqus_b64jEFCWWn:disqus ? We’ve worked hard to try and minimise shutter lag on ProCamera. The latest version can shoot around 3 shots a second on the iPhone 5.

      • LOL

        Nah, old crappy galaxy s i9000 :) . To be replaced soon though. It can be the new Sony “honami”, or iPhone 5s :) Not sure what exactly yet.

        • mishobaranovic

          @LOL – That Honami interface looks distinctly iPhoney ;) Looking forward to seeing what the 5s offers (doubt it’s 20 megapixels though)

  • seilerbird

    33. You can’t take a good photo with the iPhone flash.

    That pretty much makes the iPhone camera totally useless to me.

    • mishobaranovic

      Understand, looks like the flash will likely be improved in the iPhone 5S.

      • Kári

        I hate the fact they call an LED a flash, people and cellphone manufacturer’s REALLY need to look up the word “flash” in the dictionary, flash does not mean “flashlight” just because “flash” is in the name of a flashlight.

        • kari ikan jawa

          if you so closed minded than use you bloody flash. photograph needs a light. light source can obtained in so many way. if you so admiring you flash then dont use a reflector to obtain softt light from the sun. use your goddamn dslr speedlite. professional photographer are creative and open to arts. not like some amateur whining ass like you.

  • Rafael Edwards

    I find them useful as something to keep in mind as this new field unfolds, and I agree with almost all of the quotes. Photography is being re-defined every day and mobile imaging is taking a lead in making it a massive sport. Some so called photographers resent this. 10 years ago they cried over spilled film, today they are crying over outdated DSLRs. I am a very happy Micro 4/3 user, and still I find that the one I take with me always is the iphone.

    • Kári

      Photography is NOT a sport, it is a hobby or a job. DSLR’s are NOT outdated, I have owned several DSLR’s & Micro four thirds, DSLR’s are NOT outdated, that is like claiming “an 18 wheeler is outdated because we got smaller cars now that can reach 60kmh”

      • Rafael Edwards

        well Kari, I respect your opinion. My experience is valid to me, I’m not trying to impose it on others. How about you respecting mine. No need for anger here, we’re exchanging views.. and I thank yours.

      • LRH

        (Kari) Not only that, if you have a micro 4/3rds and STILL find yourself only taking a stinking fruit phone camera with you, I can’t take you seriously. Good grief already. They offer models like the Canon SL1 & other very small DSLRs, then they offer micro 4/3rds & the Sony NEX-series, then models like the Sony RX100–and STILL people can’t be bothered? Sorry, but that’s just kind of pathetic if you ask me.

      • Cam’ron

        Looks like someone’s been kicked in the bum by a mobile photographer. I’ve used film SLRs, dSLRs, P&S, toy cameras, and (just recently) an iPhone. They all have their own charm. You can’t really compare them because they’re all different in their own way. I know a lot of people who can shoot immensely well and they aren’t so biased regarding what they shoot with. Unlike you. You’re so feeble-minded and backwards thinking. Why not just accept the fact that technology is progressing and it’s opening doors for people who can’t afford to buy dSLRs.

  • olafs_osh

    This article can also called: “Please, respect and love me, while I pretend that I don’t need it”.

    • mishobaranovic

      I think we all want love and respect.

  • Mark

    Nokia 808 and Lumia 1020 are better than most P.S. Its a nice starting point . The fact that they have call making ability and are a better choice for hiking, not to mention loseless zoom of 3x says plenty. Does your point and shoot record in stereo?

  • Mark

    Losless zoom of 4x in 1080p and 6x in 720p, 12x in 360p. Video bitrate is only average though.

  • Erik Spaan

    Nice list :-) And interesting to see how many people in the comments feel as if you’re stepping on their tows. Why. Why not start the dicussion that DSLR sucks, since you need medium format and large format camera’s. And range finder instead of the “stupid” mirror. Etc.

    All have a specific area in which they excell.

    It’s about the image, the picture, the feeling, the emotions on a photograph. I also like the quote “the best camera is the one that you always have with you”, hence phone ;-)

    • mishobaranovic

      Thanks for the support @erikspaan:disqus – completely agree :)

    • luc

      well said!!

  • http://www.aviatorsandacamera.com/ Kirsten Alana

    I’m quoting you, and this article, for a piece I was asked to write with the title “How to Suck Less at Smartphone Photography.” It’s shocking that things like #42 aren’t more obvious. But since they still aren’t, I’m using you as backup.

    Thank you for sharing this, Misho :)

  • sp

    Kari, whoever the fuck you are, you are a simpleton and a douche bag. Why are you spending so much of your energy and time getting worked up over mobile photography. If I see an interesting scene with beautiful light, take out my iPhone and photograph it, is it somehow not “real” photography because I didn’t use a DSLR? Get over it my friend. You’re a classic case of a gear snob!

  • Andy

    Nothing makes me quite as crazy as people who say “Your pictures are great, you must have a great camera.” A few of my most complimented images (and one of my most best-selling) were taken with a smart phone and post processed in Photoshop.

  • Katrina

    Great list! Like 49 & 50 the most. Thru photography I’ve learnt so much about myself and thru a time of being away from it I’ve realized how much I need to take photos!!!

  • Wilbebeest

    Funny arguments below. Mobile photography is really another art form, not equated technically or ever artistically, for that matter, with “real” cameras or traditional photography. It’s the difference between a classically trained violinist and the guys at Electric Daisy who sample and assemble. It’s imagery in an altogether different way. The point is the power of the concept and vision–mobile cameras and apps let you do things that were impossible or extremely difficult in any other way. Which is why the images are so startling and fresh.

  • Avito

    Love the list. A couple stood out for me – an honest comment better than 100 likes, but more importantly – shoot for you not anyone else. Good stuff Misho.

  • http://www.cygnismedia.com/ Cygnis Media

    it’s nice to point out all think about photography …. and i am agree with you.

  • Erin

    Great list, thanks for sharing

  • Kevin Kuster

    I just came across this article can loved it. Several people told me to read the comments. WOW. Some real haters of mobile photography. Keep us the great work @mishobaranovic:disqus . Soon this conversation and anger will be a thing of the pass. All the best.

    • http://blog.procamera-app.com/ ProCamera

      Thanks for the kind words @kevinkuster:disqus, only just saw this. Best of luck over in the Philippines.

      • Kevin Kuster

        No worries. Thanks. Hope you are well.

  • madmommy

    Everyone has to start somewhere. Professional photographers did not start with fancy DSLR cameras, and raking in the big bucks on photo shoots. They started with what they had and learned from their experiences. The iPhone allows the average Joe to discover photography in a way that is accessible. Your list is a great resource for anyone beginning this journey, which includes me. Thank you.

  • Shakin My Head

    “8. A good mobile photograph is a good photograph. Don’t be afraid to call yourself a photographer.” . . . . Really? You honestly dont have a clue to what a “photographer” is. I have a really nice stove and a really fast car but I’m neither a chef nor race car driver

  • Brobeans

    @kari needs to relax. If a photo looks beautiful, it’s beautiful. Just because someone took it on a smartphone doesn’t make it inferior to that which is taken with a real camera. Take a chill pill. Perhaps you can provide something to validate your argument, at least. Do you have an online portfolio? Perhaps you can provide a link? I have a friend who is studying to become a photographer and has an online mobile photography portfolio aside from his other portfolio. I love all of his work. You just need to be open about it. It’s like judging somebody who uses student grade oil paint. Just because it’s student grade, it doesn’t mean his work is inferior to someone who uses artist’s grade. As long as you know what you’re doing, it should not matter.