How do you use your cell phone camera?

My fingers are twitching, my mind is spasming. I had to send my camera to Canon for repair and have only my cell phone for the next few weeks. (Shutter button on the Canon stopped working, again!). So when I can’t help myself, I find myself taking photos with my phone. But do they count? The resolution is terrible and the manual settings, impossible to manipulate. Sure, it shoots RAW but it doesn’t seem worth the bother to edit them.

So, my question. As a photographer, how do you use your phone camera? Is it a sketchbook for ideas to come back to later? Is it a pacifier for when you are separated from your real camera, like me? Do you take “real” photographs with it? Anything else you want to say about it?

Sorry to hear about your camera, Cathy. Don’t know if you have been following Tony Kuyper’ Good Light Journal, but he recently wrote an article about his journey with his iphone.
Hopefully this link will work

Hi Linda, thanks for sympathizing about my camera. I’m trying to be creative about working around it, but it is a bit of a drag. The first time it happened was day 1 of my 2 week trip at the end of December, so I had to adapt by using the tripod all the time for about half of the trip until the shutter button mysteriously started working again (only to stop later). The tripod was a bit of an upside, as it forced me to slow down and take more time composing. But it was also a limitation on harder and longer hikes. Pros and cons.

I did not know about the Good Light Journal but that article certainly shows some nice cell phone photos and raises the imporant point of the freedom of not lugging the real camera everywhere. Thanks for telling me about it.

1 Like

I know the feeling! Hopefully the repair won’t take too long. For what it’s worth, I use my iPhone all the time. Several of the images in this project were taken with my iPhone in Raw:

And this has been published in LensWork and Elements. So you certainly do not need a fancy camera to create good photographs. But I would definitely miss my 100-500!

1 Like

David, thanks for the feedback. That’s amazing stuff!!! Obviously I just need a better phone so I can take photos like yours! :grin:

That’s pretty much all I ever use my my cell phone for. When I’m out without my camera I will sometimes snap a pic with my phone to get an idea of framing and composition so that I can come back later.

1 Like

I only use the iPhone for composition evaluation. I find that the iPhone lacks the subtlety of my camera. It crushes the blacks and overcompensates the brights. It generally reinterpretates what I’m seeing. Some of its interpretations are cool but generally leads you astray.


I’ve hardly ever taken a picture with my iPhone that I don’t hate, but when I look at what Tony Kuyper does (with an ancient one!) I am blown away. Of course you have a few constraints – high contrast, low dynamic range and a huge DOF. I always vow to work more on choosing better subjects.

But the thing was invaluable for seeing a detail (I think it was a model or serial #) on the back of a heat pump installed about 6" from a wall. In one of my more lucid moments, the front-facing camera came to the rescue.


@Tom_Nevesely @Igor_Doncov @Diane_Miller
Thanks for your comments! I’m mainly in the phone as a sketchbook camp too. But since as Diane and David point out, other people manage to get good results from phone cameras, so I recognize that I have some things to learn about using it effectively.

I use the phone for anything I don’t intend to print in the darkroom – family pictures, holiday pictures, documenting walks and hikes. And I use it for recce and subsequent setup of the ‘real’ photographs I intend to take with my Large Format cammera. I have an app called Viewfiner Mark II, which makes it possible to simulate any camera (not just LF) and any lens, and works both in colour and B&W; for LF it is invaluable, but imagine it could be of use to anyone working with prime lenses. Here is an example of what the picture from that looks like, showing the different focal length frames:


@Tomas_Frydrych thanks for the info, that app looks very useful! I’ll check it out.