THE BLOG

Mobile Photography - A Distinct Genre of Photography?

01/04/2013 20:29 BST | Updated 01/06/2013 10:12 BST

"Are you a mobile photographer?" I was asked recently. As a photographer specialising in travel related work and always ready to take assignments on the road I was ready to answer yes but, deep down, I knew the person asking meant something else. They were asking if I used a mobile phone to photograph.

Like many photographers, I'm open to experimenting and don't mind using a broad range of equipment to produce my images. Using a pinhole camera can be fun and rewarding, so too can shooting with a mobile phone. In fact, I still enjoy going out with 35mm and medium format cameras and shooting on film.

However, for most of my professional work I like to use digital single lens reflex (D-SLR) cameras because doing so means I can use high quality lenses, photograph both RAW and JPEG file formats, and quickly edit my photos on my laptop before sending them to my clients.

I photographed at the recent National Cross Country Championship, held at Herrington Park in Sunderland, then edited and submitted my images to news agencies within a matter of minutes of races finishing. The process involved downloading files, selecting the best images, labelling them, then sending them.

As the quality of cameras on mobile devices increases I can see why mobile photography is gaining in popularity. It can be fun and it's pretty instantaneous. There are now websites, online discussion forums and competitions for mobile photographers.

Sharing photos on websites such as Facebook, Fourshare and Flickr, or even via Twitter, is straightforward. However, Instagram, the app co-founded by Stanford graduates Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom, now has approximately 100 million users and has streamlined the process of sharing images across platforms for its users.

Instagram is free and allows users to apply a range of filters, factors that have aided its uptake around the globe.

Organisations are waking up to the marketing potential offered via Instagram and engaging users' passion for sharing photos. From 17 to 19 May a global Instagram convention, Instameet, will be held at Hamilton Island, one of the Whitsunday Islands off Queensland in Australia. One UK Instagram user can win a trip there as part of the Return2Paradise competition, which is accepting entries until 7 April. The first such event, held in November of last year, resulted in the number of Hamilton Island's Instagram followers rising from 269 to 8,524 while its Facebook following rose from 18,478 to 22,343.

It may be both popular and fashionable, what, though, does a professional photographer such as Jeremy Hoare think about Instagram and what it offers to users?

"I think for people who take pictures, and we're really talking about people who take pictures on mobile phones...it's a new thing for them, but the filters that are used are not new. Photographers have used filters like that for many, many years. I did so many years ago and I think any photographer worth his salt will try and do things that look like Instagram probably, but were more difficult in the past," says Hoare, a London based travel photographer, television camera man and lighting director.

In his view, using Instagram filters often gives the impression that the photos are taken by amateurs but, used effectively, mobile phones can be used to good effect.

"Dan Cheung, a professional photographer, shot the whole of the Olympics on an iPhone for the Guardian. But that's in the hands of a professional who produced good results. It's never the camera that takes the pictures; it's the photographer," explains Hoare.

Carefully selecting images to show and share is essential. Yet even professionals can face dilemmas at this phase. Knowing the story behind an image, and what it took to get the shot, sometimes means it is difficult to be objective during the selection process. Being critical during the selection phase is, though, very important.

"We are overwhelmed with the amount of images. 'Quality is of no importance,' I've been told that so many times by people. But I think it is and I think it will return to quality, because we are drowning in an ocean of mediocrity at the moment," says Hoare

You don't need to have top-of-the-range equipment to take good photographs, though it can help. An important part of the process of taking good photographs comes from within us and expressing what we feel and want to show.

"It's what stirs, it's what drives you, what hits your heart and your emotions; they are the key things. I think all professional photographers not only do what they are paid to do but also their own things on their own time," explains Hoare.

There's a wide selection of tools, sharing opportunities and apps available to photographers but passion and know-how are also key factors in creating great images. People are using mobile devices to photograph, but can mobile photography really be described as a genre?

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