Linda Stokes is a freelance photographer who shoots primarily on Android smartphones and shares her images with more than 60,000 Google+ followers. Linda has a master’s in fine arts from the University of California at Berkeley, and her first design job was working on Tron (yes, the original). The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Qualcomm.
I tried photography, but I couldn’t get into it. The expense of the gear (you always need one more thing!) and the learning curve put me off. Worse, all that fumbling took me out of the moment, to a place where I couldn’t shoot a good photo. My photographic journey didn’t really begin until I got my first Samsung Galaxy, the S1. Everything changed, and I fell in love with capturing images.
I’m a kind of “accidental” photographer. Photos happen when I’m doing something else—when I’m wandering past a pond, or walking out of a restaurant. Out of nowhere, a visual will grab my attention. I keep my phone in hand for just such moments. I can take a photo anywhere, and can manipulate it to capture angles and light with total ease.
Driving back from a long haul in a truck full of furniture, ten miles from home is not a time when I (or my husband) would want to pull over and set up a shot, so I leaned from the passenger seat onto the dashboard to shoot. (This happens a lot, so I keep my windshield very clean). Even the bug splats on the windshield are part of the story—the long hours of driving and road weariness—as we return to the beauty and comfort of home.
My photos are all about color and light in nature. Advances in mobile cameras, like high-resolution sensors and speedy image processors, mean I can count on my phone to reproduce what I see with my naked eye. This is especially important in low light—in the early morning and after sundown, when the sky has the most color. My phone captures the color I’m looking for, without any graininess or distortion.
That reliability allows mobile photography to happen off the cuff. You’re moving—or walking or riding shotgun during a Sunday drive—yet always looking. The size and weight of your equipment doesn’t impede your movements, intimidate other people, or stifle your creativity. When interesting light or subject matter appears, I just grab my phone and shoot, even from the car. My phone camera can reach places and spaces a conventional rig can’t—sometimes even places my whole body can’t.
This picture is the visual distillation of an adventure. My friend and I were out walking when a tornado warning came. As soon as we got to her place, my phone went off with the “Seek shelter” alert, and we ran for the storm cellar.
Equipment photography is different. For landscapes (among my favorite genres), it might involve location scouting, carrying and setting up equipment, and waiting until the light is right. It’s a distraction. Of course, mobile phones can be just as distracting—they fragment our consciousness and take us out of the present moment—but phone photography helps bridge the divide between us and the world around us. When I’m “in the zone,” my phone helps me be aware of the world around me. I can use it to be in the present moment instead of being distracted.
In this way, mobile photography best satisfies the challenge of good photography: It allows you to distill an iconic moment in time, to capture the feeling and emotion and tell the story of that moment. Being a mobile photographer lets you capture these special moments as they appear. I got most of my favorite shots because I had my phone on me, while I was doing something else. There is only now, and that is the best and only time to shoot a great photo. Most likely, it will be with your phone.