In Pictures

Smartphone, smart photography

Taking a picture on a mobile phone Image copyright iStock

Professional photographer, writer and lecturer Grant Scott explains how you can use your mobile phone to improve your creative photography.

There are few of us that do not have a camera in our pockets for most of our waking hours that:

  • is easy to use
  • produces high-quality images we can manipulate to our heart's content thanks to a multitude of photo apps
  • we can play games on, make films with, listen to the radio on, collect music with, watch films on
  • fulfils all of our information and entertainment needs

I say a camera and not a phone because as the quality of smartphone camera functionality has improved, we have increasingly communicated through the visual image rather than the spoken word.

The average number of photographic images stored on a smartphone device in the UK in 2014 was estimated at 2,000 - but how many of the people creating and storing those images would describe themselves as a photographer?

Not many, I suggest. And yet those images are being shared and therefore published through social media platforms and creative platforms such as Twitter and Instagram to an eager and interested audience just as a professional photographer would want their work to be seen.

The photographic image has become an instant method of communication, a democratic visual language with no national boundaries, not just a hobby or profession - but have you considered how to improve your smartphone photography?

Image copyright Grant Scott

The smartphone camera in your pocket has also led to a vast amount of images being created that document the everyday, the minutiae of our daily lives, images that have been created to tell stories, record moments and precious memories.

But it can also be used as a tool to improve your photography and make you more aware of factors such as light, texture, form, composition and juxtaposition, the very elements that constitute the building blocks of visual creativity.

That is the basis of what I call "photosketching".

Too often, we are concerned with creating a "good" photograph - but what makes a "good" photograph?

Everyone has their own ideas and definitions on this, so rather than worrying about how your photographs look before you take them, photosketching frees you up to just have fun in the process of creating them.

Taking photos just to see what things look like as photographs can be an incredibly liberating experience and the perfect way to begin your photographic experimentation.

With no need to worry about the mechanics of photography, you are also free to capture images focusing solely on the aesthetic.

This makes us more aware of our environment and of the basic elements that constitute a successful photograph.

Image copyright Grant Scott

Don't play safe when photosketching, have fun, take risks and experiment, be instinctive and not cerebral.

Of course, this way of seeing is nothing new to photography. Experimentation has been at the basis of its being since its earliest days, but it has never been easier or cheaper to do than it is today.

One good way to start photosketching is to take a walk in your immediate neighbourhood with your smartphone in your hand and the camera functionality on and ready to shoot.

Walk slowly and deliberately looking out for anything that catches your eye.

That could be a sign, a shadow, an old painted gate, something thrown away or left behind, a person seated waiting for a bus, a reflection in a window, some graffiti, anything that you usually walk past.

When you see something, take a picture and walk on. Don't worry about the picture, and definitely don't judge its merits or delete it just after you've taken it.

Image copyright Grant Scott

At the end of your walk, return home and review the images you have created.

See if a pattern of subject matter has occurred, decide upon which images are most successful and try to work out why they appeal to you.

Keep going for walks and following this procedure, and you will soon be developing both your visual language and your body of successful photographic images that reflects how you see the world in which you live.

If you don't like the idea of going for a walk to start photosketching, take the same approach to an interest, passion or hobby you may have.

Start to document it from different angles, approaches, or directions.

As your confidence and understanding grows, you may want to share your images online.

This is a great way to see if the images you like are appreciated by a wider audience interested in the subject matter you are photographing or the aesthetic approach you have taken.

It could also be the beginning of you taking your photography more seriously and for people to start to see you as a photographer.

Image copyright Grant Scott

You can follow Grant Scott on twitter @UnofPhoto.