Cell Phone Artwork

Cell phone diptychs are easy to create, and are a lot of fun too. Photograph/Chase Jarvis

Cell phone diptychs are easy to create, and are a lot of fun too. Photograph/Chase Jarvis

Commercial photographer Chase Jarvis goes shooting with his cell phone to prove that the best camera is the one that is with you at all times.

This story was originally published in June 2010.

My Assignment

To document, understand and describe the world around me, by using a camera that is simple and always with me—my cell phone.

An ongoing project, which I started almost three years ago when I bought my first iPhone camera.

Cell phone cameras are an alternate way of seeing. Do not care so much about the final result—just go out and have fun.

After years of shooting commercial assignments with high-end cameras and lenses, I have found myself wishing that I had a simpler device to work with. For instance, I wanted a device with which I can take snapshots of everyday, interesting things I see around me in my daily life. This is an activity I greatly enjoy, but using a heavy DSLR for such pictures can get rather cumbersome. I found myself wishing for a camera that is easier to use, pocketable and something that I do not have to bother about much.

So, when I first bought an iPhone almost three years ago, my first instinct was to check how good its camera was. That started my photographic tryst with these tiny, unassuming things that are always with us, wherever we go. Over time, I realised that the experience of shooting with any cell phone camera is a visual delight as it allows you to see the world in a completely different way, as compared to a regular compact camera or DSLR.

My Perspective
Cell phone cameras have sparked off a huge revolution. The whole idea of having a camera with you all the time is something we always talk about, but it is usually wishful thinking. Over the years, I have bought a number of point-and-shoot cameras with the intention of carrying one everywhere I go, but they only end up gathering dust in my drawers. However, in this age of communication, we never forget our cell phone wherever we go. It is true that cell phone cameras have a lot of restrictions. However, I choose to use these technical ‘limitations’ to spur my creativity skills. Also, the modest abilities of a cell phone camera mean that there is no pressure to create anything magical. The art of cell phone photography is compelling and very different from conventional photography.

The Process
I soon realised that the first rule of shooting great photographs with a cell phone camera is actually quite simple— shoot a lot! The more I shot, the more were my chances of shooting good images. It is the most underrated technique and the dirtiest secret of shooting good pictures. If you do not shoot, you do not score.

The second rule is even more important. Have fun—you have to stop caring so much about the final result. You do not need to be a professional photographer to shoot pictures or to have fun while doing photography. For instance, even my 65- year-old mother enjoys shooting with her cell phone. Do not let the traditional ‘rules’ of composition bog you down. Let the cell phone be an extension of your eye and capture whatever catches your attention.

Another thing that is overrated is technical perfection. Pixels, artifacts, noise and flare are not something you should about. After all, a cell phone does not replace a DSLR. It is, eventually, an alternate way of seeing. It is more about the essence, the moment, the ironies and juxtapositions that we see all around us.

I also enjoy shooting diptychs with my cell phone as I often see two completely different things that remind me of each other. Since the file sizes are rather low, we can easily play with these images in any basic software, and make diptychs, triptychs or even interesting collages.

To make this assignment more meaningful, I have compiled all my iPhone photographs in a book called ‘The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You’. I have also launched www.thebestcamera.com, an online community where people can share their iPhone images. The philosophy that I want to promote is that the best camera is the one that is with us, at every point of time. I want people to look at the photograph and exclaim, “Oh, I can shoot that too!” I hope it is more inspiring than one of my commercial studio shots that quite clearly state that the styling, makeup, techniques and lights are complex and high-end. At the end of the day, I just want the world to enjoy creativity. After all, more people should shoot images, not just photographers.

My Equipment
I have used different versions of the iPhone to shoot these images. That said, the assignment can be carried out using absolutely any cell phone camera.

Making Great Photographs with Your Cell Phone

  • All the basic rules apply. Hold the cell phone steadily using both hands, so that you avoid camera shake.
  • Shoot in good light. A cell phone’s sensor does not have the low-light capability of a DSLR, so shoot only in bright light.
  • Avoid clutter. If you have too many elements in your frame, your camera phone will not be able to resolve the details. Concentrate on one subject and compose it for maximum impact.
  • Keep the processing simple. If you are an iPhone user, you can use easily available phone applications to enhance your images. If not, tweak the contrast andcolours by using a basic software like Picasa or iPhoto.
  • Do more with your images. Make deliberate use of grain and optical flaws to create mood. Shoot a lot of images and make a collage or a contact sheet. Use diptychs, triptychs and whatever else your creativity inspires you to.

To see more of Chase’s stunning iPhone imagery and other photographs, visit www.chasejarvis.com

Tags: cell phone, cell phone photography, Chase Jarvis, Composition, Diptych, iphone, june 2010, On Assignment, triptych