Thoughts and Impressions

Doing Street Photography with a Smartphone

So lately I haven’t been so active with my camera, which is primarily because I’ve decided to upgrade from the Canon EOS Rebel 800D (or T7i in the States), to the one year older, but more advanced, Canon EOS 80D. I will probably talk a little about that in another post, when I’ve spent some more time familiarizing myself with my new camera. But it’s not only the change of camera, but also the change of weather here, becoming more wet and stormy, which has forced me to leave my camera at home and use my smartphone instead – though that isn’t so clear from the below photos. I will add some in a later post, which are more obvious.

An Israeli female soldier crossing the street from the Arlozorov bus station in Tel Aviv.

That said, doing street photography with my smartphone had an impact on style. Not only how I do it, but also how I edit. There are some clear reasons for why this is the case, and it made me realize that the tool we use, influence and change what we create with it, which really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. Using an electrical saw will allow us to create different pieces of wood faster and more efficient, than a traditional saw will, giving us more flexibility to create whatever it is we wish to create.

Two lovely women asking for direction for something, which apparently was in the direction from where I came.

That doesn’t mean that it’s bad to use a less “advanced” tool (a smartphone is really more advanced than a DSLR in many ways), it means that it allows us to use our creative thinking differently, and approach the subject in alternative ways. That should be clear from the photos in this post, when compared to other street photos I have posted here on the blog and on my Instagram profile.

A soldier about to enter the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem from the back, while I was exiting. 

So how does my style change? Well, since my smartphone has a wide angle lens, I’m forced to get closer to the subjects. That can be a little problematic with a DSLR, since it will be very obvious what you are doing. But the benefit of using a smartphone, is that what you are doing isn’t that obvious to people, so often you just appear as some weird annoying guy, who just can’t put the phone down while walking – if they even consider you at all.

A guy enjoying the cooler weather less than most.
The non-religious youth of Jerusalem exemplified in this girl outside the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem. 

Another thing that forces me closer to the subject, is the less resolution in the smartphone and the worse quality of the lens. It’s impossible to crop photos and get a good result in most cases, so I have to take advantage of the whole frame when I’m taking a shot. That makes the photos a little more intimate, since we are much more in contact with the subjects. With a DSLR I can keep the distance – I don’t have to, but I can – and most often do.

A stranger in Jerusalem looking for directions. 

When it comes to editing the photos, they often end more contrasty than my DSLR photos. This is both because of the style of the photos, I feel they are more “raw” in style, and because of the quality of the images in technical context. There aren’t that many options to play around with light and color, since the details in the smartphone photos are less than they would be had they been taken with a DSLR, even when shot with RAW file format (or DNG as is the case with the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, which I’m using).

A young ultra-orthodox Jew with his suitcase. 

I also add more vignetting, making it visible, which helps to make the subject stand out in the photo. I feel that it works on these photos, since they are very bright, and fits well both with the contrasty nature and the close focus on the subjects. Not only that, I feel that it emphasizes the feeling of observing the subjects closely, as if we were looking through binoculars or a peeking through a hole of some sort.

An ultra-orthodox couple crossing the light rail tracks.

What do you think? Do you like the style? What do the photos make you think and feel? How would you approach using a smartphone, both regarding photoing and editing?

Let me hear from you.

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