Pro photographer smartphone shoot-out

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The built-in cameras on smartphones are getting better and better with each new phone release. Some phones' camera lenses and features are so good that they rival basic point-and-shoots, prompting users to ditch their stand-alone cameras. Paired with photo-editing apps and the ability to instantly share our work, phone cameras are often easier to use, even if that means sacrificing some of the manual settings that come with regular cameras.

But what about for professional purposes? For this story, we equipped three professional photographers with three smartphones that are the camera leaders for their respective mobile operating systems: the iPhone 5 on iOS, the Nokia Lumia 920 on Windows Phone 8, and the HTC EVO 4G LTE on Android. These pro photographers took their phones on shoots, and swapped out their full DSLR setups to snap a few styled shots with these smartphones, often making use of the apps that nonprofessionals use every day.

Here's what they came up with.

iOS: Anne Hamersky

Anne Hamersky

The artist: Anne Hamersky shoots stills and video of real people doing real things. Last year she shot the construction of a straw-bale house on Hopi lands, an urban farm build in the South Bronx, and a wetlands restoration project in Passe a l'Outre, Louisiana. Michael Pollan selected her latest book, Farm Together Now(Chronicle, 2010), as his favorite food book of 2011. Anne lives in San Francisco. Follow her on Instagram (@anneham).

The smartphone: iPhone 5, 8-megapixel iSight camera

Twin Peaks Hike

Anne Hamersky
Twin Peaks Hike

I ride my bike a lot up Twin Peaks, the big double hills in the center of my city. The spring flowers are running amok up there right now. So it was fun to try out Photo Grid, a collage-making app for iOS. I used the swap function, the flop function, and the rounded-corner selection.

After using the iPhone’s built-in camera app to take pictures for the collage, I opened the collage in Snapseed and followed this path: Tune image > Contrast +14 > Saturation +6.

Spring at Alemany Farmers' Market

Anne Hamersky
Spring at Alemany Farmers' Market

I liked how the Twin Peaks hike collage came out, so I followed a similar path for this piece. I used the swap function and rounded corners. I then brought the collage into Snapseed and followed this path: Tune image > Saturation +9  > Contrast +3.

Ocean Beach

Anne Hamersky
Ocean Beach

For this shot, I wanted to try an easy-peasy, straightforward Snapseed treatment. I used these filters:

  • Automatic > Contrast +18
  • Tune image > Saturation +70
  • Drama > Filter strength +70 > Saturation +50
  • Tilt-shift > Blur +90
  • Frames > Frame 5

Lucy With Lemons

Anne Hamersky
Lucy With Lemons

I usually like punchy, happy, what I call "circus colors" in my images. But I wanted to play around with some of the crazy filters in Snapseed, so I chose a sweet shot of my young friend Lucy, picking lemons in her neighbors’ backyard. I’d like to play around more and fine-tune a look that I love. There are so many ways to go with it.

To get this effect, I used these Snapseed filters:

  • Center focus > Portrait 2 > Blur strength 11 > Outer brightness -27
  • Tilt-shift > Linear > Transition +50 > Center size +85
  • Tune image > Saturation > -7
  • Selective adjustment > selected face > Brightness > -34
  • Frames > Frame 3

Underside of Valentine’s Day Roses

Anne Hamersky
Underside of Valentine's Day Roses

While composting my Valentine’s Day gift roses, I noticed how cool the underside of the whole flower looked. I was amazed at how close the iPhone 5 could focus—such awesome macro capabilities.

I built a crazy quilt from the eight or so original images I shot of the bunch using PhotoGrid. First, I made a 4-by-4 grid. Then I made another, sometimes flopping or rotating an image to create a more dynamic vibe. I made two more 4-by-4 grids for a total of four 4-by-4s.

Next, I went back into PhotoGrid and selected all four of these grids to make a more complex grid within grids. I played around with size and rotation. I saved that grid of 16 images. Then I went back into PhotoGrid and selected two of the 4-by-4s again, the 16-image composite, and one of the original single shots. This became my final image.

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