Mobile Photography is here to stay, and how!

mobile Street photography nokia microsoft lumia india maharashtra
Melting pot of faiths - I had no time to take out my DSLR, and the mobile camera came handy


The Past

It was in 2003 when I bought my first camera, and it was a Sony Cybershot P100. I had used my dad's camera before that, but using a film camera was not just cumbersome, but also expensive. However, Sony P100 was Diwali gift to myself and it costed more than my take-home salary then! I guess I was indulgent then, but it was an investment which very quickly became my favourite companion (I think it even took precedence over by then girl friend) and we remained inseparable till 2007, when it finally died down, primarily due to my excessive use. Many of the older blog posts have images taken with this camera.

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Some of my earliest images on Instagram from Stanford days...

mobile Street photography iphone san francisco
My earlier days of experimentation with street Photography using an iPhone
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Selfies or shots of myself - mobile photography comes very handy with these!

With time I had more money Nikon DSLR (D5000) came into my life. I guess that was the turning point for me as I started taking photography much more seriously then. I took up street and candid portrait photography in a big way and the quality of my shots improved dramatically. However, an even bigger shift came into my life when I was a student at Stanford and bought an iPhone. Instagram was just a huge news story then, until M came to US and got me addicted to it. The fatal combination of iPhone and Instagram (it was an iOS app only back then), took me to another plane. This was a while back and all my friends and followers back then were Americans. I would struggle to find Indians there even though I tried a lot.

The Present

mobile Street photography iphone varanasi india
Varanasi was my first trip in India where I explored mobile photography to the fullest

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Mobile photography is great at heritage monuments as well!
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Some street photography from Delhi

However, in the last year and half, Instagram has exploded in India. Some of the most amazing virtual friends I have now come from Instagram, or my Facebook page. The deadly combination of an amazing mobile phone camera and a creative photographer behind the lens has not only made mobile photography accessible, but in conjunction with apps like Instagram, it has also made these talented youngsters into super-stars of this virtual world.

I am undoubtably a huge fan of mobile photography, and a mobile phone to me is a mobile camera first. I have seen my own evolution as a photographer from the time I started using Instagram in US, to a more sensitive and thoughtful photographer now. I used to always chase stories of people, and having an accessible camera in my pocket has made it even easier.

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Capturing how Neelima captures her mobile shots using a Lumia 1020 :)

However, mobile photography is not just about having a great phone with a great camera. I think there are two more, and perhaps more critical aspects of mobile photography. These are:

Skills in Image and Video Editing: Having done mobile photography for many years now, I can say for sure that a great image captured can become an exceptional one with great skills of editing. I can easily imagine many naysayers to this who are more of a purists when it comes to photography. They are right in their own way, but mobile image editing is where the world is and if you do not get on it now, you will miss the bus. I recently wrote a post on some of the applications that I use for my pictures, but no matter what are your preferences, do hone your skills at editing images on your mobile phone. I find it so convenient that I have now moved to editing even images taken on my DSLR on my phone and it has made my life much simpler! DO NOT HESITATE - get serious about mobile image editing.

Social Networking (Fans and Followers): One of the most important reasons why Mobile photography has caught on so much is the fact that we get instant gratification from these, and this happens due to the love that our fans and followers shower on us. Its very different from blogging where you may not get more than ten comments on the blog in a day, and a few mails. Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Stumbleupon, Behance - they all not only connect you with likeminded people, but also make you into a mini social celebrity! The high that you get from the immediate feedback on your work is truly fantastic.

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Praying at the Golden temple...

Must-have apps for image editing (my personal bundle)

I do not use a lot of apps for image editing, but these are the ones I use very often - especially for preparing images for Instagram.

  • Snapseed: Snapseed is the only photo app you’ll want to use every day. It makes any photograph extraordinary with a fun, high-quality photo experience right at your fingertips.
  • VSCOcam: VSCO Cam for Android and iOS is fully integrated with VSCO Grid, our minimalist publishing platform. Create and showcase your original photography, find and follow creatives from around the world, view a curated selection of the finest images online, or read in-depth artist profiles in the VSCO Journal.
  • PS express: Touch your way to better-looking pictures with automatic fixes and filters. Get your pictures to pop! And after sharing, you’ll be the talk of your friends.
  • Whitagram: The easiest way to use the original size photos with white background. Landscape and portrait photos can be uploaded to instagram.
  • FrameMagic: FrameMagic builds beautiful photo and video collages with tons of layouts, unique decorations, unlimited play/audio options, background music, beautiful filters, texts and stickers


Accessories for Mobile Photography

  • Mini tripod
  • HTC's Re Cam
  • Olloclip
  • Portable mike (especially for those who intend to do more professional work with their smart phones) 

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Streets in the old town...image editing becomes critical to get shots like these right!

Most recently I collaborated with Nokia for using their 41MP camera phone Lumia 1020. As a mobile photographer it was quite a satisfying experience for me. I also realised that I used none of the fancy features in the camera, all I needed as a photographer was a camera that took good quality clear pictures, and take them quickly. Sometimes I miss the speed of my DSLR, but the convenience of using a mobile phone makes it still worthwhile.

More collaborations with more mobile phones are in the pipeline, and I will continue to share my impressions as well as explore mobile photography in all spheres of blogging world! As I love photo experimentations, these opportunities not only does it allow me to test the camera, it also lets me test my own capability as a photographer. With each new device, there is something new to be learnt.

The Future

As a mobile photographer, I think I am in an absolutely fantastic space right now. I have some of the best companies in the world working extremely hard to make sure that all my needs are fulfilled. I have used some of the best mobile cameras available, and most of them have generally impressed me.

mobile Street photography nokia microsoft lumia amritsar
One friend sings, while the other rolls a cigarette - capturing candid moments like these is very satisfying
However, in future I see mobile photography majorly replacing DSLR photography to a large extent, just as DSLRs almost completely decimated film cameras. As a photographer and a travel blogger, it has already started to happen. I often use pictures taken with a mobile phone in my posts, and some are completely based on images taken from a mobile phone. Since I am a huge fan of candid photography, I love this style of photography even more.

So what do I want from the cameras of future:
  1. They need to be extremely quick (time between two shots need to reduce further)
  2. They need to get even better at night photography
  3. Better integration with the DSLRs (even though mobile will continue to cannibalise their market)
  4. More accessible and better quality of add-on lenses
  5. Easier and more wide angle selfies
  6. The UI needs to get simpler so that everyone gets hooked on to them even more!

I also think the era of filters is gone and now more and more youngsters are editing the images with better manual control. Having said that, I think there is still space for apps like VSCOcam. 

Some quick tips!

These tips are completely on my own experiences and experimentations with mobile photography so far. This is very brief and I promise I will write a more detailed post soon with tips, tricks as well as examples from my own work. Please consider these while you take your camera out the next time!
  1. Always chase a great subject and not just great specs in a camera
  2. Do not be afraid to get close to your subjects, there is nothing like being too close!
  3. Look for good light and great textures
  4. Network with other photographers with similar interest, you can learn much more working together than alone. Collaborate with people whose work you admire.
  5. Experiment with image editing

mobile Street photography nokia microsoft lumia portraits
These were clicked with my DSLR, but edited completely on my iPhone

Voice of end-users!

As I shared this on Facebook and other social media, I decided to also seek opinions of some of my friends - travel bloggers, photographers and designers, who generally use both a DSLR and often a camera phones as well.

Mridula Dwivedi - Travel Tales from India: For me the cell phone has replaced the point and shoot not the Dslr.

Om Routray - The Young Big Mouth: I have only been a mobile phone photographer. Yet to graduate. But yes, it is here to stay and evolve. To say that DSLRs etc would be replaced is a fallacy. No technology has really died out. What would change though is photography will not remain an elite sport. The difference between documentation and art would still remain. However, I am not sure to what extent that will affect our tolerance for less than perfect photographs.

I know...device is such a critical factor. I have been taking great pics during the day but despite all the advertisement, there is not a single phone that works as well at night. By tolerance I also meant I know I cant post my night pics as they are so horrible people will reject them. And, even though, I have not done badly with mobile camera, now I am looking for a DSLR. So it may also happen that more people will get serious about photography and feel compelled to graduate to a pro device.

Anuradha Shankar - A Wandering Mind: I have only recently begun clicking with the phone, Siddhartha Joshi, so can't speak much right now. There is no doubt though that it is convenient, esp when it's an unplanned thing. That said, I don't have a DSLR yet, so my comparison is still with a point and shoot.

Nisha Jha - Lemonkicks: Using mobile is very easy, convenient & it's handy as well but I am not much into mobile photography. I use DSLR, bridge & mobile cameras for diff purposes. Mobile comes out only when I don't have time to pull out others or am lazy, to take pics of food, or to tweet or Instagram. Having said that, I once relied entirely on mobile for pics for whole day.

Rekha Kakkar - My Tasty Curry: I am not really sure about mobile photography because mostly I shoot with Dslr but lately I have started to realize importance of a handy camera so I am thinking of buying an IPhone ... heard so many good things about it.

Prasad NP - DesiTraveller: Indeed mobile phones cameras have come a long way. I myself take a lot of pics with mobile. But as long as Mobiles will aspire to become DSLR we know there is something about DSLRs :) But I agree with you for a lot of day to day use cell phone cameras are absolutely wonderful.

Sankara - Be on the Road: Yes. I use a mix of my mobile and DSLR. Sometimes on short trips I just end up using the mobile phone.

Saify Naqvi: Nice read first thing in the morning Siddhartha . I think the device is irrelevant. Photography is about making a moment alive-that's Magic. It's the story that inspire people.

Arun - Trakin: Mobile phone camera's have got much better in last couple of years. Infact, as per estimates, over 99 percent of all Digital photographs clicked everyday are from camera phones. It is one of the most important aspects for consumer while deciding which smartphone to buy. However, for Semi-pros and professionals, DSLRs is going to remain the default choice for photography.

Having said that, in coming years, what we are going to see is DSLRs getting smaller to a point where they will be mere extensions to your mobile phones and Mobile screen becoming view-finder for your DSLR (just like a Go-Pro). We are already seeing that happening. Also, mirrorless cameras are going to slowly take-over.

Rutavi - Photokatha: I use and extensivley use Mobile for photography and even social media reach. Many mobile companies are comong with high end camera for mobile to lesses down the weight with travellers, and flight light is the motto with them. Also you have many editing options which makes the picture more creative as well. Also photography is an art which can be derived through emotion gadgets in such really doesnt matter.

Ajeetha: That's a good question, Siddhartha Joshi, but I may be the wrong person! For me, the phone maybe acts as a handy point-and-shoot which is always with you. You can get decent images, but you cannot always do what you want- the precision is missing. I bought a DSLR because you can control so much more than a point-and-shoot, and therefore can shoot a wider range of pictures. I am in fact, moving back to my old film SLR more these days- I feel a bigger sense of achievement when I get a good shot on that.

Maithali Kabre Mandal: Never used an SLR, and since I love the instant aspect & freedom of seeing something great and capturing it, sometimes candidly as well, I love the iPhone. I don't see myself taking my pictures beyond Instagram scale, so I would rely on improvements in mobile cameras alone. And I love mobile pics editing, it lends more life always.

But nothing comes close to a good photographer using a DSLR, same mind taking the same image elevated to the next level. I think for someone who wants to dig deeper, the various technical aspects involved in SLRs is what's challenging n interesting, than just clicking. I see Ankan using both, and it may come down to cumbersome vs convenient. Only when really interested n inspired does the DSLR get used.

Omkar Pmb Phatak: What a lovely discussion to go through, so much to absorb in here.  Well, Siddhartha, in my opinion, I believe before a mobile or a DSLR, it takes a keen vision, the ability and an endless desire to see the world around you a bit differently that defines photography.  Indeed, mobile photography has established itself as a serious passion in the coming years and thereby the companies are in for a camera competition with their every new release.

I've come across so many photographers online who strictly showcase their mobile photographs in the gallery, this itself coined the term, 'iPhoneography' etc.

Someone here said it right, DSLR is a little cumbersome but then again it offers and delivers much more as compared to camera canvas in mobiles.  Photography as a passion is growing insanely in India and thus the demand for a better mobile camera follows. You go from a mobile to a DSLR. That is the drill that exists for a lot of people including me. I believe, the photographer base of India will be doubled in the coming years because of mobile photography.

mobile Street photography nokia microsoft lumia 1020
Exploring the inside of king's palace in Ichalkaranji with Lumia 1020

I want something from you as well!

But before you go, I want something from you also. I would really like to tell me what works and what does not work for you in Mobile Photography, and how do you see the future shaping up for this field. As long as you use mobile phones to click images you are a user and hence your opinion counts :) It will also make the mobile companies listen up to the needs to end users, as they will surely see this post and read the comments!

My New YouTube Channel:

I started a Travel Video channel on YouTube recently. Do subscribe and and let me know what you think :)


Before I sign off, let me share this article by Ming Thein - he is a fellow blogger and I am huge fan of his photography.


  1. Hi Siddhartha

    I truly believe in what you say that Mobile Photography has a great future ahead. Simple and easiest way to indulge into photography.We have strong faith in visual communication.This is the reason behind starting a small initiative ThisTime app ( Mobile Photography with a cause :) Let me know what do you think of Thistime App.

  2. I am totally agreed with you that mobile photography is trending today and it has many benefits.
    4G Mobile Low Price List

  3. Thank you for sharing this Siddhartha !

    Today everyone using smartphones for taking pictures rather than SLR cameras.


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