Photography

Best smartphone specifications for each style of photography(part-1)

Choosing a phone is a very confusing task for creative photographers and bloggers, so let me tell you that a phone with a ‘greater Megapixels’ is.. not the best way to go. It can be difficult at times for smartphone photographers to decide what are the specifications they are looking for in their next smartphone. But that’s why Techtrum is here. To make buying decisions easier for you.

Let’s Try to discuss what can be the best specifications for each common type of smartphone photographer. Also, we will discuss which smartphones in the current market seem to be matching our required specifications for each photography type. Let’s try to dig in!

types of mobile photography, and the device requirements of each type

1. Portrait/fashion photography

a portrait of a woman in yellow dressSource: Original shot by Kshitiz Dewani, Device: Xiaomi Mi A1

Recommended device requirements:
1.The Device should be able to produce realistic/good skin tones.

Generally Realme , Oppo and vivo phones tend to loose the game when skin tones of the output images are are concerned. Pixels and iPhones do amazingly well. Some Xiaomi phones do well, some don’t. Oneplus phones’ output largely depends on the light of the environment in which the image is being shot.

2.A camera lens with large aperture is a must.

A good camera lens for portrait photography is the one with a larger aperture. A wider focal length gives more background blur than a camera with a less wide focal length, and the Bokeh(back ground blur) has the power to change even an average looking picture into a more aesthetically pleasing shot. So, to sugggess you an ideal focal length of a smartphone camera for portrait photography, I would say choose a phone that gives you an aperture of f/1.5 or something near to that, like f/1.4 or f/1.7.

3.A smartphone with good Portrait mode algorithms.

We as photographers often fail to look at the software and algorithms used in smartphones, instead we just compare phones on basis of hardware specifications, which is not the way to go.Generally, Pixels and iPhones have great artificial background blur and edge detection algorithms. Oneplus devices and Samsung’s A series(specially A51 and A71), S series and the Note series also give awesome background blurs. Xiaomi, Realme,Asus,Moto give above nicer (though we can’t summerize so many smartphones by all these brands, buyers better go checkout their phones) outputs. Samsung M series phones and Xiaomi note series phones also do an above-average decent kinda job. Oppo and Vivo give mixed results, but mostly the results re not good.(Oppo Find X2 pro being an exception, gives out impressive results)

4.Bonus- An ability to shoot RAW images.

Images which are in RAW format have a great amount of details in them. Those are the files which have pictures with full capability of your smartphone’s sensor. Pictures in JPEG format are images compressed to a certain amount by your device .

2. Street Photography

an image of street with people walking by.Source: Original shot by Kshitiz Dewani, Device: Xiaomi Mi A1, location: Near Regal Square,Indore.

Recommended device requirements:
1. The Device should produce colors close to reality, and not highly saturated images.

Street photography is all about representing people,lifestyles,street,cities and the beauty of chaos, and all of these are marks of human existence and progress. A camera should be able to capture it as it is; with no extra color thrown into the shot. even if you like punchy colors you can add them while post-processing your shot. So choose a phone that produces real colors.

2. Good Dynamic Range is a must for a phone being used for street photography.

To explain it simply, a phone should produce details even in dark areas of a picture, and also details should not be lost in those parts of image which are under direct light.When midrange smartphones are concerned, Poco X2 is a smartphone with a great dynamic range. Its competitor Realme 6 pro is kinda average.

In upper mid range phones, OnePlus 8 and 8 pro do a great job. Xiaomi k20 and k20 pro also take nice pictures. You can try and find many other smartphones in a range between Rs. 15,000 and Rs. 30,000

3. A good camera software to produce HDR images is an important feature to ask for.

What HDR feature does is, it continuously takes 3 or 5 different images of a same frame with all images being at a different exposure or brightness level. Finally it combines all the 3 or 5 images and makes one good picture, in which no details are lost in shadows or parts with direct sunlight. A powerful smartphone processor and good software algorithms lead to a good HDR facility. So it is good to have a capable processor.

4.Bonus-Ability to produce less warm pictures under sunlight.

Images under direct sunlight come out to be warm in temperature, which is okay but the images should look yellowish and shouldn’t miss out on details under sunlight.

3. Food Photography

a burger with french friesSource: freepik.com

Recommended device requirements:
  1. The device should produce Saturated Colors ,

    because food photography is all about making your picture look so good that the viewer needs to go run into the kitchen as soon as they looks at it. So, having a phone that produces nicely saturated colors is a necessary requirement. Though nowadays most of the phones come with filter and stuff which increase the image saturation, its better to check if your device makes a perfect balance of saturation along with details.

  2. Good HDR ,
    A good camera with HDR facility is an important feature to ask for. What HDR feature does is, it continuously takes 3 or 5 different images of a same frame with all images being at a different exposure or brightness level. Finally it combines all the 3 or 5 images and makes one good picture, in which no details are lost in shadows or parts with direct light. A powerful smartphone processor and good software algorithms lead to a good HDR facility. So it is good to have a capable processor.
  3. Bonus- A device with additional wide angle lens is preferred. 

A wide angle lens can be useful in situations when there is a lot of food kept on the table! (*feeling hungry while writing this*)

4. Fine art Photography

a girl child with a toy bus in handSource: Original shot by Kshitiz Dewani, Device: Xiaomi Mi A1, location: Gandhi Hall,Near Regal Square,Indore.

Recommended device requirements:

  1. The smartphone camera should be able to capture detailed pictures

    because detailed images can be cropped in order to find a better frame. After all, fine art photography is all about being highly artistic. By ‘detailed pictures’ , I mean that the software and the processor of the phone must be capable enough to store data of good amount of pixels. To check the detailing capability of a phone, click a picture with it in average lighting and crop it to half. If you still find the picture to be satisfactorily sharp , then it’s a good camera phone for you.

2. Zoom lens is a good hardware to prioritize for .

Let’s look at a scenario where you don’t have a zoom lens in your smartphone. You see a good scene outside, you take out your phone and shoot it, you go back home and edit it. done.

But, if you have an additional zoom camera in your smartphone , you can also use it to find so many good cropped/zoomed frames which your eyes or your regular camera couldn’t identify because of no zoom. I have an example here, to make you understand it clearly.

3.Bonus-Ability to shoot RAW

Images which are in RAW format have a great amount of details in them. Those are the files which have pictures with full capability of your smartphone’s sensor. Pictures in JPEG format are images compressed to a certain amount by your device . To give you an idea, an image in JPEG format would generally give an output image of about  4MB-8MB, whereas the same image in RAW format would be of a size of around 30MB-50MB. Yup. that’s true.

5. Macro Photography

You might be expecting I will recommend a phone with good macro camera, but I won’t do that. Let me explain.

1.Choose a good external macro lens and then get a phone compatible with it.

If you are serious about your photography, then do me a favor. DON’T SHOOT WITH THE INBUILT MACRO LENS OF YOUR SMARTPHONE. Macro lenses in smartphones are pure gimmicks. Most of the smartphone makers implement macro lenses with megapixels as low as 2MP, which is not at all preferred if you are trying to be professional. Instead, what you need to do is to choose good macro lens for smartphones, and then choose which phone you need to get for the lens.

Although most of the lenses fit in all smartphones as they are to be clipped on the main camera lens, there are some lenses like those by the popular brand ‘Moment’, which are specially designed for some high end smartphones.

2.Choose a phone that shoots Bright photos

If A phone shoot photos that are bright and colorful, there can be many reasons for that. One of them being a great image processing, while another can be a larger aperture. Also, a phone that provides you option for choosing between a good range of ISO values, you’ll have more control over the brightness of your photos.

3.The phone must have a good manual shooting mode

Because Macro photography needs lots of attention and care while shooting,your phone must have a good manual shooting mode. By ‘good manual mode’ I mean it should allow you to change ISO, shutter speed and focus at least .

Mid range Samsung phones are bad at this. I once used some phones from M series and couldn’t find the manual mode. OnePlus’ Oxygen OS has a great manual mode.

The ability to go for higher ISO and slow or fast shutter speeds , greatly depends on the PROCESSOR which is present in the smartphone. So you should also check if the processor of the smartphone you choose has a more capable processor in terms of photo editing.(a highly generalized observation: snapdragon processors from series 400 and 600 don’t allow great photo editing. Please go for atleast a 700+ processor)

4.Bonus- Ability to shoot RAW.

If you have the ability to shoot RAW imavges, it takes the image quality to the next level. You can individually edit parts of your image while retaining great details of the image. It would be wise to check before hand whether the phone you are about to buy and use dedicatedly for photography supports RAW.

to be continued..

There are alot of personal preferences and biases which come into play while someone tries to choose their new smartphone. What I tried to do here is that I have put some concepts/features/functionalities in your mind , so that you might combine these facts with your personal preferences e.g. your favourite smartphone brand or processor series/brand, etc , and choose what’s best for you.

Keep looking forward to PART 2 of this blog series, with a lot more genres of photography to discuss about and choose smartphones accordingly.

reach out to the auther at : teamtechtrum@gmail.com

Follow kshitiz on instagram: @kshitiz.jpeg

Techtrum @instagram : @techtrum.in

Wash your hands, stay safe!

Also read: are telephoto and zoom lenses useful in smartphones?

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