Smartphones have been around for over a decade now. In this time, although there have been great technological advances, such as longer battery life and larger screens, the most important one to photographers is better image quality.
Jokes aside, always having a camera, by way of phone, has drastically changed the way we create images. This is further enhanced with built-in features, such as some cameras boasting native exposure setting manipulations. You can not only change ISO and shutter speed, but with cameras that feature multiple prime lenses, you can also change aperture. Photo manipulation software has made huge leaps in recent years with AI solutions for things such as reducing noise, increasing image resolution, as well as others. Gone are the days of having to use your tiny phone flash way up close to a back-lit subject to fill in shadows in bright midday sun.
I’ve always been a huge proponent of the mindset that retouching should be about enhancing what you have captured in camera. The proviso, of course, being that what you capture in camera has to be as good as you can make it, given the circumstances. Retouching is very much about pushing forward whatever your baseline is. By being able to have a higher baseline by adjusting the in-camera settings, retouching can further enhance your images more than what was previously possible without in-camera settings adjustments.
What does all this really mean, though? Unless you’re doing something very specific, you won’t be shooting any big commercial campaigns solely on a phone camera. But what phone cameras do allow is ubiquity by way of their size. Their impact on photojournalism, as well as street and documentary photography, is unmatched.
Having something and knowing how to use it well are two very different things. In this video, Kohki Yamaguchi demonstrates a breadth of what is possible with a modern phone camera. He draws on multiple skill sets to shoot street, documentary, and portrait and fashion imagery. Vision is very much about using the tools you have in order to see the world in a specific way. Working with stipulations, whether self-imposed or not, can really help bring clarity to your photographic vision.