The Camera In Your Pocket

Mobile photography on Cape Cod

By Michael and Suz Karchmer

Our journey as iPhone photographers began in 2011 when Mikael Carstanjen and his wife, Mary Doering, both artists and photographers living on the Cape, invited the two of us along with five other photographers to form a monthly iPhone photography study group (the “iPhone 9”). Now, when either of us sees a photographic opportunity, we most often reach not for our big cameras, but for our iPhones. Our goal is to make more than just snapshots. We seek to create images that tell a story, express an emotion or that have heightened visual impact. The images usually start with a photo capture app followed by one or more apps to edit the image and produce the look and feeling we want to achieve. Sometimes we also turn to computer software such as Photoshop or Lightroom for final tuning.

The two of us share a particular fascination for using our mobile devices to make images that express the magic and wonder of living on Cape Cod. In addition to our photographs on the following pages, we are also including a small sampling of Cape-themed images from our iPhone 9 colleagues to illustrate the variation that occurs when these devices are placed in the hands of skilled and creative photographers.


  1. Making a good image with your mobile device usually involves more than just snapping the picture. Think of the initial picture as a starting point—a draft—that you will improve by editing it with one or more apps. Many apps provide effects and filters that will change and “dress up” your image. Knowing how to select and apply them to achieve the look you have in mind can be a trial-and-error process and is the key for using these tools creatively.
  2. Learn to use a few apps very well instead of many apps superficially. Then expand slowly to other apps as you gain mastery.
  3. Train your eye as a photographer. Look for what will make a good image. Consider composition and other visual elements. You’re never going to make a bad shot into a great image no matter how many apps you apply.
  4. Practice your skills as an iPhoneographer. Give yourself an “assignment” to work on an image every day. Look past the obvious: Good images can be found whether you’re in a store, on the beach, or at home.
  5. Look for sharing opportunities by joining sites such as Flickr, Instagram and Facebook. (After all, the popularity of mobile photography in large part is due to the rise of social media on the Internet.) Stay abreast of what’s happening in the world of mobile photography and check out what talented mobile photographers around the world are doing by following online blogs.

28-Alan-Trugman-IMG_0395The Smartphones that bring our phone calls, emails and texts are also shaping the way we do photography. In 2009, pioneering iPhone photographer and blogger Chase Jarvis wrote the book, “The Best Camera is the One That’s With You.” Many people have taken this sentiment to heart: A recent analysis of the popular photo-sharing site Flickr found that the top three cameras used by its more than 87 million members were all models of the iPhone. And the cameras on other mobile devicemakers were not far behind.

The explosion of interest in photography using mobile devices and the development of thousands of “apps” has opened up new creative possibilities to those who may never have thought of themselves as photographers. With “iPhoneography,” the idea is not to produce a photo of exactly what is seen, that is, an everyday snapshot, but to create an image that reflects the photographer’s unique sensibilities and perspectives. The rise of social networking media such as Instagram, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook has popularized this style of photography by making it easy for mobile photographers to share their work widely.


The App Whisperer ( is Joanna Carter, who features articles, tips, competitions, tutorials and news about what’s happening in the world of mobile photography; reviews apps and announces when apps are temporarily free.

Life in LoFi: iPhoneography ( is a leading blog about iPhone photography by Marty Yawnick. The blog has news, reviews, tutorials and features about “capturing the world in digital lo-fi.”

iPhone Photography School ( has a variety of tutorials, interviews, as well as news and updates.


  1. There’s nothing worse than running low on juice when you’re out photographing. Try a case with a built-in battery or small portable battery by Mophie (
  2. Did you know that you can get lenses that attach to your mobile phone? Check locally for sets of lenses to broaden the types of scenes you can shoot. Orleans Camera and Video, among others, stocks these lenses.
  3. Sometimes it’s important to steady your mobile device by using a tripod. Our favorite tripod mounts are made by Thought Out (


Snapseed by Google: Snapseed is probably the most powerful editing app for mobile devices. Use it to edit pictures and to produce different effects and enhancements that can transform the look and feel of a photo. This is our “go-to” editing app.

TouchRetouch by ADVA Soft: With a little practice, this application lets you easily remove unwanted content or objects from your photos.

Camera Awesome by SmugMug: The latest Apple operating system (iOS 8) has a very sophisticated and powerful camera app, but if you are using a device with an earlier Apple operating system, consider using Camera Awesome instead of the native camera app to get better control of image capture.

Also highly recommended: Mextures and Distressed FX are acclaimed editing apps, which provide a wide range of textured effects and overlays. Both are well suited to still life and landscape photography and can help give your images “attitude.” XnSketch gives your photos the appearance of drawings, cartoons, or illustrations. PhotoArtista Oil makes your photos look like fine art in a variety of styles. Image Blender allows you to combine two images together with masks and different blending modes.

Snapseed and Camera Awesome are free apps and the others are low cost. Most are available for both Apple and Android mobile devices.

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