The Zen of Shooting With a Phone

Wooden textures in Kyoto
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Currently experiencing the Zen streets of Kyoto, camera phone in hand.

Why I love and hate phones.

Phones are a blessing and a curse.

For me, I am very easily distracted. Nothing fucks up my focus more than having a phone. I used to also be addicted to social media, especially Instagram. I knew it was bad when I would be driving, and wondered to myself, “I wonder what photo I should upload today?” (instead of actually focusing on driving). This is one of the many reasons I deleted my Instagram.

Yet at the same time, the phone is probably the best camera. Why? It is always with you. No more excuses for not making photos.

Nice morning stroll in Kyoto

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I woke up this morning in Kyoto, drank a little coffee and went on a walk around the quiet and peaceful neighborhoods, only bringing my sister Annette’s phone (a Google Nexus 6P). It has no data or internet, as we’re overseas.

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I felt a calm, elated joy just shooting with the phone. I only carried the phone in my right hand, nothing else. No bag, no wallet, no nothing.

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I walked slowly. I enjoyed hearing the ambient sounds of the neighborhood… the cicadas chirping, and the (tiny) Japanese delivery trucks buzzing about.

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I focused on shooting textures, and had great joy. I was in a “ZEN ZONE” — with no other distractions. I just shot. I enjoyed the fun of tilting the camera. I had fun filling the frame. I had fun holding the phone upside down, to get a better low angle. I had fun eliminating clutter from the frame. I had fun just looking for colors.

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To me, I enjoyed the process of shooting for the phone for these reasons:

  1. Excuse to get out of the house, and going for a nice walk. To enjoy the outdoors, and to have an excuse to walk. To me, I’m most joyful when walking, as it allows me to think, meditate, and come up with ideas.
  2. Less thinking: I like to empty my mind, and hate thinking about technical settings before making a photo. I just love to shoot photos. Therefore, using the default camera app, allows me to just point and click. Fewer worries on technical settings, more focus on composition and framing.
  3. Walking meditation: We all want to walk more. So if your goal is to shoot more, use the smallest, lightest, least cumbersome camera (aka, a phone).

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If you shoot with your phone, just shoot in airplane mode.

I also love processing the photos in VSCO with the A6 preset. I apply if to all my phone pictures, and usually set the intensity of the preset between 80%-100%, and might lower or increase the exposure. That’s it. The less complicated your work flow for processing, the happier you will be.

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Yes, your phone is a “real” camera.

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I always come down to the question:

Why make photos?

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To me, photography is about making art. About being creative everyday. Many of us don’t have control over our lives in terms of work, family commitments, etc. But we CAN control what kinds of pictures to make.

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If you want to shoot more photos to bring you joy in life, just document your own personal life, your loved ones, and the streets. For street photography, buy STREET NOTES MOBILE EDITION (your personal street photography coach in your phone). Also check out STREET PHOTOGRAPHY 101 and PERSONAL PHOTOGRAPHY 101.

And when in doubt, JUST SHOOT IT.

Share your best pictures on ERIC KIM FORUM and see upcoming ERIC KIM EXPERIENCES.


Phone recommendations for photography

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  • Newest iPhone (non dual lens)
  • Android: OnePlus


Garden Grove, 2015. Shot on a LG G4
Garden Grove, 2015. Shot on a LG G4

The best camera is a phone:

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