“The best camera is the one that’s with you”, a famous quote by award-winning photographer Chase Jarvis, is now legend in the global photographic community with Jarvis’s book redefining the intersection of art and popular culture through smartphone photography.

Camera-equipped phones have changed the world in just about every way possible, from the advent of selfies to virtual business meetings to citizen reporting and beyond. But they have also created an unprecedented interest in the art form itself.

Gone are the days when people are just happy to point and shoot. Today, people understand that, what they photograph is a representation of how they see the world, and accordingly, the images become statements of individuality themselves.

Popular culture icons like South African media personality Bonang Matheba and Beyonce know all about the power of individuality in photography.

In January 2021, Bonang set social media on fire after posting pictures wearing a co-ordinated outfit of a matching Louis Vuitton monogram dress and handbag, according to the Briefly website.

Her look drew compliments aplenty from her 4.5-million Instagram followers, including fellow celebrities, proving once again Bonang’s mastery of imagery in the online space.

Beyonce, meanwhile, recently told Harper’s Bazaar magazine how incensed she was over an agency informing her that surveys had found her followers did not like her pictures in black and white.

She revealed to Harper’s she could not and would not accept that these surveys represented her fan base, and in response decided to do her next project almost entirely in black and white, which included the video for Single Ladies.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Spring is the perfect time for South Africans to get out and express themselves to the world.

The vibrant colours offered by nature at this time of the year make for striking photographs that will live on forever, and will certainly make an impression on Instagram and other popular social media apps.

Africa is an ideal destination for photographers as it has some of the most breath-taking scenery in the world.

The moments captured on our cameras, whether they feature people or idyllic destinations, are a unique lived experience for every one of us and should be celebrated.

According to website Expert Photography, one of the latest trends in smartphone photography is what is termed “unedited beauty”; that is, showing people as they really are. This projects authenticity which is increasingly finding favour among photography lovers and social media users alike.

Technology like never before      

The world is ever changing, so it stands to reason that photography does too, particularly when it comes to advancements in camera technology.

Counterpoint Technology Market Research, which specialises in products in the technology, media and telecom (TMT) industry, cites the example of TECNO Mobile’s TAIVOS (TECNO AI Vision Optimisation Solution) technology.

This is an advanced signal processing technology that interprets raw data through an AI multi-framed, portrait segmentation based on tens of millions of data points, which can filter image noise better and optimise image clarity, thereby enhancing night photography effects.

The South African market has already been wowed by the capabilities of TECNO’s CAMON 15 Air smartphone and can look forward to the soon to be launched CAMON 17P which has taken the device spec a few notches up.

The CAMON 15 Air is noted for quad flashes, a 48 megapixel clear lens, 8X zooming, 2cm macro photography, AI body shaping technology, and AI scene detection.

Technologies such as these are assisting people to hone their craft in previously unimaginable ways.

Powerful themes emerge

Keeping records helps tell the story of humanity, and camera phones are allowing us to document history like never before.

Accordingly, photography is not only about what cameras and camera phones can do, but also the type of things people are choosing to photograph.

Powerful themes are emerging that signify a shift in society, both in South Africa and abroad, and photographers are ready to document the occasion.

Expert Photography says many images are focusing on developments like the empowerment of women challenging the old narrative of women being inferior to their male counterparts. A top female executive in an office setting projects an image that can inspire younger women to great heights.

There is also a trend towards bold self-expression, where self-portraits suggest happiness in one’s endeavours. Coupled with this, is a determination to convey inner tranquillity, an important theme as more attention is paid to mental health issues.

Another trend is imagery of social justice movements, which are growing by the day as especially younger people use their phones to bring attention to issues like inequality and the environment. Their cameras have become their voices, in a sense.

Of course cameras should also be fun, and playing around with different techniques is one of the joys of photography.

In 2021, the “smoke bomb” has come of age. These can make any image look surreal and also provide plenty of colour – another prominent theme this year. But remember to only use them in outdoor settings.

The 360-degree photography trend is also making waves this year, according to Format magazine.  With its origins in property photography, it is now popular for landscapes and city panoramas.

Tried-and-tested tips

Whatever the motivation, for a picture to convey what is intended by the photographer, it is important that several fundamentals are adhered to.

Technology may have changed over time, but there are some tried-and-tested methods that hold true. These include:

  • Framing: Framing is one of the key aspects in composing a photograph. There should be no unwanted objects in the frame;
  • Natural light: Smartphones come equipped with LED lights but it is still best to seek out natural light such as the setting sun. The photograph will have a more organic feel;
  • Steadiness: Snapping a landscape can be done with a smartphone, but as people take their photography more seriously so the need for tripods becomes greater. These remove human error from the equation; and   
  • Exposure: This is a big one, and something most amateur photographers struggle with. You should always tap the screen to lock the focus on your subject, which will prevent dark imagery.

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