Pocket-sized brain pack: How to use your phone with your camera

On Saturday we looked at ways to better use your phone as your camera, but it’s important to understand that it’s often very beneficial to use your phone with your dedicated camera. And why not? My smartphone’s CPU is technically faster than the CPU of the computer I happen to be typing this on. It’s a tiny computer, often quite powerful, expressly designed to interface with other devices wirelessly. In a way, it functions as the prefrontal cortex to your camera’s optical system/visual cortex. Neat! Let’s break down a few ways your smartphone and camera can work symbiotically to create a better all-around experience.

You can share top-quality photos instantly!

For a period of time, the biggest reason people would choose a phone camera over a dedicated camera was the simple fact that the phone’s photo could be shared instantly. The dedicated camera may have taken a better photo, but (to paraphrase the old thought experiment) if there’s no one to see a photo, what’s the point in taking it? WiFi, NFC, and Bluetooth integration have revolutionized the digital photography experience, allowing you to take great photos and share them instantly too.

You can edit your photos on the go

Not everyone is concerned with getting the raw photo out to the world as quickly as possible. Sometimes, the important thing is access to the right post-processing solutions. Dozens of apps, both free and paid, allow for anything from easy collage layouts and automatic enhancements to complex manual manipulation. With a camera equipped to wirelessly transfer images to your phone, you don’t have to choose between lugging around a laptop or only manipulating photos taken on the phone.

Make a mobile workflow

Even if you’re not trying to edit or share a final product while on the go, you may need to process your photos with a minimum of bulk. My wife, for example, has been transferring photos from her Sony α7R II to a small tablet in order to go through and judge them.

The large (yet still quite portable) screen makes it easy to quickly judge which photos are sharpest and most in line with the artistic vision. Transferring photos can be done wirelessly or with mobile card readers like this one.

A new age of requisite symbiosis is here

Now that it seems a multifunction mobile device—a.k.a. a smartphone—can be taken as a near-certainty and that the current form is relatively stable, certain manufacturers are designing their products to offload certain functions to the user’s smartphone. DJI, for example, requires a smartphone or tablet to be used as the remote viewscreen for the Mavic Pro Platinum or as the remote itself for the Mavic Air. Camera remotes (historically limited in appeal) are increasingly usable by the public, as their functions are being built into free apps direct from the camera manufacturers. Not only does this make group shots easier, but it also brings a greater degree of creative freedom to the masses, allowing for unconventional camera positions and hands-free control.

The most creative application I’ve yet seen is the GNARBOX, an auxiliary brain for your auxiliary brain dedicated to RAW and video processing. Pictures are imported directly from memory cards and edited using a smartphone as a control interface; see my review and follow-up for more.

Put that device where you need it to be

Whether you’re using your phone for control, monitoring, or review, it is important to make the process as physically convenient as possible. To that end, a wide variety of mounts are available.

The most adaptable mounts, like the ProMaster Articulating Accessory Arm, will allow you to put any accessory (like a phone with a 1/4″ thread adapter) exactly where you need it.

The Steelie Desk & Dash mounting kit lets you magnetically mount your phone at home and on the go for maximum productivity.

You can even control your action cam from the handlebar of your bike with the Nite Ize Handleband!

Best of all—print your photos from your phone!

It’s not a real photo till you can hold it in your hand, as they say, and your phone makes it easier than ever to go from inspiration to final production. There are TWO great ways to get beautiful prints from your phone.

  • An instant printer, like the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-3, will let you blow minds and melt hearts with prints you can make for yourself or for others, wherever you may be.
  • Or, go beyond prints with Mike’s Camera. You can order anything we produce on your mobile device (though I wouldn’t recommend doing a book on a tiny screen), and regular prints are insanely easy via mcprintlab.com. Shoot, transfer, order, and pick up a finished work of art the next time you drop by!

It’s easy to fall into the trap of worrying that smartphones will bring photography to its knees, but there’s a brighter side out there. Phones haven’t killed cameras yet, and it’s plain to see that, used properly, they can massively improve your photographic experience.

How do you use your phone to enhance your workflow? Are there any products you wish we’d carry to help your workflow? Let me know in the comments!

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