Martin Parr on smartphones in the world of photography and the VISION Plus competition



From novelty to must-have, the phone’s camera has brought serious photography tools to everyday life.

But is there a place for smartphone cameras in the world of professional photography? “I think we are in new territory,” says Martin Parr, UK documentary photographer and vivo VISION + Mobile PhotoAwards 2021 judge, who is excited about the changes this technology is bringing to his industry. “The only thing that matters now is the quality of the story and the quality of the images you take. The whole technical problem is being sorted out.

With the vivo VISION + Mobile PhotoAwards 2021 currently underway, Parr shared with us his tips for smartphone photographers and what he looks for in photographs as a competition judge.

According to Parr, improvements in smartphone cameras have been a game-changer and are driving the evolution of smartphone photography. Parr is particularly impressed with the improved quality of the smartphone’s camera. He said: “I think what happened is a game changer because it is no longer a new thing, we now know the quality is exceptional.”

Smartphone cameras have now become more than just a curiosity. Ten years ago, camera phones outperformed some low-end webcams. The type of images they were able to produce were full of noise and desaturated colors, lacking in detail and dynamic range. The quality of today’s camera phones is now far beyond that. We are now at a point where, if you are viewing images online, it is difficult to tell if an image was taken with a smartphone or a dedicated professional camera.

I remember when the iPhone was originally introduced with the camera, it was a real novelty and people almost didn’t care at the same time that it was a novelty. But now, now that you have these new generations of phones, like this new vivo, the one I use, that has four lenses and can shoot rough, I’m saying the game has really changed.

Get the most out of your camera phone

Camera phones have become very advanced in recent years. With the use of AI technology, computer photography, and hardware improvements, the gap between smartphones and professional cameras has narrowed significantly. Nonetheless, there are still some things you can do to improve the type of images you produce with your smartphone.

The first thing is to consider shooting with manual settings. Most of today’s camera phones give you a way to take pictures with manual settings, which can be very useful. The main advantages are being able to control shutter speed and ISO settings. With these two settings, you can basically control how movement appears in the image and control the amount of noise.

Shot on iPhone 7

Of course, manual shooting is by no means crucial, and while there are some notable advantages to having this extra control, it isn’t necessary.

“What’s amazing is that with photography now, all of these cameras that we have in all of these phones, it’s all automatic,” Parr noted. “You don’t have to worry about the settings, you might want to set the ISO, but other than that you don’t have to worry about anything.”

The second thing that could help your smartphone photography is a tripod. It doesn’t have to be a big, bulky, heavy tripod beast that you have to lug around with you. Instead, even a table or mini tripod will do. With a tripod, you have the ability to manage your composition much more efficiently. You can also take photos with much slower shutter speeds without introducing any jitter into your image.

Shot on the vivo X60 Pro +

Again, a tripod is not essential, but it can be useful. This of course depends on the type of photography you plan to take. For example, if you’re shooting portraits or street photos, a tripod might get in the way.

Martin Parr pointed out the benefits of keeping just you and the smartphone camera, especially in documentary photography where smartphones don’t threaten the subject because everyone has one.

Finally, it may be wise to take your images raw. Most camera phones offer this feature, and it can really improve the kind of images you produce. Most smartphones tend to overprocess images taken with the original camera. This can be great in some cases, but not all. If you shoot in raw, you have more control over your images and you get more flexible files.

Shot on the vivo X30 Pro

Opportunities to capture and share your moments of joy

The evolution of the smartphone camera in combination with the social media platforms available today gives you better tools to capture remarkable moments and easily show your work. On the flip side, the lack of custodians of photography today means we’re also more likely to see shoddy work online. However, Parr pointed out that most of the images we take tend not to be very good, and that is completely normal. It also means that the good images we see and take stand out more, and this is where the real opportunity lies.

Of course, on social media platforms it can be a bit difficult to create your own style if the most popular images are usually clichés. Despite this, it’s important to keep producing the type of images you love based on the subjects you enjoy photographing the most.

“I think the first thing to say is that a lot of times you’ll find that the photos that get a lot of likes are often quite cliché,” Parr reflected. then put on a good sunset with a silhouette, and you’ll probably get more likes than you would with some kind of weird photo of an observing street scene that someone might have taken. “

Finally, Parr gave some advice for anyone looking to enter this contest: “My advice is to find the right topic and connect, and that’s when good photographs are likely to come through. ”

It is much easier to be passionate about something if you can connect with it. Being passionate about a subject can make all the difference in helping you produce images that really stand out.

It is you and your connection to the subject with the outside world; that’s the interesting thing. And it’s the thing we all have that’s unique. So how can you sort this out? This is the problem you have to solve. But, you know, I can’t tell somebody how to solve it, they have to think for themselves, you know how to get it through. So the advice is to take a photo that will stand out and almost has a sense of mystery and ambiguity. This will get the judge’s attention. Easier said than done, of course.

The competition

As discussed above, finding the right topic is extremely important. Fortunately, the competition has 33 categories from which photographers can choose. This means that there are a lot of options available and a lot of different types of topics to choose from. For example, if you enjoy photographing people, the obvious choice might be the portraits category. On the other hand, if you are into architecture, you might want to consider the Location category.

The vivo VISION + Mobile PhotoAwards 2021 is a celebration of smartphone photography and photographers of all skill levels, and even ordinary people with camera phones can enter this competition.

The Vision + Mobile PhotoAwards were initially launched in 2020 by vivo and National Geographic. This first competition received an incredible number of 135,000 entries and awarded 38 prizes. This year, with the second edition of this competition, there are 33 awards in all categories available from vivo and National Geographic. The winners of the competition will also receive creative support from vivo. Categories include genres such as portraits, sports, nature, news, and documentary photography.

Finally, this year’s competition features a highly esteemed jury. They include Martin Parr, documentary photographer; Jonas Bendiksen, documentary photographer; Xiao Quan, portrait photographer; Laura Serani, curator, Les Rencontres d’Arles; Bertram Hoenlinger, photography expert, Zeiss; and Michael George, photo consultant, National Geographic.

The competition prizes include cash rewards of up to $ 15,000, smartphones, and even other photography opportunities that include exhibitions with industry partners.

To learn more about the VISION + Mobile PhotoAwards 2021 and to enter the competition, visit the official website using this link here. All entries must be submitted by September 30, 2021 and finalists will be announced the following month, October 30.


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