Can You Shoot A Car Show On A Phone?

Of course you can. With enough ingenuity, you could probably shoot a car show on a potato if you had to.

The real questions are would you actually want to and can you do so to at the very least a passable standard? Usually when people go down the rabbit hole of smart phone photography things start getting out of hand. Expensive lenses which attach over your phone’s camera, complicated post processing applications or even gimbals for those steady shots. At this point, you might as well just use a normal camera.

This isn’t going to be one of those times.

It was around lunchtime on Sunday afternoon in Goodwood at Players Classic. It was hotit was hectic, and I was running out of time trying to cover this absolute behemoth of an event on my own. Add to this, I was properly starving and needed lunch ASAP. I dropped my cameras back into Project GTI and started making my way in search of some overpriced food, when I spotted a photo moment.

Rather than retrieve my camera, I just pulled out my iPhone, fired open an instant film app I’ve been using a lot lately (HUJI Cam, which is free for both iOS and Android) and quickly snapped the shot. I then took another, and then another, before going on an absolute rampage of the paddocks with my phone on the way to the food trailer.

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Having spent the two days previous shooting on my DSLRs, the lightweight nature of the phone was a breath of fresh air. The fixed focal length and instant preview encouraged me to try more angles and generally just mess around. The random nature of the app, which automatically generates flare, light leaks and dust spots, just added to the fun of the occasion. You can’t control what you’re going to get, and every now and then you get a nice surprise.

It’s a tiny bit kitsch, but it creates a level playing field. There’s no secret tricks or settings to learn. You point, you shoot. That’s it. Despite the advances in smart phone camera technology, they’re still no match for the large sensor in a DSLR. But rather than trying to imitate a DSLR, this embraces the low quality of an old instant film camera.

The images are far from perfect; there’s added lens blur on the edges of the frame, and shadows are often crushed and reds completely murdered. But it’s fine; it’s fun. All of these photos, above and below, are completely unedited save for a crop and watermark. Otherwise, they’re exactly as they came off my phone.

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Will I be leaving my proper cameras at home for the next outing? Absolutely not. However, I was impressed that the bulk of these photographs were taken over the course of just 20 minutes, and how not only did they capture some nice moments but also refreshed my energy levels for when I wielded the Canons again.

I guess that’s what it really comes down to. While currently their images are not perfect and might never be viewed in print, phones offer an easy way to capture simple moments. Sometimes those moments tell a better story than choreographed one, when getting the shot at the precise right time is more important than the outright quality of the photography, which is subjective anyway.

It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating: The best camera is the one that you have on you – even if it’s your phone.

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos
paddy@speedhunters.com

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33 comments

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1

I challenge Larry Chen to shoot his next story on his phone

2

He's already done it to prove a point that you don't need fancy camera gear to shoot good photos.

3
crappy80srobot

Use a Pixel 2 next time!

4
Jordan Butters

I think the point of this story just went SO far over your head with this comment.

5

Pixel 2XL user here: the camera is really really good. Although low light images are often not all that good, but that's with most phones.

6

I sent in a IATS story, unfortunately, due to Smartphone quality pictures, they were rejected. Its nice to see that there may be a possible change to that. It was a short, simple story of a particularly weird genre of racing in Trinidad and Tobago.

7

I'd love to hear more about that!

8

Forreal? Hope SH reconsiders because I would love to hear about that!

9

Its two years of photos and me just writing in and out, editing, hoping to one day make a contribution to the site. I am guessing my photos really weren't the right size or maybe the file names scared them.

10
Randomguyontheinternet

What was that red wide body Mitsubishi? I don't recognize it.

11

Colt

12
K.T.F/Beats With Kev

You should invest in some moment lenses.

13

any glass you add on the end of your smartphone is reducing the quality of the photos and the amount of light that reaches the sensor. not a good idea, and in general a waste of money.

Author14
Paddy McGrath

That kind of goes against the point of trying to keep it as simple as possible.

15

What's up with dude's fat ass and skivvies hanging out...??

16

I'll shoot a car show using a potato.

17
Master of Muppets

I shot a show with a potato once.
Poor resolution and couldn’t connect to WiFi.

18

Phone cameras are amazing now. I think most people would do better to shoot with something that takes care of the technical aspects of the exposure while they focus on composition. e.g. You probably could have cropped the dude's whitey-tightys out of the second one. :-)

19

The best part of phone cameras is that you don't even need a top range phone like an iPhone or a S9.

20

Those are good shots of the Corrado, I like how the shadows frame the red body of the car.

21

Once we had a friendly challenge between a pro photographer equipped with his own phone and some amateurs with semi-pro DSLR (i think they were all shooting full auto). With some simple ISO,white balance,... or whatever it can be done on a smartphone (i'm too far away from photography and it's terms) he smoked them all. He said that only shots in closed areas with LED/fluorescent light is little challenging because of flickered reflections (is it the term?).

I'm not surprised with the result specially with the use of this app but i'm fully impressed. Nice work Paddy, waiting for the potato challenge.

22

Paddy, those Photos looked like old 35mm point-and-shoot camera! Awesome!

23

Muji is the devil

24

It's not really straight out of the phone when you're using an app that's applying a faux film filter over the top. I would be more interested in seeing an app that allows you to shoot in raw and then post processed in Lightroom to give a more back to back comparison with a DSLR work flow.

25

I think you missed the point here. Paddy was trying to do something spontaneous and quick here. Part of the fun is the randomized filters in the app (not knowing what you will get). If he wanted to sit there and edit these in LR, he might as well have gone back to his car to get the camera bag out.

Author26
Paddy McGrath

It's something that we can visit in future, but wasn't what we wanted to achieve with this as pointed out in the opening lines. Anyone can get similar results without extensive photography or post production knowledge using their phone and the free app mentioned.

Comparing a phone against a DSLR is a futile exercise, TBH. Despite how many click bait videos on YouTube will try to claim otherwise.

27

I fully agree that a mobile phone will never compete with a DSLR in terms of quality (glass, sensor size etc. etc.), but I am also a great believer in the best camera is the one you have with you. Watching the pro photographer/cheap camera challenge that DRTV used to run is a real eye opener in terms of seeing how pros worked around the limitations of the equipment to capture great images.

I guess my real problem here is that film seems to be constantly pushed as a lo-fi medium; with colour distortion and lens flares as evident in this app. I shoot a lot of film and it is anything but a lo-fi format, especially if shooting larger negatives. Even 35mm can look great, for example I bet at least one of your favourite films was shot on film. Therefore I would rather see the result processed in a more conventional way and see your creativity with the limitations of the tools without a heavy handed filter over the top.

That's not to say I don't like the article and I think its an interesting idea.

28
Jean-Sébastien Housiau

Could it be possible to get the name of the red Porsche wheels please?thanks a lot guys

Author29
Paddy McGrath

Looks like a Rotiform VCE.

30

that app seems to add a ton of chromatic aberration. i kinda like it though, adds to the vintage insta camera feel! been adding lots of chromatic aberration to my renders for work in PS lately for dramatic effect.

31

Your I-phone pics are way better than mine. It's always the photographer > than the gear.

32

Slammed ST on Porsche wheels?

33

Look, for people like Speedhunters' editors, it is not totally OK to shoot an entire car show with a phone because, you know, that's their income. But for people like you and me, just ordinary fans, it is absolutely possible to get great photos with your phone and a decent editor. Personally, I have a Moto G5+ and it takes wonderful photos. An app that it's a must-have for anyone who takes a lot of pics and is no professional, is Snapseed, it's free, pretty complete and easy to use. You just have to be creative and try taking photos in a way not everybody would. I mean, we spend a HUGE amount of our times looking at car pics, just look at them, think why do you like them or not and eventually, go ahead to try to recreate that kind of look. Just go out and experiment!

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