Master The Moment

It’s no secret that I’m an avid mobile shooter on a near-daily basis. While I continue to reach for my Nikon D3X and a sling bag of lenses for my documentary assignments, I use my iPhone camera to document and share my own life. I might capture spontaneous expressions or curious moments inspired by my children, create abstractions that move me, reveal my feelings through found objects or simply pause experiences I want to remember. Because my iPhone is always with me, unobtrusive to my subjects and easy to use, I reach for it instinctively when I feel the desire to quickly preserve a moment, no matter where I am.

Several years ago, before the first photography app was available in the App store, I made a commitment to myself to complete Project 365, a Flickr-inspired photography project that required me to shoot and select one image to represent each day consecutively for 365 days. At the time, I was seeking an area of focus as a professional photographer and felt that the freedom of subject matter selection coupled with the discipline of shooting on a daily basis would guide me down the path.

Determined—and inspired—I hauled my first DSLR, a Nikon D80, and a lens or two in a backpack throughout each day. While carrying the camera and shooting daily wasn’t always convenient, it prompted me to master that camera and its settings in a variety of environments. It also uncovered my love of documentary as an area of focus. And perhaps, most importantly, it taught me to move through each day with my eyes open and ready to receive images. On day 366, I remember thinking, "I can’t stop."

Using my iPhone and a collection of photography apps, I now shoot, process, publish, share and exchange feedback on my personal photographs, the documentary of my own life, with a community of viewers around the world. It fulfills me in a way that shooting daily with my DSLR didn’t because of the powerful community aspect of mobile photography.

With my iPhone and the Instagram app, I can experience life through the eyes of mobile photographers I follow all over the world. As I stand in line at the grocery story, I can visit New York City through the eyes of Sion Fullana (@sionfullana) and Anton Kawasaki (@anton_in_nyc). Leaning on the kitchen counter as I wait for the water to boil, I might travel to Singapore with AikBeng Chia (@aikbengchia) or follow David Alan Harvey (@davidalanharvey) on the road in Rio. While I’m curled up on the sofa, I can check in on my Shutter Sisters, including Tracey Clark (@traceyclark), Jen Lemen (@jenlemen), Meredith Winn (@camershymomma) and Kate Inglis (@sweetsalty). Interestingly, as a follower of avid mobile photographers, I’m finding that I feel less attached to a single photograph and more attached to the photographers who choose to express themselves through visual documentary of their own lives.

The mobile experience of processing my personal photographs in real time, titling them in intriguing ways and sharing them with my viewers in Instagram and Twitter on my iPhone, has become almost as appealing as the act of shooting. Sharing my personal documentary regularly online has been a way for me to gradually open myself up and experiment with photography as a form of expression—to learn what it feels like to expose who I am, what I see and how I feel. It has helped me gain perspective on what it feels like to be the subject of a documentary study, a practice of letting my guard down and getting comfortable with a certain amount of exposure and vulnerability. Consequently, it has helped me gain a new level of appreciation and sensitivity for my subjects, and keeps me focused in the present moment. Five Tips To Master The Moments Of Your Life With A Mobile Camera

1. Identify your primary shooting apps and place them on your default screen. You may find that you favor one app over another for its shooting capabilities and another for its processing flexibility. Place your primary shooting apps on the right side of the screen (if you’re right-handed) so you can tap them quickly with your thumb when you’re ready to shoot. I’ve often missed a shot because I got caught swiping and swapping screens of apps to locate my camera.

2. Focus on the people closest to you. Create a collection of images that document your journey and your relationships with the people you love in your life. Let it get a little personal. Those images will be the most meaningful for you. Shoot first, then share your photograph with your subject, and ask permission before you share it.

3. Minimize your presence and maximize your agility. Take advantage of the fact that your mobile camera is a multipurpose device. Most subjects won’t notice you making photographs with your iPhone, but if they do, they likely won’t take you seriously as a photographer. This is an ideal scenario for capturing documentary photographs. Also, find a comfortable one-handed shooting grip so you can move and shoot casually without attracting too much attention to yourself.

4. Experiment with apps to find your processing style and publishing path. Give yourself permission to experiment with processing your mobile photographs using a variety of photography apps. You may find that you like specific features in a handful of different apps. For optimal image quality and processing flexibility, specify the settings in each of your photography apps to save images at the highest-quality setting.

5. Follow your instincts and express yourself. Give yourself permission to shoot and process your mobile photographs in a way that represents you, even if it feels unfamiliar to the photographs you’ve been shooting with your DSLR. Learn to embrace and experiment with the limitations of the device—use the sluggishness of its shutter speed to convey energy, for example.

Most of all, document a view that’s meaningful and unique to you!

SHUTTER SISTERS is a collaborative photo blog ( and a thriving community of women, passionate about photography. Photographer and writer Stephanie C. Roberts is a partner in and contributor to Shutter Sisters, and the author of The Art of iPhoneography: A Guide to Mobile Creativity (April 2011),

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