Leandro Colantoni has mastered the art of phone photography. His evocative snapshots of Sicily, taken for his latest photo series Ultimo Paesaggio Siciliano, have a closeness to them that make you feel like you’re standing right next to him. Here he shares his methodology for taking a great photo on a phone.
Words and Photography by Leandro Colantoni
I decided to create this series to document the singularity of Sicilian people, places and lifestyles, but I also did it for myself as a research project – a visual investigation of everything around me. If you think about it, photography is just for this, it has the ability to develop our eyes, it gives us the opportunity to see what we didn’t see before. That’s what I’m trying to do with “Ultimo Paesaggio Siciliano”.
I decided to use only an iPhone out of necessity. I needed a photographic medium that was always with me in the most normal, everyday situations, such as when I am in the waiting room of an office or shopping. With a traditional camera I could never have done this kind of daily work, the iPhone is perfect for all this.
“The phone allows you to be an invisible photographer.”
Theoretical & Approach Advice
I don’t like the definition of “mobile photography”, photography is one practice, what changes is the medium, and with the medium changes the approach. A photographer who uses 35mm film certainly has a different approach to one who uses an optical bench. The same is true for photographers who use a phone to photograph. The phone has three major advantages that change the approach compared to a traditional camera: portability, speed and invisibility.
The phone is a small object that is always with you and allows you to take photos anywhere at any time. So take advantage of the opportunity to have a camera always with you and start noticing anything that attracts your attention. It can be an object on the ground, a person on the street, a panorama. Do not be afraid to take wrong or bad photos, just take and take pictures without stopping, the selection is made later.
How many times have you missed a shot because you didn’t have time to set up your traditional camera? Or take it out of your bag? Or in the worst case, you left your camera at home. If you use a phone, this rarely happens, you hardly miss a shot because it takes two seconds to take a phone from your pocket. With an iPhone it is also possible to perform burst of shots to envy a professional camera, making it almost impossible to miss a moment.
This is the skill that I love and is the strength of my work. The phone allows you to be an invisible photographer, and if you deal with street photography you will know how important this feature is. So take advantage of invisibility to shoot more true and spontaneous scenes. A phone is a great camera if you don’t like interacting with the subjects or the scenes you photograph.
“In very dynamic, fast-moving situations use the burst feature by holding the shutter button down, then choose the best shots later.”
After talking a little bit of theory now I want to give you some practical advice to help you shoot with an iPhone, from the shooting phase to the final editing.
1. When you understand that you are in an “interesting” setting from a photographic point of view, keep the camera app open on your phone, so if something interesting happens you will immediately have everything ready to shoot.
2. You can also take photos using the side button. This is perfect when you need to take pictures without looking at the screen of your phone.
3. In very dynamic, fast-moving situations use the burst feature by holding the shutter button down, then choose the best shots later.
“Always pay attention to the quality of the light.”
4. Remember that you can use the flash when photographing in very dark situations or when you want a particular light, for example I always use the iPhone’s built-in flash to photograph food or still life.
5. When you want to make a good portrait you can use the phone mode dedicated to this type of photo, but always pay attention to the quality of the light, and use pocket lights when you need them.
6. For editing you can use your phone or transfer photos to a computer. I do everything with the phone – I select the photos that interest me by marking them as favourites and then proceed with post production.
7. For post production, there are many valid apps: VSCO, Lightroom, Snapseed etc. I personally do post production directly from my iPhone using VSCO. I don’t change the picture too much, I just change exposure, colour balance, saturation etc. Many times the image that my phone produces is already excellent and does not require any intervention.
8. Always remember to periodically archive your photos by transferring them to a computer or external media, and above all remember to print them.
“How many times have you missed a shot because you didn’t have time to set up your traditional camera?”
What’s your favourite photo from the series?
The close up of the Sicilian man’s chest. For me it represents summer and Sicily: that huge Christ as a necklace and sunburnt skin are the things that caught my attention. It was taken in a normal daily situation, I was lined up in a beach kiosk to buy drinks and behind me there was this man with his necklace, so I took my iPhone and shot.
What do you hope people will take away from the series?
Photography is a bit like music or poetry, everyone takes away something different. For example, I discovered that my photos arouse so much nostalgia in the Sicilians who emigrated for study or work and are now far from their native land, reminding them of moments or snapshots lived here. When my photography manages to convey something so strong it makes me happy.