Here’s why a smartphone 365 project is the perfect way to document everyday life

Here’s why a smartphone 365 project is the perfect way to document everyday life

  • smartphone 365 project, photo of boy jumping off diving board

As the end of 2018 approached, I was wrapping up my fifth DSLR 365 project and I was convinced that it would be my last. I just didn’t have it in me to do another.

My son — once my sweet little muse — was eight and turning into a moody cuss every time I pulled out my camera. Plus, my back hurt from carrying a heavy camera around all the time, and I was tired of feeling like I had to have my eyes on my camera bag every second of the day; constantly adding up how much it would cost to replace a stolen camera and lens. If you’ve ever tried photographing daily all 365 days of the year, I’m sure you can relate.

But, GAH!! I just wasn’t ready to give it up! That led me to do a completely mobile 365 photo project. Just me, my iPhone, and no more baggage. Literally!

Here’s how I did my first smartphone 365 project, and why it might be right for you as well.

Boy's face smushed against shower door

Getting started.

My introduction to mobile photography was in 2014 at Click Away and thereafter took a Click Photo School class. I learned so much about different apps and how to create artistic photos on my phone.

In the years since, smartphones have changed so much. The number of photo apps available is overwhelming. And there are tons of artistic mobile photographers to follow.

I was most interested in creating images that mirrored my DSLR images. For me that is the art of the everyday. And possibly — now, sit down — replace my DSLR for things like vacations and daily life documentary photography. Even though there have been so many improvements to phones and apps, the basics of photography never change. And that, friends, is the key!

During one of my previous DSLR 365 projects, I took time to simultaneously capture the same images with my smartphone. I found apps that I really liked, developed a workflow and started to find my footing.

Kids underwater in a swimming pool, taken with iPhone

Creating great documentary photos with a smartphone.

I think any rule that applies to DSLR or mirrorless photography applies to mobile photography. Sounds easy, right? But for some reason when you have that smartphone with live view in your hand, everything you know flies out the window.

Here are some tips that will help you create artistic photos that mirror your DSLR photography style for your smartphone 365 project:

1. Think about composition.

Your phone has a grid — I say use it! In my former life, I was a florist. The instructor I learned design from always said, “You have to know the rules to break the rules.” I still apply this to anything I learn today. It makes sense in photography. If you aren’t familiar with the basics of composition, take the time to learn them. I know there are some great composition courses offered at Click Photo School.

Boy looks in dryer, photo taken as part of mobile 365 project

2. Watch your lines.

Distortion on the iPhone camera can be a bear, so pay attention to your lines to make sure you are holding your phone level and straight.

3. Don’t be afraid to adjust exposure.

Touch your smartphone screen and see if the photo’s exposure falls where you want it. If not, slide the exposure up or down. I tend to drop the exposure compared to what the phone’s auto settings tell me. Just like with your DSLR, auto settings are almost never the best way to go.

4. Use dramatic light.

I actually think the phone camera (and this applies to all the models I’ve had) performs really well when it comes to directional and dramatic lighting situations. I love placing a subject next to a window and lowering the exposure. A night light next to my son’s bed when he’s asleep? One of my favorites.

5. Get down low.

This is probably my most important tip. Kool and the Gang want you to “Get Down, Get Down,” and I’m telling you the same. Get down. Squat. Kneel. Lie on the ground. Do what you would do to get that shot with your DSLR. Okay, so lying on the ground isn’t so inconspicuous (part of why I like mobile photography), but I have been known to do it. So many times, I see photos that could be much improved just by getting down lower.

Boy at home in dramatic light

Stay motivated by going mobile.

Smartphone cameras are only going to get better with each new model, so in my opinion, it pays to think about the smartphone as a new tool in your arsenal of camera bodies and lenses. It’s light, fits in your pocket… and you can talk on it, play music, watch YouTube. I mean, it’s kind of hard to beat. Remind me again why I want a new camera?

I find it so much easier to stay motivated to complete a 365 with my phone. Having photos all in one place (your pocket) means you can edit, transfer between apps and post in a matter of minutes. I hope I’ve inspired you to really think about trying a smartphone 365 project.

I just ordered my smartphone 365 project album for 2019. As I glance at my page layouts from the past year, I can’t help but be a little impressed that I did the entire thing with my iPhone. Honestly, some of the photos look as if they were taken with my DSLR!

8 Great mobile apps for your smartphone 365 project


ProCam is a great way to give yourself control over things like shutter speed, ISO and exposure. You can shoot iOS DNG RAW files (check here for applicable phone models). My favorite feature is that it will hold your settings, even exposure.

Apple Default Camera

I don’t always use the Apple default camera because it doesn’t hold exposure. Any slight movement and the auto settings kick in. That said, I do feel like it is far better in low-light situations than ProCam.

Adobe Lightroom

Like in DSLR photography, this is my workhorse. I adjust my color, light and other selective edits here. Radial, gradient and adjustment brushes fall under this selective edit category. I also use Lightroom for my black and white conversions.


I like to format my photos with SquareFit for Instagram. Instagram will allow you to post the full photo now, however I find that it still crops the photo some and I like the white space when looking at my set as a whole.

Lens Distortions

On occasion, you might want to add a little extra sun flare, rain, fog or snow to your photo. This app is perfect for just that.


I dislike Lightroom’s cloning and healing brush. This applies to mobile as well as the desktop version. I feel like TouchRetouch does a much better job for cloning and healing on the phone.


I use ReCrop when I need to extend the canvas on my photo. For the most part, it does an amazing job.

Faceover (light)

If I ever need to do a face swap or any kind of small background swap, this is my go-to app.

About the Author:

Angela is a natural light photographer in Dallas, TX. Her favorite subject, is of course, her son and capturing the memories of his childhood. She also enjoys macro photography, specifically floral macros. Visit Angela Ross online.

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