Pushing Mobile Phone Photography to the Next Level

Colby Brown

There is no doubt that photography as a whole has changed over the last decade. Not only are more people interested in the art form, but advancements in technology have helped to make powerful cameras smaller and more affordable than ever. While DSLR sales are starting to get eaten up by their lighter and more affordable mirrorless cousins, point-and-shoot cameras have long been cannibalized by the growing smartphone market. In many ways, the power and quality of the camera in a smartphone has become THE key differentiator for many people looking to get a new phone.

Using the LG G4 Android phone in Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona

While the iPhone has historically dominated mobile photography in terms of image quality, 2015 marked a year of change, especially for Android smartphones. We have seen the launch of both the LG G4 and the Samsung Galaxy S6, both of which offer better cameras than the iPhone 6. In addition, the LG G4 not only allows you to shoot in manual mode (similar to a pro camera), but it also can shoot images in the RAW image file format (DNG in this case), making the G4 one of few mobile phones that currently has this feature.

The full manual mode found in the LG G4

So why is RAW format on a mobile phone important? Simply put, it allows you to push the post processing of your images significantly further than if you were shooting images in JPEG, much like most mobile phones out there, including the iPhone. While a mobile phone is typically used for taking simple snapshots of the world around us, there are times when you might want to do more with a given scene or a specific photo. As a professional photographer, I have had a few mobile images grace the covers of books and have even sold & licensed a few images to clients over the last few years.

To see what is possible, let’s take a look at a few before-and-after RAW images taken with the LG G4.

Vista House, Columbia River Gorge (Un-Edited)

Vista House, Columbia River Gorge (Edited)

White Pocket Sunset – Arizona (Un-Edited)

White Pocket Sunset – Arizona (Edited)

The Narrows – Zion National Park (Un-Edited)


Zion National Park (Edited)

As you can see, the benefits of having the ability to capture mobile images in RAW file format are fairly significant. Working with DNG files, I can easily use any of the simple to advanced post processing techniques that I apply to my professional images. From making curves adjustments in Adobe Lightroom, to adjusting contrast and brightness, to using more advanced techniques such as luminosity masking to help get rid of noise, the DNG files found in the G4 and a few other mobile phones offer surprisingly great results.

Now let's take a look at some fully edited images that were all taken with the G4. At first glance, you might not believe that these photos were from a mobile phone.


At the end of the day, I have no plans to ditch my professional photography gear and run around using only my mobile phone to create images for my clients, but that being saidtimes are changing. I have never had a client ask me what camera, lens or even exposure settings were used for a particular image. Clients simply want results, and they don’t care how you get them.

 A snapshot of a gallery of 15 prints taken with the LG G4 that I had blown up on metal prints larger than 30” in size. Needless to say, the results were surprising!

While I often have my camera gear with me when I am on the road, there are times when I simply can’t or don’t want to bring out my bigger cameras. In those situations, I now know that even when I am only using my mobile phone, I am still be able to take some pretty incredible images that have a lifespan and value beyond an upload to Facebook or Instagram.


Colby Brown Mobile Photography

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