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MOBILE FIRST

10 photos that show how much you can accomplish with the camera already in your pocket

By Johnny Simon

Smithsonian.com recently announced the finalists of its annual photo contest, which honors entries in categories including “Travel,” “People,” and “The Natural World.” But the images in the “Mobile” category, shot exclusively with smartphones, may be the most interesting.

The pictures are stunning in their own right but are also noteworthy when you think about the variety of scenes captured through a smartphone’s lens, among them delicately lit moments, bright landscapes, and intimate portraits. It’s a testament not only to how smartphone capabilities have improved over the years, but also how much phone photography is a dominant visual medium.

The contest added the mobile category in 2013 as “a basic recognition that mobile cameras had advanced enough that skilled photographers could capture some really beautiful shots,” a spokesperson said.

The word “skilled” is important. As much as automatic filters and enhancement have made it easy to create good-looking images, it still takes a photographer’s eye to properly capture a scene.

Here are the finalists in the category, along with captions written by the contestants themselves.

“This is a portrait of my friend Alina (we call her Donut) smoking in between the coloring and cutting of her hair by another friend of ours, who is a hairdresser. The light was so beautiful on her face. I loved the way the towel framed it. The colors and light gave this portrait an almost Renaissance painting sort of quality.”
© Maria Plotnikova, All rights reserved
“A woman sells dried fish in the city market in Uglich, Russia.”
© Anela Layugan, All rights reserved
“This tulip patch is one of the first patches that bloomed at Fivefork Farms in Upton, Massachusetts during the spring 2018 season.”
© Aung Chan Thar, All rights reserved
“The face is the home of all emotions.”
© Kelley Dallas, All rights reserved
“A woman takes a break at the Denver Art Museum.”
© Jacqueline Mckune, All rights reserved
“A man on the Pacific Beach Boardwalk in San Diego creates huge bubbles at sunset.”
© Zay Yar Lin, All rights reserved
“A fisherman at work in a large fish farm in Xiapu, Fujian Province, China”
© Kelley Dallas, All rights reserved
“Best friends sit together trying to play the piano.”
© Rock Yu, All rights reserved
“It was a sunny morning. I was going to take the train back to Shanghai and saw a little girl waiting for the train with her mother. Carrying heavy luggage, the mother looked tired, but this little girl was walking in the square innocently eating her bread with a heart full of curiosity.”
© Pier Luigi Dodi, All rights reserved
“Armenian women pray in Yerevan. I was visiting an ancient Armenian church, and I was struck by their white veils contrasting with the darkness of the place.”