5 quick questions with The Photography Show 2021 speaker Mike Kus

Mike Kus TPS 2021 talk listing image
Two of the images from ‘The Pocket Photographer’ by Mike Kus (Image credit: © Mike Kus)

Titled ‘The Pocket Photographer’, the talk by Mike Kus at the Behind the Lens theatre will focus on his soon-to-be-published book of the same name. 

And having recently accompanied Mike on a landscapes shoot, we can testify that anyone looking for some creative inspiration will find his talk very rewarding. 

Based in Sussex, UK, Mike has been a smartphone photographer for 10 years and decided to share what he has learned during that time, to encourage other people to get as much out of photography as he has. 

And although he started out shooting on film cameras, following in the footsteps of his keen photographer father, Mike has since come to prefer the convenience and immediacy of using camera phones. 

Mike is speaking at the Behind the Lens theatre at The Photography Show, which takes place from 18-21 September at The NEC in Birmingham, England. 

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He shoots mainly landscape images and has built up a loyal following for posting them on Instagram; as his photos look like they were shot on a ‘real’ camera, Mike is clearly getting the most from the camera in his pocket – hence the title of his book. 

So ahead of his talk on Monday, here’s some background on Mike, his photography and his book… 

Mike Kus on location in Sussex (Image credit: Niall Hampton/Future)

1. Is ‘The Pocket Photographer’ just about smartphone photography? 

It’s a book about the creative side of photography – framing, composition, taking things from certain vantage points, what time of day to shoot… all the basics. In my mind, the book covers the top 20 things I’m considering when taking a picture. It covers all that, plus little tips I’ve picked up over the years. 

I’ve always liked the idea of making things accessible and not highbrow. Whether people have got a camera or a camera phone, the enjoyment of photography and building up a body of work is possible for anyone – no matter which device they’ve got. 

2. As it’s image-led, plus diagrams but without long paragraphs of text to wade through, the book is very accessible… 

Yes, and what you just described would actually put me off a book. ‘The Pocket Photographer’ reflects my feelings about cameras and having to read heavily into things to get to the pieces of information I need – I would find that difficult myself. I see my book more as a visual inspiration, like a Pinterest board. 

As well as chapters that talk broadly about a subject – ‘Composition’, ‘Light’, ‘Lenses’ and ‘Focus’ – the book also includes lots of ‘Quick tip’ and ‘Other techniques used’ points, to highlight other sides of the image. 

For these, I’ve listed the other things I’ve borne in mind when taking that photograph, for example a low vantage point. To me, these are all things that you layer up when you take photographs. 

I want to remind readers that when I’m talking about one aspect of an image, I’m also thinking about other ones. That’s why the ‘Other techniques used’ are repeated throughout the book – I’m gently trying to remind the readers of them as they progress through each section. 

(Image credit: © Mike Kus)

3. What will your talk at The Photography Show be about?

It will be about smartphone photography and evangelising the use of smartphones to take photographs. I’ll probably show some of the professional work I’ve done on a smartphone, to prove that you can do it. 

I feel like smartphone photography gets devalued a lot. We used to debate in the pub whether digital photography was real photography; now I feel that conversation still exists, but in a different way – is smartphone photography actually real photography? I seems to me that there’s still a bit of a stigma attached to smartphone photography and how seriously it’s taken. 

4. But the best camera is always the one you have with you… 

Right, and for me specifically I believe that to be true, because I just don’t get on with carrying a big camera around. As I said, the book is geared towards taking pictures and it doesn’t require anyone to carry a specific camera. It’s more about the creative side of taking photographs. 

Once you know the technical side of photography, all your thinking will come down to the creative stuff again. For me it has always been about that. 

Mike Kus TPS 2021 talk 4

Mike Kus packed an Apple iPhone 11 Pro, a Huawei P40 Pro and a OnePlus 9 Pro for his recent shoot with us (Image credit: Niall Hampton/Future)

5. Which smartphone would you normally take on a shoot, and do you have any particular favourites? 

On the shoot today, I used three – an Apple iPhone 11 Pro, a Huawei P40 Pro and a OnePlus 9 Pro. Over the years I’ve used Oppo, Samsung, Apple, Huawei and OnePlus. 

They’ve all been good and I’ve never used one I didn’t like. They all have strengths – the Huawei 5x optical zoom is amazing and allows you to get photos that seem more camera-like, the Apple handsets are great all-rounders and Huawei phones are really good for shooting at night, as are Oppo. 

The OnePlus produces really natural colours, and that’s the selling point, although it’s also a great all-round camera. All these phones have plus points. I’ve never found a negative for any of them – they’ve all just got slightly different positives. 

The Pocket Photographer with Mike Kus will take place at the Behind The Lens theatre on Monday 20 September at 2pm-2.40pm.

‘The Pocket Photographer’ will be published by Laurence King on 7 October 2021. Price: £14.99

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Niall Hampton

Niall is the editor of Digital Camera Magazine, and has been shooting on interchangeable lens cameras for over 20 years, and on various point-and-shoot models for years before that. 

Working alongside professional photographers for many years as a jobbing journalist gave Niall the curiosity to also start working on the other side of the lens. These days his favored shooting subjects include wildlife, travel and street photography, and he also enjoys dabbling with studio still life. 

On the site you will see him writing photographer profiles, asking questions for Q&As and interviews, reporting on the latest and most noteworthy photography competitions, and sharing his knowledge on website building.