Shanghai Smartphone Photography – Tech & Travel

If you haven't been to Shanghai, put it on your bucket list it's got steep colonial history, killer food scene and world class night life. I took the Huawei Mate S out on the town, I love taking photos of food, street life, buildings and since it's a city that knows how to party, I ended up at Mint.

by Nicole on November 17, 2015

Shanghai bristles with buildings with a skyline that follows the Huang Pu river serving up a mixture of classical colonial architecture and modern sky scrappers which are among the tallest in the world.  The charm of Shanghai acts as a estuary between old an new, east and west as the cities density causes intimate scenes of life to be found around every corner.

I was lucky enough to be invited to visit Huawei’s Shanghai Headquarters to learn more about one of my favorite smartphone manufacturers.  I’ve been a huge fan of the P8, I’ve already taken the P8 and put it up against a campfire to show its awesome low light capabilities on their cameras.  So while in Shanghai I thought that I would show you my photos from their HQ as well as the touristy things that I got to do around town.  So get ready for some smartphone photography tips and tricks.

The Bund is the riverfront boardwalk which is touristy, but you’ll want to stop by to take a few shots of the city’s skyline.  Shanghai’s mixture of old and new is most obvious on the Bund. The streets are lined with period lamp-posts is which are in keeping with the colonial aesthetic.  The buildings are of widely different architectural styles and make up of the best night scene of Shanghai. The colorful lights dancing on the river, the flashing lights from the buildings and the people watching make this an entertaining stroll.


I love people watching, the stairs along the length of The Bund are great for checking out people from around the world, but what you have to keep an eye out are the polyester suits worn by Chinese farmers or billionairs, you get all sorts on The Bund.


Here we have a photo that I took using the Super Night Mode, it took about 23 seconds to take the photo which means the photo is bright but it also means that people will be walking through your photo.  The ghost effect is something I really like, plus you don’t get people blocking the buildings, you still get to see the entire length of the skyline.  I rested the phone on a water bottle to make sure the phone stayed nice and stable.



Not taken at the Bund, but a nice Super Night Photo from the “Mini Las Vegas” part of the city

I was lucky enough to take a boat tour down the HuangPu river, the ferry terminal is on the north end of the Bund and the boats head south, turns around and comes back.  On the boat cruise Huawei brought along a professional photographer who specialized in architectural photography.  So I got a few tips that I’m going to pass on to you.  Since we were on a boat we couldn’t use any of the low light features on the Mate S that like Super Night which takes a more time to take the photo letting in more light, since the boat is moving the photo would have been blurry, so we went for Auto.


The first tip was taking perspective into account. Taking a photo straight on will make the buildings feel more impossibly, but this isn’t always easy. I learned that professional photographers actually use special equipment to get the most impressive perspective. Not willing to invest in a tilt shift lens or give up my smartphone most editing software has an editing function to help you straighten up your photos.  Huawei’s native editor is good for fixing up color but it doesn’t help you change the perspective of your photos, Instagram has this feature, but I like Snapseed.


I felt inspired and thought I had a good start taking photos on the boat cruise, but I wanted to take my new found knowledge on some of Shanghai’s tallest towers. I edited and changed the perspective on these photos of the Shanghai World Financial Center.



If you’d like to know what they looked like before, here are the unedited snaps.


Inside the Gran Hyatt across the street from the Financial Tower

I’m not sure what you like to do while traveling but one of my favorite pastimes is eating, I love trying new foods and Shangahi has a global food scene that has a long tradition and chefs from around the world blending many styles of cuisine. Shanghai Yu Yuan Old Street backs on to a modern iteration of old Shanghai and the food did not disappoint.  It’s a modern area that kept true to the traditional aesthetic of Shanghai.


A trip to Shanghai would not be complete with out a trip to a night club, we stopped into Mynt nightclub where we all know is the toughest environments for smartphones. Their small sensors usually take grainy out of focus pictures that aren’t flattering or usable.  What I was able to do with the Mate S was impressive, the laser and smoke shots turned out better than expected.



I tried to use a few other settings like Super Night and Silky Water, which actually produced some shots that were pretty artistic. The layering of the people and smoke is something that I didn’t expect. It’s important to hold the phone very still, I had to rest it on a railing and make sure that no drunk people ran into it or walked infront of it.



But if we’re being honest the thing that you take the most pictures of at a club are of your friends. Since this night out was overly indulgent I’m only going to share 2 photos, one at the beginning of the night and one towards the end when it’s harder to capture a shot with everyone holding still.


early in the evening…


a few drinks later

What was most interesting about the order of events is that early the next day after what I’m positive was 8 hours of sleep, I took a visit to Huawei’s Headquarters. (I bet you forgot I mentioned that I was actually in Shanghai for work!)


Huawei has been climbing the ranks in China and for good reason, with the launch of the Mate S in September they made it clear they were looking to enter into the high end smartphone market. Taking on Apple & Samsung is something that the entire ecosystem is looking to do. Becoming synonymous with quality and luxury will take time, so news that Huawei has just became the largest smartphone maker in China in Q3 is big news. What is even more interesting is that they’ve just unseated Xiaomi  whose shipments have declined.

According to research firm Canalys Huawei’s smartphone shipments last quarter rose 81% from a year earlier. This is the first time that Huawei has become No. 1 in China, which is actually the world’s largest smartphone market. It’s a smart play to take on Xiaomi a smartphone maker that has focused on social media and cultivating an online community to generate sales while trying to shift perception of their brand as a luxury goods manufacturer.

I take a lot of trips to China to visit with Smartphone manufacturers, every time I leave I’m impressed at how far the industry has come, no longer cheap and cheerful China’s manufacturing is starting to find it’s own voice.