This image took Christian J. Sweet “about 20 hours or so” to create on an iPhone 4S with an antique magnifying glass and Snapseed, ArtStudio and Slow Shutter apps.

Some mobile photographers prefer a simple shoot-and-upload approach. Not Christian J. Sweet.

The L.A.-based artist regularly spends 20-plus hours editing a single image, using various apps to layer and sculpt his compositions. 

Sweet’s Instagram account has more than 20,000 followers and his intricate smartphone composites have caught the attention of both mobile photographers and celebrities. Last year, Sweet was approached by Tyra Banks to edit a photo of her with his iPhone. The resulting image earned more than 31,100 likes on Banks’ Instagram account.

We spoke with Sweet via email about his mobile photography style and one of his favorite creations, above.

How would you describe your mobile photography style?

I was raised only a few day's worth of stone-throwing from Rainier National Park (or an hour by car for those who prefer to drive). To this day, the evergreen pines of Mount Rainier serve as my go-to in times when inspiration and solitary escape are most necessary. With its ominously vernal presence having maintained a remarkable influence over the years, it is fair to say that its essence is now engrained within the fibers of my character, flowing even into the wellspring of my imagination. It is a symbol of taunting risk and unpredictable beauty, providing an atmosphere in which adventure knows no bounds.

How do you go about creating an image?

Amidst my daily workflow and all that ensues, atmosphere is key. Setting provides inspiration. Inspiration paves way for story. Story is the foundation of all that I do. Simply put, when I find myself enthralled by hellish crags and staggering peaks, as opposed to the stench of coffee and mind-numbing city dwelling, the difference in creative outcomes will prove to be somewhat drastic.

Once I've got my placement figured out, it's time to take the "mad scientist" approach whilst experimenting with the tools at hand.

For some illustrations, Sweet collaborates with other artists by transforming their smartphone photographs into works of art. He creates many more images from start to finish on his iPhone, from capture to Instragram. 

Sweet sometimes collaborates with others for creations like "Red Sky At Night, Sailor's Delight: Part I," which is his edit of a photo from @hopepav.
Sweet calls this collaboratively created piece "Know Your Limits, Then Defy Them," which he worked on with @sowingwa.
Sweet offers "behind the scenes" looks at his work via his Instagram feed. In the above post, he explained how he created "Know Your Limits, Then Defy Them," including which app he used.

Sweet is releasing a tutorial/storybook in the near future for those of you wondering how he creates his images using his iPhone. You can follow him on Instagram or Twitter — both handles are @christianjsweet.

If you know an interesting mobile photographer who should be featured in our Exposure series, let us know: