Just as I thought iPhoneography was of little further interest, along comes the iPhone5 with a new 8mp I-Sight camera boasting support for geotagging, panorama, face detection and autofocus out of the box. I took a couple of experimental shots and on an entirely subjective basis, my reaction was…Wow!
The real trick with iPhoneography is to supplement the camera with apps. This is where the power lies. I had a look at my motley collection, installed in the dark days of iPhone4 and decided a refresh was in order.
The editing apps I kept are Snapseed, which I consider indispensable, and err no others. Whole lot in the bin. I visited the App Store and had a rummage around. The new apps I downloaded are…
Camera Noir – does exactly what you would expect, with minimal fuss. B&W conversion with high medium and low contrast settings. Can also be used to set up the camera to take monochrome shots.
iPhoto – has the real benefit of being able to sync photos with an iPad which means I can actually see what I’m doing when editing. Train journeys will seem so much shorter!
Alt Photo – there are a lot of Film imitating apps around, but this one comes from a company with a strong track record in photography – Alien Skin. Childishly simple to use.
DistressedFX is a texturing app. Probably the best one I’ve seen, the textures are all adjustable.
The fun with iPhoneography lies in bouncing the photo around different apps. Obviously this will cause some degeneration in the image, but to give an idea of what you can get away with, the picture at the top of this post was taken with the native camera, cropped in Snapseed, a light texture applied in DistressedFX and converted to mono in Camera Noir.
Seems alright to me!
At risk of making myself a hostage to fortune I’ve decided to embark on a 365 day photographic project. There is no theme, simply a requirement to take and publish one photograph every day until next January 1st. Having succesfully navigated week 1, I’m optimistic!
There are a few things making themselves obvious even at this early stage. Firstly, this is a wonderful opportunity where time allows, to step outside of my comfort zone and experiment with different approaches that I might not normally try. Who knows where that might lead?
Secondly, I budgeted one hour a day minimally to get the shot and publish. This in itself is a challenge, but one that will fit in with my working life. I’ve found the discipline energising so far and I’m taking a lot more photographs as a result.
Thirdly, in restricting the time I allocate to taking photographs I’m forcing myself to work with what I have. If that’s an iPhone, then that’s what I will shoot with and publish. So far I’m favouring a Canon G1 X on the basis its easy to carry around and therefore I can take advantage of down time during the day to snatch a few shots. Of course the choice of camera imposes a few more restrictions because of the lens – it’s wide (15 mm) and therefore encourages a particular style of shooting, especially where architecture is involved!
The key to preserving (or at least attempting to preserve) quality in a 365 day project appears to lie in not blowing all the best ideas in week 1. I generally shoot at least one day a week, mainly landscape and architecture and I’ll continue to do that, however the other six days will include some experimental photography, abstracts, still lives and also technology that I have not really embraced because of a perceived lack of time. So in Week 1 there are two photographs that are clearly experimental and five that I would probably have taken in any case, over a longer period of time.
So far, I’ve found myself experimenting with abstracts (not particularly successfully) and learning how to manage textures in photoshop (better!). Like a guitarist changing hands I’m discovering that I progressed a lot last year but there is a lot more and a lot further to go.
You can find my 365 day project at BlipPhoto – http://www.blipfoto.com/ElectricalImage, some of the photographs will make their way here, some won’t. I’m hoping this project will open new doors creatively, also hoping I finish it!
Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage is a place I’ve wanted to photograph for a long time. Out of respect to the current resident, I was very conscious of the intrusion that taking a series of photographs involves and on the day, absolutely horrified by the sheer number of photographers that seemed to think it fine to peer through windows, trample over the garden and generally behave as if it is a public park. It isn’t, the land is privately owned and it’s a home, somebody lives in the cottage. People, have some respect!
I’d seen a great many pictures of the cottage and garden and I wanted to try to capture of its creator’s compulsive creativity. Derek Jarman is gone now, but may well turn out to be our last great film maker. I first encountered his work back in the 1970’s when I watched “Sebastiane” at Notting Hill’s Gate Cinema. It was a film that immediately identified the director as somebody with something to say. It’s notoriety helped to position him as a film maker who would go on to be adopted by the Punk Rock movement, he directed “Jubilee”, “The Tempest” with Toyah Wilcox and collaborated with Phsychic TV’s Genesis P Orridge on “Thee Phsychick Bible”. I followed his career all the way through film school and I’m mystified as to why his films appear to have been progressively sidelined since his death in 1994.
As well as being a filmmaker, Jarman was also a writer and an artist, a truly compulsive creator. In view of his notoriety, it is ironic somehow that he is known today for one of his last creative acts. When he retired to Dungeness, often deprived of the wherewithal to make films, he set about creating a garden on this blasted spit of land that would become famous the world over. There’s a lesson there about creativity that is worth learning. We can be creative with the equipment we have.
Which is perhaps why this photograph, taken in 30 seconds with an iPhone is one of my favourites of the day.
I’ve mentioned the pleasures of iPhoneography and how I’ve found it a useful and creative way of keeping the eye in. I’ve now decided, in the original spirit of web logs to dedicate a site exclusively to point and shoot photographs. Beware, there may be photographs of family pets, breakfasts and worse!
iPhone Electrique is a scrapbook of ideas, quotes, locations and half baked snaps. I wanted to get back to the idea of a blog being just that, a diary, so there will be a clear separation between this site and the Tumblr powered iPhone Electrique. Whether it will prove interesting to anyone other than me is anyone’s guess, but I’m simply looking for spontaneity and a record of my ideas, good, bad and indifferent over the next year or so. Tonight’s shoot may prove challenging to record – I’m going out with my Canon 7D and the Brighton Photographers Group to attempt a star trail photograph. It will of course be dark which militates against the iPhone diary, but we’ll see…or not!
The news that Instagram has been acquired by Facebook leaves me with mixed feelings I’m afraid. I’m pleased for the guys at Instagram obviously, their hard work over the last few years has given them prime position in the iPhoneography space and now they are getting the tangible rewards. Long may they party…
As a user however, I must admit to being profoundly disappointed. I liked Instagram a lot, preferring it to Hipstamatic and as a compulsive iPhoneographer I found it more convenient, more user friendly and more fun. I liked it just the way it was. As a Facebook user, I rarely use the photosharing capabilities. I don’t like the way it randomly clips the picture to shoehorn it into your stream and I’m not overly keen on the terms and conditions that suggest my pictures may not be entirely under my control.
Displaying photographs on a website is very different to displaying them on a mobile phone and as a photographer I want to exercise some control over the look and presentation of my photographs. I don’t get that from Facebook, which is why I use 500px, this website and Flickr.
I’m also having misgivings about the lack of choice that corporatism is beginning to inflict on us. The tendency is to consolidate, which means less competition and often, since corporates are driven entirely by the need to satisfy shareholders, a reduction in quality as costs are rationalised. And, being a gentleman of a certain age, I prefer my outsiders. I was always a Rolling Stones fan rather than a Beatle!
So this is why I’m cancelling my Instagram account. I’m not convinced that the mobile phone only model is sustainable as the tablet market expands. I don’t necessarily want to share my mobile phone pictures with an internet audience, but when I do, I will send them to EyeEm, the increasingly popular German start up. They have good presentation, a more vibrant community than Instagram (in my opinion) and a nice user friendly way of categorising and tagging pictures. I can share the pictures I want to share with my Facebook friends by linking, without handing the pictures over to Facebook.
Plus, I like to think that I’m doing my bit for the independents, the mavericks, the square pegs. That’s just me I’m afraid.
Is iPhoneography the new punk rock? This was the question I asked in a previous blog post. What I meant was that the iPhoneography craze has all the characteristics of a movement that’s going to upset the status quo. The cost of entry is low, its simple to execute, cost of software is low and the results are sufficiently different from DSLR photography to be identifiable. In those respects at least it has a lot in common with the punk rock movement of the 1970’s.
It is also polarising opinion in a pleasingly similar way. I imagine the transition from analogue to digital was heralded as the end of civilisation at the time and there is no doubt that digital photography has significantly altered the professional landscape. Now that the ability to take a good photograph is accessible to so many more people, the old Hunter S. Thompson saying “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” has never been more true. Perhaps now more than ever, is the time that photographers need to rely on their originality, imagination and talent in order to thrive.
I believe that the iPhone will change the landscape for a number of reasons apart from those cited above. The principle reason being that because of the accessibility and ease of use, it is a great tool for flexing the creative muscles and trying new things out. I can see a time approaching when the iPhone could even displace the point and shoot camera, which with the new generation of mirrorless (MILC or EVIL) digital cameras from Leica, Olympus and Nikon must be feeling the squeeze from both ends.
Mobile phone photography is both fun and rewarding. There is sufficient interest to support magazines and exhibitions and I sold my first “iPhoneograph” last week, hopefully a taste of things to come! Specialist photosharing sites such as EyeEm and Instagram have helped the movement to ‘go social’ and software is coming along in leaps and bounds as well as reasonably priced accessories such as lens attachments. There is even an adapter available to allow the user to mound Canon and Nikon DSLR lenses.
The software I used to create the image illustrating this post is called TrueHDR. I also use Snapseed on both the mobile phone and desktop. The other program I can recommend without hesitation is Filterstorm. On the frivolous, fun side of things, Tiny Planets and Plastic Bullet are both very effective, if limited.
Check out my iPhoneography Gallery. If you’re not already doing it, try it, you may grow to love it!
Followers of iPhoneography will know Snapseed for its iPhone and iPad implementations. It is in my opinion the best value and possibly the most full featured editing app available to mobile photographers. Nik Software of course are equally well known for their professional editing tools Silver Efex Pro and Viveza to name but two. The release of Snapseed for the desktop at £13 in the Mac Store poses an interesting question – who is it aimed at exactly?
I decided to test the capabilities of the software using a problematic photograph I’d taken in Iceland. In the original RAW file, the picture was underexposed because of the unusual amount of pure white snow in the picture. I needed to boost the exposure to bring the snow up to the brilliant white it was in real life, but in so doing, lost the detail of the mountains. Bringing the red jacket through completely overexposed the snow.
I exported the file to jpeg as it was intended for the internet – this immediately set me on the path to a downgraded picture, so it may have been better to have taken the RAW file, however Snapseed does not offer the same degree of control over the RAW image as Aperture, relying on the underlying OS support for RAW in order to deal with the picture.
Snapseed offers two categories of adjustment, Basic and Creative. The Creative adjustments are mainly combinations of filters and textures – not what I was after here. The Basic controls offer Image tuning, Cropping & Straightening and Details. Given the issues I mentioned earlier, the main work was going to have to be selective. I needed to bring out the red of the woman’s jacket and bring up the detail of the mountain in the background.
Snapseed uses the same u-point technology in Image Tuning that Nik apply to their professional tools. Click on the area you need to adjust to create a Control point, adjust the size of the control point so that the changes are localised and then apply contrast, saturation and brightness as required. These controls gave me exactly what I needed. I was then able to use Details to bring out the structure. Time elapsed – about fifteen minutes.
For £13, this software is good value – as a taster for the professional tools it is excellent. I would not use it to create prints or images for print publication, but for internet publication I think its fine.
Positives: RAW Support, Ease of use, speed, price
Negatives: limited feature set (but very reasonable for the price)
Conclusion – although the feature set is limited, it is capable. This is very much a fun application delivering decent results quickly and easily. It does not offer the same levels of resolution as Aperture or Photoshop. Its mobile photography++. iPhone editing for the desktop and an inexpensive introduction to Nik Software!