My friend and I have challenged ourselves to a “365photo” endeavor – we take one random photograph a day for an entire year. I’ve never done this before and I suspect I’ll fail spectacularly. But it’s worth a shot!
I know the goal is to shoot exactly one image a day but I’ve allowed myself some wiggle room: I can take photos and upload them one or two days later if things are slow or I’ve been busy with work or an emergency or something.
Another thing: I’ll be working almost exclusively with my iTouch.
I’ll post all my images on this blog but if you’re interested you can also follow my Flickr stream.
So there, a positive resolution for a positive new year. What are you gonna be up to this 2013?
I am an iPhoneographer. That is, I enjoy taking and reworking photos with my iPhone.
I’m not a professional photographer nor do I harbor illusions that I’m a great iPhone picture taker. I simply like snapping shots, tweaking them with select iPhone apps, and posting them online for anyone who cares to look.
It’s a fun hobby and I want to get better at it. I’d also like to share what’s worked for me so far, based on my experience with a humble iPhone 3G.
So without further ado, here are what I consider to be 4 essential iPhoneography tips. No doubt more can be added; feel free to augment this article with your own insights in the comments section.
1. Invest in good apps.
One reason why iPhoneography has become such a celebrated worldwide movement is the wide range of photography apps available to tweak and enhance your photographs. The ability to instantly transform a random photo into something that looks like a scratched-out, low-fi film shot and quickly share it online is what makes iPhoneography so compelling in today’s wired world.
Not all iphoneography apps are brilliant, however. And just because there are hundreds of apps available in the iTunes app store doesn’t mean you need to download everything (after all, as a wise friend once told me, it’s not about the arrow but the archer).
All you really need is a handful of consistent apps that allow you to shoot with ease and replicate the styles and effects you like most.
I have a number of apps in my camera bag, but after months of taking photos and constantly returning to my most favorite and reliable apps, these are the ones I use the most (you’d do well to look into what others are using too):
Camera+. This is my iPhone’s default camera. It’s fast, has a gorgeous amount of tools and effects, and produces consistently stable images. There are no downsides to Camera+ and if you were to buy only one app, this would be the one to get.
Pictureshow. The range of analog effects in Pictureshow, and the degree of control over how soft or intense you can manipulate these effects, make it an iPhoneography favorite. There are plenty of degradation options and nifty frames to choose from. It’s easily the best lo-fi app out there.
Photogene. One of the better iPhone photo editing tools. It has virtually everything – crop and sharpening tools, color adjustments, filters, special effects, resizing. A must-have if you want comprehensive editing capabilities.
Spica. This is a “super monochrome” app that creates bold and intense black and white photos. Ideal for crisp and high contrast images that are all about the mood and moment.
Cross Process. I love Cross Process because of the really enigmatic images it can produce. The app lets you drain and/or emphasize your photo’s individual RGB elements, generating filmic shots that ooze with character. I find it amplifies the mystery in certain shots. And it’s often the mystery that makes a photo, isn’t it?
TiltShiftGen. This app is designed to adjust photos so that their subjects look like miniature models. Its depth of field tool is fun to play with, as are the color and brightness controls. TiltShiftGen is great for adding drama to photos but it runs the danger of overuse.
Hipstamatic. The classic retro photo app, Hipstamatic is sort of a default app for budding iPhoneographers. I like that you can change film stock, camera lenses, and use a “flash”. And the images it generates are lovely to behold. The only downside is that Hipsta shots are instantly identifiable and make you look lazy. I use the app every now and again but try to keep it in the background so as to focus on other, less “signature” apps.
Your app selection may differ from mine. Certainly there are more that can be used; it’s a matter of comfort I guess. But these have served me well and if you’re just starting out I have no doubt they will be invaluable to you too.
2. Be fearless but smart.
Taking pictures with an iPhone can be a scary thing sometimes. I have a friend who stole a shot of a couple on a date only to be caught red-handed and made to delete the photo (the obstinate loverboy was bigger than my friend and wouldn’t listen to reason, no matter how many times “I’m a photographer, I meant no harm” was invoked).
But some shots just beg to be taken right? The trick is to be fearless but smart.
If you really want the image, go get it! Just be careful you’re not getting in anyone’s face, be respectful at all times, and try not to act like a maniac.
I’ve found that some people don’t mind having their picture taken, especially if I explain what I’m doing first. In other cases, it helps to offer something in return (i.e. buy street kids food in exchange for some pictures of their situation).
If you want to explore an interesting property but there’s a “No Trespassing” sign clearly mounted on an electric fence along with a warning that trespassers will be shot, it’s probably in your best interest to take photos elsewhere. Then again, these restrictions might force you to get different, safer shots that turn out far better than you imagined.
It’s all about respect, caution, and creativity within the bounds imposed on you.
Some countries are pretty anal when it comes to photography. On several occasions in the UK I was asked to stop taking photographs because of private property rules and Child Protection laws, even though I was taking very tame pictures of public monuments!
What I eventually learned was I had to be careful, steal shots in a discreet manner if I could, and avoid taking pictures if the situation just felt wrong.
Above all I learned that negative rules can lead to positive photos, if you take the time to be fearless but smart.
3. Move into the light.
Notice how in movies, faces are almost always lit to one side, with the other side bathed in shadow? Lighting like this captures mood and character in riveting ways. Interesting tonal contrasts can transform an otherwise lame image into something truly standout. It’s just works this way.
Light is your best friend. It will make or break your photo. And while the principle of good lighting is relevant to all photography, it’s especially crucial that you pay attention to light when using your iPhone.
But what’s an iPhoneographer to use without the complicated lighting gear that professional photographers frequently deploy on expensive photoshoots?
The sun is your biggest ally. Photos taken in the morning or late afternoon, when the sun is low and angled on a subject, will look better than shots taken with the sun is directly overhead and washing out your image.
This of course means you’re best served by getting up early in the morning or taking late afternoon strolls in search of fascinating sights. Or you could simply be more conscious when going to and from work every day, your iPhone ready as you make your daily commute.
Look for ways to capture sunlight on one side of a subject and use the shadows to create counterbalancing depth and expression.
If the day is overcast or night time is upon you, take photos next to lampposts or other areas where there are interesting lighting points.
The idea is to improvise. Turn your subjects this way and that, or move around until you’ve got the best lighting possible. Turn on/switch off lights (if you can) until you have created enough mood or the right ambience.
Remember, the more creative the lighting, the more captivating your photograph.
4. Hunt for the Shot
iPhoneography isn’t easy. Finding the perfect shot is often an arduous task that involves extensive exploring, loads of photographs, and up to several hours of tweaking and processing using multiple apps.
Sure some pictures just fall into place and require nothing more than a quick snap, some basic processing, and a speedy upload to Facebook.
But more often than not, great pictures need to be sought, mined, and given plenty of thought. There needs to be a conscious effort to look at the world through the eyes of your iPhone and to be alert for images as they reveal themselves.
It certainly takes practice. Sometimes I miss opportunities because I’m simply not paying attention. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a great image pass me by and thought to myself, “Hey that’s pretty…” and then remember I have an iPhone in my pocket as the image sails away.
But when I DO remember I have an iPhone, I whip it out, activate Camera+, and then snap away. The more conscious I am of the world around me, of its beauty, mystery, and ugliness, the more I’m able to hunt and capture moments that would otherwise remain unnoticed.
It requires no small investments of time and energy. But it’s worth it.
So there, my 4 essential iPhoneography tips. Care to add yours?