the picture angle | why I seem to be using hipstamatic all the time…
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why I seem to be using hipstamatic all the time…

March 29, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

reward…

I have been asked by friends and have subsequently asked myself why I have put my camera away and have for most of this year taken pictures exclusively on the iPhone, and recently, even more ‘limiting’, with the Hipstamatic application, rather than editing the images afterwards in Snapseed (the very best iPhone photo processing app in my book).

Maybe I have to go back a little bit, and this first thought is actually confusing the picture even more but bear with me if you will.

Before I got my iPhone 4S in November last year, I had heard and read so much about the iPhone, and mainly on Twitter had witnessed a fair number of pro and semi pro photographers turn into complete iPhone nuts. Forgive the term but it seemed to me like so much hype, and who would, having much better equipment, even choose to make technically worse pictures than he or she could, right?

At around about the same time I felt I needed to reassess my own photographic path. I had learned a lot about equipment and to take better pictures in terms of composition and using manual camera settings, thanks to someone who turned out to be a true mentor in that respect, after all the jokes we had cracked about that word in the beginning. However, I increasingly felt that I was taking pictures fulfilling someone else’s criteria of a good picture, needing someone else’s approval (another personal weakness of mine), and in the process I grew somewhat alienated from my own work and in fact stopped taking pictures altogether for a while.

This realisation combined with that dinky new toy with its lots of brilliant (or trashy) apps allowed me to get over the confusion of not knowing what kind of photographer I was by getting me to play again. I am now taking pictures like I did with my little plastic 16 square exposures on 12 exposure film camera that I got for Christmas at age twelve or thirteen or so. Technically as good as a plastic lens, heads to trees for focus settings, and clouds to sun for exposure would allow you to be; the more important thing being what was in the frame.

Hipstamatic is even more limiting. You have a ‘lens’ and a ‘film’ combination and no control other than choosing that combination. I find right now, this very fact allows me to focus exclusively on composition and, even more so, on the mood I want to capture through it.

This is my argument for all those people who moan everywhere that cheap apps ‘make any picture look nice, no matter how bad it is’, thus devaluing ‘good’ photography, i.e. pictures taken with expensive (and hence still somewhat exclusive) gear.

I disagree on two counts.

Good camera phone and app pictures still require skill. True, if you take a bland flower picture in gritty b&w, it might add a certain interest to the picture that it wouldn’t have in colour. Why? More contrast, focusing on the main thing without colourful distractions around, making it possible for the viewer to find connections: I remember those flowers in my grandma’s garden. We had lovely times there. I miss her. It’s getting under the skin. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. I rather think it’s using what you have available to achieve a certain purpose.

Secondly, the exclusivity of the gear is mostly less dictated by the skill in making good use of such equipment than much more by the size of one’s wallet or bank balance.

It’s knowing why you are using it that way. We have a saying in Germany that even a blind chicken will find the odd grain. This happens to iPhone shooters, but it also happens to more high-end gear users than would care to admit to it.

Another reason why I like the limitations of what I am using now to take pictures is my attempt not to try to document facts, occasions, buildings, … whatever, but to get back to taking pictures that evoke emotions. I don’t need pixel-peeper-satisfying full-frame sensors and £6000 lenses for that.

I cannot remember her name (my biggest fallacy) but David Land, now editor of F2 magazine, talked in one of his classes at my BTEC course about a US photographer who took amazingly haunting pictures with a Brownie. Blurred, having you engage with the picture to figure out what was going on, with enough detail present to satisfy the search.

Now that you know, maybe my pictures don’t look that nice anymore, but hey, I’m trying, and I’ll never stop learning.

My final reason to explain why the iPhone is my first choice in most cases: it’s just ready to shoot so much faster than my camera…



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