I made a conscious decision today to shoot my 366 image with my iPhone during the school run (which would include a detour to get the wife’s newspaper). I took half a dozen images, two of which I liked a lot but this was the final choice for the 366 once I’d “lived” with both images for the day.
Over the last 12 months my photographic interests have shifted considerably and whilst stills photography is still a primary interest (it needs to be as I’m 650+ days into the 365 Challenge) my main interests these days are Audio-Visual, instant photography and exploring what can be done with my iPhone.
I recently joined a smartphone photography group run by the UPP through which I hope to see a range of work each month produced by other enthusiast photographers using smartphones. I am particularly interested to see how people interpret the world around them through the medium of what is essentially a point and shoot camera albeit one with a built-in darkroom and special effects studio! I see a lot of smartphone images every day on the internet but these will be from a small group of people who would classify themselves as enthusiast photographers and I’m wondering if they will therefore approach things differently.
Purchasing the Huawei P20 Pro smartphone earlier in the year persuaded me of the potential for smartphone photography and whilst I sold the phone within a few months it was in no way a reflection of the built-in camera, which is superb, but simply that I couldn’t get on with the Android software that powered the other functions of the handset (text messages, internet browsing, checking emails … oh and making phone calls).
I have a small album of smartphone images on my Flickr account which I shall be adding to over time. I’m only just starting to realise the full potential of this creative tool though. They say that necessity is the mother of invention and my prolonged spells of being confined to barracks over the last couple of months have at least given me the opportunity to play, to experiment and also research the options. I have settled on a few key Apps for my use, figuring that getting to know a few pieces of software well will in the long run produce better results than a nodding acquaintance with a whole store-full of Apps.
My go-to App therefore for any post-production is Snapseed. I believe that smartphone photography should mean exactly that, all the stages of the process completed on the smartphone, in my case these days an iPhone XR which I believe is the current entry-level iPhone. Therefore I shoot with the iPhone, post-process with Snapseed on the phone and then upload to social media or the cloud from where I can grab images for Flickr if I so desire. I use Instagram too (link is to one of my three IG accounts) and always post to that account from my iPhone. I’m not impressed by the Flickr App on my phone however so prefer to upload those from my desktop.
Capturing the images is done either using the phone’s native camera or with the Hipstamatic App. Which of these I use at any given time depends largely on the intended purpose and to some degree on how I feel. Pictures of the grandsons for example are largely for family consumption so I use the native camera. This is not set in stone though and a recent exception were a few images of Zac (see first image above) which were captured for my 365 and I chose to use Hipstamatic for the effect created by the John S “lens” and Rock “film”.
At present these two Apps do pretty much everything I need so I am concentrating on learning how to use them rather than diluting my efforts chasing loads of other Apps. The one thing that would make Snapseed the perfect post-production tool on my phone would be more sophisticated black & white conversion options or at least a range of B&W presets. I’m still looking in to other options but at present am converting images with the very basic tool within Snapseed and then tweaking with the regular fine-tuning tools. I’d appreciate being able to quickly replicate particular looks however which is where presets are so useful.
Interestingly I choose never to use presets within Photoshop or Lightroom when processing images from my Fuji cameras yet I am starting to see them as key components of smartphone photography. Horses for courses?
There will be more on this topic in coming months I’m sure. In the meantime, I’m finding that by using two mediums (instant and smartphone) that are not technically “perfect” I am more likely to experiment – is this something that others find?
OK, firstly, I have to say that I’m not a fan of the sobriquet “‘tog” to describe a photographer but you have to admit it does scan better than “photographing”. Behind this rather cheesy headline lies a serious thought though; I’ve lost the urge to get out at every opportunity with my camera. In fact since I returned from Skye in early November 2016 I’ve only taken half a dozen images and these only two days ago.
My photographic mojo has been well and truly missing for the best part of four months and it is only now, as I make the first tentative foray back into things that I can admit to myself the scale of this loss of photographic impetus. You see it wasn’t just the cameras themselves that I put down. I stopped reading about photography; I forsook my habitual hour on YouTube every evening. I still have many hundreds of untouched RAW image files on my hard drive from the week in Skye. Mister Adobe was taking my money every month and the computer was keeping the software up to date but I wasn’t at the party.
I’m sure that I’m not unique however. Enthusiast magazines will occasionally run an article on the topic and will even offer the “Ten Best Ways to Regain your Mojo” or similar. It has to be a generalisation of course as all of us are different and we respond to different stimuli. The only reason that I haven’t panicked at this situation however is because it has happened to me several times over the years and my mojo has always come back.
In the past my wallet has often come to the rescue. With a new toy to play with I was only too keen to get out and about and thus my photographic mojo was miraculously restored. My wife wondered if the lack of the creative urge was less about loss of mojo and more about justifying that new purchase. I couldn’t possibly comment. What I can say however is the loss of the creative urge is real, happens to most of us at some point of time and most importantly can be overcome.
This year however there would be no magic bullet from my ancient wallet as I have given up spending on equipment for 2017. It makes giving up chocolate at Lent look like a walk in the park let me tell you. What possessed me to announce this photographic moratorium at Christmas when we were discussing resolutions for 2017 I do not know. Perhaps it was partly because I had no interest in photography at the time. But I said it and try to be a man of my word. I’ve managed it so far (only another ten months to go).
There is little point me rehashing the “Ten Best Ways …” so I will cut to the chase and describe what led to those first tentative pictures last weekend. I decided to move all my kit from one room to another. Banal? Perhaps, but in doing so I rediscovered the pleasure of simply handling the cameras which in turn led to me slipping the Fuji X100T back into its habitual place in my coat pocket, a place from which it had been noticeably missing for around four months. I didn’t take any photographs but at least the possibility now existed.
Thus it was that three days later, on a Sunday, when I wandered down to the local supermarket, the Fuji was still sat, untouched, in my jacket pocket. Presenting myself at the supermarket at 9:28am I was annoyed to find it closed – Sunday trading laws! What to do? In the end my feet propelled me down to the River Calder and on to the newly rebuilt Elland Bridge. It was then that it happened, my hand unconsciously but tentatively dipped into my pocket and drew out the Fuji. A few moments longer and I had broken my duck – with a rather banal picture of a bare tree reflected in a meager puddle. Over the next half an hour I took a few more and found I was actively seeking compositions and not placidly reacting to my surroundings. It was 10:20 when I got back to the supermarket but I was happy. My mojo, whilst not restored, was returning!
I even took the “arty” picture at the top of the page from my home-office window when I got home after first checking the bus timetable (prior planning and execution!).
So there you have it. The next time that your photographic mojo disappears don’t reach for the credit card or any other of the “Top Ten” solutions but simply don your apron and start moving the furniture about and transporting your gear from one room to another!