Recent years have seen monumental changes in photographic equipment, but nothing has rocked the imaging world like the “serious” use of smartphones (primarily iPhones) for creative self-expression. Photojournalists, commercial and fine art photographers, students, pros and amateurs alike have taken to this new and exciting world. With iPhone photo apps, you can create endless treatments and effects (including some that would be very difficult in Photoshop), and post-processing on the iPhone (and iPad) is a lot of fun.
The iPhone has sparked my creativity in new ways; for example, the Hipstamatic app (a shooting app) is one of my favorites. It looks and feels like a separate unique camera and brings back the unpredictability and fun of antique or plastic cameras, such as the Diana and Holga. I have used the Hipstamatic app and its varied “lenses” and “films” (i.e., adjustments and effects filters) since 2010. I love the square format…memories of images made with my Hasselblad flood back…only now I am shooting with a much lighter and smaller camera. When I studied photography with Garry Winogrand at UCLA in the early 1980s, I learned how he worked with his subjects, emphasizing content and form and the immediacy of the moment. He was without a doubt one of the most prolific street photographers of his era. He taught us to photograph whatever we wanted, however we wanted and not be afraid of criticism. With his quick-moving style, I think he would have embraced the iPhone.
I am often asked, “Why the iPhone?” First of all, I almost always have it with me. So when I see something that would make a great image, the camera is there. My iPhone 5S has a very high quality 8MP camera, which is a lot more than I had on my first Nikon DSLR. It includes built-in HDR (high dynamic range), a lens that actually focuses, face recognition, built-in flash, burst mode for action photography, auto image stabilization, a terrific panorama feature and simple editing capabilities. With iOS8 there are some additional features that make using the iPhone as a camera even better, such as a self timer, time lapse video and a manual exposure adjustment. There are also more tools in the edit mode. But the real power comes from the hundreds of apps that are available for the iPhone and iPad. They bring back the excitement I felt when I first got into photography and worked in the darkroom (without the aroma)!
Now it’s possible to adjust and manipulate images immediately after capture. I have about 100 photo apps on my iPhone — about half that on my iPad — with a couple dozen that are my regular “go-to” apps. With this many apps, I can do just about anything I would do in Photoshop, only more easily and for less money. Additionally, I can alter my photos with vintage or grunge looks, add textures, vignettes, lighting effects, blend images or add borders and frames. There are even apps that can change photos to look like a sketch, a pen-and-ink drawing, a cartoon or a painting.
Here are some of my favorite apps and techniques:
Most of my iPhone photography begins with the Hipstamatic app. When I started using it in the fall of 2010, there were just a few “lenses” and “films,” and I had fun experimenting with all of them. Now there are hundreds of combinations, and it can get a bit overwhelming. Some of my favorite films are Ina’s 1982 and 1935, BlacKeys B+W, DC, Claunch 72 Monochrome, Pistil and Salvador Dream Canvas. My favorite lenses continue to be Jane, John S and Salvador 84 (for surprise multiple exposures).
If you purchase Hipstamatic from the App store, my suggestion would be to just go with what’s included at first. Then, as you get used to the varied “looks,” you can purchase the multiple exposure lens button and many more films and lenses.
More of this article can be read in the Winter 2014 issue