May 19th

2012

My Favourite Camera

Images from Sweden and Italy, iPhone. 2012.

In Switzerland recently I visited a high school with some really talented students and resourceful teachers. And there I had a chance to wear a giant cardboard pin-hole camera on my head. Seriously. And by head-mounted, I don’t mean it went on top of my head. My head went inside. There are no existing photographs of this moment, to my knowledge, but you’ll have to trust me on this:  it was VERY cool. I giggled like a little girl. But until they make this experience less reliant on the large, uncomfortable, and somewhat weather-vulnerable, cardboard box, the closest I’ve come to that joy is my iPhone. (Oops. I stand corrected, there IS photographic documentation of the headmounted pinhole camera. You can see it HERE )

I have loved making photographs since I was a kid, and there have been stages where I’ve loved it more than others. But my iPhone has made it so much more fun recently. I make hundreds of photographs a week with my camera phone, playing with lines and light, and moments. Everywhere I go my camera comes with me, and thanks to apps like Snapseed and Camera+, so does my digital darkroom. I can create and share everywhere I go, and in every mood. I play. I ask “what if” a lot more. And, most liberating, I’ve given up caring that I don’t have my “serious” camera. But my time with my camera phone makes me a better photographer when I do pull out out the D3s or the Hasselblad. Even with the larger cameras, the iPhone is my scouting camera and makes the majority of my sketch images.

In a couple days we’ll be launching eyePhone, Making Stronger Photographs with your Camera Phone, a Craft & Vision ebook by my friend, photographer Al Smith. Al is the only guy I know who teaches mobile phone photography at the college level. We’ve taken this nuts and bolts curriculum and turned into a fantastic ebook for anyone interested in making the most of these incredible tools. Are you going to print huge banners with the images you make with a camera phone? Probably not. Are you going to marvel at the low-light, high ISO performance of these cameras? Also no. But any tool that brings back the wonder, helps you improve your photography, hone your creativity, and see things differently is worth a second look. Capable of creating gigabites of crappy snapshots of kittens, or collections of well-made, astonishing, photographs, phone cameras are not toys unless you choose to use them that way.

Whether or not you buy the $5 ebook is not the point. We publish these for those they’ll help. What matters, at least to me, is the ability we have to make photography a part of our daily lives in a way that has literally never been this accessible. Free from the pressure to create something amazing with the big cameras, free from the weight and hassle of bringing the dSLR everywhere we go, I’ve found my iPhone (and it doesn’t matter which brand you use, although in frequent fits of frustration, I damn-near tossed my Android phone into the Baltic, the Mediterranean, and the Adriatic seas on this trip. Guess I’m not an Android guy,) makes me a better photographer. I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise, eh? On the Gear is Good, Vision is Better, spectrum, there’s not much more basic than an iPhone (aforementioned pinhole camera excluded.)

We had a participant on one of the recent Within The Frame Adventures who made some amazing photographs with his camera phone. He had hundreds of interesting apps. I’m going to see if I can get it from him, but in the mean time, I’d be interested to know what y’all are using. Feel free to leave a comment and let the rest of us in on your favourite apps.

By the way, these contact sheets were really quickly made in Lightroom in the Print module using one of the standard presets, adding strokes, and printing them to a JPG file. Easy-peasy. More and more I’m finding cool uses for the Lightroom Print module. Might just be a book in that… :-)

Comments (43)
  1. May 19, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    The excitement and fun in this post is wonderful! Not to mention the incredible shots. Favourite apps on my iPhone so far are Pro HDR, CamWow and . . .Instagram but would love to explore more. Great post, thank you!

  2. Stephanie

    May 19, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    I use CameraBag for quick, easy creativity. But I’d love to have some fun with more apps. Looking forward to seeing what others recommend.

  3. Daniel Sands

    May 19, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    Cool, good post David, will keep an eye out for that ebook.

  4. May 19, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Pro camera, Iris, photo fx

  5. Eric Turner

    May 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    I’ve used a few different apps including Photoshop Express, Best Camera, and Camera Awesome, but I definitely use Camera+ now as my iPhone photography app of choice. Interesting post and very nice photos too, also learned a bit more about Lightroom. Thanks for sharing!

  6. May 19, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    I just use Camera+ and Instagram, and love sending postcards through Postagram.

    David- are you on Instagram?? What’s your handle?

  7. May 19, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    My iPhone “camera bag” includes: Hipstamatic, Camera+, ProCamera, Pro HDR, Pano, 360, and Instagram. All have their uses and quirks. I use Hipstamatic the most, but I’m quirky. ;^) Looking forward to the eBook.

  8. May 19, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    great topic! I love using my iPhone and I don’t feel so bad when I don’t take my big girl camera out and about. favorite, most used apps: Camera+, Camera Awesome, Instagram (Mlynnphoto), Snapseed and sometimes filterstorm. Great work and contributions to the photographic community David I hope to go on one of your adventures one day.

  9. May 19, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    As much as I try, I just can’t get into the habit of using my iphone. It’s a real waste.

  10. Valerie

    May 19, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Thanks for the post. Recently, I’ve been falling in love with the unbelievably basic Olympus SZ-12. It’s a little embarrassing.

  11. May 19, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Camera Awesome (now), Camera+ (before)
    Hey, BTW, such kind of collection you can also do in Aperture, just saying.

  12. May 19, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    I think I’ve lost track of how many cameras I have mounted on my iPhone and occasionally use but mostly I depend on Camera+ and proHDR for capture. Fpr pst process Photo Copier and Snapseed are fantastic as is Paint FX. I rarely use Instagram. Most of my shots go to my blog and then get autoposted to various places including Picasa, Flickr and Tumblr. That may change now that I’ve discovered Instacanv.as. iPhonography is rapidly becoming and industry unto itself. I’ve never use it to set up the more ‘serious’ shots but I do use it to record Lat/Long for a series of shots I’m doing on my DSLR. Why in hell Canon and Nikon cannot embed GPS chips in all their bodies is beyond me. Loved your shots. Especially “Taxi” in the first set. I see Bernd says we can output these types of contacts with Aperture but I have yet to discover the feature. Maybe someone reading this can enlighten me.

  13. May 19, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    I’m a little odd because I have a blackberry and not an iPhone but i still take a ton of photos on it and send them to Dropbox and then edit them on my iPad. Love Snapseed, PhotoToaster, Diptic and of course, Instagram. So quick and easy and fun! Going to try Camera+ after all the reccs here. Thanks!

  14. May 19, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    I love taking photos with my iPhone and have a regular iPhone Friday post on my blog. Favorite camera apps are Camera+ and Camera Awesome. My favorite processing apps are Snapseed, PhotoToaster and Dramatic B&W.

  15. May 19, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    My iPhone (my first good camera phone) is less than three months old, and yet has already become my most prolific camera. The fun of extremely available capture, the immediacy of post processing in that moment, with my intentions absolutely fresh in my mind, followed by the sheer simplicity of then sharing those images across multiple platforms, has all had a more immediate and beneficial impact on my photography than the purchase of my 5D/II a couple years ago did.

    I generally capture with Camera Awesome, do post in Snapseed, then share with Instagram.

    Btw, David, you must hold the record for most followers with a single-image gallery on Instagram!

  16. May 19, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    For capture I use Camera+ and Pro HDR outside when the subject is still and in high contrast. For post processing I like Photogene2 and Snapseed. Loved the images in your post…great inspiration.

  17. Shari

    May 19, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    The timing of this could not be better. We are leaving for 3 weeks in France on Tuesday. Was seriously thinking of getting a compact to go along with my Nikon DSLR and lenses but now can take iphone 4S instead of compact. Hope the ebook comes out soon so I can make use on plane and trip.

  18. May 20, 2012 at 12:19 am

    Wonderful! I love these images, for their own sake and as a reminder of the fun I had with my iPhone camera in Italy last year. I’m looking forward to the e-book! I have the usual suite of photo apps but I tend to stick to the Hipstamatic and Helga Viking ‘lens’ combination, which doesn’t take well to post-processing. Much as I like it, especially in mellow afternoon light, it’s time to diversify.

  19. Russ

    May 20, 2012 at 12:29 am

    Also use Camera+ for photo capture and processing. Will look at Pro HDR now (I love $2 apps) and will probably leave it with that as Snapseed also fills a void that Camera+ doesn’t sometimes fill. Find if I get too many apps on my phone I tend to forget I have them and have narrowed to these two, but do want to try Pro HDR.
    I do still find I like to carry a P&S if I don’t have my DSLR, but there are times when I don’t have the P&S, but always have my iPhone. And, there are times when I have my DSLR and simply want something fast so use the iPhone. Single best feature about the iPhone 4S was the camera and I upgraded from the 3G!

  20. May 20, 2012 at 1:54 am

    You hit the nail on the head with this post David! It’s all about fun – and we all know we learn more if we are enjoying ourselves :-)

    Using my iPhone 4 camera with all its ‘constraints’ is so liberating! There is none of the “if only I had ‘x’ lens” gear lust – just use what I’ve got and shoot. I find it forces me to think more about composition which, hopefully, filters back to my DSLR photography. It also has a real immediacy sometimes not found with the ‘big stuff’. The photographs are also often more personal, reflecting moments in my life.

    I like to keep things simple so tend to stick with one app for post processing and publishing. Although I’ve tried others, Camera+ does the job for me.

    Looking forward to the ebook :-)

  21. May 20, 2012 at 3:56 am

    Well, i guess the results of the iPhone crash test Are ready tuesday evening when my daughter returns from her First trip to London. She asked me which camera to bring and I replied “the iPhone”…

  22. May 20, 2012 at 4:24 am

    Slowshutter.

    It gives aperture priority and manual mode capabilities. Think train going by and streaking the tail end. (Which was a photo by Brian Mataish that turned me on to the app).

  23. May 20, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Snapseed and PhotoForge2 are my go to apps, but I use dozens and test hundreds.

    You can find my 8 go to apps (plus a dozen other reviews) in my column on The Huffington Post.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-paul-caponigro

    Cell phone photography is a game changer. And the fun I have playing with my iPhone has also influenced my professional work. I strongly recommend everyone have a ‘toy camera’ and a ‘big boy (or girl) camera’ – and most importantly that in addition to making photographs seriously in a results oriented mode you also make room for making them in a playful process oriented mode.

  24. May 20, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Actually, a photo exists of you with the affectionately called “pinhole head cam” on your head!

    http://www.tasisphoto.blogspot.com/

  25. May 20, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Snapseed, Instagram.

  26. Bob Dart

    May 20, 2012 at 11:32 am

    I have had my iPhone going on 2 years now and have thoroughly enjoyed all of the image creation it has given me access to. I consider the work I do on it to be just as serious as my “big-boy” camera. Each serves its own purpose in my photographic vision. I will be looking forward to the new book. I always take something away from each. Your enthusiasm and passion for your art are always inspiring!

    A few of my favorite apps are iCameraHDR, Dynamic Light, FluidFX, Perfectly Clear and Tiffen PhotoFX

  27. Ekta Saran

    May 20, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    I finally joined the 21st century of communication and got one of those ‘smart’ phones and have been having a ball using the camera.

    PS: Your book Vision & Voice finally made it to the shores of Dubai. Been reading it and enjoying every page. Muchos Gracias!

  28. May 21, 2012 at 3:09 am

    Noir – for black and white
    ShakeItPhoto – simple one hit preset

  29. nate parker

    May 21, 2012 at 3:56 am

    Hipstamatic, and Iphone video camera. I’d love that new Leica Monochrom though! That’d sure get my creative juices flowing!

  30. May 21, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Could not agree more.

  31. Gwenn

    May 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Great article David!
    I am currently a big fan of both Snapseed and PhotoToaster for quick edits and filter effects.
    Can’t wait to see the new ebook about all of this!
    Cheers!

  32. craig krizek

    May 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    David,

    Great idea for an e-book. Will look forward to reading…..

    Craig

  33. Liat

    May 22, 2012 at 12:30 am

    Ive been traveling in France for a bit over a week now, have used my iPhone everyday, but not my dslr. I’m Pleased with the results and edited some photos on the train back to Paris yesterday. Photogene is a pretty good iPhone photo editing app. Maybe I’ll look into some other ones you mentioned as well.

    I think the biggest advantage of using the Dslr is being able to print photos later on.

    Well, it’s back to the airport for an 11 hour plane ride!

  34. May 22, 2012 at 12:41 am

    I use Hipstamatic most often for taking photographs and sometimes use Photoshop Express to tweak them on the phone.

  35. May 22, 2012 at 12:57 am

    [...] can benefit from learning how to use your camera phone to your advantage. Even professionals like David duChemin have attested that their camera phone makes them better photographers! “Thanks to Al Smith I [...]

  36. May 22, 2012 at 5:48 am

    VSCO CAM, Slow Shutter, Camera+, Hipstamatic and PicFrame (for presentation). About to take the 4.99 plunge for Snapseed as it looks pretty great.

    David (or anyone else) I’ve not printed strait to JPG from Print module in Lr, (I Printed to PDF, then converted to JPG) but wondering if there is something easier I’m not seeing… or are you just taking a screen shot. THX!

  37. Cathy

    May 22, 2012 at 6:20 am

    I share the enthusiasm of everyone who is excited about this new technology! I teach Photoshop, but the iPhone apps offer a sense of freedom and playfulness that is wonderfully refreshing. Low cost, little or no learning curve – just a fun way to create digital art and photography!

  38. May 22, 2012 at 7:01 am

    I hate my Android phone’s camera, too, and love my sister-in-law’s iPhone 4 camera. But I only have one of many different Android phones, so I’ll know to choose one with a better camera next time, like the HTC One or Galaxy SIII. Don’t discount Android altogether! ;-)

    It’s a super cliche now, but the best camera is the one you have with you, right? Even with my absolutely terrible camera phone I still have the ability to take photographs, period, and that’s something amazing!

  39. ernie marton

    May 22, 2012 at 8:36 am

    645 Pro is pretty amazing. Never got into the other photo apps but have most of them. Forget photoshop-the real photo tool is actually Lightroom. Too bad Aperture is such a dog, but seriously, Lightroom is the solution I’d been waiting for since shutting down my darkroom. Photoshop is such a resource and space hog and the controls all feel counterintuitive compared to Lightroom.

  40. Chris Houston

    May 22, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    645 Pro is really cool. It gives you options of three different sizes of JPEG or as much data as the iPhone is capable of giving you in a TIFF file (which they call RAW even though that isn’t really true). The only downside to that is you have to retrieve the TIFF from your iTunes and can’t edit on your phone, but the highest quality JPEG is a pretty good tradeoff if that is important to you. Either way the app bypasses the final compression that iPhones do on the image files which gives you a better image with more data to work with. Plus it has all the other important features like focus and exposure lock, white balance, a histogram and different metering options including spot metering.

    The only downside is that the app sucks up battery life pretty quickly, so it’s prudent to take your shot and then close the app as soon as possible after until you have another shot set up. Granted, my iPhone 4 is around two years old at this point and probably doesn’t have quite the battery life that it used to.

  41. May 29, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Really enjoyed the read. Yep, the iPhone is great as a sketch tool as well as full blown creative companion.

    I have my favorite apps posted here:

    http://www.hossedia.com/iPhone

    I also published my first iBook in the Big World Little Lens series to iTunes last month. It offers a much more detailed account of my iPhone adventures.

    http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/big-world-little-lens/id510538974?mt=11

  42. June 3, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Wow..I wrote down the list of all the favorite camera apps and the list is as diverse as the people! It’s great to have so many options, and I also look forward to reading the Eyephone book. I currently pretty much use Camera+ but will probably try out one or two other apps and see if I can find another favorite.