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…