Category Archives: iphone

Summer, Impromptu

Impromptu is often the best. A beautiful summer evening. 23 degrees at 8pm. No kids obligations. We get a bag of chips and have dinner at the beach.

A walk across the ripples. The sun is beginning to set. We pass through the shadow of the big chimneys. All I have is my camera phone. What I get is this.

photo

Impromptu is good.

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To Make Or To Take, That Is The Question

These days, when I travel home, I don’t even bother taking Marky Mark with me anymore. Too cumbersome to carry when going to a place that I have been to many times and that has been captured on film by me endlessly. But invariably I nonetheless end up photographing my surroundings. Hail the iPhone! When looking at the images from my most recent trip to Bremen, it occurred to me that they were classic examples of pictures taken, not made.

I definitely *took* that picture
Windmill in the “Wall Park”, Bremen

Taken and not made? Is there a difference? Yes, there is, apart from what you may perceive as the idiomatic misuse of the verb in the phrase “to make a picture”. In a previous life, long, long ago, I was an English teacher, and as a sucker for grammatical correctness, I squirm every time I hear the phrase “to make a picture”. To me, as a native speaker of German, it smacks of interference with my mother-tongue (in which the German equivalent of the verb “to make” is used in the translation of the phrase “to take a picture” – ein Foto machen – as opposed to the literal translation ein Foto nehmen). But I ought to get used to it because this phrase is by and large replacing the previously used “to take a picture”.

The reason for that is slightly academic and harks back to critical theory. “To take a picture” basically implies the uninvolved “grabbing” of a slice of life, a mere mirroring of a real-life scene. It can be interpreted as displaying a negative attitude towards the process of photographing, in the sense that it subconsciously associates “stealing” or “appropriating”. The phrase reflects the previously generally accepted idea that photography is documentary in nature. Despite the long established “pretensions” of photography as an art form, it was thanks to the ground-breaking theoretical writings of thinkers like Barthes, Sontag, Berger etc in the second half of the 20th century that photography was finally acknowledged to be more than just a visual recording of a given subject or object but a conscious creative process that demands more than a simple capturing of a scene. Therefore, the phrase “to make a picture” implies a deliberate decision of the image creator to photograph something. It takes into account creative choices such as size of image, framing and composing, focussing, timing and even the decision to shoot b/w or colour. It places the emphasis of the process of photographing onto the creator of the image and not on the reality she photographs, or the hardware she uses to do so. A photograph is made by the photographer, not by a camera.

The often quoted worst insult you could ever throw at a photographer is the well-meant but utterly offensive little compliment “Your photos are great. You must have a great camera!” No! *I* make great pictures; my camera merely takes them! Except, I guess, when I am using my iPhone. Then *I* take a picture. There was no conscious decision about colour format, sizing, framing, exposure, when I took the above tourist picture in Bremen. Ok, there was a little attempt at framing and composing the image in an aesthetically pleasing way, but how much creative choice have you really got when you use a cameraphone? Certainly very little for the initial capturing of a scene. Since the latest iOS update, the iPhone also offers some picture editing choices – cropping, filters, the usual digital gimmicks that Instagram, flickr and the like had already incorporated a year ago. Does that mean, we will soon be making images with our cameraphones as well?

Sincerely? I doubt it. While I love the handyness of my cameraphone – always at the ready, quick to pull out of the pocket, quick to shoot with no lengthy fiddling with manual settings – it remains to be used as a tool for documenting rather than interpreting. It is a bit like visual note-taking as opposed to the creating of a statement with the proper camera. It will always be useful to me. But I will never make a photograph with it.

Photography 365

This week was a week when I was bogged down by my RLW (real life work) and at the same time had an assignment due in college,  a business plan for an imaginary photo business that I might start in the future… well, here’s to dreaming, I guess… Under pressure, a lot of my more serious photography falls by the wayside. I find it hard to concentrate on two things at the same time, i.e. analyse the photography market in Ireland and at the same time produce stunning canteen shots… Plus, I almost feel guilty about going out and shooting while I should be sitting at home, writing up serious numbers. Because shooting is just too much fun – it doesn’t even feel like work… And sure, work is something that needs to hurt??? (Like writing a business plan…)
The only thing I was able to keep up was the 365 project. It’s a total win-win: I get to shoot photos and that way satisfy my need to be creative. But I don’t have to feel guilty about putting too much effort into it because they are all shot on the iPhone *hahaha*. Now, I can’t really claim that project for my own. I got into it thanks to my friend A___ who started his “an iPhone pic a day” exactly on the 1st of January. I only followed suit on the 1st of February, but have been good at keeping it up since then.
The project is exactly what it says on the tin: 365 pictures in one year, i.e. one picture a day. It’s hardly an original concept. Little schemes like this have been amusing photographers for years. But with the advancement of technology it has become so much easier to take part in such projects without much effort.
After A___ had told me about the idea, I did what I do best: I trailed the internet for an app that makes taking part in a personal 365 project easier. I wanted four things from this project:
  • shooting with iPhone, i.e. quick point and shoot photo fun without too much thinking
  • storing on net so as to not clog up my iPhone memory and is also possible to share with friends
  • no hassle picture upload straight from the phone rather than via the PC
  • and easy month-by-month overview of the images shot so far.
Oh hello – and I wanted it to be FREE. *ggg*
Confusingly, there are two very similarly named services available at the moment. A___ had recommended  365project. I had a quick look and nearly signed up for it when I realized that this does not actually support any upload straight from the iPhone. Essentially this is a service for *any* 365 project, whatever piece of equipment you shoot it on. Thus, once you have shot your picture of the day, you must import it to you computer and then you can upload it to the 365project website.
This may all be fine if you are trying to shoot a prefect image every time. Truth is: I am not. I am specifically looking for a 365 project that is geared towards iPhone images only. Which in turn means, I am not going to play with post-production. And if I am not interested in post-production, then I certainly will find importing via PC a detour. All I need is an iPhone app, actually!
But a bit of a research online and I struck lucky. iphoneproject365 does exactly what I want it to do: You download the app onto your iPhone. The app then lets you either take a picture right there and then by tapping the appropriate icon, or you can import an image from your iPhone photo library. Another tap on the inverted commas in the bottom left corner lets you comment on your image, write a caption or describe what is in your image. Then you tap on the upload arrow and within a few seconds the image will be uploaded into your very own 1-pic-a-day site. This both appears in your app and online. And this is what it looks like:
You get a monthly overview over all the images you have taken. They appear, as you can see, as square thumbnails. If you want to, you can actually crop your images to be squares – or you can just upload them as is. Navigation is via a couple of arrows (which I have cropped out of this image *duh*), so you can easily jump back and forth between the individual months. A click on a day will bring up the image in bigger format.
This little calendar overview is public, i.e. you can let your friends know your handle and they can surf to your calendar pages and check your daily progress. You can find me, for instance, at http://www.iphoneproject365.com/photos/SonjaShoots . However, there is one drawback to the app – there is no easy sharing. Social Media integration is still missing, i.e. the ubiquitous Facebook thumb or a simple little “share this” with options to send the link to twitter, stumbleupon, posterous, pinterest, Facebook, whatever… In fact, you can’t even properly copy the URL manually because there is only a image location link on the actual thumbnail – and that is too tiny to be meaningful for sharing. On the other hand, that is a very thoughtful copyright- defending policy. After all we are photographers and we do stand over the rights to our own images. And integrating other people’s images via URL would constitute copyright breaches.
In any case – iPhoneproject365 is a fun little app that will facilitate a bit of photo fun every day. It is free and easy to use, it will let you set an automatic reminder to shoot your image and it lets you upload your own images quick and easy. Over time you could easily check your progress as a photographer or find other uses for this handy little documentary tool. And if we are all lucky, the developer will keep working on this and eventually spoil us with Social Media integration.