Tuesday, August 9, 2011
The Ultimate Photo Sketch Pad
The iPhone doesn’t replace a serious camera nor does it replace serious nature photography, but it does give you an endless array of tools to experiment with and expand your creativity
Is the iPhone to be feared or embraced? Is it a threat or a complement to my DSLR? Is it a toy or the continuation of a photographic revolution? Honestly, I'm rather shocked by the amount of emotion, both pro and con, that this little device is capable of generating among photographers. Okay, up front, here's how I answer these questions: It's a continuation of a photographic revolution; it's an absolute complement to all my other methods of capturing images; it not only should be embraced, but it should be loved! Here's why.
The iPhone is simply the greatest visual sketch pad we've ever had. It has a lens that's crazy good for its size. It shoots 5-megapixel images that can easily make a very nice 11x14 print. It's always with you (because, hey, it's your phone), and it comes with apps that give you about 90% of Photoshop and Painter at a fraction of the price.
All these things make the iPhone the perfect place to experiment and play! Far too often when we shoulder our "big boy" cameras, we take on the obligation, perhaps even the duty, of taking a great image. That challenge can lift us to great heights, but it also can be a creativity killer. It's all too easy to play it safe, not take chances, to rely on compositions and techniques that we know have worked for us in the past.
The iPhone is the perfect antidote for blocked creativity. It's astounding how non-intimidating the iPhone is—both to you (how can you be afraid of an image that's only a couple of inches wide?) and to your subjects (hey, look, there's a guy who can't seem to get a good phone signal). It's simple and intuitive—most apps need less than a single page to explain how they work.
With camera and apps, you can play for hours in an extraordinary creative sandbox. Doesn't matter where you are or what you're looking at. Got an extra minute? Shoot, tweak, play! I've shot photos in Wal-Mart, in elevators, waiting for planes, eating in restaurants, hanging the laundry out to dry. Not places I normally would take my cameras! Were the images always successful? Not always. But each time I would push my edge, I would learn something; train my eye to see a little differently; shoot in a place I had never shot before or find something I could do with the camera that I never thought possible. Not only have I been having a great time, but all those little learning moments have paid great dividends when I returned to my "big boy" cameras. Let me share some examples.
1 HDR (high dynamic range) has been the rage of landscape photographers for the last several years. Like everyone else, I use it, too, but I had a hard time really "seeing" it. There's just too much lag time between shooting the bracketed exposures and processing them to train my eye to previsualize what the landscape will look like in HDR. That has all changed since I started shooting with the iPhone. There are several excellent HDR apps (Pro HDR, TrueHDR and iCamera HDR) that allow you to process an HDR image in a matter of moments. Probably 50% of the shots I take on the iPhone are shot in HDR and, as a result of all the instant visual feedback, it's now far easier for me to look at a scene and know exactly how it will translate in HDR. Think that helps when I take out my "big boy" cameras? You bet it does.
Layers And Overlays
2 Most outdoor photographers are used to working with Layers in Photoshop. Now there are apps that allow you the same flexibility on the iPhone (Iris Photo Suite, Filterstorm, Juxtaposer and Photo fx, to name a few). Some offer multiple layers; some allow you to view the layers in various Blend modes; some allow you to paint in effects using layer masks. Equally important, many of these apps come with a variety of texture overlays for you to play with. It's incredibly easy to add painterly texture effects to skies, add grunge effects to an entire image or even stack multiple filters on an image from ND grads to glimmerglass.
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