It’s not all bad, and there’s no reason to think that good photography can’t be done on an iPhone, it’s purely the effects that these apps are having on the mind of a potential photographer. People start to think that because it looks quirky and old looking, that it’s good photography, which is holding back potential greatness from photographers.
Why It Sucks
If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know by now that I’m not really a big fan of photoshop; that much is clear from just looking at my photos. That’s not to say that I don’t do anything to them, because I do adjust exposure, contrast, black point, and clean up skin quite regularly, but I never use it as a tool to make a boring photo interesting. A good photo will stand up on it’s own without the need for photoshopping, but it can be used to make small adjustments to make it better. You can adjust a bad photo until the cows come home, but it’s still going to be a bad photo.
If you’ve ever tried to take a photo everyday, similar to a 365 project, you’ll understand that it’s a pretty hard thing to keep up and it starts to loom over you everyday. I attempted one with my digital SLR, and it was even harder because it meant either going out everyday and taking photos, or having lots of photos of my dog. If you take it seriously, and have the time to complete them, you will find that your photography improves, but for the majority of people, it’s too much like hard work. The good thing about the project was that it encouraged me to carry my camera with me everywhere which meant that I was taking more photos which turned out good, but I ultimately didn’t have time to use it everyday and ended up producing a lot of rubbish too.
Apps such as Instagram take the idea of a daily photo blog and turn it into an iOS app for your iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad and throw in a bunch of filters in there for good measure. You can get some good results from your iPhone, but as I said before, photoshopping for photoshopping’s sake is not a good thing. Currently, Instagram have 150 million photos uploaded, that’s 15 going up every second, with a staggering 80% of using filters (and a bunch more in the other 20% have had filters applied in other apps, such as Hipstamatic). The pressure of trying to get a good photo by the end of the day invariably leads to poor content and composition of everyday life, enhanced by obvious digital filters. This is doing photography no good whatsoever.
These photos are then shared through Facebook and other means where the photographer receives praise for their work. Now, I have no problem with this as it is, but what’s not good is when people start to see this as photography, as they’ll never learn how to really improve on the artform, which they may have otherwise been interested in. To help you understand what I’m getting at, I’m going to show you a couple photos that I took, both of which I like, but I consider one to be much better than the other.
Here’s a photo of my friend who’s a model. Now, there’s no mistaking that she’s very attractive and there’s no denying that the lack of clothes make the photo much more interesting. There are some good techniques used in this photo, such as fill flash and shooting into the sun, but the main reason to be attracted to this photo is the beautiful model.
Compare the photo above with the photo below and you’ll see a stark difference – I could speak for ages about why this photo is good, listing elements such as triangles, colour, grain, contrast, form, lighting, visual weight, eye lines, rule of thirds, etc. I’ve learnt how to take photos like this from studying composition and technique, practicing on film and understanding my camera. I consider this to be a far better photo.
If I were to only ever take photos of half naked girls in fields, I’m sure that I would gain a lot of recognition, but my photography wouldn’t improve a whole lot. When you take time to study photography, you’ll find that you start to take it all in without even realising it. The photo above was taken in the mens room of a local pub (but don’t worry, it’s a friend of mine), and as I walked in, I saw the shot in the mirror and lifted up my camera, at the same time he looked up and I captured the shot. When you know your way around even the most basic of composition, it really does become that easy with a bit of practice.
That’s the thing about iPhone apps that appear to do all the work for you, they make you think that what you’ve created is something special, when in reality, it’s just an excuse to rearrange a bottle of gin, a porcelain model of a dog, tilt the camera and apply some dodgy filters to make it look 50 years older than it actually is. I encourage anyone who’s trying to take photography seriously to start learning composition and put down their phones.
On top of that, if you do want to try to improve your photography, start a 365 project where you have to take a photo everyday. It’s tough and you may find you’re producing a lot of bad shots, but that’s what these projects do; they force rubbish and inspire greatness – just don’t share these bad shots. The most important thing to do with your photography though, is to go into it, looking to only please yourself. If you spend you’re whole time trying to impress others, or compare your work to other people’s, you’ll never be happy with your own results.
I’ve had this little rant inside of me for a while now and I’m glad I finally managed to get it out. I would encourage everyone who’s managed to get this far into the article to click on the links throughout the page and start learning more about photography. As always, I encourage you to come and join my Facebook page where I have more discussions and photos which don’t make it onto here.