Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Photographic AppTitude

Many fine art photographers have had the cringe-inducing experience of being approached in the field by a stranger and told with great enthusiasm, "Oh, I'm a photographer too!" This exclamation was often followed by the stranger producing a digital point-and-shoot or SLR never taken off "auto" and showing a string of pedestrian snapshots in an attempt to demonstrate their point. This began happening with startling regularity as 35mm SLR cameras became popular in the consumer market. I admit that, in part, I moved from 35mm photography to medium format largely because NO ONE ever looked at my four-and-a-half-pounds-without-the-finder-or-the-lens Pentax 67 and thought for a moment that their Canon Rebel was roughly equivalent.

I've gradually come to accept the fact that digital photography is here to stay and has some interesting qualities that are worth exploration/exploitation. I have only recently purchased my first digital SLR (a Nikon--old habits die hard) and am gradually becoming comfortable with it, producing images that look simply like "my" work. Digital cameras are, after all, simply tools; ultimately it is the intent, skill, creativity and vision of the user that distinguishes artist from hobbyist from dweeb-with-a-camera. Interestingly enough, my favorite digital camera these days started out as my least-favorite digital camera--I'm talking about the camera on my iPhone.

Before I got the iPhone, I was using a Samsung Blackjack which had a tremendous camera with optical zoom and a host of in-camera adjustment options. It took wonderful images, so when I fired up the camera on my iPhone and found it largely optionless, with no zoom and no adjustment settings, I was extremely disappointed. But I've recently been exploring photo apps for the iPhone, and my disappointment has been largely erased by fascination.

Here are a few of my favorite Apps:

Best Camera was my first iPhone camera app. It provides 14 "effects" that can be applied to newly shot images or to images from the phone's image library. You can choose from basic changes like light, dark, warm, cool, contrast or desaturation or apply color tone effects like candy, jewel, or Paris. You can also change the presentation of the image (make it square or apply a frame) and the app's settings let you select working sizes ranging from 480 x 480 to 1600 x 1600, in addition to the image's original size. It also makes image sharing particularly easy, with in-app sharing links directly to your Facebook, Flickr, or Twitter accounts, as well as your email. By Ubermind, $2.99.

If you're a Polaroid enthusiast, you'll love ShakeIt. Wildly simple, this app from Nick Sayes and Kevin Wong lets you choose your frame (instant picture, peel-apart, or frameless) and apply it to a new or existing image. The image then "develops" on the phone screen while you watch; shaking the phone speeds the process along. The resulting image doesn't have the crazy cyan overtones of true SX-70 images, but the colors are flat and soft like the Polaroid pictures you might remember from childhood. 99 cents; there's also a free ShakeIt Lite.

Still more options are offered for your image-making fun by the Hipstamatic. This seductive little package is a camera-within-your-camera, and comes with a selection of different "lenses," "films," and "flashes" all of which produce unique effects in live-shot images. Insidiously enough, there are additional lenses, films, flashes and packages that you can purchase (and of course I got them all and had spent $8 at the App Store before I even realized it). You can mix and match them all, depending on your mood. Loads of fun, and a genius time- and bandwidth-waster, with easy in-App upload to Facebook, Flickr, or email. By Synthetic Corp. Basic package is $1.99, but a warning ... you won't want to stop there! The four optional "Hipstapaks" are 99 cents each.

Retro Camera is another option-packed PhotoApp that lets you apply a huge variety of special effects to either newly made or already-saved images. In addition to basic edits like size, position, and rotation, Retro Camera offers you a "toolbox" that enables you to choose your "film," as well as alter the image's contrast, grain noise, and texture. You can apply blur, or color effects, and select from more than 20 frames in 16 colors. One caveat--your images will not automatically save, so remember to "save" after you're satisfied with the final result. The free version leaves a logo at the bottom of your finished image (easily removed with Photoshop, if you're so inclined) and runs ads at the top of the app; the paid version is only $1.99. By CLBITZ Ubiquitous Communications.

There are, of course, literally HUNDREDS of camera apps out there; I've already identified more I would love to play with. I'm coming to consider my iPhone images their own art form. If you're an iPhone user, I'd love to hear from you about your favorite camera apps; if you've got the Droid or another App-based phone, let's hear what kind of creative chops you've been able to discover! Meanwhile, you can check out some more fun App-based images on Facebook.


Coral Cadman said...

Sparkly, enthusiastic, educational blogging. You wear so many hats so well, E Marie, and shoes to boot! Great pics of your feline crew, too.

E. Marie said...

Thanks, Coral. My poor kitties are suffering from over-exposure at this point, but they are often my most readily-handy models!