Is iPhoneography the next step in the Art of Photography?
Over the last few months I’ve committed myself to learn how to use an iPhone to create art. iPhoneography, or smartphone art, is fascinating and probably as controversial as digital photography was years ago when it was a new art form.
The images below were created on a recent Saturday. None of these photographs would have been created if I was packing my regular camera gear. The whole concept of iPhoneography is to view photography differently. The camera is far from a pro level DSLR with a set of good lenses. It’s a camera sporting a tiny lens and sensor with few controls over the exposure. The apps designed to process photographs created by the iPhone, or other smartphones, can give you some sophisticated controls, but you are processing those images on the small screen of the phone or iPad without the aid of a mouse. These are challenges, but they are also opportunities. iPhoneography creates a new mindset for the photographer to create art in a completely different way.
Sitting in my local coffee shop I noticed these two women. The light was beautiful and I loved the fact that in the woman in the foreground was reading a paper while her phone sat on the table. As usual, everyone else had their head buried in a phone or computer screen. The iPhone is a perfect street photography camera because it is so easy to be discreet. I felt this scene had an Edward Hopper feel to it so I processed it with that in mind.
It was pouring rain as we pulled into the parking lot for the Mullica River hiking trail in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, so we decided to wait in the car until the rain died down. I shot this through the wet windshield because I loved how it distorted the straight line of the fence. After moving the car around to find the right position I took this photograph and did a lot of the post processing while waiting for the storm to break. This is one advantage of being able to process your photos on the device you created them on.
Although I’ve hiked the Mullica River Trail many times, I never noticed this little stand of dead cedars. The abstract lines of the trees caught my attention this time. I had to shoot the scene with the iPhone zoomed in all the way. This created a even lower quality image because the “zoom” on an iPhone is just in in-camera cropping tool that gives you even less pixels to work with. iPhoneography invites the photographer to use the imperfections of a lower quality image to explore abstraction in photography.
Ansel Adams probably would not have embraced the iPhone as a camera. As a photographer who shares Adams’ discipline of meticulously composing, exposing and processing an image, I find using a telephone as a camera is forcing me to view my craft, and my subject matter, much differently. It’s an interesting challenge that is expanding my vision as an artist.
If you have any questions about iPhoneography don’t hesitate to ask them here in the comments. We can explore this wonderful art form together.
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Totally where I am at this summer… traveling in diff airports on trains and in the street I have been embracing this small instant type of on the fly tech. The post processing is just as eye opening…example… your pics above. I have found that transferring the captures to an editing program ‘LR5’ the image quickly breaks down when manipulated or cropped. But that is just a limitation in quality not creativity!!!! Love your comps 🙂
Mike, I tried for a long time to get a good image from my phone using Photoshop and, like you said, the images do not hold up well in LR or PS. The apps are the key because they are built to process the images the phone creates. I’m also finding that after they are finished I can bring them into PS and get them up to 11×15 and sometimes even larger.
Thanks Kenneth. I appreciate you stopping by my blog.
The iPhone (or similar) and apps are just another set of tools that a photographer can use – but as you state – you thought about how you were going to render the image (ala Hopper) and you saw the windshield distortion of the fence – your photographic mind used your knowledge of composition and art to USE the iPhone to render that vision. It is not the tools that make art, it is the artist.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I can’t agree with you more that no matter how we are creating photographs, we are still required as artists to actually create good art that is inline with our personal vision. An iPhone is just another tool. It is up to that artist to use it wisely.
Appreciate your suggestions, I often incorporate the blur in my cell phone work. Just a beginner compared and I often use the images to work abstractly from in paint. Only recently began considering the cell phone images as art myself. Not sure why that took me so long!
Blur can be a good technique to mask or even enhance the lower quality images from a phone. I know what you mean about discovering the phone all of a sudden. It finally hit me when I started seeing some of the work of other artists and realizing that this was something I wanted to figure out.
Thanks for the suggestions, I often go for the blur on purpose and then paint from my images. Hadn’t though about the images themselves as an art form until recently, not sure why?
I just bought my first smartphone, an Xperia L, the camera is just useless…As a photographer that has been used to the quality of a dslr, i cannot think to use this phone to make any kind of art…It’s only so time consuming and not satisfying for me. I’ve seen many great images from iphones and other high-end smartphones though and i like the idea of having an extra toy that you can be creative with. If one day i get to have enough money to buy a better phone i will look for one with a nice camera and will use it to make more art 🙂
Smartphone art is for everyone. I have several friends who I really respect as photographers that would never touch a camera phone except to take snapshots. Me, I’m hopelessly curious and while I love this iPhone stuff, I could never give up the DSLR. The two require two completely different mindsets. I hope that exploring both will help me expand my photographic vision. Thanks so much for sharing your comment here.
Well said 🙂 I think it’s important for photographers to keep an open mind and experiment with other things as well. You don’t know how it might help you and inspire you 🙂