iPhone Street Photography:
A Novelty for the Masses or a Game Changer for Everyone?
The iPhone has forever changed photography. This is a fact. Today, everyone has a camera in their pocket all the time. Everyone is a photographer. The act of making a photograph is no longer so much a deliberate act as it is a natural reflex of sorts. The image is no longer just an image but also a kind of vernacular. Many photographers, myself included, have hemmed and hawed over the influx of amateur photographers (and their awful photos) in the past decade. But the amateur photographer is as common as snow in Canada or tea in England. She is not going extinct or even going away. Neither is the iPhone and its ever-improving on-board camera. So, rather than fight the trend, let us embrace both the new-found love for the photograph and the iPhone camera.
The dedicated camera is also thriving. Serious amateurs, not to mention “professional” photographers, are reluctant to give up that big, chunky-clunky thing that has been dangling from from their necks since time immemorial, or at least since the advent of the compact camera. But, as serious amateurs, should we merely pass by the iPhone? Is such a beast merely a toy for the masses? I say no. I say that we should all embrace this fascinating little being and make it a tool for serious amateurs, professionals, and grandma too! Over the past few years I have been making more and more of my photographs with the iPhone. Why not, the thing is always in my pocket after all! Like any other camera, it is not so much the tool that limits the results as it is the user of such tool – the “photographer”. Here are a few apps that I enjoy using on my iPhone in relation to making street and candid photography. This is not meant to be a complete review of each app, but rather a discussion whereby I share some apps that you would find on my iPhone and that you might want to explore for yourself.
Provoke – $2.99
First, a little background. Provoke was a small-press Japanese photo magazine founded in 1968 by, among others, the now-famous street photographer Daido Moriyama. The magazine, while short lived, was established to free photography from the confines of the establishment, which it was profoundly successful in doing. The magazine is said to have changed Japanese photography, ushering in a new “way of seeing”. High-contrast, edgy, and even blurry black and white images dominated the pages of Provoke. In this vein, the app, Provoke, brings that same look to your iPhone street images. While I find the camera itself to operate rather slowly, with a very substantial shutter lag, I still greatly admire the way it transforms images with the tap of a button. I believe the app is worth the $3 for the filters alone.
Copyright ⓒ Michael Ernest Sweet( Shot & Processed on Provoke)
Snapseed – FREE
Snapseed is a free photo editing app from Google Inc. Again, I am drawn to this app for it simplicity of use more than anything. Tap here, swipe there, and voila! – you’re photo is edited and ready to print or publish. Sure, it’s not Photoshop, and don’t expect to be able to “fine tune edit” to this degree, but for the average non-pixel-peeping photographer who merely needs to touch up contrast or add some film grain, this app is for you! Simply put, this is an essential app if you shoot with your iPhone. Import and export is seamless with Apple “photos” and copies can be saved easily, as not to destroy your “negative”. I have used this app most to add film grain to my digital images. In many instances this has produced photographs with the look and feel of TriX. Need I say more?
Copyright ⓒ Michael Ernest Sweet(Processed on Snapseed)
6X6 – $0.99
Here’s another app that I really love. It just works, and it works well. Although the iPhone native camera app easily allows for square photos, 6X6 takes the control levels a step further. This app brings a host of professional controls to a very user-friendly interface, allowing for simply but quality photograph making. I also really appreciate that the app allows your to tag your jpgs automatically with things like copyright info and photography name etc. You can also add film like borders (which look very authentic) etc. It’s like having a Hasselblad 500 in your pocket!
Copyright ⓒ Michael Ernest Sweet(shot and processed on 6X6)
Slow Shutter – $1.99
Slow shutter is another app that I come back to time and again. Whether to make a low-light night photo or to make a more “artsy” blur shot a la William Klein, slow shutter has got my back. It works very smoothly and produces great results. The app has three settings – motion blur, light trail, and low light. Additionally, among the other great controls is the sliders for iso and shutter speed, which allows you to take deliberate control over the iPhone’s iso and shutter settings. Cool right? Give it a shot, I think you will find that it is worth the two buckaroos.
Copyright ⓒ Johnny Mobasher(Shot on Slow Shutter, Processed on Snapseed)
DateStamper – FREE
Now, remember, I said this was going to be a highly personal article. DateStamper is not for everyone, nor is it a particularly “serious” app. However, if you are like me – lived in the 90s and had fun with all those date-stamp compact 35mm cameras – this app will bring a little fun to your iPhone snapshots. Essentially, DateStamper adds that date readout at the bottom right of your images. You can reposition, resize, and even change the color of the date stamp. Of course, you can absolutely get that 90s orange LCD-style date stamp! What would this app be without it?
The iPhone was resisted for a long time by serious amateur photographers. Professionals gave it no thought at all. Now, things have changed. The newest generation of Phones can produce billboard size photographs with ease. Here, in New York City, I often see them displayed as ads in the subway and I often stop in awe of their quality. More recently, the iPhone has upped its game in terms of its portrait mode. Some of the portraits I’ve seen have not only been some of the best I’ve seen, period, but they have also reproduced at sizes that are truly astonishing. All of this to say, the iPhone camera is here to stay. It has changed photographic history and made photographers of even the most clueless of users. Your neighbour, that guy who didn’t even have a compact in the 90s, now makes photographs that rival yours! Embrace it. Embrace it all.
NB: Prices Correct at the time or Writing The Article.