If there is one saying in photography that is perhaps the truest it is the old "The best camera you own is the one you have in your hand". What exactly that means is simple. When the moment comes, not just any moment, but that compelling point in time Henry Cartier Bresson would call "The Decisive Moment", then it doesn't matter what camera you have as long as you have one to capture that moment. It is one of those axioms of documentary photography that goes hand in hand with "F8 and be there".
In this day and age of course nearly everyone has a camera with them. Be it an iPhone or a Leica M240, nearly everyone walking the streets of someplace like Manhattan has a camera of some type on their person. The question becomes if they really know what to do with them. It is great that today nearly any event of note will have a vast sea of images associated with it, but how many of those images are worth looking at? Photography is more than just owning a camera and understanding some software, it is knowing instinctively how to create a compelling image no matter what you have in hand.
Of course since this is the Internet and the vast majority reading this want to know exactly what I use and why, it may seem the last two paragraphs have been nothing but a flow of non information that they've heard before. Like any good entertainer I shall of course give you what you want in a moment, but let me finish my platitudes with the following;
It doesn't matter what camera you use, as long as you get the results you want....
Personally I use Android based systems for my mobile work. In a later article I'll go over all the software and reasoning behind that decision, but suffice it to say that I personally find Android a bit more flexible and suited to what I like to do. Does that mean that iOS sucks? No. It means for me I prefer the abilities of the Android OS. It is basically a power users OS, while iOS is much more a consumer OS. Both work very well and everything I will discuss over these articles is capable on both platforms.
The shot above I created using my Galaxy S5 and Snapseed 2.0 for post work. Can you create a shot just like this using an iPhone? Of course and just as easily. If there is one thing I can suggest no matter the platform used is to find a better camera app than the one the phone provides. On my Galaxy I use an app called Camera FV-5. It's a great app, doesn't cost much, and depending on the phone gives you a plethora of functions including the ability to shoot in DNG Raw for those who cry to the heavens "JPG SUCKS!!!! You Can Only Shoot A Photo If It Is In RAW!!!! " or some such nonsense. The reason I recommend getting a better camera app is that most give you better control over what you shoot. Now I'm not talking Instagram or VSCO or anything like that. What I'm discussing is an app that gives you near DSLR control over your phone. On iOS I will recommend an app called 645Pro as it gives nearly the same options as Camera FV-5. While it cannot save DNG, it does have an option to save files as 16bit TIFF which can be just as good when doing post work.
This brings us to post processing options. Here things get a little tricky as most post processing apps on either mobile platform of note don't support DNG or TIFF. How do you get these nice hi res images into something like Snapseed 2.0 or Adobe Photoshop Touch? I'll discuss that next week....
The idea of photography today is quite different than say 30-40 years ago when many of us got our start. Today photography has become the most democratic of all visual arts. Everyone has a camera, and in truth most cell phone cameras are as good as the vast majority of compact point and shoots that once were the bulwark of the photo industry. A good example is my Samsung Galaxy S5. It has a fantastic 16mp camera that gives great quality at base ISO, especially when controlled using an app like Camera FV-5. What does this mean however to all of us who call ourselves "photographer" and do this as a profession?
That is the "Big Question" in our industry. Recently listening to the American Fashion Podcast, a designer mentioned how he had hired an Instagram Photographer to shoot his latest campaign. The person he hired never owned a camera until he got his iPhone, yet now shoots campaigns on said iPhone, processed through Instagram for post work. The technology has democratize photography to the point that someone with no formal training but an outstanding eye can land major work. Please note I am not complaining. To me this means that the cream floats to the top and really talented folks can find work where in the past they wouldn't. That said however the other side of the coin is also true.
No other visual art has become as devalued as photography. To quote The Incredibles, "When everyone is special, then no one is". What was once the realm of a select few has become a cacophony of visual overload. One must not be only technically suave in the art of mobile photography, but must also be skilled in composition and lighting control. You have to figure out how to get your voice heard over this abattoir of imagery. For end clients this has also become troubling. It's like looking for a needle in a haystack. What we must become therefore is a rather large magnet to help potential clients find the needle that is you (or me for that matter). Over the next few articles I'll discuss the various technological options we have available to create compelling imagery using mobile technology to help draw eyes, and hopefully clients to all of us.
I leave you with an image that I shot, developed and edited right here on my Android tablet, as well as write this very article you are reading. The camera was the Ricoh GR, shot in DNG RAW and developed using PhotoMate R2, with post work done in Snapseed 2.0...
So today I got the latest update to Snapseed, Snapseed 2.0. It is just amazing what can be done with this app. I have it both on my Samsung Galaxy S5 and my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014. The most amazing thing is the fact that it works in layers and allows maskings. When used with a pressure sensitive stylus (such as the one with my tablet) the power of this application rivals that of Photoshop CS on a desktop. It is really quite amazing. To test this I went out in the fog and took a shot of the local railroad crossing with my S5. I then edited the image using my S5 and an iKross capacitive stylus. The results were amazing. Very much like a large format camera with extreme tilts.
This got me wondering how else could I use this application. The tonal contrast controls were amazing as well as a slew of other features. I grabbed a shot off my tablet I had done at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade a few years back. Using Snapseed on my tablet with it's stylus was a revelation. I am certain now that I can use this tablet along with my phone to create some amazing imagery. I am hoping to work with Kaytee Papuza in June to do this. Here is the re-edit I made;
I'll keep you all up to date on this.