Unreformierte Photographie

Aesthetik des Verzichts

How to travel with an iPhone


This is not a manual about how to travel with an iPhone. Sorry for misleading you.

This is a quick meditation on a sort of workflow that I have come up with, with which I can take surprisingly useful images using the iPhones otherwise rather humble camera.

I've tried a number of different camera apps, including 645PRO, Landcam, and a few others. Some of them are very good, and able to produce excellent results on my iPhone 4. I'm told the 4S and up have even better cameras; this is perhaps true, but it's academic until I "upgrade."

I keep coming back to this: capture the image initially in plain-vanilla Camera.app, ensuring that I frame it well, that I expose for as much useful dynamic range as possible, and that I place the focus where it's best placed. It helps to previsualise, of course, to have a final aesthetic in mind. But sometimes it's more important to just get the picture in the can, as it were, and worry about details later. In particular urban photography does not often lend itself to much deliberation, and some of the more sophisticated camera apps are also some of the slowest.

Sometimes I'll put the camera in HDR mode; this is especially useful when shooting contrasty things like architecture, and when shooting in awkward light. It's not real HDR, which is just as well since I despise most digital HDR, so much as intelligent tone-mapping. 

I do not like using apps that have "canned" effects, such as Hipstamatic or Instagram, since the images always seem to end up looking very gimmicky.


Later, when I have a bit of time, perhaps over coffee and a bit of wifi (All of Germany, please please fix your shit. Open hotspots are good. Restricted hotspots make me angry.), I sit down and look over what I've taken, and I'll pick my keepers.

My workflow for the New York January 2014 album is rather simple.

I open the photo in an app called Snapseed (which is available for free both for iOS and Android). This is an app – originally by Nik Software, who also developed the excellent SilverFX processing software – that has a number of development "modules" that can be used to add various features to a photo. For my B&W urban shots, I do this:

  1. Use the 'Drama' module to exaggerate the tonality of the image somehwat, but exercise restraint to keep it looking realistic;
  2. Use the Black & White module to convert the image to monochrome, experimenting with colour filters and effect modes to obtain a pleasing result;
  3. Crop as required
  4. Save to Camera Roll (or whatever the Android equivalent is)

The resulting image can then be shared by whatever means are appropriate.

In conclusion: Simple workflow, surprising results. Enjoy.

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New York City, January 2014  |  14 images