Category: Photography


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Traditionally photography is about preserving a moment in time; you take a picture literally because it’ll last longer. The entire art is built around a quest for permanence, and archival desires. But with Snapchat, you’re casting off those things you photograph almost as soon as you take the picture – in many cases it’s less permanent than just continuing to look at something. For an avid hobbyist photographer, it’s somewhat counterintuitive, but also very liberating.

Part of the appeal of Snapchat seems to be that people don’t have to be too concerned about how they take a photo; the communication is more important here, and since no one’s framing any of your pictures, there’s no reason to sweat composition, lighting or anything else. But I do find myself thinking about those things, resulting in an entirely different kind of art compared to traditional, camera-based photography.

Taking photos for Snapchat is, in many ways, much more about audience than traditional photography is. You’re creating a moment for another person specifically in most cases, and you’ve got constraints including your immediate environs, a limited smartphone camera and a camera interface that’s simple to the point of being like a blunt instrument, even compared to the stock iPhone camera app. Best of all, you’re creating for momentary consumption; the photo has to convey what you need it to in a very brief window of time.

But the best part is the absence of pretense around taking these photos. The snaps aren’t trying to be something they’re not; they’re pictures, and all the fun and the art is uncomplicated by questions of legacy, or of long-lasting quality and memorability. You’re making something without having to worry about how making that thing will potentially cast you in the eyes of history. Not that most people are consciously thinking about what kind of museums their work will appear in later, or how it will be judged by future generations, but the act of capturing, writing down or recording something is deeply entangled with those concerns, conscious or not.

Being free of that allows for more genuine enjoyment – Kurt Vonnegut Jr. comes close to describing how that feels in his novel Galapagos when he talks about the narrator writing the book you’re reading with this finger, in the air: In other words, taking a very long view reveals that both Snapchat and traditional photographic tools are equally ephemeral, as both are of no consequence on a cosmic scale. But having that temporariness brought home and made understandable makes all the difference.

We’re strongly conditioned to believe that if you’re going to make something, it’s worth making something that will last. But Snapchat is a good reminder that sometimes, it’s just fine to make something fleeting, too.

Jason D. Little – Light Stalking

Given the ubiquity of the camera phone and their ever increasing quality, there are people who are perfectly content having their mobile device also serve as their only camera. I, for one, would likely experience something akin to severe withdrawal if I had to give up my dSLR and shoot exclusively with my cellphone.

But, as with everything in life, I am willing to bet that such a circumstance would present you with at least a few important points that you will want to retain. So no matter where you are on your journey as a photographer, consider the following lessons you can learn from shooting with a camera phone.

For most of us, we would rather offer up an internal organ (a kidney maybe, or even better, the actually useful but still totally expendable appendix) than part with our cameras. I guess it makes sense to feel that way, considering we sometimes see our technology-laden cameras as being more important than they are, assigning to them a value directly proportional to the photos we make.

7 Lessons You Can Learn from Shooting with a Camera Phone

But we’re all familiar with the notion that great photographers make great photos regardless of what camera they have in hand. I’m not suggesting that everyone should run around with pinhole cameras just to prove that they are “good” photographers, but it would probably be a fun and worthwhile exercise to undertake. And if you were indeed to put aside your trusty dSLR, your next best alternative wouldn’t be so low-tech as a pinhole camera; you’d likely turn to your mobile phone camera.

1. Seeing

Shooting with your phone’s camera is going to free up your head. Obviously, you’re not going to have any gear to lug around and, perhaps most important, you don’t really have any settings to fiddle with. You’re free to spend much more of your time simply seeing; you’ll eventually find yourself looking at everything and everybody in a different way than if you were using a dSLR. Since you have so little control over settings, you won’t be able to fall back on any technical contrivances. You will have to learn to rely solely on your ability to “see” good things in order to make good photos.

2. Using Your Feet

Have you ever used your phone’s zoom feature? If you have, then you know the results are appalling. It’s a conundrum of engineering: the thinner phones get, the more difficult it is to design a built-in camera with a usable zoom. Zooming in on most phones means it’s using digital zoom, just blowing up and cropping in on an image, causing it to appear pixellated and rather ugly. So, forget the zoom. If you want the subject closer to your lens, your best bet is to use your feet. This idea translates well to the dSLR user also, especially when using a prime lens. Sometimes (but not always) it’s better to get closer to your subject.

3. Finding the Light

While the sensors found in camera phones improve with each generation of devices, they are still no match for the sensors found in dSLRs and, as such, are prone to struggle when it comes to capturing adequate light. To compensate, you will need to learn to find good lighting, whether natural (wait a moment for that cloud to pass) or artificial (turn on the lights in the room). Applying the same principle to shooting with your dSLR will allow you can keep ISO levels low.

4. Composing Your Shot

Repeat after me: “composition still matters when you’re using a camera phone.” You may have little to no control over shutter speed or ISO on your phone, but you do have total control over composition. There’s no reason to disregard it just because you’re shooting with a camera phone; in fact, the camera display on your phone is probably equipped with an optional grid overlay singularly purposed to help you compose your shot according to the classic “rule of thirds.” Use it. Strengthening your compositional skills is never a bad thing and it will give you the foundation you need to start breaking the rules of conventional composition.

5. Companionship

Having a cellphone that doubles as a camera is convenient (a gross understatement, I know). It’s lightweight, fits in a pocket, doesn’t require lens changes – it easily goes everywhere you go, making it possible for you to capture life as it happens. To invoke another old photography adage, the best camera is the one you have with you. Using your camera phone in this fashion just might encourage you to start taking your dSLR with you everywhere, allowing you to document the speed of life in higher quality.

6. Maintenance

Most people I’ve observed tend to dote over their devices, cleaning and charging them on a very regular basis, and carrying them in protective cases. It’s understandable behavior; after all, what good is a dead or broken phone? The lesson here for dSLR users is that you should maintain your camera with the same dedication. Public charging stations for cell phones are becoming easier to find in most cities; I don’t think such a thing exists for big camera batteries. Thus, it would be to your advantage to keep at least one fully charged spare battery with you whenever you’re out shooting, and when you return home, recharge each battery you used even if it’s only partially drained.

7. Appreciation

Despite the advancements being made in mobile phone cameras -better sensors, better lenses, more megapixels – it’s never going to be enough to sway dSLR users away from their cameras. But if you have ever spent a significant amount of time shooting exclusively with a camera phone, I can only imagine how eager you were to be reunited with your main camera. No, it doesn’t fit in your pocket and you can’t make calls or play games on it, but it’s your bread and butter. You’re an artist and it’s your paintbrush. Your camera phone makes a great sidekick, but it can never be the main attraction. Give your main camera the love and respect it deserves.

7 Lessons You Can Learn from Shooting with a Camera Phone

They say good technique is more important than anything else. Is it true? If you think you’re up to it, challenge yourself to shooting for a few days with just your camera phone and consider how what you learn along the way can apply to shooting with your DSLR. If you’re recently transitioning from a camera phone to a DSLR, have you found anything in particular that has been helpful in making the transition a little easier? Feel free to share.


This post by Jason D. Little is republished with permission from Light Stalking. Jason Little is a photographer (shooting macros, portraits, candids, and the occasional landscape), part time writer, and full time lover of music. You can see Jason’s photography on his photography blog or on Flickr.

Image credits: Flickr/Paul Bica, Flickr/Bram & Vera, Shuttershock/Evgenia Bolyukh

Sardine Can Inspiration

The popularity of lomography continues to grow at a rapid pace. Lomography, both a company and a type of experimental analog photography, evolved out of the revelation of some students in Vienna back in 1990. They were astounded by pictures produced from an old Lomo Kompakt Automat camera they found. The analog process has since experienced a sort of re-birth and now has a healthy following and product lines to meet an artist’s needs.

The La Sardinia line from Lomography is a unique and functional 35mm unit for this experimental process that will also help you express your personality. The inspiration for design is a sardine can, yes a sardine can. But performance will give you what you need. The 22mm focal length means a healthy wide angle lens. Multiple exposure is easy thanks to the rewind dial and MX switch. And the two focus settings make snapping your subject a cinch. The fun part about La Sardinia are the variety of colors and materials. Simple models, like the 8Ball start at 55 while units like the brass coated Czar range up to 149. “Fritz the Blitz” the compatible flash is available a la carte for 55 or as a package deal with a camera. So if lomography trips your trigger definitely check into making a statement with your camera design while also having solid functionality.
[ Sardine Can Inspiration copyright by Coolest Gadgets ]

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