7 iPhone photography trends at the Macworld Expo
The Macworld Expo (now known as Macworld/iWorld: The Ultimate iFan Event) dedicated the first day of the annual conference to iPhone photography. The day hosted a combination of developers, professional photographers and iPhone fans ready to discuss iPhone photography’s progress in mainstream art photography and photojournalism.
“This is the Woodstock of iPhonography,” said event organizer Dan Marcolina. “It’s like the time when rock and roll went to mass media.”
The day had and underlying feeling of importance as iPhone photography “rock stars” shared the stage. I managed to sit through all 12 hours of talks and panel discussions and can now safely report on the trends:
1. Don’t put the pixels on a pedestal
“I’m so sick of hearing about this resolution thing,” said photojournalist Richard Koci Hernandez (@koci). “Nearly everything is online now anyways.”
Hernandez’s candid talk on street photography explored his personal shooting and editing techniques, but it also dispelled some myths about printing iPhone photographs. He described how he and other iPhone photographers use a high-resolution scanner to enlarge 8x10-inch iPhone prints, creating far larger prints as a result. Hernandez has shown iPhone prints in galleries that measure 30x30 inches.
Nearly every speaker echoed Hernadez’s sentiment. Artist Cindy Patrick, in response to an audience question about whether she can print her iPhone art, exclaimed “of course!”
2. Using iPhone photography for good
Photographer Stephanie Roberts discussed iPhone photography as an art form as well as a business and form of individual self-expression. Roberts approaches her iPhoneography as a personal, spontaneous collection of curious moments.
She told the audience about her experience looking for hopeful moments in hopeless places and how her approach as a photographer has shifted to minimize harm to her subjects.
As a part of her Lens on Life project, Roberts gave children old iPhones to take photos in their community in Kathmandu, Nepal. The project gave the children a visual voice while the ease of iPhone photography introduced the children of Nepal to the concept of self-documentary.
3. Concern for widely-shared subjects
“Documentary mobile photography is a great way to archive your own life but to connect with other individuals as well,” said Stephanie Roberts (@littlepurplecow), whose innocent image of her niece by a pool cause a mild amount of controversy. The photo, posted on her Instagram, showed a young girl in a swimsuit with the caption "take me." While she didn't think anything of the caption or the content at the time, a follower was quick to warn her of the suggestive imagery.
“Before you just stick a photo up, think about the image you are portraying and try to create some context to what you are saying,” said Roberts.
Concern about subjects' reaction to street photography came up during Richard Koci Hernandez’s talk. Hernandez prefers to shoot first and ask later when it comes to his street photography and while that may be perfectly legal in the U.S., some people are not too keen on having their photo taken. When prompted by subjects, Hernandez will delete a photo, but judging by his large library of spectacular street photos, it doesn’t happen too often.
4. iPhone art takes time
Cindy Patrick (@cpatrickphoto) and Karen Devine presented on the use of iPhone photography for creating art. Both are professional photographers and use multiple applications to layer and manipulate photos to create new, unique compositions. Their photo illustrations range from surreal to minimalist and are often hard to guess that the medium is an iPhone.
“There is a misconception that art is created on an iPhone by pressing a button and using some magic app,” said Cindy Patrick, who layers edits from apps like Modern Grunge and Iris to create a new composition. Instead, Patrick explained, her images take time—sometimes up to two weeks of thought and occasional edits—to create.
Another artist, Christian J. Sweet (@christianjsweet) revealed in his talk that he sometimes spends 30 hours on a single iPhone image.
5. How far we’ve come
In six years, iPhone photography has gone from a bare bones user interface capturing 2MP photos to an 8MP camera with hundreds of high quality capture and editing applications.
Life in LoFi blogger Marty Yawnick (@martyneardfw) started his presentation with a slide show of images from the dawn of iPhone photography. The first half of his talk stepped us through the history of iPhone photography.
The first iPhone had a lot of limitations. There was no manual focus and absolutely no third party photo applications.
“I was surprised,” said Yawnick. “I though the early images before photo apps were going to be very static and look like snapshots, but iPhonographers were creative from the beginning.”
“I used to have to race back to my studio to edit images,” said Dan Marcolina (@marcolina), writer of iPhone Obsessed—a book that exploring app editing on the iPhone. Now, Marcolina takes and edit photos from his iPhone
“When I started at Adobe, Photoshop didn’t even have layers,” remarked Julieanne Kost (@jkost) during the Photoshop Touch demonstration. Photoshop Touch for iPad offers 16 layers for a 2000x2000 pixel image. Kost and her co-speaker Russell Brown hinted at the development of an iPhone version of Adobe’s mobile software.
6. Multiple apps make better images
“Techy can be gimmicky,” said iPhone photography instructor Richard Gray (@rugfoot). “If you can see how an image is created, it can detract from it.”
“With all these apps, it feels like the wild west of photography at the moment,” said Gray as he ran through a series of photos and asked the audience what app he used. As the slides changed, the audience shouted out the apps. “Percolator!” “Decim8!” “Color Splash!”
Gray praised iPhonographers who use apps creatively and combine effects from different applications to make a seamless, untraceable composition.
Every photographer who showed their iPhone workflow at the Macworld/iWorld event stepped through multiple apps to stack different effects. Richard Koci Hernandez explained that his aim is to create images that look like they were taken on black and white film and run over a couple times. He shared his favorite Hipstamatic settings (Gangster Squad lens on Nike film) and stepped the audience through editing with apps like Afterglow and Filterstorm. The final image cannot be attributed to any one app, but is instead the curated collection of different filters and processes.
7. iPhonographers are passionate about their gear
In what was perhaps the most heated group discussion of the day, photographer Jack Hollingsworth took some time to go through dozens of tripods, cases and lenses. His innuendo-packed talk encouraged attendees to “fondle” his gear as he explored the different options for photographers who us an iPhone, DSLR, or both.
Audience members quickly stepped in to answer questions posed at Hollingsworth about equipment as people debated the merits of their different devices. One of the more exciting moments occurred when Hollingsworth blurted that the iStabilizer Flex was a “Joby rip-off” only to have an iStabilizer representative correct him as an awkward silence fell across the crowd. Hollingsworth broke the silence as he joked, “well, there’s only so much you can do with legs!”
The first Macworld/iWorld iPhonography summit was ambitious. The event ran from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. —stopping only for lunch when organizers canceled the video talk (to much chagrin). Attendees, bleary-eyed and overwhelmed, were less and less vocal as the day wore on. Speakers were sometimes interrupted as the Expo performed sound tests in adjacent rooms. We look forward to a better organized effort in what will hopefully become a long-running annual event.
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