Submitted by: Olivia Solon
SOME 80 BILLION images will be captured in the US alone in 2011, rising to 105 billion in 2015,
according to a study by InfoTrends. One of the main drivers is the surge in the number and quality of camera phones. The days of tiny, pixelated snaps on miniscule screens are gone – today’s camera phones boast more than five megapixels, dual flashes, autofocus and manual settings for exposure and white balance. They are so good they’re cannibalising the compact camera market – why would you need to carry a second device when you always have your phone with you?
There are plenty of handsets with great cameras on the market, but the iPhone is still the device of choice when it comes to developers, and it has the widest selection of camera apps available – although the Android Market is catching up rapidly. The iPhone 4S, launched in October the day before Steve Jobs passed away, prides itself on its camera.
In addition to eight megapixels (compared with the iPhone 4’s five megapixels), it touts face detection, f2.4 aperture and an ability to catch snaps at very high resolution. All of these features work together with apps and add-ons to allow your average snapper to become much more creative in their approach to photography.
Services such as Instagram, a photo-sharing and editing tool, have helped to turn camera snaps into artworks. The iPhone app’s users have posted more than 150 million photos since its launch last year. Its success lies in its simplicity – once a shot has been taken, users can add one of several artistic filters or a tilt-shift blur and then share it with other Instagram users or on social networking sites.
For those harking back to the good old days of film, there are plenty of apps designed to add a retro feel to your photographs, with the likes of Hipstamatic letting you add a range of nostalgia inducing filters to your crystal-clear new memories. Similarly Film Lab allows you to take photos that look like they’ve been taken on any of 79 different kinds of camera film.
And these sorts of services aren’t just for whimsical photos of hipsters – professionals are recognising the power of ‘iPhoneography’. Last year the New York Times featured a series of war photos shot in Afghanistan using Hipstamatic by photographer Damon Winter. He wrote in a blog post: “Using the phone is discreet and not intimidating. The soldiers themselves often take pictures of one another and that was the hope of this essay: to have a set of photos that would look almost like these snapshots, but through a professional eye.”
iPhone apps aren’t just about filters either – you can also create effects that would otherwise be preserved for Photoshop experts, such as Tiny Planets, which lets you transform your photos to look like self-contained worlds or stereographic projections. Imagine taking a landscape photo and stretching and bending the picture into a rainbow arc and then continuing to bring the two edges around and down until they touched each other at the bottom. This is essentially what that app does. The result is that the land part of the photo becomes the planet, with whatever is on the horizon – be it trees, people or buildings – appearing on the surface. The sky and clouds then fills the space around the planet.
In addition to apps, there are also pieces of hardware that can be tacked onto the iPhone to achieve professional effects. Taking 360-degree photographs used to require a camera, a tripod, some well timed
photography and panoramic stitching software. The BubbleScope is a smartphone accessory that takes instant 360-degree photographs without the need for stitching or image processing.
Meanwhile, for those who want the flexibility of different lenses without having to carry around a full DSLR camera, the Photojojo iPhone SLR Mount allows users to retrofit any Canon or Nikon lenses to an iPhone, giving a powerful depth of field, manual focus, wide angle, macro or telephoto abilities.
With the availability of these new creative tools and hardware and the wave of social networking sites
developed to distribute and rate your photographic creations, there are compelling forces to ensure you not only take more snaps, but that you take better ones which reach a much larger audience.
But as with citizen journalism, the quality of the content may be called into question. Can it still be considered creative if everyone has the same tools? Moreover, the easier it is to share your work, the easier it is to have it criticised. Just because it’s out there, doesn’t mean it’s good – the digital crowds will
be more honest than the family members you might have shown your artworks to before.
If you are aiming for noteworthy images rather than something for your friends and family, it’s the social currency of public praise by the networked masses that separates the wheat from the chaff.
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