Monthly Archives: July 2010

Creative Photography – “There’s An App For That!”

No sooner had I posted about my recent explorations in Polaroid Pinhole photography did I stumble across a variety of apps for my new iPhone 4. Many of these apps have been around for a bit, but being a “real camera” purist snob aficionado, I never really got into “mobile phone” photography. But now that the iPhone 4 has a much better camera and these camera apps have been updated to take advantage of the iPhone 4’s capabilities, I thought I’d test drive a couple of them real quick and then get back to “real” photography…

Still Life - Oranges

Still Life - Oranges

Boy was I wrong! In the past couple of days I’ve probably taken more photos with my iPhone 4 and these handful of apps than I have ever taken with my Holgas, Polaroids and Pinhole cameras combined! The iPhone 4 changes everything (damn you Apple!) Not to sound like a typical Apple fanboi (though I guess I am; there’s a reason Apple fans are so fanatic… try their products for a couple of weeks and you will become an Apple fanatic too! I have been since before 1984) but Apple really did an amazing job with the camera, for both stills as well as video. But this post will focus on still shots and the process I used to create this aged, still life photo to the right.

Though I wound up buying several apps, for this particular photo I used 3 apps specifically. The first is Hipstamatic (app store link) by Synthetic Infatuation (product website link.) This app simulates taking photos with plastic toy cameras such as the Holga. The difference from a Holga (besides not having to process your own film and wondering if it will even turn out with all of the Holga’s unpredictable light leaks) is that Hipstamatic gives you a variety of different lenses to choose from as well as film types and even colored flash effects. You can even shake your iPhone to randomize the combination of lens/film/flash! The interface is beautiful and the immediacy and fun factor of using this app makes me fear that I will never pick up my Holga camera ever again.

Once I took the picture [of a bunch of oranges at Jamba Juice] with Hipstamatic using the “John S” lens and the “Ina 1969” film I then began a two step, post-process  session using the Camera+ app by Tap Tap Tap (not to be confused with the “Camera Plus” app by Global Delight, which I’m sure is a fine app, but not what I’m using.) Unlike Hipstamatic which can only take pictures using the app, Camera+ allows you to take pictures with the app utilizing a variety of helpful features (stabilizer, grid lines, fill flash, tap to focus and touch to set exposure separately!) and it also allows you to post-process any photo already taken and stored on your iPhone. With Camera+ post-processing, you can first choose a variety of lighting effects with “Scene Mode” such as faux Digital Flash, Beach Lighting, Night Time, Concert, etc. Next comes a variety of “FX” from Sepia to Redscale, Toy Camera to Antiqued and many more; there’s just too many effects to mention here (this wasn’t supposed to be a review of these apps, but it’s turning out that way isn’t it.) There are  a variety of cropping options and finally, several border options. The whole post process part of Camera+ reminds me of Photoshop Elements for your computer. It’s what Photoshop Mobile for the iPhone should have been (which I have but rarely use.) The interface when taking pictures with this app, by the way, is really nice… a pseudo Digital SLR complete with your fingerprint on the viewfinder if you touch it! I would have easily paid at least $20 for this app, but all of these apps seem to be around around the $1.99 price range as of this writing; way under-priced in my opinion.

After using two of the Camera+ effects, “Redscale” and “Grunge” (which, unfortunately, you can only apply one at a time, so you have to save the image with one effect and then re-import it again to apply a second effect, unless I’m missing something here) I then added the final touches with the Pic Grunger app by Stephen Spring. Pic Grunger does one thing and one thing only… it grunges up your photos. And it does it really well. It’s the “icing on the cake” app. There are a few options, such as Scratched, Streaked, Sponged and a couple of others, as well as a sensitivity slider to adjust the amount of the effect you would like to apply (something I wish Camera+ had.)

All of these apps combined created the final still life I call “Oranges” (see photos of each stage of the process below.) Again, originally shot at Jamba Juice with crappy lighting. All on the iPhone 4. All for the price of a Starbucks coffee! (phone not included.)

Still Life Process

Still Life Process

There are a couple of other photo apps I’m having fun with, Colorsplash, Quadcamera, TiltShiftGen and IncrediBooth. It’s just amazing to me how far both photography as well as mobile technology has come. Apple and it’s 3rd party developers have combined the two to make for an expressive and formidable creative tool. As they say, the best camera for photography is the one you [always] have with you…

UPDATE: I have just purchased and am testing out a few more photo apps; FILM LAB, Photo FX and Lo-Mob. Below are quick tests I did with these apps (unfortunately, I can’t remember the settings I used with each of these apps.)

Pinhole Polaroid Photography

Sarah & Sarah 01 - Sepia Polaroid Pinhole

Sarah & Sarah 01 - Sepia Polaroid Pinhole

For the past couple of months I have been exploring the wonderful world of Pinhole photography.

Using the Polaroid Pinhole 100 camera and the rare and almost out-of-stock Sepia polaroid film, I’ve come to really appreciate the limitations (and happy accidents) that come with pinhole photography.

In case some of you don’t know and are in need of an explanation; a pinhole camera is basically just a box with a tiny little pin hole poked in it, literally! No lens, no shutter, nothing but a hole in a box. This is as basic as photography gets, but with beautiful and occasionally unpredictable results.

You can see more of these pinhole explorations in my Pinhole Flickr Set.

Art-Toys Book Signing

Wow! I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I last posted here… been super busy!

I recently had the great honor and pleasure to be invited along with a few other artists and toy designers to sign Brian McCarty’s forthcoming book, “Art-Toys: Photographs by Brian McCarty“. Brian is THE premier toy photographer in the world and a monograph of his work is finally being published. Congratulations Brian!

The signing event itself was a blast and a great opportunity to reconnect with my fellow peers, friends and heroes, many of which are considered some of the top artists in their respective fields. In attendance at the signing and included in the book were Gary Baseman, Tim Biskup, Luke Chueh, Frank Kozik, MARS-1, Mark Ryden, Michelle Valigura, Amanda Visell, Yoskay Yamamoto and many more (as well as myself, of course.)

The book is available at, Brian’s website as well as at the San Diego Comic-Con if you happen to be down there this week. Below is a little video I took of the event with my iPhone 4.