iPhoneography Archives - Peter Sibbald's Blog About Photography and Filmmaking

Adventures in iPhoneography – A Series: Part 1 — The Ground Rules

A.    Transparency re. Gear etc.

1.    Not that I expect anyone to offer them, but just to be clear, I will not accept freebees. I have been, and will continue to be, purchasing whatever apps or hardware I mention unless they are freely available to everyone, e.g. as a free app through an Apple App Store Account.

2.     I will not accept gratuity or payment to shill for manufacturers and code-authors.

3.     I will not  inflate, conflate, or hype my discoveries, nor squelch my criticism.

4.     From time to time I may query a company or developer from a support-need perspective, and I will share with readers the upshot of that as well.

5.     If something changes and a company or developer loans me hardware or software/apps, or sends me something to beta-test, I’ll let readers know right up front before I start writing about it.

6.     Loaning me gear, apps or web space will be no guarantee that I will mention/review it in this blog or elsewhere in the social-media-sphere, nor conversely will it afford the loaner any protection from honest critique or opinion. As I have said elsewhere I have no spare time to waste on something redundant with a competing device or app that already is giving me what need.


There are always rules....

There are always rules….

B.    Image Integrity

1.     Whereas I’m starting to notice that a number of well-known photographers have begun to insert photographs (including some very well known images) that were originally made with conventional film or digital cameras into smartphoneography contexts such as Instagram and Web.Stagram, any of my own images used in this series will be true iPhoneographs (SmartPhoneographs) made only with smart phones.

2.     To that end, any image tagged or otherwise identified with terms like #iphoneonly or #smartphoneonly, will indeed have been captured and edited only with a smart phone.

3.     Photojournalistic Veracity:

Truth is a slippery subject and ever slipperier for photographs in the digital era. I do not believe that absolute truth is possible in photojournalism any more than absolute truth or objectivity attainable in journalism in general. Truth is however aspirational and in a journalistic context an aspiration that is not only highly desirable, but essential. In that context it is incumbent upon those representing their work (be it text, photographs, video, or even smartphoneographs) as journalistic that they aim to represent a situation or a moment with as much accuracy—as much veracity—as possible, to report with as much objectivity as is humanly possible and to provide balanced representation where possible, duly noting its shortcomings. To that end:

a.    Notwithstanding my background as a photojournalist and photo documentarian, as it seems to be a part of the culture of iPhoneography that I am venturing into to mess with filters and aesthetic effects, and as I want to keep as open a mind as possible, I will give myself the license to play with these things, potentially altering the straight images. No such images will be represented as being photojournalistic.

b.    To wit, where an image is being represented as photojournalistic or purely documentary or in such a context, I will not indulge in the use of filters or aesthetic effects beyond that which would be considered as acceptable digital darkroom technique (eg. cropping, minor dodging and burning, neutral colour balance) in a photojournalistic context. In this context also all textual elements will be factually accurate, to the best of my knowledge.

C.     Additions or Alterations to these rules

Any additions or alterations to this set of rules will be posted in a timely fashion as this series progresses as well as in dated updates right here in this “ground rules” post.

Probable Next Post: Part 2: Quest for a camera app


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Adventures in iPhoneography – A Series: Flirtations, An Intro

I’m going to be teaming up with “misadventure” travel writer Kirsten Koza next July to co-host a workshop in Kirgizstan for travel writers and photographers. Due to one of her hilarious misadventures, Kirsten (an accomplished travel photographer in her own right) came to find herself in need of a new camera. When our recent kitchen-table conversation wandered perilously near the brink of that mud-pit that photographers are apt fall into, gear talk, I was reluctant to go there and exclaimed that ‘even if people travelled only with their iPhones, we could have an incredible adventure and they could make great photographs…’ the insinuation being that Kirsten—who’d been texting moments before—was already holding her next camera in her hand. After all, it is not so much about the tool as the yey and how one uses what tool one has at hand to tell the story, and the content itself… or so it is said.

To my suggestion, lets say Kirsten’s guffaw was tad dismissive. Nevertheless it got me thinking more about my own ancient 4-year-old iPhone 3Gs with its dinky 3.2 Mega-Pixel pinhole sized sensor. Frankly I’ve ignored it, and surrounded as I usually am by an arsenal of pro-gear, I’d come to regard mine as a piece of crap really. Generating highly compressed jpgs 2047 x 1536 pixels, it wasn’t totally useless of course, just mostly useless for anything other than acting as a visual note taking device.

Or was it?

A few days later I began to explore what I could do with just that device. It would be a challenge: could I make it into a useful tool?


Starting out on her own in the evening.

Looking Ahead
One of the first times when I consciously made a iPhoneograph rather than a quick visual note… just a straight shot, nothing done to it but cropped square, just like my old Kodak Instamatic, and my Hasselblad


After some more unsuccessful mucking about, the first thing I went looking for on the interweb were the experiences of other pros. I found many corporate reviewers and amateur photography bloggers, but very little from the keyboards of my peers. (Not to say they’re not there but I haven’t found them.) Most of what I found was gear talk, for in afterglow of the dawning of this new image medium a whole new industry of apps and gizmos has spring up to augment the humble iPhone camera and its competitors.

This got me thinking about this rambling old blog of mine. I am a photographer; it is time again to write about photography… at least a little more often. So in a coming series of blog posts I’ll be sharing trials, tribulations and triumphs from summary gleanings to technical minutia.

Along the way we’ll look at the role of camera-phones in the lives of professional photographers, revisit the Instagram debate (perhaps you didn’t even know there was one… hopefully I can advance it a little), view a bunch of neat examples of others that I’ve begun discovering, maybe play with a bunch of apps, take a quick look at the history, culture, ethics and industry of iPhoneography (or its generic term “Mobile Photography”), try to build an efficient workflow and see where all this leads. After all, I’m still not very far along this journey.

I will try to keep my posts brief  and pithy (hopefully this will be by-far my longest one) to leave people time to indulge in their own adventures, should they choose to undertake them. I’m anxious to get on with it myself and will not experiment with many of the possibilities if they do not seem likely to be useful. I don’t expect this to be a long series. It will not be a review of the 5, 10, 30, 100 best apps for the iPhone. It will however be iPhone-centric as that is the device I already own. I’ll try to curate the essentials both of what I’ve discovered and what I’ve experienced.

Feedback from abject argument to affirmation is most welcome. Perhaps you’ll give me better questions to ask, quandaries to mull, or mysteries to investigate.

Next post: “Finding the Love”Whoa Peter…Don’t jump to conclusions… first things first… Next post: The Ground Rules


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