iPhonography & Creative Habits

We are all shaped by our habits and daily rituals. Reading Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast & Slow” makes you more aware of how much we regulate to our own “auto-pilot”.

The good thing is that you can program yourself. First by creating a new habit, until the point where it becomes second nature, aka, on auto-pilot.

That’s the hardest part. To start and see it through until it becomes second nature. It takes more than a few steps. However, once you are underway, you reap the benefits of incremental improvements.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers: The Story of Success” introduced us to the concept of 10,000 hours of practice to become a master.

Lately, articles have popped up to debunk this “myth” as they call it, however, I disagree. I believe anyone can benefit from regular practice. In my opinion, you are only competing with your former self. To be better today than what you were yesterday.

Another book I read was Angela Duckworth’s book “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance”.

Passion is something that I believe is vital and in combination with perseverance, success (or goals that you have defined), becomes obtainable.

Photography has always been my passion. From the first magical moment in the darkroom, seeing the image come alive. I am on a lifelong journey with learning and evolving.

It started with analogue photography, going digital, to recent deep focus on automating editing techniques. Furthermore, how the future of image editing is going to be adjusted by algorithms as AI starts taking over more and more of the process.

The creative part has never been more important than now. Your creative vision is the only thing that sets you apart from the others. As Ansel Adams wrote in his book, “The Negative”, you have to pre-visualise your final image.

Your capture techniques are based on the intended outcome. You don’t take an image, you create it. Even in these digital days, it is worth a re-visit and read about visualisation and pre-visualisation.

Having control over the whole process, from idea to outcome. Controlling the capture, controlling the light and shaping it, all of this is at the heart of commercial photography.

But, I don’t practice commercial photography daily. I spend most of my days researching automation and image manipulation within a high volume, production editing environment. Consistency and quality maintained most efficiently.

So how to keep my photography passion alive? By using the tools we have easily available. I cannot carry my studio setup in my pocket, I do carry a smartphone. An iPhone to be exact.

My journey into #iphonography (the popular hashtag for it) started as a creative challenge. How to use something that I have less control with, a point-and-shoot camera, and edit with the tools available on the phone. I started posting frequently and I try to maintain one edited image per day on my Instagram stream.

Shooting with an iPhone and it’s limitations (I am still using an iPhone 7+ as of 2021) made me a better photographer in terms of seeing moments unfold in daily life. It keeps my creative eye sharp. It enables me to subconsciously be aware of my environment and look out for potential captures.

Here’s my best nine of 2020, all iPhone/iPhonography.

2018 was a mixture of iPhone and DSLR.

2017 was only DSLR.

The global camera market is also undergoing the same transition from capture on a DSLR/Mirror-less camera system to smartphone capture.

The digital camera sales have been in steady decline since 2010. Sales dropped 87%.

Infographic: Digital Camera Sales Dropped 87% Since 2010 | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

At the same time, the rise of smartphones, killing the point-and-shoot market, continues to make headway.

Given these statistics, no wonder hashtags such as #iphonography are gaining traction. The iPhone with 3G (now 4G and 5G) always online combined with photo editing apps and dedicated image sharing websites, is a great camera for social media.

It is also used for professional work, as described more in this research article, “Iphoneography as an emergent art world”.

Amongst the DSLR/Mirror-less systems that I have come across, only the Fuji XT comes close to the smartphone convenience. Fuji’s app, when synced, lets you download JPEG’s that you can edit further on your phone before uploading. It is easy to use and gives you the image quality of Fuji and the editing speed and convenience of the smartphone. The Fuji system is lightweight, but, I don’t carry it on me at all times.

Also, when seeing the upgrades being made, both optical with better lenses as well as dramatic changes with software to generate the best capture output, the smartphone technology is eroding the camera market further.

There will always be specialist systems and high-end cameras, but for speed and convenience, smartphones are getting better. With Apple’s RAW format, ProRAW, a 12-bit file format, Apple is getting serious with their cameraphones.

Technologies such as Smart HDR and Deep Fusion clearly shows the direction of modern photography and editing.

We live in a world where there has never been created as many images as we do right now. Photography has been made accessible to everyone with a smartphone. We continue to share visual images to new heights, year on year. Never before has the need for your own visual voice been clearer. When everyone can achieve good to great shots with the help of technology and apps, then what sets you apart amongst trillion of images? How do you make yours stand out?

You can embrace the limitations of iphonography, learn the boundaries of what is possible and then create your vision that cannot be replicated with the touch of a screen.

There is no coincidence that analogue techniques are flourishing again. Having imperfections and qualities that differ from the perfect digital image, that make them stand out. As they say: “To break the rules, first you must know the rules”.