I’ve always been passionate about photography but I couldn’t afford professional DSLR equipment and, though I was attached to my SX-70 Polaroid camera, the death of Polaroid film brought about an expensive rush to buy quickly expiring film. I knew I still had the desire to bring my photography to the next level, but I was not hopeful. When I first saw a filtered Instagram image shared by my friend Cole Rise something clicked. I already owned an iPhone, and I could certainly afford applications in Apple’s App Store in order to enhance my photos, but now there was a way for me (and other amateur photographers with dreams of professionalism) to easily share my mobile photography with the world.
I noticed my photography improving with the more photos I took, processed, and shared to Instagram. With this my audience grew, and I began cultivating my own micro-community within the application; encouraging users to experiment with editing tools, providing photography tips, and following mobile photographers I admired for inspiration. The Instagram team noticed my passion for their product 8 months after their launch, and invited me to join their team as the Community Evangelist, an opportunity that has allowed me to turn my passion for mobile photography into a career.
Mobile photography was never something I thought I’d defend as a legitimate medium, but I now find myself in heated discussions with friends & family about whether I am, in fact, a professional photographer simply because I utilize an iPhone as my tool. I even co-founded a one-day conference dedicated to the medium with Nate Bolt, one of my good friends and a photographer I admire. There were over 350 people who attended, clearly indicating a growing interest in mobile photography, yet many people continue to scoff at the mobile phone as a piece professional photographic equipment. Regardless of your opinions on the matter I’ve had the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful photos from around the world all taken with an iPhone, and I’ve also seen people’s passion for photography ignite and grow like mine did, as a result of Instagram.
Instagram has the ability to challenge people to look up from their phones and actually see the world around them. We’ve recently started a Weekend Hashtag Project in which I share a theme via my Instagram account at the start of each weekend with the goal of encouraging people to pay attention to their surroundings, get inspired, and get creative. If we had never started this project, I might not have captured the image above. It was a complete accident that I walked through that intersection and captured that photo. I missed my bus stop and had to walk a few blocks out of my way to get to my destination. As I started walking across that street I noticed an incredible photo opportunity emerge that was perfect for our second Weekend Hashtag Project theme, #middleoftheroad. I quickly double tapped my home button, pulled up the default Camera application, tapped to focus with one finger while another was on the shutter, then released (Fun fact: I also stopped holding my breath and worrying about get hit by that bus). I managed to capture my favorite photo of my favorite San Francisco building because I was in the wrong place at the right time.
My recent post-process routine is to bring my image into Camera+ and apply the Clarity “scene” or their HDR “effect” (They have opacity scales, so I usually bring it down to about 10 – 35%), then I bring that edited image into Filterstorm and I straighten the image (if needed), adjust the brightness/contrast, white balance and reduce noise. Finally, I bring the twice-edited image into Instagram and I typically apply one of my favorite filters, Rise. Though this sounds like a crazy process, it usually only takes me about 5 minutes to edit an image on my iPhone. While editing has the potential to improve mobile photos, the most important tip for anyone experimenting with mobile photography is to constantly have your camera phone within reach and your preferred camera application open & ready to shoot. Missing a photo opportunity because of a phone pocket/purse hunt, or waiting on an application to launch, could easily result in the loss of a beautiful capture.