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Yes Please


It’s not all bad and there’s no reason to think that good photography can’t be done on an iPhone, it’s purely the effects that these apps are having on the mind of a potential photographer.

People start to think that, because it looks quirky and old, it’s good photography, which is holding back potential greatness from photographers.

Why It Sucks

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m not a big fan of photoshop -that much is clear from just looking at my photos.

That’s not to say that I don’t do anything to them; I do adjust exposure, contrast and black point, and clean up skin quite regularly but I never use it as a tool to make a boring photo interesting.

A good photo will stand up on it’s own without the need for photoshop.

Photoshop can be used to make small adjustments to a good photo, making it even better. You can adjust a bad photo until the cows come home; it’s still going to be a bad photo.

If you’ve ever tried to take a photo everyday, similar to a 365 project, you’ll understand that it’s a pretty hard thing to keep up and starts to loom over you like a chore.

I attempted one with my digital SLR – it was even harder because it meant either going out everyday to take photos, or having lots of photos of my dog.

If you take it seriously and have the time to complete them, you will find that your photography improves but, for the majority of people, it’s too much like hard work.

The good thing about the project was that it encouraged me to carry my camera everywhere with me which meant that I had the opportunity to take more good photos. Ultimately, I didn’t have time to use it everyday and ended up producing a lot of rubbish too.

Apps such as Instagram take the idea of a daily photo blog and turn it into an iOS app for your iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, throwing in a bunch of filters for good measure.

You can get some good results from your iPhone but, as I said before, photoshopping for photoshopping’s sake is not a good thing.

Currently, Instagram have 150 million photos uploaded, that’s 15 every second, with a staggering 80% using filters (and a bunch more in the other 20% have had filters applied in other apps, such as Hipstamatic).

The pressure of trying to get a good photo by the end of the day invariably leads to poor content and composition of everyday life enhanced by obvious digital filters.

This is doing photography no good whatsoever.

These photos are then shared through various sites e.g. Facebook, where the photographer receives praise for their work.

Now, I have no problem with this as it is but what’s not good is when people start to see this as photography – they’ll never learn how to really improve on the art form which they may otherwise have been interested in.

To help you understand what I’m getting at, I’m going to show you a couple photos that I took, both of which I like, but I consider one to be much better than the other.

Here’s a photo of my friend who’s a model.

Now, there’s no mistaking that she’s very attractive and there’s no denying that the lack of clothes make the photo much more interesting.

There are some good techniques used in this photo such as fill flash and shooting into the sun but the main reason to be attracted to this photo is the beautiful model.

Compare the photo above with the photo below and you’ll see a stark difference – I could speak for ages about why this photo is good, listing elements such as triangles, colour, grain, contrast, form, lighting, visual weight, eye lines, rule of thirds, etc.

I’ve learnt how to take photos like this by studying composition and technique, practising on film and understanding my camera.

I consider this to be a far better photo.

If I were to only ever take photos of half naked girls in fields, I’m sure that I would gain a lot of recognition but my photography wouldn’t improve a whole lot.

When you take time to study photography, you’ll find that you take it a lot of elements in without even realising it.

The photo above was taken in the men’s room of a local pub (don’t worry, it’s a friend of mine). As I walked in, I saw the shot in the mirror and lifted up my camera, at the same time he looked up and I captured the shot.

When you know your way around even the basics of composition, it really does become second nature with a bit of practice.

That’s the thing about iPhone apps that do all of the work for you: they make you think that what you’ve created is something special when, in reality, it’s just an excuse to rearrange a bottle of gin and a porcelain model of a dog, tilt the camera and apply some dodgy filters to make it look 50 years older than it actually is.

I encourage anyone who’s trying to take photography seriously to start learning composition and put their phones down.

On top of that, if you do want to try to improve your photography, start a 365 project where you have to take a photo everyday.

It’s tough and you may find you’re producing a lot of bad shots but that’s what these projects do: they force rubbish and inspire greatness – just don’t share these bad shots.

The most important thing to do with your photography is to go into it looking only to please yourself. If you spend you’re whole time trying to impress others, or compare your work with other people’s, you’ll never be happy with your own results.

Instagram, Hipstamatic and Other Reasons Photography Is Starting To Suck

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Hey I'm Josh, I'm Photographer in Chief here at ExpertPhotography, and I'm in charge of making sure that we provide you with the best content from the most knowledgeable photographers in the world. Enjoy the site :)

  • I’ve been talking about what I call Digital Glut for a number of years, almost since digicams hit the consumer market. Boy some of the stuff just sucks bad.

    Photography is about the light, and how you as an artist are able to translate that light to show emotion, tell a story, or even showcase a product. Some people will just never get it.

    I recently started exploring cross processing in Photoshop. It’s a pretty simple really, and I have fine tuned a few methods found on the web. But guess what? You need to start with a good photo. Otherwise it’s all just digital schlock that we already have too much of.

  • Altough I agree with the author to some of degree, my thoughts about filter apps is that they are more of entertaining and play rather then pointed as any serious photography.

    I use my phone multiple times to take pictures when I don’t need or feel to bring out my dsrl, and play around with the different filters whenever I need to kill som time or avoiding talking to certain persons.

    When it comes to social media, my friends/followers (the few of them) know that I produce other type om imagery, but as in said in the article, that cannot be said same to amatuers or their friends/followers.

    But what the heck, if they really want to learn photography, they have to learn it, the hard way, sooner or later.
    Practice makes perfect, if practiced right.

    PS. Sorry for bad grammar or spelling.

  • To me, digital photography without post production of some sort is like film photography without development. *Something* has to happen to enhance an image from the time it leaves to the camera, to however it’s ultimately enjoyed – be it a print or just viewed on a computer. The degree to which an image needs adjustment is debatable. Having an image that would not look better straight out of camera without some form of adjustment, even minute, is pretty rare. People who stick that “SOOC” term to images like it’s some badge of accomplishment make me yawn. To me, the only thing that matters is the final product. Whether it takes me 5 seconds or 5 minutes to make my adjustments, in the end a photo gets appreciate for it’s aesthetic properties, not how quick a process it was. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t really enjoy spending hours in front of the computer editing, but I consider it part of the modern photographic process. Are the filters used in these apps over the top at times? Definitely so, but some of them can greatly enhance an image… and let’s face it, camera phone images more often than not can use a lot of adjustment. If it helps the general public realize that good imagery isn’t always as easy as just taking a shot and bringing the memory card to Walgreens for prints than on a whole these apps are doing photography a favor. In the end people are always going to take their fair share of shitty pictures. Your pets, your flowers, your babies, your feet… even with the best cameras most of those genres make me yawn. So why not use instagram or whatever program you want, and let’s just judge images on their individual merit, rather than condemning the concept as a whole.

    • That was very well written, and although I don’t tend to adjust more than exposure, crop and brightness in my photos, some photos do work better with some post production. Just have a look at the most expensive photo in the world. It’s just apps like instagram and hipstamatic are giving people the wrong idea about photography, and what’s more is it’s preventing people from buying the actual camera, and learning how to do it themselves, which they would have gotten a lot more from. The effects are overdone, and I would always encourage people to pick up a camera before they download an app.

  • Dolce

    I am so glad that I just randomly found this blog. I just downloaded a new filter App for my iPhone, and have pretty much tried the gamut of photo Apps that there are. I was just wondering myself today, as I tried and tried to make a picture I had taken look good and wasting about half an hour trying different filters, feeling exhausted and angry, because I couldn’t find a good App. And now just realized, after reading this article, truth be known, that it was a terrible picture in the first place. As I was deleting most of the camera apps off my iPhone, I mean, who really needs 10 different camera apps all at once,I was struggling to put my finger on what the author here, just did. In the end, if it’s not a well taken photo to begin with, there is not going to be any App that can fix that. In fact, there should be a filter title at the very end of each camera App that says, “if you’ve made it to this filter, for the third time, go take another picture”.

    I totally appreciate what you had to say here, because I never make comments usually. There. You’ve inspired a comment. (and because it is very late for me, please excuse any run on sentences, misspelling, and awkwardness in trying to get my point across). I hope you did in the end.

    • Thank you Dolce, I’m glad what I’ve written is rubbing off on people so well!

  • True enough post. Instagram uses pictures as it’s medium, but the majority of it’s users are not photographers. As I always say, the internet is great because now your average person can post photos for everyone to see, but on the other hand, now your average person can post photos for everyone to see. Good photos take time, but I doubt many people truly realize that. Thanks for the post!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for finally saying this. I am a young photographer but I have started to make a mini career out of it. My friends think that they are good photographers when they know nothing about the cameras they use and know nothing about composition. They just take a photo and put a filter on it and say it’s good. I agree with everything you said and I am so glad someone finally stepped up and said it.

  • Bart Ruzik

    Hey Josh, Thanks a lot for that article. I was looking for articles on instagram because I wanted to create a second profile for my black and white work. Use two Nikons in my photography and little or none with my phone!!! I am actually more clutsy with my phone than with my big D-700. I have found instagram very useful but I almost NEVER use the filters. I do use photoshop somewhat but never overdo the editing. If it doesn’t look good in the original RAW file I skip it.

    Anyway, I agree it’s hard being a true photographer (meaning without the phone) but we gotta keep at it and keep shooting 🙂