We have come SO far in such a short time this year. I frankly cannot believe how dramatically our iphonographic art form has evolved in such a short time. Every week, you raise the bar here at Pixels. As a member of the Pixels family, please consider yourself among the most passionate, hard-working, talented, and skilled practitioners of the art form, bar none. It is you who has made Pixels the site of record for this emergent art form of ours, iphonography.
It is my hope that over the next year, we can begin to inculcate a new approach to iphonography that I would call Life in the Slow Lane. Let us get away from the need or compulsion to post a picture every day here, or on Flickr, or wherever. We all have two hundred or two thousand pictures up somewhere, so there is nothing to prove there, anymore.
Ansel Adams once said that if a photographer gets twelve pictures a YEAR, that is a “good crop.” I’m not saying don’t shoot. I’m saying take your time to post. Get that shot. And then, App That Bitch ‘Til It Sings! That said, I KNOW there are some pictures that require little or no apping, so spare me the lectures! :)
I have seen a lot of pictures this year; you can’t imagine how many. I see a lot of the same kinds of shots over and over again and there are many that don’t make it in, as many of you know. As I said, you artists raise the bar every week: I just uphold the standards you set.
So I want to share a few things that I would like to encourage you to avoid, since many of these types of shots are simply cliches now and have been done thousands of times. Again … there is always an again … there are exceptions to every so-called rule in art and the only thing that really matters is whether or not your picture tells a compelling story and something about yourself. After the list, be sure to read Jaime Ferreyros’s suggestions for getting the great street shots.
Because so many people have gotten upset with me about this post, PLEASE note that I am still publishing pictures of people’s backs, feet, hipstamatic shots, so on and so on. I have looked at easily 8,000 pictures since starting Pixels. I have published, one at a time, by hand, over 4,500 this year. The suggestions below are guidelines and my opinion only. I judge every picture on its own merits.
So here we go with a list of the things that go through my head when I look through fifty or a hundred pictures every single day:
- I suggest you avoid apps like Hipstamatic. I want to know about you, not Hipstamatic. If you use Hipstamatic, just be sure it’s a very strong image that can stand up to the imprint. And watch the Pic Grunger, it’s getting really overdone, along with PictureShow. Explore other apps to develop your own style and vision.
- I personally do not like frames: I believe they detract from images. When all we did was post on Flickr, frames were okay. Since it is my goal to get your work on a gallery or museum wall, well, I guess we can remove the frame when we print the picture. But just so you know, having a frame around your picture is fine for publishing on the site. The “film sprocket” frames are tricky to use well: when in doubt, don’t!
- I get so many pictures of people shot from behind every day. People’s backs are just not that interesting. Learn how to get their faces in the shot (see Jaime’s how-to below). Be ready to shoot at all times. I know we live in a paranoid era. Cartier-Bresson was able to get his shots with a Leica in a different era, if not a different world. Be smart, clever, and, most of all, selective. It’s hard but we must push ourselves. (Now, realize that I just published two from-behind pictures, one from Ramona G. & one from Andrea M., so it is not a hard and fast rule! But let’s aim for faces!)
- Mirror shots are of little interest to me, unless you happen to be, for example, a beautiful naked woman. Even then, make sure the picture tells some kind of story. This applies as well to car mirrors and puddle-reflection shots.
- Shadow-shots, esp. your own shadows, hold no fascination for me or anyone else any longer.
- We’ve seen enough feet; legs of people standing nearby; mannequins in windows; coffee cups on cafe tables; lame dog, cat, kiddie pictures. (I LOVE good dog, cat, kiddie pictures! But I want a story.)
- Masks on people, alone, do not make a story. Make sure something is happening in the picture. Clowns and mimes, nooooooooo! … unless …. the people in the masks are attacking them.
- If you must shoot birds on a wire or jets coming in for a landing, you will really really really have to do something remarkable to make the picture stand out from the hundreds and thousands out there. Same for wing porn!
- Watch the lens flare. Large white areas are jolting and overwhelm the rest of the image, except in rare cases.
- Lastly, please no more “clever” pictures. No one cares about how clever we are!
Okay, that about does it for now. I’m sure I’ll remember something else the next time I am editing pictures. Does this sound mean? Sorry. These are just opinions. Feel free to ignore everything I’ve said! I would never tell an artist what to do, I assure you. But I want us all to keep pushing ahead, avoid apps that overpower images, and open our eyes to the moment-by-moment ephemeral nature of reality and, with luck, capture a beautiful instant of it from time to time.
What do I like? Well, for the most part I like compelling images that tell a story, be it funny, sad, sexy, beautiful, scary, or weird. I like vision, your vision. I like artists who push themselves and try new things, I will often publish an image that might be of marginal quality to encourage the artist. I’ve seen everyone evolve and grow this year. It’s been wonderful. If you want to see what I like, just look on the site. :)
Jaime’s recipe for great street shots after the jump.
Street photography is just one segment of iphonography, but if it is what you are interested in, you should learn how to do it well, do it wisely, and not get yourself into trouble.
Some months ago, Jaime Ferreyros shared his secrets for taking street shots. I’ve tried it a couple of times, got one okay picture out of if (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), but I still need a lot of practice. Here is what Jaime sent me to share with you.
- I put my iPhone on silence
- Usually I have my iphone default camera ready, unless I specifically want to get a Hipstamatic, Toy or other camera shot ans set that camera up.
- I walk around looking for my prey and once I find it, I’ll start acting like I’m getting a phone call or about to make one
- Once I get close enough, I’ll try to look as if I’m answering the call, dialing or both. At some point I always look at my iPhone as if I’m trying to figure who’s calling me or what number I just dialed…that’s when I’m really taking my picture.
- As soon as I get my shot, that’s when I’ll say “Hello” or “Hola”, and walk away pretending to be talking with someone on the other line as I leave.
- An example after such fine acting, is my attached picture taken on Crandon Beach, Key Biscayne called PALM SECRETS.
Muchas Gracias, Mr. Jaime Ferreyros!
As an added note, here is an article on Photographers’ Rights.