If Only You Had Your Real Camera

A Story About How I Took Back My Hobby

I love photography. I love looking at beautiful works of art, on sites such as 500px or Flickr. On occasion, I also very much enjoy trying my hand at photography myself. While I may not be very good at it, it doesn’t stop me enjoying it. It’s my hobby.

According to Dictionary.com, the word hobby is defined as:

An activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation.

Keep this in mind, it’ll be important later.

My main camera is a Canon EOS 500D. While not the newest, most powerful or generally impressive of devices, it does an admirable job, and it makes me feel like a real photographer while I’m using it. The thing is, quite often, I find my time with the camera neither pleasurable or relaxing, so can my time using the camera really be called a hobby? My main issues with using it are as follows:

  1. Any time I take the camera out has to be a planned trip, generally specifically designed to use the camera. I have to make sure it’s somewhere I can go to with a bag 1, or where I have time or the ability to stop and change lenses etc. and it has to be somewhere worth going so I can get some decent shots.
  2. The Canon camera I have isn't huge, or particularly heavy, but it does need careful handling, to avoid bumps or dust. Heck, it feels like you could do some sort of damage to a SLR with a stern glance.
  3. Most images you see in magazines or newspapers have been edited. The best photos on 500px and similar sites have been edited also. So even after parts 1 and 2 above have been taken care of, there is still a general need to do some kind of post-processing. The images need to be uploaded to my iMac, copied into Lightroom, edited and then finally shared.

I recently went on a very fun photo walk with my brother, in London, and took my trusty Canon with me. I also had another little something in my pocket as well. A certain something that is always in my pocket, come rain or shine. While time spent with my SLR is time that needs to be carefully planned, I wouldn't even know the time without this. It is, of course, my iPhone.

I took one or two semi-decent pictures with my SLR, but my favourites were by far those that I took with my iPhone. The photos taken with the device were easier to capture, more convenient and easily shared via Flickr, Twitter or Instagram. The following image, while again, not amazing, took a few moments to take, and allowed me to capture the family, in awe of the beautiful building, in a far more subtle and suitable way:

An iPhone image taken in London and edited in VSCOCam and Snapseed.

The image doesn't have the required resolution for me to see it hanging in a gallery anywhere, but let’s be honest, that’s never going to happen anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, when the time is right for me to use my SLR I have a great time doing it and, while I still have a lot to learn when it comes to using my camera, a big part of photography is the composition, which can still very much be learnt whilst using an iPhone. An image doesn't have to be 100+ megapixels in size, or pin sharp with perfect composition to be a work of art. As Ansel Adams once said:

There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.

I often share an iPhone image to Twitter, or other social media sites, only to be greeted by the words: ‘If only you took your proper camera.’ I’m always a little thrown by this statement. Not because I’m particularly upset or concerned by the comment, but, I guess, I just don’t get it. There seems to be a feeling around that the camera makes the photo, not the photographer. The following image, taken with an iPhone, by the very talented Kim Hankskamp illustrates my point perfectly:

Image by Kim Hankskamp (http://kimhanskamp.tumblr.com)

Kim’s image was recently awarded 1st place in the ‘People’ category in the 2013 iPhone Photography Awards, and is extremely reminiscent of a well known image of Sharbat Gula, a young Afghan girl. The image was taken by National Geographic Society photographer Steve McCurry and is undoubtedly a work of art. The image was taken in 1984, so the chances are the original negative wasn't amazingly high resolution, yet it’s quality cannot be denied. The same can be said, in my opinion, about iPhone images. If the composition of the shot is to your liking, then the image is art. Whether anyone but you likes it is not the point at all.

My 3rd point, mentioned above, when discussing the aspects of SLR photography that frustrated me a little, was the editing required to get the most of the images. Another thing I love about iPhone photography is just how easy it is to get some very decent editing done. The new iPhoto app has some great options, such as a noise reduction brush. Some other highlights are the wonderful Snapseed from Nik Software / Google and the equally impressive VSCOCam. While I have fun, on occasion, using Lightroom, editing with an iOS device can be far more accessible and quicker.

The above commentary makes me sound extremely lazy, which I appreciate, but it also marks a point where any photography I do, be it through an iPhone or SLR, will be because I like the image and I had fun taking it. It will not be aimed at a stranger giving me a +1 on Google+ or a like on Instagram. It’s very flattering if anyone out there likes any photo I take, which will be an added bonus and not a primary motivator. I think, by adjusting my thinking in this way, I’ll get a lot more photography done which will in turn improve my technique, even on an iPhone. This may even, eventually, lead others into getting as much enjoyment out of my photography as I do.

If you’re interested you can find some of my stuff on Flickr, 500px, Google+, Instagram and VSCO

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