I did some searching on what other people are doing with their iPhones. I’ve been following Davide Capponi’s blog for quite a while now; he demonstrates that it’s possible to create art with the iPhone.
For now, I’m not after art so much as just discovering what’s achievable for people who don’t want to be photographers. I’ll worry about the next level when . . . well, when I’m ready for the next level.
I decided to further explore the Hipstamatic app. I found a blog post by photo journalist Antonio Olmos; he shares inspiring street images shot with Hipstamatic in Derry, Northern Ireland.
I learned Hipstamatic creates effects based on three components: the “film” you choose, the “lens” you choose, and the “flash” you choose (if you use flash). Basically, it mimics the effects of retro equipment in software. I also discovered that while it comes with one package of lens, film, and flash choices, you can purchase more for $.99 a pack.
I decided to start by imitating. I purchased the pack that included the lens and film options used by Antonio Olmos (at least, I thought they were the same).
On my next walk with Tisen through our daily haunt, I went armed with the Hipstamatic app set with what I thought was the Helga lens and the c-type Tintype film. Somewhere along the line, I ended up with the D-Type film and some other lens. This may have been because a) I was holding the phone and Tisen’s leash in the same hand, and b) Hipstamatic has a feature that randomly selects settings if you shake the camera.
A few words about using Hipstamatic.
First, I left the app on the entire time I was walking and discovered my iPhone 4S battery died after only 30 minutes. This was the shortest period of time my phone ever lasted. I need to upgrade iOS, which might help, but I suggest turning off the screen (by pressing the button on top of the phone until the screen goes dark) when not shooting. On the plus side, Hipstamatic did not lose any of my images when the phone shutdown unexpectedly.
Second, the Hipstamatic mimics medium-format film, which, in a word, is square. Having practiced viewing the world through a rectangle for many years now, I found this disconcerting. For example, I kept looking at the scene and making decisions like, “I think I’ll shoot that vertically so I can get some sky.”
In fact, I turned my phone vertically on several occasions, feeling rather foolish by the third time I made that mistake. I mentally smacked my forehead and said out loud, “Oh yeah, it’s a SQUARE!” Tisen seemed perplexed by my commentary, but he’s pretty used to me talking to myself by now.
Third, some images have vignetting (in this case, dark corners) and some don’t. Sometimes it occurs in the top two corners, sometimes only one. I haven’t quite figured out what causes the variability.
Finally, even Tisen looks nostalgic using this combination of settings in the app. While the effect is fun, the one thing I don’t like about Hipstomatic is you get what you get. You can’t undo the tintype effect and try something else.