I got an email today advertising a $250 two-day workshop about iPhone Photography that I immediately scoffed at and wondered who would need two days of instruction to learn how to open the camera app, point the iPhone at something, and press the shutter button. Okay okay, you also have to learn how to hold the phone steady in low-light and turn the flash on or off, but still it’s no where near the amount of skill and knowledge you would need to operate a high-end camera with any kind of creativity.
That is until you factor in the filtering and post-processing apps. Photo filters have seen a resurgence in popularity since we can now install them on camera phones and easily post photos to all of our social networks. Back in the late 1990′s photo filters were all the rage with Adobe Photoshop. Anyone with the software could make images look like sketches, watercolor paintings, or oils on canvas. Of course, those types of effects eventually became over-used since they were too easy and obvious that they lost most of their creative value. Personally, I brought my own creative value to the table by programming my own Photoshop filters and keeping them for myself, but that’s another story.
In the days of iPhone photo apps you’ve got plenty of very easy one-press effects to apply to your photos to make them look more interesting. Just like in the days of Photoshop filters, iPhone filters kind of mask the lack of creative freedom that’s possible with the actual iPhone camera. On the other hand, the point can be made that many of these apps are actually useful tools for adding to your creative freedom.
Post-processing has always been a part of photography. We’ve always been able to increase our creative freedom after the original photo had been taken. Sure, years ago, it would take a lot longer to process the film and use dodge/burning/compositing techniques in a darkroom. Photoshop brought the post-processing into the desktop computer in the 90′s and now we have our little smartphone apps bringing post-processing right to the palm of our hands (unless you were a Windows Mobile user with Pocket Artist in which case you had it in the last decade).
Still, just like in the 1990′s when I could create a color photo composite in the darkroom with much better image quality than Photoshop on a computer at the time… desktop-based digital post-processing is still far superior in terms of quality and flexibility, but it looks like smartphone-based post processing could very well be the future. Though, just like the one-click filter effects of the 90′s it looks like we’ll have to struggle through some one-click filter effect garbage on the smartphones, before we get to the really good stuff.
Have you become a smartphone photo filtering addict or do you prefer the more pure camera-phone photos even if their image-quality isn’t that great?