Celebrating World Photo Day with a cautionary twist

world photo day

We live in an age of constant photography. It is not just that anyone can share a photo, but anyone can also look artistic doing it too, blurring the line between an amateur and professional photographer. Smartphone accessibility and a high-quality lense reduce the barrier to entry.

While we turned the camera inward with the egotistical selfie, technology has also turned photos into new formats like GIFs, Motion Stills, Prisma art pieces, Instagram Boomerangs and Hyperspaces. Movies are collections of photos as well, albeit frames laced together.

“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” – Ansel Adams 

Photography is just as much about process as is its end-product. Where, when and what camera predetermine the creation process. However, at its essence, photography is the art of noticing.

“The things that deserve our attention are often the things that allude our attention.” – Teju Cole

The challenge today as a photographer is abundance. Since the cloud backs up our photos automatically, we take as many as we want. It is impossible to sort through them let alone remember them. We are so busy capturing, as Om Malik put it, “we confuse photos on our smartphone as memories.” A camera’s memory is infinite; the human brain, distracted and full.

Multiple versions of a photo also make it difficult to select which image is best — companies like EyeM's The Roll and Microsoft Pix use algorithms to help us decide which version is right for Instagram and which is more suitable for Instagram or Snapchat Stories.

Viewing photos on social media comes with the same overwhelming abundance. 400+ Million photos are shared on Snapchat each day, and more than billion if you combine photos uploaded to Instagram and Facebook. It's impossible to sort through them all, so we depend on social networks to work their algorithms to show us what's best.

When we document everything we see, the images lose their meaning. On the other hand, we can look back at photos to see what we missed. Our photos will become the archives for the future to interpret.

The thing about photography is that it always records more than the photographer intends. Photography makes the past present at all times. It changed the world. It gave ordinary people access to their own pasts. – Elizabeth Edwards, In Our Time: The Invention of Photography

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Software ate the camera, but freed the photograph. It makes me uncomfortable, and if you care about cameras, it should make you uncomfortable, too. But — and here’s the trick — try to see if there isn’t something valuable in that discomfort, if it doesn’t bring with it a way to look at photography with fresh eyes, with new excitement.

Craig Mod

The camera phone is all I got. Analog is heavy.

If your relationship to photography revolves around story, and a direct connection to the network implicitly brings with it more who, what, where, when, why, and how, and the smartphone touches the network in the most indigenous, simplest possible way, then the smartphone may be the photographic tool for you.

But given all the sharing I'm starting to think that the networking effect of photography has also made it heavy. It's hard to see through the massive cloud of content.

I Want an iPhone Camera for Christmas

I’ve been searching around for a camera only option for Christmas but one more like the iPhone that fits in my pocket and looks less intrusive than a point and shoot.

There’s the Lytro camera but it looks like a telescope. I don’t want to be walking around NYC calling extra attention to myself. Then there’s the exclusive social camera called theQ. While it uploads to various social networks it also looks like your traditional camera. Again, I’m searching for something more discreet looking that has the body of a mobile phone.

Quality is also an issue. I don’t think these alternative cameras even take sharper snaps than iPhone 5S.

The iPhone consolidates everything (music, pictures, and Internet browsing) but sometimes I want a more focused experience like reading on the Kindle. I want a standalone camera shaped like the phone but with all the mobile editing features of Camera and VSCO plus social sharing of Flickr and Instagram.

If you know of any cameras like this please let me know in the comments.

Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s man of vision, now eyes up world domination

Increasingly, any new filters we make a bit more subtle because if you do too much to that photo you’re not necessarily going to want to look at it in 20 years.

I tend to scroll right through images that have been over-filtered to death. The point of a filter is to carefully augment the photo and the story, not to sensationalize it.  

#Nofilter is of course, the essence where nature determines your luck.

Minimal Mac: Worth A Thousand Words


While the tech blogosphere commences the self flagellation over getting it wrong on the whole “Apple needs a cheap iPhone and that’s why it is going to release the iPhone 5c” — with their whole developing markets yadda, yadda, thrown completely under the bus by the company they incorrectly…

Apple focussed solely on how they could use that massive and fast 64bit processor combined with industry first features and ideas to do one thing — give you the best looking photos. And, if you can get that right when you take the photo, you don’t need a bunch of software to “fix it in post”. It’s all about capture.

I always said if I were to upgrade my phone it’d be because of the much improved camera. #nofilter

Camera Second

“Can you hand me my camera?” my wife says.

If the Smartphone is a phone first, it’s definitely a camera second.

I use my Camera+ app more than anything else on my iPhone. If I’m not taking pictures, I’m reviewing the images already captures in the Lightbox.

A Smartphone’s camera is a huge selling point for me. So much so that I’m willing to abandon the iPhone for a Smartphone with a sharper camera. I just haven’t heard of one yet.

If Apple is going to retain mobile marketshare, it really needs to keep improving the quality of its phone’s camera resolution.

The world communicates in pictures. Pictures are the new status posts, although video is also rapidly emerging. Cameras need keep pace with us, not the other way around.

The Death of Photography Has Been Greatly Exaggerated


“One of the things we love about the still image is the way in which it can stimulate the imagination to create a fiction around an image. The fact that we can commit a single image to memory in a way that we cannot with video is a big reason photography is still used so much today.”

In short, photos are more memorable. They also tell a piece of the story which leaves the rest open to the imagination. Videos reveal too much, removing the mystery of the still moment.

Post-process: why the smartphone camera changed photography forever

“It’s the creativity with which you take and share the pictures that matters to me, not the camera.”

Like any notebook, it doesn’t matter what you camera you carry. What matters is the context in which you captured the moment.

We, the audience, are not responding to the sharpness, the clarity, the minimal chromatic aberration or lack thereof — the technical quality aspects of this imagery. We’re responding to the honesty; to the realism; and to the intimacy of the photographs people are posting on Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, etc. After all, we’ve never really seen it before. Or at least, not in such abundance.

Give the people something different, an untold story.

The Catch

The Internet unleashed an explosion of creativity, DIY, and interconnectedness.

Below is a list of some things you can do today without too much effort.

  • Remembering life’s key moments (Day One)
  • Taking a photo a day (Camera+)
  • Connecting with like-minded people (Twitter, Tumblr)
  • Customizing your news (Flipboard)
  • Monitoring your health (Fitbit)
  • Getting rewards for customer loyalty (Starbucks)
  • Publishing a book, a record, or other pice of art (Amazon Author)
  • Dumping and storing ideas (Evernote)

There’s an app for doing everything, all the time. Data is exploding but attention and productivity are imploding. We’re moving fast without going back and reviewing what we’ve actually done.

We need to make sense of what we produce, revisit and connect the dots. The devil is in the details.

Richard Mossee shot Infra with Kodak Aerochrome film.      In my practice, I struggle with the challenge of representing abstract or contingent phenomena. The camera’s dumb optic is intensely literal, yet the world is far from being simple or transparent. 
Richard Mossee shot Infra with Kodak Aerochrome film.      In my practice, I struggle with the challenge of representing abstract or contingent phenomena. The camera’s dumb optic is intensely literal, yet the world is far from being simple or transparent. 

The Right Tools: Apps That Will Save You Time and Headaches

As a worker, blogger, and commuter I’m always searching for the right tools to capture content.

Here’s the breakdown of a some essential apps that will help you on the go or at the desk. It took me a while to realize these were the best tools so I hope it helps save you time and money.

The Toolkit

Instapaper: Use this to save your favorite articles across the web. Those articles are like pennies you may never use but at least you know where they’re saved when you need to come back to them. You may also want to create categories to classify those articles further. I have built folders for anything social media related to health.

If you use Google Reader or even the Safari browser on Mac or iOS, make sure you install the “Read Later” Instapaper button for instant one click saving.

Evernote: I resisted using Evernote for years. The UI was a bit clunky and I had other ways to dump content. However, the last two months at work have been nuts and I needed a quick reference tool for all my notes and next steps on projects. Basically, Evernote saved me from rummaging through my Microsoft Inbox to find that important email. It also enabled me to send people a URL of clean summarized notes with snapshots and examples. Additionally, I use Evernote to dump blog posts ideas.

Scrivener: If you’re a writer and publisher this is your best tool. Scrivener excels in keeping your chapters formatted as you visualize them and most importantly, compiling the finished product in the right file format for distribution to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes.

The program is as advanced as you want it to be.

Drafts app: The best notebook is the one you have with you. The Drafts app is the quickest way to record and store any idea, opening right up to a blank page. Once you get your idea down, you can also share it everywhere with one click: to social networks, Evernote, Day One, et al.

I write my blog posts on Drafts and then copy it in Markdown. This saves me time from manually entering HTML on the Tumblr app.

Day One: This is the modern digital diary. It’s beautifully designed to collect private thoughts and memories in a clean, easy to navigate interface. I’ve been writing in Day One daily for more than a year. I love scanning back to a random entry and seeing where I was and futuring to see where I want to go next.

Dropbox: Dropbox is the definition of cloud access. I keep all my files on Dropbox, off my computer so I can access them from anywhere. I also use Dropbox to save all my images. I even have an ifft recipe set up to save each of my Instagram photos.

Camera+: Camera+ should be your default camera app for iPhone. It opens fast, allows rapid shots, cool filters, focus tools to avoid tilt, and instant share options.

All of these tools, minus Scrivener, are available as Smartphone and desktop apps and share everything in the cloud for ubiquitous access.

What’s in your tool Arsenal and why is it so useful? Please chime in on the comments below.

Camera+ is now available on the iPad

Camera+ is now available on the iPad.   It’s the best mobile photography investment you’ll make.  Unlike the iPhone’s native camera, you can snap multiple photos on Camera+ within a second.  There’s no start and stop.    It also upsells many neat filters you can’t find in Instagram.  I take virtually all my photography using Camera+.  It also offers easy sharing across multiple social networks including Flickr.