Journey through pictures

By @thethreeshot. You can support him through the RAW event, Sydney.

A little over a year ago, I laid out my photography process on this post. My approach was simple; when I run into moments, I whip out my iPhone and take the shot. As far as post-processing goes, I would simply apply an Instagram filter and share.

I can no longer live by that process.

I now look to run into moments and not just wait for them. I now also have a mirrorless camera and post process with gusto.

The change in process and gear has pushed me to explore more and has given me confidence to collaborate with a few people.

The results are better than before:

 

The BIG difference between iPhone and a serious camera

Quality is the obvious difference. But I found that psychology is just as important. Let me explain.

When I take the Fujifilm with me, I tend to look for the big headline grabbing shots. In stark contrast, when I don’t have it with me, I tend to take simpler life moments with the iPhone as it’s always with me.

On the flip side, having the mirrorless has made me explore more. I can now go out and shoot during low light situations for example and have the confidence that the shot will turn out fine.

I have also been able to collaborate more with my mirrorless as the other person will tend to take you more seriously. Admittedly, I felt a little bit embarrassed when I first went for a shoot with someone with just the iPhone.

iPhone

Phone

iPhone 7+ 

Karlee and crown.jpg

Camera

Fujifilm X-A3 on 18mm

 

Perception is a killer and although I was fine with the iPhone, I really felt that others did not share my view. I know I shouldn’t have given in to peer pressure, but at the same time, I really haven’t looked back.

Post processing

I approximately take 15–30 mins to post process a photo, which isn’t that bad considering some of my peers can take days.

I use a combination of Affinity photo and apps to post-process as follows.

Affinity

I take the shots straight from the camera and do minor tweaks with white balance, highlights, curves and the other usual suspects. On the odd occasion, I would completely change the colour of an object.

After the edits, I export the result and do a few more edits with a few apps.

Total time spent: 5 mins.

Prime

Prime is my go to for applying styles. Like other applications, Prime allows me to select my style/preset and adjust it even more to my taste, then I am able to save that style as a fave.

There is a plethora of great styles to choose from and selecting one is an easy process.

Total time spent: ~1 minute.

Retouch

This app is my go to for getting rid of unwanted objects. There are several apps that do this, including Affinity and Snapseed, but Retouch makes the process easy.

I find the results to be more accurate than its peers which saves a lot of time.

Total time spent: ~1 minute.

Snapseed

This is my go-to post processing app. It is feature-rich from the Selective feature (adjust specific area), to Lens Blur and to other more generic tools like alignment, curve adjustment and more.

It’s an all-in-one app that mirrors the essentials of big post applications like Affinity and Lightroom, with simplicity which like most of the above, saves time.

Total time spent: 10 minutes.

After post processing the apps, I send the final image to the Mac for that final check before posting the shot.

Collaborating with others

I started off taking shots of my surroundings and myself. Pretty soon I realised that I really wanted to capture portraits of other people to grow as a photographer.

And I really got bored of myself.

Approach

Finding people to collaborate with is tough to begin with particularly when I had no portrait shots of others in my portfolio.

I started off taking self-portraits and graduated by asking a few friends to do photoshoots. Then I asked my friends to see if they had any other contacts who were interested.

image.JPEG

 

Reaching out to the active and local Instagram community was easier once I had a few shots of others. The response rate increased and the portfolio started to grow.

Vibe

Capturing others is a big challenge and to help make it easier, I try to ensure that I capture their raw energy and overall vibe.

Before going on a photoshoot, I scan the Instagram profile of the individual and determine their ‘type’. Are they an outdoor individual? Do they like street/urban feel? Are they a hipster and so on.

It’s then a process of letting the other person know what you have in mind in terms of location, outfit and accessories — always keeping in mind that the shoot had to remain consistent with the individual’s vibe. This achieves 2 things: (1) it makes sure that the other person is comfortable and as a result (2) it makes the shoot easier.

The only exception to this process is when the person comes forward and says that they have a particular idea (mood, location) in mind, in which case I mix it up.

Equipment

Now for some boring small details:

  • Fujifilm X-A3 and X-T20. I absolutely adore my Fujis. These days, I’m using the T20 but the good thing about both is that the end result makes the post process easy (whereas others can spend hours on a photo, I generally take minutes).
  • 23mm f2 and 18–55mm f2.8–4 lens. The 23mm is my go-to when taking portraits and mid-range street shots. The quality is superb even during low light situations. The 18–55mm is one that I pull out when I know in advance that Ill be taking shots from a distance, like taking shots of other from a far away cliff (as I do).
  • iPhone 7+. I still use the iPhone simply because it’s always with me. Although the quality is not as good as a mirrorless, they still look great particularly after edits.
  • Joby stick. I rely heavily on my Joby when doing self portraits or when I want a part of myself in the scene (along with the Fujifilm app for control). No branch is tricky enough for the Joby to wrap it’s tentacles around!
  • iPhone tripod. I use the tripod like the Joby and together with remote control, I use the tripod when I want to get myself in the scene somewhere.
  • Other accessories. I have a slew of other accessories ranging from lights (sparkle, torches) to smoke bombs and masks among others. I even have my GoPro Hero 4 in my bag at all times. Admittedly, these only come out when the location and mood calls which unfortunately is not often enough, but they’re there.

RAW Sydney

After 300 photo’s, I’ve been approached by the guys at Raw to take part in their exhibition on Nov 30.

I’ll be the first to admit that I had no idea who they were. But after having a look at their site and the diverse collection of participating artists, I am glad to state that there is a match!

If you’re a Sydney local, or if you so happen to be around town in Nov 30, come down and support this local Raw artist.

You can grab the tickets from this link. I’m always open and happy to exchange more details of my journey so far.

And you can always follow me on Instagram here.


EndNote

Photography and being a creative feels quite natural to me. The process of designing a product and imagining the next shot triggers the same creative juices.

The only difference being, developing software takes a wee bit more time.

iPhone photography

One of the most challenging questions I have received from a newbie of an Instagram group that I ran was “I want to take good pictures. Can you show me what to do?” Now I am an iPhone only happy-snapper so I was quite flattered that this person even asked.

I answered her question by rabbiting on about focussing and to keep things simple, being conscious about light, the rule of thirds, contrast, blah blah blah. I lost her after a minute, so I had to take a step back and say “what about I write a post about it and share it with you.

This is not a technical article on photography. As I said I am an iPhone guy.

I can best describe myself as someone who likes taking moments because frankly, that’s what you do with your phone. I generally focus on capturing culture — walls, beaches, people etc. The best photos I take are usually random and as such, I like storing that moment as it is with very little post-processing.
What I’m not at ‘the moment’ (pardon the pun) is a heavy camera with equipment guy that goes to a location and waits for a specific moment to come to him. I run into moments, I don’t set-up shop and wait around for them.

And it goes without saying that I don’t do client work and I also don’t take photos with intent of having them framed in the back of my mind (but I’d be more than happy to frame shots if the photo ends up that way).

So let me start with what catches me as a photographer.

Things that catch my eye

Studying my photos, I have 5 broad categories that catch my eye.

Colour

I love colour and a big portion of my collection is dedicated to all the wondrous colour we have all around.

The bolder the colour combo, the more likely I’ll be tempted to grab my phone and take the shot.

 

Culture

Just like art preserves culture, I like to think that my pictures represent the ‘sign of the times’ i.e. the current and changing times.

I don’t consciously go out and think “what part of the times should I capture today?”. This is more an unconscious choice, so there must be something in my subliminal that attracts me to this area of the world.

 

Things that are different

This is often the hardest thing to find as most everything has already been done to death. But I guess I like focussing on things that are not so run-in-the-mill.

Now that I look back on the pics that I have, I can see that all of them are a combination of man-made structures framed against nature.

 

Well designed

There are so many aesthetically pleasing, well designed spaces and objects out there.

These things continually inspire me to write, design, and build things — even if they are completely unrelated to what I do. I draw inspiration from these things to get me in the mood to create.

 

Note: to be fair, I draw inspiration from most everything I share.

The beautiful world

I quite enjoy taking pictures of nature and it’s beautiful surroundings.

Like most of my shots, I don’t overthink the moment. I simply see it, whip out the phone, take the shot, then swiftly put the phone away as I really need to savour each moment as much as I can.

 

Taking the money shot

When I see something of interest, I do a few things to make sure I capture what I see on the frame while minimising the distracting elements around it.

Circling the subject

Stop if you’ve heard this before: You see something interesting, you take a shot, review the snap, then come to the conclusion that you’re unhappy with the result (too much noise in the background, lighting is all wrong, the main features don’t stand out etc.).

These days I walk around the subject in order to find the best angle for the shot. The lighting, for example, could be better a few paces to the right, or it could be that the defining features of the subject are best presented when you’re a few steps to the left. It’s really hard to say sometimes but taking a few pics while circling will at least provide choices.

Zooming in (or out)

Some snaps look better with just a little bit of natural background in the frame. Others look better with a lot.

Pinching to zoom in and out enables me to focus on the main subject, ensuring that I capture just enough of the limelight as it warrants.

Walking backwards and forward

Similar to pinching the screen, the focus here is keeping the main object as clean as can be without noise.

I usually keep my hand positioned so that the camera is pointing to the object and walk backwards and forwards until I am happy.

Portrait and Landscape

Some images look naturally better in portrait mode. Others look better when you flip the phone sideways and take landscape shots.

This trick really depends on the subject and it’s surrounding.

Taking lots of shots

It’s a little bit arrogant to think that I can land the money shot with a single shot (and it gets even trickier when the subject is in motion). That’s when I start to use burst mode or I simply keep snapping as I move.

I found it easier to find ‘the money shot’ when there are a few photos to select from.
I take a few shots while circling, changing angles, pinching, walking backwards and forwards and flipping the phone. Then it’s really a matter of looking at all the pics you have taken and selecting the best one.

Of course, there’s a bit of work to do in selecting the right photo after you’ve taken a few shots. Then it’s a matter of doing some final edits before sharing the pics to the world.

Post processing

I do very little post processing compared to others that I know who spend hours on end. More often than not, I am a filter away from publishing a shot — as I prefer to keep the picture as natural as when I saw it.

Here are my quick essentials which rely on the built-in editing capability on the iPhone and the filters on Instagram.

Cropping

I tend to leave most of my pics with their natural background in place.

There are times however when I might have overshot the picture and have left too much of the background than the image warrants. This is when I tend to crop things out to remove the noise.

 

Brightness

I reserve changing the brightness setting for night photography or when the shots turn out too dark.

 

I’ve never really had to do the reverse and darken a photo, which is always an option, but it’s just not my style.

Filters

The main point here is to keep it clean and to keep it bright (which is more astyle-thing than anything else).

I usually stick to 1 or 2 filters depending on the shot. For the outdoors, I usually go with Gingham to accentuate the light.

 

And I usually go Juno when I want to emphasize colours.

I use these filters on Instagram with the prior pictures that I’ve taken in mind. When I look back to my body of work, I want to make sure that there’s a consistent theme and mood that a group of photo sets.

Black and White

I don’t generally do Black & White shots at the moment (it might change in the future, but natural colour is my thing).

I only really reserve Black & White filters for (a) when I really do like the main subject in the picture but there are too many distracting elements that surround it and (b) occasionally there are some pics that really tend to look better in B&W to capture the mood.

 

B&W pics are few and between (but who knows what the future holds).

And I don’t use Photoshop

I’m just not a big post processing guy that’s all and I like my snaps to say it like it is.

The less polish, the more realness.

Another thing that works against potential photoshop use is time. I just don’t have time to fiddle around in other applications before I publish. I have a lot of moments and I like sharing them the way it is.

I’ll leave the heavy post-processing and photoshop work to the people who do client work or are into the heavy polish.

Why iPhone only

I’ve heard what photographers have to say about iPhone-only guys. But to be honest, everyone is different and it’s as simple as that. My objective and use could very well be different to the next guy. I’m an in-the-moment guy, not aset-the-scene man. I, for the most part, will happily stop and pop out a shot every so often and I’m quite happy doing just that.

I also like repeating the ol ‘The best camera is the one you have with you’ spiel. And I’ll try to explain that by going over what I mentioned in the opening:

Moments equal my iphone, it’s always with me and it’s easier to capture the random nature of moments with something that’s always with you.
The moment might come around walking on the same street every single day. The light could be shining a little bit differently at an object, or I could be passing through at a slightly different angle. When the beauty of the object reveals itself, that’s when the phone comes out.

The stars might only align every so often, but I’m sure glad that I have my phone with me to capture that moment.

The flexibility of Instagram

Instagram is anything you want it to be. It is so flexible that it allows you to capture moments and publish at the same time, or you can capture moments and do a #lategram (unlike Snapchat ‘snaps’ that disappear).

You can immaculately manicure and add a lot of polish to your shots or you can do very little.

You can add videos, stories, quotes, sillies, share photos of your artwork / doodles or anything else you might want to brand.

Or you can do a combination of all of the above.

The many different types of users and uses should really be celebrated. There’s no right / wrong way to use it. Let’s celebrate the platform and it’s diversity for what it is.

People I admire

There are so many ridiculously great people out there that I admire who either take photos for a living or are just sharing moments (and others that take photos for a living but just share moments on Instagram — there’s a big difference as I’ve pointed out).

Here, in no particular order, are a few guys I enjoy following:

These guys and a slew of others on Instagram are a great source of inspiration.

Sharing moments sometimes help inspire others to create, or it can simply make others feel good about the world. And that’s worth sharing.


About this post

I also felt compelled to write this post because of my dear friends: the Canon / Nikon / pro crew. They have been grilling me from time to time about buying real equipment. Guys — I’ll get to it one day.

..but hang on, the iPhone 7 is coming out!

n.b. This article was first published in Medium by @helloperryc