Critique is an essential part of the iPhoneography process. Most of us probably prefer to self critique, I know I do. Ultimately, it results in a self curated collection of iPhoneography images.
‘You’ve been Framed’ is a simple black and white iPhoneography edit but it made me consider how I critique my own iPhoneography. It’s been in my thoughts so much recently that I decided to devote an article to it.
There are so many technical tutorials on capturing the scene. Looking at areas such as the exposure triangle 1, rules of composition 2, depth of field 3, etc. There are perhaps even more on processing techniques be they iPhoneography app based or not.
I should just take a moment at this stage to ask you to stick with me. These thoughts will probably sound like the random musings of a madman. I’d be very interested to get comments on this and if readers wish to share external resources they’ve found particularly helpful for critique then please do.
One of the most important aspects of the process can get overlooked, the importance of self critique and self curation.
When I’ve been asked for tips, learning to self critique and self curate is always high on the list.
As opposed to technical aspects, I don’t believe this is an area that can be taught. It is perhaps akin to a sense that gets tuned with experience. I guess there are groups throughout the social media networks and various organisations such as AMPt and Mobitog that would no doubt assist. I’ve just chosen to find my own path.
I suspect that all of us look back at our library of published iPhoneography images and wonder, “What was I thinking? Did I go through any sort of reflective critique process?” I know that question goes through my mind when I revisit old images. I suspect in the future when I review images I’m sharing now I will have similar thoughts. One thought I cling to though is that it is all part of the process of developing, experimenting, reflecting and ultimately learning.
Whilst I can’t write an article on how to self curate / self critique, I can at least take the opportunity to emphasise the importance of it as a learning process.
In reality, it’s very rare that I get myself into a situation of uncertainty. I either like something or I don’t. It either works or it doesn’t. That got me thinking though, am I missing the point?
Am I not questioning myself?
Am I not critiquing my work in a challenging enough way?
Am I too comfortable in what I do?
Am I robotic or formulaic or worse still unimaginative or lacking in creativity?
Should I be agonising over captures and edits more?
These are all rhetorical questions but they are questions I started asking myself. Then I started questioning my questions.
Self Critique – “I either like something or I don’t”
Is that really self critique? It can’t be black or white, there have to be shades of grey. There must always be room for improvement. For me it boils down to the standards I set myself and how much time I’m prepared to allow to achieve them. If I can’t achieve them I have to self curate and not publish.
Is there anything wrong with being formulaic and comfortable?
Is that the definition of personal style?
If it is, how do I develop and grow. How does my style evolve. Does it change naturally over time during periods of experimentation?
What is stopping me experimenting more?
Has self critique and the self curation process restricted me from moving forward?
These are also all rhetorical questions but you can see I started pulling myself in all sorts of directions. I still haven’t come up with any answers except to say that I firmly believe self critique and self curation are critical aspects of iPhoneography and in fact any artistic undertaking.
Self critique may result in ‘playing safe’ and this is something I need to keep a watchful eye on.
Anyway back to the point.
This is the iPhoneography image responsible for putting these thoughts into my mind. It’s a nice capture. I like it. I can do lots with it. I may do a textured version at some point but for now I am content with my black and white style. My problem was more subtle. I created 2 different black and white versions and I really struggled choosing. In actual fact I would happily have published either. Both passed my self critique tests.
My answer in the end was simple, I merged the two together to get the elements from both versions that I liked. In many aspects of life this just isn’t possible. A compromise normally involves giving something away that you want. In this case there was no compromise, I got the best of both worlds.
Critique is not black and white. It’s shades of grey.
Some may prefer one version over the other and that is absolutely fine. Me, I like the final version and that is the version I published after going through my process of self critique.
Process and apps used
A quick step by step process to get to the base image:
ProCamera7 – capture landscape ratio (3,264 x 2,448).
Handy Photo – magic crop to create a square image. This was achieved by auto-cloning the foggy sky upwards to fill the square and create an impressively large resolution for an iPhoneography image (3,268 x 3,268).
Instaflash Pro – adjust various levels, clarify and sharpen (3,268 x 3,268).
Handy Photo magic crop is a wonderful tool and is covered in my short video:
Handy Photo Magic Crop – Around 2 minutes long including introductions:
Version 1 – CameraBag 2
CameraBag2 – Italiano v1 filter (3,268 x 3,268).
Snapseed – convert to black and white (3,268 x 3,268)
Version 2 – Oggl
Oggl – John S Lens / Alfred Infrared film (3,264 x 3,264).
Snapseed – convert to black and white (3,264 x 3,264).
Basically I liked both versions:
I am trying to use the Alfred Infrared frame at the moment as much as possible. It’s just a phase I’m going through.
I liked the more foggy impression given in the centre of the Oggl version.
I liked the detail in the tree leaves in the CameraBag 2 version.
I definitely liked the definition of the wooden tree protectors in the CameraBag 2 version.
It occurred to me that basically, I liked the lighter aspects of both images.
The solution therefore was very straight forward. I imported both images into Superimpose and combined them under the lighten blend method. No masking was required and the result gave me what I was looking for – the best elements of both images. (3,268 x 3,268).
When working with black and white images you may suffer from a phenomenon known as ‘purple creep’. Basically, as the images are edited a purple tint starts to appear. Within Superimpose this can be eliminated by going to the filters screen and reducing saturation for both the foreground and background image.
To be on the safe side, when importing a black and white image into Instagram I edit it by reducing saturation by the maximum amount.
Get the iPhoneography apps mentioned in this article
Apps used in this article:
ProCamera7 my preferred iPhone camera replacement app offering both JPEG and TIFF formats together with separate focus and exposure points along with many other features
Handy Photo using the very appropriately named magic crop tool to boost canvas and resolution well beyond standard IOS sizes
Instaflash Pro. I’ve been using the Pro version of this iPhoneography app more and more recently having grabbed it when it went free. Very impressive and powerful editing app giving fine control in a very user friendly environment
Snapseed a must have free iPhoneography app (Originally by Nik now owned by Google). Used in this article for the black and white conversion
Superimpose my personal go to app for layers masking and blending processes
So now you’ve read them, do these thoughts sound like the random musings of a madman? I’d be very interested to get comments on this and if readers wish to share external resources they’ve found particularly helpful for critique then please do. Please follow my Facebook Page to keep up to date not only on my articles but also on my image a day and deals and updates on the apps I use.
- ‘Each of the three aspects of the triangle relate to light and how it enters and interacts with the camera. The three elements are: ISO – the measure of a digital camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. Aperture – the size of the opening in the lens when a picture is taken. Shutter Speed – the amount of time that the shutter is open…’
‘Learning about Exposure – The Exposure Triangle‘ by Digital Photography School ↩
- ‘In photography, it’s not just what you shoot that counts – the way that you shoot it is crucial, too. Poor photo composition can make a fantastic subject dull, but a well-set scene can create a wonderful image from the most ordinary of situations…’
‘10 rules of photo composition (and why they work)‘ by Digital Camera World ↩
- ‘In optics, particularly as it relates to film and photography, depth of field (DOF) is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image…’
‘Depth of field‘ Wikipedia ↩