Monday, October 8, 2012

My thoughts on the Hipstamatic app.

I have now been shooting with my iPhone for more than a year and have downloaded a number of apps to experiment with and then have chosen those that help me obtain my vision of what I am trying to achieve.  I was taught at the Alberta College of Art and Design to test and learn what different film, developers, processes, equipment, etc. can do and how to utilize them to achieve the results I was after.  The thought was that once you can gain an understanding of these you could produce consistent results over again as you needed.  The more styles you learned, the more tools you had at your disposal to be artistic or to create what a client was after.

As I have moved forward in to the digital realm, I found with my DSLR that I still liked to shoot in the manual mode for more control, but otherwise I kept things pretty simple.  It was not till I started taking pictures with my iPod touch and then the iPhone that I started to experiment with the world of apps.  Some, like Snapseed, have become my staple working in conjunction with the native camera in the devices.  A number of other apps I have tried, but found that they did not suit my style or vision.  Yet a few though I continue to explore and experiment with as I am still not sure about them yet.

Hipstamatic is one of those apps and the one I will discuss today.  Probably the main reason I do not shoot with it as much as I do the native camera is that it gives you a look based on what you choose and then gives you results that are pretty well final (a few others like RetroCamera, WoodCamera and Leme Cam are the same way).  While you can bring the final results into Snapseed or iPhoto for some teaking or cleaning the results are based on what you choose at the time you push the shutter.

I'm not knocking this as it does make one have to fully explore the app and understand the look each film stock and lens choice can give you.  There are 15 actual Paks in the Hipstamatic family as well as the Multiple Exposure Kit, the PopTone Case Pak and two stand alone apps, IncrediBooth and SwankoLab.  The last three really have no bearing on the styles available.  However with so many combinations, 23 lenses, 22 films, 10 flashes (which I have not experimented with at all yet) it can be hard to remember all the different looks that are achievable. Now you can view the Hipstamatic field guide to get information on each feature individually, however there are not always enough examples to get a feel for each of them.  The best way is to test it yourself in a variety of combinations.

Now I have tried this myself and have found that I do tend to lean more to the Black & White films more often then not.  I find that with colour I still prefer to shoot native and then change later.  What I have not kept as close an eye on is the lenses, but the last few outings have made me more aware of some of the unique features.  This is one of the things I am sharing today.  The following two photo's were made with the Salvador 64 lens which has an inherent double exposure built in. It can be used with any film stock and thus give some versatility here for creativity. The first image was taken with BlacKeys B&W (my favorite) and the double exposure is a slightly enlarged version layered behind. (I added the tone later in Snapseed by adjusting the white balance - my Instagram 366 for today).

The second photo was taken with the RTV Shout! film stock which gives a variety of sayings when you take the photo's (I have no idea how many sayings are available at this time - more testing needed).  The Salvador 64 lens did the second exposure at an angle on the axis this time.  This is probably the best example of one of my concerns with the Hipstamatic app.  There still seems to be a fair amount of randomness and chance to the images you take.  While some of the paks seem more stable, I do see a problem if you want to have a set look that you have pre-visualized first.  While this is not necessarily bad, it does take some of the creative control from the photographer.
I have re-posted this image from a couple of day's ago as an example of the Double Exposure Kit..  this feature is added to all the cameras once you purchase the kit. I do like this more then the randomness of the Salvador 64 lens.  I can now plan my shot and execute it with a little more control.  You do have to remember the positioning of each of the two images (you can only do 2 at this time) but that is no different then when trying the same with roll film.
So in conclusion I would say that if you are a total control freak you will find apps like Hipstamatic and the other's mentioned frustrating.  If you like "Happy Surprise's" these apps are perfect for mixing and matching and seeing what develops. Yet if your in the middle like me, all you can do is test, test and test some more till you gain sufficient knowledge that you can keep some semblance of control while embracing the little bits of randomness that do occur.

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