We are a visually driven society that wants things instantly. The evolution of Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, 500px and other sites makes this possible. Recently I stumbled onto the phenomenon of iPhoneography (think photography with an iPhone).
I found myself studying the culture more and I discovered the work of Emil Pakarklis. Emil Pakarklis is an excellent photographer who understands iPhoneography. His tutorials are awesome and his videos are very specific.
I decided to reach out to Emil and interview him about iPhoneography. You can check out the in depth interview below. Emil also provided me with some photos as well.
How long have you been interested in photography?
Emil Pakarklis: I've had some interest in photography for a long time, but I never really took it seriously. I just enjoyed snapping photos with someone else's DSLR, but I didn’t have one on my own.
All of this changed when I got my iPhone 4S in December 2011. It was the best camera that I had ever owned, and now I had it with me at all times. I soon began to take more and more photos, discovered the world of apps, started sharing my photos... and so my
passion for iPhoneography was born.
What caused you to create the iPhone Photography School and how popular is iPhoneography?
Emil Pakarklis: I started iPhone Photography School in May last year when there were many popular iPhoneography blogs and news sites already. These sites mostly focused on photo app news. However, there weren’t that many tutorials on how to take and edit better photos with the iPhone. While I was by no means a photography expert, I thought I could just share the things that I learned about taking and editing photos with the iPhone. And so I started sharing them on iPhone Photography School.
I was somewhat embarrassed by the name of the site at first since I was in no position to be a photography teacher, but that was pretty much the only domain name I could get with the words "iPhone Photography." Today iPhone Photography School is primarily focused on iPhoneography tutorials, interviews with iPhone artists, and a weekly photo contest on Instagram. More recently, I have also expressed my opinion about some major industry news such as the announcement of the new iPhones and the release of iOS 7.
As for the popularity of iPhone photography, there is no easy answer to that question. The iPhone has been the worlds' most popular camera in terms of photo uploads for years, and the explosive growth of Instagram only proves that. With a total of 700 million iOS devices sold, the iPhone is easily the best-selling camera of all times.
On the other hand, not that many people take iPhone photography seriously. For the majority of iPhone users the camera just happens to be in their phone, and they may occasionally take snapshots without giving it too much thought. Not that many people actually pay attention to the quality of their smartphone photos.
I love the fact that you share tips and tutorials that appeal to beginning photographers or seasoned veterans. Explain the feelings associated with helping others improve their photography skills?
Emil Pakarklis: Thanks Patrick!
It's the strangest thing ever. I never considered myself a photography expert, and I always thought that I was not a creative person. But after I had been sharing my tutorials for some time, people started to express gratitude and told me how much they had learned from me. It makes my day every time I get an email like that, and also motivates me to keep working when times are tough.
I also like your willingness to get others involved as evidenced the contests that you run. What caused you to organize contests and how effective have they been?
Emil Pakarklis: I initially started the contest to make people more engaged with the site and to give new photographers a chance to get their work featured. Overall, the contest has been a major success, and it played a key part in the growth of iPhone Photography School. At first the site got a lot more visitors every time the winners were featured.
Today I still enjoy organizing the contests because I get to review some truly amazing iPhone photography which always reminds me of the near-endless possibilities of the iPhone as a creative tool. The contest is also a great motivator for people to apply the
skills they have learned from my tutorials and elsewhere.
What apps do you use during your editing process?
Emil Pakarklis: Snapseed is my overall favorite (I have free video series teaching Snapseed), but there are so many amazing photo apps these days. An awesome app that I recently fell in love with is VSCO Cam, which has some really simple and great-looking editing options.
There are also many other apps that I use depending on the situation, such as ProHDR, AutoStitch, Camera+, PhotoNova 2, Filterstorm, Blender, ColorSplash, Aviary and Slow Shutter Cam.
In general, I prefer to keep my edits simple and focus on taking great photos. However, there are many amazing iPhone artists whose editing process is actually more creative than the photo capturing.
There is a common misconception that expensive equipment yields better photos. Do you believe that iPhoneographers are viewed as amateurs based on their choice of equipment?
Emil Pakarklis: I have certainly heard that argument, but at the end of the day it’s the quality of photos and what they express that determine how good they are. One only has to look at the photos of any of the thousands of really great iPhoneographers to change that opinion.
Of course, the iPhone’s camera has its limitations, particularly in low-light situations. On the other hand, the iPhone was the first device that made it was possible to take a photo, edit it using state-of-the-art photo editing software, and share it with the world so quickly.
The iPhone has democratized photography and photo editing, which used to be something that only professionals with expensive equipment could do. As more and more people are getting serious about photography, some old-school photographers are getting concerned and calling them amateurs.
What is your favorite genre of music?
Emil Pakarklis: I really don’t have one favorite genre. I listen to a strange combination of indie, electronic, rock, classical music, and old-school hip hop. I just listen to whatever artists I like without paying much attention to genres. The last gig I saw was Wu Tang Clan in Stockholm!
Who is your favorite photographer and why?
Emil Pakarklis: This is not an easy question to answer. There are so many talented photographers out there, both using traditional cameras and the iPhone. My favorite iPhoneographers are Richard Koci Hernandez, Susan Tuttle and Cedric Blanchon.
Would you mind sharing 5 simple ways that we can use to enhance our iPhone photos?
Emil Pakarklis: 1. Always have a clear main subject (or subjects) in your photos, which can be anything that first attracts the eyes of the viewer. If there is no main subject, the photo is empty, and there is no reason to take it. It’s a typical rookie mistake to photograph the sunset with nothing but the sky and sea in the frame, which on their own can’t attract the eyes of the viewer.
2. Always take a second to compose your shots. No editing can turn a bad photo into a good one, and proper composition is the easiest way to improve your photos. The rule of thirds is a good starting point, but you don’t want to follow it blindly. Also remember that composition should always serve to emphasize your main subject.
3. Do not over-edit your iPhone photos. The most common mistake I see is editing photos to the extent that they just look bad, which is easy to do with filters. If you follow the first two tips, your editing should only serve to enhance the composition, draw attention to the main subject, and add the right feel to the photo.
4. Always stay creative and keep experimenting. All of my best photos were taken when I took a second to step back, look at the scene, and see if there was another way to take the photo, change the angle, etc. This will not work well every single time, but that’s how you learn new things and get more interesting shots.
5. Pay attention to the interesting and beautiful things that you see around you… without even turning on your camera. In our fast-paced world many people have lost the ability to just look around and appreciate all the amazing things we get to see. When you start paying attention to them, your photography will also improve.
Any final words?
Emil Pakarklis: Just get up, turn off your computer, and go outside. Pay attention to everything you see, the people around you, the buildings, the nature, and try to take some photos. Don’t get obsessed with the results, they might not be that great at first. Focus on the process, and you will soon become a better photographer and more aware of the world around you.