A lot of fuss has been made about the Sun-Times' decision to replace staff photojournalists with freelancers and reporters with iPhones, the latter of which has been widely ridiculed. Stephen Colbert had a funny segment, striking the balance between funny-ha-ha and funny-sad, and the first story featuring a reporter-shot iPhone photo was quickly circulated in photographer social media circles.
Anybody who follows me on this blog, or The Pot-Luck or social media has seen that I am firmly in the anti-Sun-Times camp on this one. But while the idea that you can replace a trained photojournalist with a word reporter armed with an iPhone is laughable, here at the Herald and at most news outlets, mobile phone cameras have become a vital part of our day-to-day responsibilities.
With a constant push to keep our website and social media presence up-to-date, we often have to shoot an iPhone photo to send back from the assignment.
Sometimes you have the access to make it work just fine, like this bad wreck on Highway 395 last week:
Sometimes you do the best you can and work around the camera's limits, sticking with a wide shot in court during a recent hearing in Tashia Stuart's murder trial:
And sometimes you have no choice but to send a crappy photo back, like during this shooting in Finley back in March:
With police and sheriff's deputies requiring so much distance to work, there wasn't much to shoot from where I was and the digital "zoom" clearly took its toll on the image.
Juggling between the iPhone, which I enjoy shooting with during off-hours and to entertain myself with the fun and gimmicky Hipstamatic app, and my "real" camera got me thinking during the Dust Devils' first practice Monday. I decided to try all three in the short time I had before heading to the Stuart trial.
Some shots were easy to make with all three, be it DSLR,
The square framing and retro-cool settings of the Hipstamatic lends itself to certain types of shots and I enjoy snapping details while on assignment:
The square perspective does force you to look at a scene differently, though, like when the team warmed up with some Two Ball:
I also had to adjust my angles a bit when shooting the team's warm-ups with the DSLR,
Not only is the field of view different, but the lack of fully manual controls means you have to work around the iPhone's weaknesses when you're shooting. This is why I enjoy playing with the Hipstamatic's faux-lo-fi aesthetic so much. Yes, it's super gimmicky, but it's damned fun and the format hides some of the technical deficiencies. These
are cooler looking than these:
I do, however, avoid using that fun aesthetic as a crutch. A crappy photo with a cool filter is still a crappy photo, after all, and I try to match the looks you can get by combining virtual lenses and films to the subject I'm shooting. Here's hoping my faithful Instagram followers agree, since that's the app I almost always use for off-hours shooting. But even in the easy access of early practice, the iPhone's limitations are easily spotted.
Even a simple shot like this isn't possible, since you'd have to be uncomfortably close to your subject's face and being that close means your reflection would be very apparent in his shades:
Pros and other experienced shooters know the limits of their gear and, more importantly, how to work with and around those limits. It's easy to argue, like Ken Rockwell did, that an amateur shooting breaking news as it happens is far more valuable than keeping a stable of expensive pros on staff. But for every Hudson River landing, there are countless other botched documentations of the world around us.
Alex Garcia pointed this out after the Boston Marathon bombings. With so many more amateurs there than professionals, where are the iconic images made by those weekend warriors? As limiting as their non-professional equipment may have been, it was their lack of experience and honed instincts that really left them at a disadvantage.
To see what professionalism, experience and keen storytelling can really deliver...
Help Scott Strazzante Kickstart the book form of Common Ground. I had the privilege of seeing this project develop on A Photo A Day and it has served as a constant inspiration and reminder of how much better I want to be as a photojournalist. Seeing the higher end sponsorship options was a good reminder of how little money I make because if I could swing an $1,000 contribution to go shoot with Scott at the subdivision, it would be so worth it.
There are some exciting developments in developing-free photography, with some super sensitive sensors in the works.
With issues of digital privacy dominating the news, here's an interesting case of the old-fashioned kind, as photographer Arne Svenson is facing a lawsuit after surreptitiously photographing his New York neighbors.
And finally, a couple weeks after a Toronto Star reporter was arrested and ticketed with trespassing for taking pictures of an injured officer, a Reno photographer was cleared of charges stemming from an incident last year.