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The iPhone: A Photographer’s Sketchbook September 23 2015, 0 Comments

Often times we associate a certain camera with a type of photographer, the Landscape photographer with a view camera, and the street photographer with a Leica. Each camera influences the way we see, react and compose a photograph. It affects the way we process and edit our work. Resulting in many photographers taking preference to one over another. Not often enough do we see photographers experimenting with different cameras, relinquishing preconceived notions, and allowing the camera to influence the work they create. It is also too often that the photographic community feels threatened by new cameras, and condemns them before they have a chance. In the last few years the iPhone, and other mobile phone cameras have been in the hot seat.


A recent technology review in the Wall Street Journal boasts that the new DxO One, a sensor and lens adaptor for the iPhone, is as good or better than your DSLR. And Annie Leibovitz commended the iPhone as the “snapshot camera of today.” There is no doubt that the newest camera on the block is here to stay. However this doesn’t mean we all have to adapt the mobile phone as our new favorite, and start exhibiting every snap we take with it. During a similar time of change for photographic technology Minor White wrote a “rationale for the miniature camera” titled Exploratory Camera. In his words “if photography is to be an extension of vision each type of camera needs to be fully exploited for its unique possibilities.” The iPhone has its own personality and brings to the table a whole new set of possibilities if we allow it. Due to its simplistic and compact nature it allows photographers to experiment, acts as a placeholder for future ideas, and along with social media allows for the sharing of ideas.

The iPhone is a versatile tool; it is easy to use, is always in arms length and is quick on the draw. With a large variety of capabilities ranging from multiple aspect ratios, tilt shift capability, tilts and swings, HDR and built in manipulating software, this camera allows the photographer to hash out ideas as they come. Where and when the mood strikes the iPhone sits in the photographer’s pocket: a sketchbook. If every camera should be “exploited for its unique possibilities” surely there are some possibilities to freely work out creative ideas through out the day-to-day routine.

This camera does not offer high-resolution images, or vast tonal range; these low-resolution images however, make the perfect placeholder. It is now easy to carry around thousands of “ideas” in ones pocket. Reminders of shots or places that need to be revisited, techniques that can be employed, snapshots of inspiration to bring back to the studio are all conveniently organized. The importance of a sketchbook is emphasized in every high school art room around the country, now it is time for the photographic community to put emphasize on the amazing tool we have in our pockets every day.

 Copyright Michael Darcy

Unlike an artist’s sketchbook, the photographer’s sketchbook provides new tools that allow for a conversation of ideas, and critique. Through apps such as Instagram we can share our thoughts and receive feedback at the push of a button. To many these apps are scary and threatening, but if their full potential is realized than these apps are invaluable.

It seems about time we take away the fear of new photographic technology and realize its full potential. Not to say use the iPhone on your next job for a client, but the next time you’re out and about and feel inspired snap a placeholder shot. Share an idea with others on Instagram, and see what they have to say. Or just experiment. Every camera holds its own unique potential; see what the photographer’s sketchbook can do for your workflow.