Tuesday, April 5, 2011


My newest creative addiction has a healthy side-effect: Pure, Raw, Synapse-Firing... INSPIRATION.

Instagram, if you aren't already familiar, is a free photo sharing app for the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad which has skyrocketed in popularity in just a few short months (Check out this article on the simple but powerful features they nailed in their launch).  It took me less than an hour to figure out why it is so popular amongst photo enthusiasts, amateurs and professionals alike...
Photos taken with the iPod Touch and filtered with "Lomi-fi" filter in Instagram | ©merrittphoto

The basic tenet of "iPhoneography" is that the best camera is the one you have with you.

As any dSLR owner knows, it's not always convenient to carry tripod, camera body, kit of lenses, filters, batteries, cards, etc., and more often than not, there will inevitably be a great spot of light or moment of inspiration precisely when you decide not to tote along your gear.  If you are lucky enough to have a camera in your phone, however, the opportunity for creativity and capture is hardly lost.
iPod snapshots of architecture around Denver, with various IG filters | ©merrittphoto 
Dialoguing recently with a fellow Instagram'er, I realized how much inspiration I gather not only through this less formal method of shooting, but also through the daily feed of tiny square photographic compositions from all around the world.  I am provoked to consider what moves me about these images -- in intimate scenes from Italy; in extraordinary aurora sky photos from Lapland; in edgy street scenes from New York City and dramatic ocean sunsets from the equator -- as they each enter my personal photo feed...

... Like miniature vacations in the palm of my hand.
iPod Touch photos of my favorite model, with Lomi, Apollo and Gotham IG filters (l-r) | ©merrittphoto 

With visual media such as photography, we can learn so much from studying what we like (and dislike), and we can then attempt to reproduce our favorite elements -- pattern, simplicity of composition, use of light, etc. -- from the material in our own world.  A tool like this with a constant stream of content for inspiration can thus become truly addictive.

It may be obvious that as a professional photographer, I find that my style while shooting with the iPod is FAR less inhibited than when I am shooting with my dSLR.  Less obvious is how dearly I have come to love the results... as well as the new possibilities.  Often (as with the "drive by" photos below) I just hold the phone up to a scene and press the "shutter" without looking (not exactly possible with pro-gear).  It is delightful to look later and discover there are gems in the mix.
A new category of photos not possible with a dSLR (Please drive safely! Don't post and drive!!) | ©merrittphoto

The IG filters offer enough creativity to require no additional photo editing, but of course there are hundreds of amazing photo apps out there to process phone pix through as well, and I have found several that I enjoy, including Filterstorm, TiltShift Generator, FX Photo Studio, 100 Cameras in One, and Impression (if you want to add a copyright to your photos before posting).

Once you have even just a few followers on IG, the feedback is immeasurably enjoyable.  Like any other social media, a great part of the allure is the community itself.  So far my experience is that the IG community is like an incredibly supportive, creative, international family!
Where would iPhoneography be without coffeeshop photos? iPod Touch / IG filters | ©merrittphoto 

My hope with this post is to encourage you, if you have the ability to shoot from your non-dSLR mobile device, to USE it, and use it every day.  Take photos of your morning coffee, your pet and the walk around your neighborhood.  The discipline to simply do something creative every day is a wonderful way to sharpen your skills and stay inspired.  Regardless of your skill level, the tricks of composition, light and content choices which you learn quickly with this completely non-intimidating device will inform choices when using your "real" camera.

Just as important: SHARE your photos.  Photo sharing communities such as Instagram offer each of us the ideal opportunity to share our vision with other people -- people who don't know each other but who truly desire to share creativity and inspiration through each other's photos and feedback.

And thus our world expands yet again... Brilliant use of the technology, in my opinion!

Happy Spring from my iPod to your eyes | ©merrittphoto

Until next time, Happy Spring to you!  Shoot, SHARE and stay inspired!
... and as always, have fun!

A complete collection of the @merrittphoto feed on Instagram, can be seen here.
If you'd like to get started on IG, there are SO many incredible feeds out there, but here are a few recommendations for fun, interactive people to check out as you get started:
@joshjohnson @richnyc @iscooler @mouselink @brianng @electricdenim
and @steinvalente (thank you for this blog inspiration, Michel!)

1 comment:

Ashley said...

I love how you said "And thus our world expands yet again". That's so true with all of the forms of social media available to us. I would love to use Instagram but I don't have a smart phone or an ipod with a camera. Hopefully I can upgrade my ipod touch soon!

Those IG "drive by" images are my favorites. The middle picture in the bottom row is my favorite of your drive by shots. I love the architecture pics too. They're all great.