I used to be a snobby elitist with my photography, especially once I made the switch from film to digital. I was very particular about doing minimal editing to my shots. I kept telling myself that if I couldn’t do it with the camera, I wouldn’t do it in Photoshop.
The upside to this was that I would really push the limits of what my camera could do, especially the crappier ones I owned. I forced myself to take a better picture. Any editing I did was limited to basic exposure and contrast adjustments. It was what it was. It was the moment as it happened. Sometimes it worked out really well.
As I got better cameras, I didn’t have to hide behind pushing the limits of the device as much, but I still held my anti-editing stance. Though, actually having a job taking pictures forced me to crop and color correct to make my photos more concise.
With the explosion of cell phone photography, I was happy to have a camera on me at all times, especially starting with the iPhone 4S. Finally, cell phone cameras were taking halfway decent pictures! But really, I was happy to have a not so great camera available to me. This coupled with any number of camera apps that allowed you some control of the iPhone’s camera settings, let me try to push the very constrained limits of those tiny lenses and sensors. I found myself taking pictures of weird stuff and getting even weirder with the editing.
Most of these experiments were horrible, but I would learn from them. I learned about how much light the iPhone camera would suck in. I learned how much noise it would produce. I learned how close I could get to something. You get the point. Every once in a while, after taking a technically bad picture and playing around in Lightroom or even with Instagram’s editing tools, I would end up with something that I just loved; something that was unexpected.
This picture I am particularly fond of. It was taken with an iPhone 5S. I started adjusting the exposure (it was taken in very low light), highlights, and shadows. The right angles of what was illuminated started to meld with the pixels and noise. It created all these shapes and patterns that transformed in to something so foreign looking, you’d be hard pressed to think it was a digital photograph of something so mundane which actually exists in real life. What this is a picture of, I’ll never say. It’s simply a crappy picture with the limits of the technology used to take it exploited until it was willed in to something new.
The moral of all this is simple: Push yourself, your equipment, and your software. Fuck it. It’s digital. If you mess around and don’t like the result, you can always hit “Undo” or simply start over. Don’t limit yourself. Maybe you already know this. Maybe you just need a reminder. I still need a reminder from time to time.
If you managed to make it to the end, please share any weird and beautiful things you’ve done. I’d love to see them!