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                            How to Improve Your Instagram and Mobile Phone Photography

                                                           Saturday 25th January 2014

I will be holding a workshop on Instagram and mobile phone photography early in the new year. The workshop has evolved from my passion for mobile phone photographs. Although most of my professional work is shot on medium format film cameras, I am and always have been passionate about camera phones.

At the end of 2002, when the first mobile phone camera came onto the UK market, I approached Vodafone, to work with them on an exhibition of camera phone images. They agreed and I took a photo a day for the whole of 2003. The exhibition iCapture was then shown the following year at the Deluxe Gallery in London.

In 2005 whilst studying for an MA at Newprort, I wrote my dissertation on mobile phone cameras, and how our relationship with our phones influences our picture taking. Today we have Instagram -enabling us to share our images instantaneously with like minded communities of people across the globe, direct from phone to phone. I’m really looking forward to the workshop and if there’s sufficient demand there will be more. It’s my second collaboration with the brilliant people at IC Visual Lab. You can book here (http://icvl.co.uk/instagram-kirsty-mackay/)

Mobile phones have evoved to be used, as we would have traditionally used our compact, point and shoot cameras. They are in fact squeezing compacts out of the market. This year saw a 43% drop in shipments of compact cameras. Manufactuers are reducing their lines in compacts, in particular the lower priced models. These simply can’t compete with smartphones and the established brands are trying keep up with customer demand. In a rapidly changing photographic market, as DSLRs are declining in sales along with point and shoots. The future looks like we will be increasingly turning to the new light weight mirlorless cameras together with camera phones as our choice of equipment. Mobile phone photography is ubiquitous, and it’s how we are choosing to document our lives.

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On Saturday I start shooting my Pop Up Portrait Studio on the streets of Cardiff. This week has been about preparing and getting myself ready to photograph 25 people each day.

I could go out any time, set up my backdrop and make portraits of people. But I don’t. I need the pressure of having set things up, of other people relying on me. My Pop up Studio is all ready to go. Sponsors have been confirmed. Production has been done by Diffusion festival. Now it’s all down to me to deliver. I am plunging head first into the deep end of this project. Who knows how it will end up and what I’ll get at the end of it…I have organised and prepped all week. I’ve done all I can.

These portraits have been taken on my phone, over the past couple of weeks. I’ve taken them with the Pop Up Studio at the back of my mind. They are kind of practice shots, small sketches, that I can build upon. The act of photographing people over and over accumulates, and that practice will result in a better portrait somewhere down the line. I’m hoping it will be this weekend.

Special thanks to Anne at FFotogalley, Phil at Photographique and David at Davis Colour.

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This post has been brewing for some time. I opened my Instagram account last December, then came the controversy over their new terms and conditions. I knew I would have to write about it. I have always taken photographs with my mobile phone, at least since 1st of January 2003, when I received a brand new Sharp GX10 from Vodaphone. At the time it was the first camera phone available in the UK. I was to record one picture a day for the whole year. That was to become an exhibition – iCapture. I loved the immediacy and ease of the phone camera, but also my connection to it was different than my other cameras. Taking photographs with a phone results in more spontaneous and personal images. It gives you the feeling that you are recording your very own view of the world, exactly as you are experiencing it, that can then be shared instantaneously. This relationship with the camera phone, later became the subject of my dissertation, on the MA at Newport.

Today millions of Instagramers are taking a photo a day, documenting their daily lives. The vast majority of users take photos of themselves and their friends, when they go somewhere; to say – this is me, I am here, look at me! This use is fine and perfectly valid. It is a form of visual communication and important to people. However finding photographs on Instaram that hold an interest to others and communicate another level of value is not hard to find. There are lots of ways to use Instagram. Many photographers and non photographers are using it in a creative and inspiring way. There is an opinion within some in the photographic community that Instagram is dull, vacuous and meaningless.

For me, Instagram is a great leveler. It is the very fact, that we are all taking the same photographs that appeals to me. It makes me feel connected with others around the world, who are not so very different from me. I love experiencing how other people see their world. It gains me access to those worlds that I am not part of, and could never imagine. It takes me out of the everyday and puts me into seeing and shooting mode, as I walk down the street. It helps me to notice and appreciate the everyday.

The real power of Instagram, was revealed when they tried to change their terms of service, at the end of last year. By consenting to their terms (original and now updated) you grant a full worldwide  license to Instagram, which is also transferable to a third party. In plain language Instagram can use your photos for free and give them to someone else to use for free. The attempted change in policy, would have made it possible for Instagram to charge third parties, for the use of your images. This caused a huge reaction, with some users closing their accounts and many stopped posting until Instagram reverted to their old terms – we can use your photos for free.

The power of Instagram and the connections we make through sharing our photos obviously outways the photographer’s own concerns over copyright. Sharing is more important than ownership.

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This week just some phone pictures and an idea that has been going around in my head for a while…

The Babyccino! Where did that come from? I’m sure it wasn’t created in Italy. Nope, apparently it is from Australia and has been around for the past 10 years. It’s certainly been in the UK for the past 5, and it has just hit the US. Over here we are just talking about some frothy milk in a small cup with a bit of chocolate on top. It the States they are serving little ones decaf coffee and frothy milk.
It’s another great marketing success aimed at the Yummy Mummy, as a way of keeping her child quite so she can spend more money in the cafe.

It may sound like I don’t approve, but I do love the Babyccino. It’s healthy and the kids love them. For me it’s the name – it just seems to sum up this new generation of little people and how we treat them. There is a project here somewhere, but for now it’s just a good title- “The Babyccino Generation”.

These photos are of my daughter who ran up to me in the park the other day asking for a Cappuccino. My first thought was ‘you are NEVER having coffee’, but she meant a Babyccino. We are both off to Glasgow tomorrow where I think they are called ‘Weanaccinos’. We’ll find out and report back.

Thanks to Ruby for her individual dress sense and for sharing many a Babyccino moment with me.

Paris Train

I wanted this week’s post to be a one of my phone photographs. Yesterday I held a photography workshop with a group of teenage students. I presented my work to them, but really wanted to make the point that they could do this too. They didn’t need to have a big fancy camera and that the important part was that they were taking photographs of the things that interested them.

I have been taking camera phone photographs since the 1st of January 2003. I contacted Vodafone the month before, when I heard that the first mobile phone with inbuilt camera, had been released in the UK. I knew I had to get my hands on one, and I approached Vodafone, with the idea of taking a photo each day for the whole of 2003. The finished project was exhibited in London in 2004 called iCapture.

Looking back, I can see now that it wasn’t a great piece of work. It was a visual diary and I was the subject. I hadn’t given enough thought to using myself as the subject for my own photography, and was uncomfortable at revealing and documenting my own life. I was never able to truly embrace the role. I have learned that I am happier to point my camera at those who are more interesting. I always appreciate and admire those people who I photograph, that can be so open and allow me to reveal a little of who they are.

Through the discipline of taking a photo each day on my phone I learned that we have a very different attachment and relationship to our phones than we do to a camera. This became the subject of my dissertation when I was doing an MA at Newport.

I still love taking photos with my phone. My phone gives me a feeling of connection to my friends and family. At times it feels like an extension of my brain. I see something. I record it. Save it. Send it. Share it. I am not saying I love my phone more than my camera oh no! My camera takes me places I cannot get to with a camera phone. The photos I take on my phone are more snap shots, but I consciously feel like I am capturing and recording a memory, that can them be shared. The photographs I make with my camera however are solely for me to satisfy my vision and ideas. It is much more selfish and solitary.

One of the points I wanted to make to the students this week is that photography now, in this digital age is all about sharing our images, sometimes instantaneously, and potentialy across the globe. When I first started taking photographs, it was all about the taking of the photograph. For them now, starting out learning to take photos, there are less obstacles to navigate to achieve an acceptable image.

To the picture… I call this photo ‘Paris Train’ after the Beth Orton track that I absolutely love. It was indeed take on a train on it’s way to Paris Nord. I like the way the seat is facing one way and the man’s profile the other. It is just a snap shot from a lovely trip that it will always remind me of, while Beth’s lyrics go round in my head.