Welcome to our very exciting column on theappwhisperer.com. This section entitled “A Day in the Life of…” is where we take a look at some hugely influential, interesting and accomplished individuals in the mobile photography world… people that we think you will love to learn more about. This is our ninety second installment of the series. If you have missed our previous interviews, please go here.
Today we are featuring Paul Brown (known as Skip to most), is an exhibited and prize winning iPhone photography from Lincoln, England. He is a member of the global ‘AMPt Community’, a managing member of Lincolnshire based regional mobile photography Group ‘InstaChimps’ and a founding artist at ‘New Era Museum’. He also runs his own personal blog at http://skipology.com where he shares many of his processes with step by step guides for some of his most popular images and will shortly begin blogging about iPhone photography for iPhone and iPad Life Magazine.
London exhibitions include images at ‘My World Shared’, ‘mObilepixatiOn’ and ‘Pixel This’ a curated charity exhibition where he exhibited alongside celebrities such as Stephen Fry, Ruby Wax, Peter Capaldi and Alexander Siddig.
Skip was a finalist in the Photobox Motographer of The Year 2012 with his image ‘Skipping’ and is currently preparing for the InstaChimps second mobile photography exhibition due to take place in Lincoln later this Summer.
We are sure you are going to enjoy this interview and images, a lot. Many thanks to Paul.
You can find all the links to the apps used or mentioned at the end of this article. (If you would like to be interviewed for our new ‘A Day in the Life of…’ section, just send an email to Joanne@theappwhisperer.com, and we’ll get it set up.)
‘Encore – ©Paul Brown – LensLight • Modern Grunge • PhotoToaster • Pro HDR • ProCamera • PS Express • Snapseed • Superimpose
Let’s start at the beginning of the day, how does your day start?
I’m really not a morning person so my day starts slowly. I often lay in bed with my iPad for a little while and catch up on notifications and maybe read the news and obviously being a Brit check the weather forecast. I guess this is my version of reading the newspaper which is something I never do. If I get time I’ll have a little browse especially if the first couple of posts of whichever channel I’m in happen to catch my eye. Then the really important decision is today a shaving day or not? I do the school run (actually a walk around the corner) some days and that is something I really cherish.
‘Memories’ – ©Paul Brown – Alt Photo • Filterstorm • Hipstamatic • Rainy Daze • Superimpose
Do you like to head out and take photographs early on?
I love sunrise photos, and those wonderful foggy late Autumn Days. I tend to miss them although when the fog lingers long enough I will head out but by most people’s definition of early I’ve already missed ‘the best part of the day.’ I should explain that for many years my working day was a very long one and unfortunately it took its toll on me. iPhoneography is something I discovered to be very therapeutic for me. I don’t therefore tend to pressure or push myself too much but it does motivate me to do things I wouldn’t otherwise do.
‘Autumn Walk’ – ©Paul Brown – 100CamerasIn1 • PicFX • Snapseed • Superimpose
How did the transition from traditional photographer to mobile photographer develop? (pardon the pun)
🙂 I’ve always had an interest in photography. I got my first SLR as a Birthday present during my teens. I still use it now albeit rarely decades later but I never progressed to developing my own film. For me I would switch the question around and suggest that mobile photography reignited my enjoyment in traditional photography and because of it I then went and purchased a DSLR which I subsequently traded for my current traditional camera which is a Fujifilm X-E1. I am and really always have primarily been an iPhoneographer. I would expect many of the photographers of the future to follow this route. My own children both have iTouches and enjoy taking photographs. Whether that will evolve into a love for traditional photography remains to be seen.
‘In The Moment’ – ©Paul Brown – 100CamerasIn1 • Hipstamatic • Image Blender • Iris • ScratchCam • Snapseed
Do you like to download new mobile photography and/or art apps regularly?
Oh yes although I do know my style so over the years I’ve become quite adept at understanding which apps may be appropriate for me. I think the last apps I bought were Koloid and Mextures but other apps have been sat for ages waiting to be played with. For example I’ve owned Handy Photo for a long time but only recently started to appreciate what it does. I have folders full of apps!
‘Commuting’ – ©Paul Brown – Hipstamatic • Pro HDR • PS Express • Rainy Daze • Snapseed
How often do you update your existing apps?
As soon as I see the number appear over the App Store icon.
‘Rush Hour’ – ©Paul Brown – 100CamerasIn1 • Filterstorm • Hipstamatic • PicFX • Pro HDR • PS Express • Snapseed • Superimpose
Where’s your favorite place in the world for a shoot?
I do 99pct of my shooting in and around my home city of Lincoln. Lincolnshire is a rural county and I live within walking distance of so many places. The city centre gives plenty of urban opportunities and street shots. The uphill area is a Roman and then Medieval cobbled tourist destination with Castle and Cathedral. I turn right and I have common land full of horses, a canal full of narrow boats and fields full of crops. It’s a challenge seeing the same places time after time and trying to capture unique images but that is what I enjoy. Aside from that though whisk me away anywhere near the sea, especially when the fog is rolling in. Wonderful.
‘Going Downhill’ – ©Paul Brown – Hipstamatic with border cropped
Do you also use mobile photography tool apps, such as The Photographers Ephemeris?
No (I had to Google it). Maybe I should look at it in more detail
‘Horse and Handler’ – ©Paul Brown – Hipstamatic • PS Express • Pro HDR • Alt Photo • Snapseed • Camera+
What are your favorite, at the moment, mobile photography/art apps and why?
I’ve only just upgraded from iPhone4 to iPhone5 so some of my apps are under review but right now:
- ProCamera for capturing: It’s such a powerful app very quick to lock focus and exposure points and all the built in features are value adding rather than gimmicky. I like the histogram and ISO / shutter speed data. Used in combination I have a great indication of exposure quality and potential for motion blur, etc. I find the JPEG quality to be great and the speed between shots is lightening. I get the impression is very light on power use which is important if you’re out for the day.
- Hipstamatic: What can I say? Like so many people I love this app. They say ‘digital photography never looked so analog’ and for keeping post processing to a minimum whilst giving a great range of film and lens combos with a degree of randomness you just can’t beat it. I moved away from it for a long time but right now it is my main capture app.
- Snapseed: Am I starting to sound predictable? Very powerful processing options whether it’s a painterly finish or making adjustments for a traditional image. Originally created by Nik so you know the people that created it know how to create editing software and wow did they hit the mark. Migrating from desktop to app isn’t always a successful leap but it is so uncluttered and user friendly. I really can’t speak highly enough. It is my go to editing app.
- Superimpose: I work with layers a lot, including masking and it’s one area not covered in Snapseed. There are 3 apps I mainly use for this… (i) Image Blender for quite straight forward layers, (ii) Superimpose where masking and possibly repetition are involved and (iii) PhotoForge2 where multiple layers are active simultaneously and variable opacity masking is required. Superimpose is my choice though because you can save masks either to repeat within the same image or to introduce elements into other images.
- Finally, there are a range of special effects / texture apps. These tend to come into favour with me and then disappear for a while. Right now I very much enjoy Mextures, Modern Grunge and most recently the textures in Handy Photo. For mimicking analog photography I favour Alt Photo and CameraBag2.
‘Allium’ – ©Paul Brown – Camera+ • Filterstorm • Mextures • ProCamera • PS Express • Snapseed • Superimpose
Where do you like to upload your photographs? Flickr, Instagram?
I upload directly to Instagram, EyeEm, Flickr, Google+ and Backspaces. I rarely share more than one image a day and some days none at all. Flickr tends to be one or two images a week.
‘Daisy’ – ©Paul Brown – ProCamera • Snapseed • Superimpose • DistressedFX • Laminar Pro
Do you take photographs with your mobile device everyday?
I would say almost without exception. Even if everything ends up being deleted I shoot something.
‘Pear’ – ©Paul Brown – ProCamera • Snapseed • Superimpose • Mextures • The Amazing Type-Writer
What are your favorite subjects?
People. Add a person to any image and it becomes much more interesting and in my opinion becomes a story. Generally, I’m not keen on adding too much commentary to my street style images and like to let the viewer formulate their own narrative. I believe in the famous Ansel Adams quote, “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.” I provide the raw material for the viewer to interpret. I watched the documentary as many of us did on Vivian Maier and I just don’t see how you can wish to see a more fascinating collection of images. I tend to get more reaction for my textured floral works and I enjoy working on those very much but there is nothing to beat the sense of satisfaction of capturing that fleeting moment and getting the timing of the tap spot on.
‘Green Man’ – ©Paul Brown – Hipstamatic double exposure – Lucifer VI Lens, AO DLX film, no flash
How did the teaching side come along?
I don’t really see myself as a teacher or an expert but at the same time I don’t in any way feel the need to keep my processes a secret. I’ve always enjoyed a challenge and so building a web site and then a blog was just another challenge I set myself. Obviously, there’s no point doing that unless you have something to share. I like to think that each of us underestimate the knowledge we have and the value of that knowledge to others. I knew that I had knowledge of iPhoneography apps and processes that others newer to the art-form would appreciate. There are many great iPhone artists out there far better qualified and more experienced than me but there are also many who are at a stage where my ideas may help. The feedback I receive is wonderful and inspires me to keep going.
‘Artist at work’ – ©Paul Brown – Hipstamatic – Jane Lens, AO BW Film, no flash. Edited in Alt Photo
What are you top five tips for mobile photography?
- Enjoy the journey, don’t worry about the destination. By all means have a goal in mind but don’t be blinkered and overly focused on it. The best shots are almost without exception the ones that unfold before your eyes in totally unexpected places. Linked to that,
- On the iPhone I have my choice capture app on the bottom bar so that it is always available. If my iPhone is asleep it is asleep with the Camera App loaded so I can capture an unexpected moment quickly.
- A good mobile photograph is a good photograph so spend time developing an understanding of traditional photography composition. It is so important to self edit. I always look for quality over quantity.
- Read and follow blogs and join communities. Make some time to interact and learn from others. The virtual world is full of images and ideas. It’s where I draw much of my inspiration from. It is an amazingly open community and I’ve met so many wonderful and talented people (some in person as a result).
- Have fun. I said earlier that my favorite subjects are people but for me that is also the most challenging environment and I’m not always in the mood. If you’re like me, find an alternative genre that can fill the gap. The next day you may feel very differently. I think variety keeps things fresh.
‘Steam Train’ – ©Paul Brown – Camera+ • Snapseed • Superimpose • Rainy Daze • CameraBag2
Do you edit images on your mobile device or do you prefer to do that on a desktop/laptop?
I’m a member of a number of Mobile Photography Communities from a predominantly (but not exclusively) local Facebook group through to Global Communities. Almost without exception they define mobile photography as requiring the image to be captured on a mobile device capable of making a phone call and edited either on it or on a tablet. I adopt that approach completely. I don’t cross contaminate any of my work so traditional images are processed on laptop, mobile images are processed on iPhone or iPad.
‘Hop Scotch’ – ©Paul Brown – Hipstamatic • Snapseed • Alt Photo • CameraBag2
Do you enjoy videography with your mobile device?
I used to make a lot of videos with a point and click a few years ago but it’s not something I’ve continued with or explored on iPhone. Possibly it’s something for the future but not right now.
Skipping – ©Paul Brown – Camera+ • Snapseed • apologies unsure of others
Where do you see the future of mobile photography?
In terms of the acceptance of mobile photography as a legitimate genre I still see some extreme views. Some seem to define mobile photography by its lowest definition, the spammy Instagram streams that exist. My response in general is to ignore those kinds of comments. It’s hardly fair to define an entire genre by some stereotypical view and then compare that to the best examples of high quality professional work with expensive equipment. The truth is that there are some exceptionally talented mobile photographers just as there are some learning their skills and others who share images that don’t appeal to me. I don’t see how this is different to any other form of photography. We are all aware of the journalistic photographers receiving high profile recognition for their work with mobile images. I believe the best photographers embrace photography in all of its forms. I expect to see mobile photography to continue to grow, gain acceptance and popularity and not only continue to be a wonderful art form but increasingly a valid part of many other commercial activities including live event blogging. I was delighted to be invited by the Sponsors to take mobile images at the FA Cup Semi-finals at Wembley this year. I thought it was great to see mobile photography recognized as a valuable strategic strand of a high profile media campaign.
‘Wild Things’ – ©Paul Brown – ProCamera • Superimpose • PicFX • apologies unsure of others
What do you think is the most popular area of mobile photography?
I think serious mobile photography has 2 main areas of strength:
- Street Photography environment. Even those of us a little nervous in that environment can get away with pointing and clicking or pretending to read a text or controlling the tap remotely via the volume control. A mobile phone is the ultimate urban camouflage for a nervous street photographer and I am constantly impressed by the quality of images I see. It is an area I play in but I would love to have the confidence to do more.
- Artistic works. Often this is less about the capture and more about the apps and processing and is my equivalent of a Sudoku or crossword puzzle. Transforming what to me appears a relatively mundane image into something approaching a work of art is what really got me hooked on iPhoneography. The idea you can do this when you have a free 10 minutes or are whiling away a bit of time in the coffee shop, take a break and then carry on. Perfect for mobile photography I think.
‘Its a bit like Escher came to Lincoln’ ©Paul Brown – ProCamera • Snapseed • Alt Photo
Do you think it’s country specific, are some nations more clued up?
I can only judge this from my own networks. There’s no doubt this is a growing global phenomenon but I would have to say that my experience suggests that the US and Australia appear to have a massive mobile photography culture. That said I have friends I think in every continent – possibly except Antarctica . Closer to home the UK has some absolutely top quality artists (including the mobile photographer of the year) and organizations (IGERS London) for example, together of course with the most read mobile photography blog (The App Whisperer).
‘The Grand Debates’ ©Paul Brown – Hipstamatic – Lucifer VI Lens, AO DLX film, no flash.
What do you think of Joanne and theappwhisperer.com?
Joanne has pulled together an amazingly talented team of mobile photographers to provide regular very valuable content plus all the App giveaways some of which I have been a recipient of. The weekly Flickr showcase is always a highlight and if anyone ever doubts the talented people who devote so much time and effort to mobile photography spending 10 minutes looking through the latest showcase should serve as a reminder of the quality out there. I think Joanne does an amazing job leading that team and promoting mobile photography and mobile photographers from around the world. I don’t quite understand why she doesn’t select my images every week but I’ll forgive her for that 😉