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A Day in the Life of Karen Messick – A Highly Creative And Talented Mobile Photographer

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 seventy sixth installment of the series. If you have missed our previous interviews, please go here. Today we are featuring Karen Messnick. Karen is an award-winning photographer who has embraced photography as a second career after leaving her life long career in retail. She developed a passion for photography while in her retail position as a Vice President for May Company. She has been capturing images for the last 16 years. Her sense for design, color, composition and placement of subject elements is striking. The patterns in her nature close ups are refreshing and energizing. She has also embraced imaging with High Dynamic Range software, and artistic adaptations of her images with plug-in software. Her latest photographic endeavors include capturing and processing images with the iPhone.

Karen has led photo workshops in Baltimore, Delaware, New Mexico and Virginia. She has lectured on composition and design during Photo Week in Washington, DC and for Nature Vision’s Photo Expo in Virginia.

Karen has written instructional articles and had portfolio pieces published in Nature Photographer Magazine and iPhonelife Magazine. Currently she is a field contributor for Nature Photographer Magazine.

Karen teaches Intro to digital photography, and iPhone Photography at Johns Hopkins University, in the Odyssey Program.

Karen is also a lecturer and field workshop leader for Capital Photography Center and Horizon Photography Workshops.

Her work has been on display at:
The Baltimore Gallery; Baltimore, Maryland 2003
Baltimore Museum of Art; Looking Through The Lens; 2008 Valley Frame and Fine Art, Cockeysville, Maryland 2011 Rehoboth Art League, Rehoboth, Delaware 2005-2009
Baas Art Gallery Seattle, Washington 2013

Her images are held in The Photography Collections, of the University of Maryland Baltimore County Campus; Her iPhone images are for sale on line in the stock agency, Aurora.


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 [email protected], and we’ll get it set up.)


First Things First…

karen messick

© Karen Messick – “Washington, DC Union Station Café” – Apps: Hipstamatic, AutoPainter, ArtistaSketch, Iris Photo Suite and Image Blender


Joanne – Let’s start at the beginning of the day, how does your day start?

Karen – My day starts in the kitchen. I enjoy making breakfast with a cup of coffee or tea and listening to WYPR the NPR station in Maryland. As I am enjoying my coffee I check in on Facebook. with my iPad. I like to see what people have posted overnight and follow up on any new messages. I am in a few FB iPhone groups and I always enjoy looking at and commenting on new images in the morning.

Golden Hour…

© Karen Messick – “Beach Beached” – Apps: Camera+, Snapseed, PicGrunger, and Image Blender



Joanne – Do you like to head out and take photographs early on?

Karen – I do when I am at the beach my semi vacation place, as sunrise is always wonderful by the sea, but not so much when I am in the city. (I am not an early riser, so getting out early is never easy!) I usually conduct business in the morning online or write a new blog post, send out contracts, work up lesson plans or write new marketing correspondence.

Photographer vs. Mobile Photographer


© Karen Messick – “Beach Bridge Building” – Apps: ClassicPan, ScratchCam and LensFlare


Joanne – How did the transition from traditional photographer to iPhone photographer develop? (pardon the pun)

Karen – About two and a half years ago I began to see images posted on FB by a friend and professional photographer, Tony Sweet. I enjoy his DSLR work and follow his posts on FB. The images he was posting on FB with the iPhone seemed to be un-sharp, but creative and I knew they were small files compared to DSLR image files, so I wondered why in the world would he want to do that? Then Teri Lou Dantzler made a personal tour East, dropping in on some of her FB friends. She came to my beach house for an overnight stay and she was shooting almost exclusively with her iPhone, as I continued to shoot with my DSLR. (I did not even have an iPhone in the fall of 2010.) So I watched with interest, she showed me an HDR shot and that was all it took! Knowing what one has to go through for a large file HDR image I was blown away by the capture and processing ability of the HDR app on her iPhone. So, I bought myself an iPhone for Christmas that year and began my journey into iPhone Photography. (I have not however abandoned my large DSLR camera, I still shoot with it and teach.) Shortly after that I also started posting iPhone images and was invited to join the group on FB that Teri Lou and Tony were in. This amazingly creative group shared new apps, insight into processing and creative vision, it was a super speed jolt, getting me hooked on the image creation possibilities of the mobile device.

New Apps…


© Karen Messick – “Beach Cape Henlopen” – Apps: 6×6, Noir and Snapseed


Joanne – Do you like to download new iPhone photography apps regularly?

Karen – That’s a great question! In my first year of iPhone photography, I downloaded $400.00 in apps. I rationalized each one saying it was cheaper than a cup of coffee at Starbucks! I also rationalized by saying that’s cheaper than any DSLR lens or a couple fine software programs. I do like to explore new apps, but do not have the app fever I had when I first started. The new app has to do something really neat that no other app is currently offering. Like the App Glaze, when it launched it was totally unique and still is. I do however always buy the newest in App purchases from Hipstamatic, I never want to miss a new Pak offering from them.



© Karen Messick – “Chesapeake City Waitress” – Apps: ClassicPan and Snapseed



Joanne – How often do you update your existing apps?

Karen – I update when I get notifications, you know when there is a little red number on the “A”, daily if one shows up. But I always read what the update is about to find out about cool new features I can make good use of. Some folks just hit update all and they never know what’s been added or changed. I don’t dump apps after I purchase them unless I absolutely never use them. I review and update everything maybe twice a year clearing out any old or out of date apps, like the ones that never catch up with the Apple updates. (Right now Pic Grunger is on my list to go if it does not update soon. Since the last iOS 6 update on the iP5 it has not been a full res app. It down sizes 8 mp files to 750 pixels x 1000 pixels not even a 1 mp file, which is too bad I always liked using PicGrunger).

As far as surfing the App store for new apps, since the iOS6 update and the rearrangement of the App store its not as easy for me to find just the ‘New Releases’. When that feature disappeared I look only on occasion or when I see someone post a new app on a site that looks interesting to me. I have enough to keep me busy for a while! The New and Noteworthy by category is a little more to scroll through to find what you might like that the list search that used to be by date of release.

Location, Location, Location…


© Karen Messick – “Garden Butterfly” – Apps: Camera+, Snapseed, PhotoWizard and Image Blender


Joanne – Where’s your favorite place in the world for a shoot?

Karen – Well, I have not explored the “World” in total, and I find wherever I am, is my favorite place. I always discover something in any venue. I imagine if I spent time in Paris, India, China, Bali or some other, exotic to me, local it would be a favorite… so for now my hometown is a fav! Between Baltimore, DC and my beach…it’s filled with opportunity, although I do love Ireland and New Mexico, the land of Enchantment.

Tools of The Trade…


© Karen Messick – “Garden Ginkos” – Apps: Average Camera Pro, Snapseed, PhotoWizard and PerfectPhoto


Joanne – Do you also use iPhoneography tool apps, such as The Photographer’s Ephemeris?

Karen – Yes I do, it is most helpful when traveling or checking cycles of the Sun, Moon rise and set as well as direction…I consider it a must have app!

Favorite Apps…


© Karen Messick – “Hampton Mansion Light” – Apps: Camera+, Snapseed, Glaze, Image Blender and Flypaper Textures


Joanne – What are your favorite, at the moment, iPhoneography apps?

Karen – I love Snapseed as a go to fundamental processing app. Snapseed has added a few new filters in the Retrolux tab that can add interesting options to image processing. I can’t live without Image Blender for combining, masking and adjusting images and I just love Glaze! My favorite shooting apps are 6×6, Camera+ Hipstamatic, ClassicPan and BracketMode.



© Karen Messick – “Ireland Cottage” – Apps: Camera+, Snapseed and Vintage Scene


Joanne – Where do you like to upload your photographs? Flickr, Instagram?

Karen – I will admit to being very inconsistent with image uploads, I share on FB, I blog on my own iPhone blog site, I have images on iPhoneArt.com, Instagram, EyeEm and my blogs feed Twitter.



© Karen Messick – “Ireland Farmhouse” – Apps: Camera+, Snapseed and Vintage Scene


Joanne – Do you take photographs with your iPhone everyday?

Karen – No I don’t. It depends on where I am and what I am doing. I have it with me everyday, but only create an image if something strikes me or I am on a photo excursion. I do not require of myself that I shoot every day. I will say that I often select am image from my camera roll and play with processing options mostly every day.

Favorite Subjects…


© Karen Messick – “Ireland Markee Castle Window” – Apps: 6×7 and Vintage Scene


Joanne – What are your favorite subjects?

Karen – Great question, I often ask myself that question as I shoot a lot of different subjects. I enjoy still life, landscape, architecture, nature and people. Windows and doors seem to be a consistent theme in my imagery.



© Karen Messick – “Ireland Sailboat” – Apps: 6×7 and Snapseed


Joanne – How did the teaching side come along?

Karen – Teaching began as a natural offspring to my already busy photographic education schedule. I mean, why not? People want to know and the mobile phone customer is an ever-growing market at this time. I started teaching iPhone photography by offering a two hour presentation two years ago with Penn Camera in Washington DC. I was already doing workshops for them as a freelance photographer and I suggested to the training coordinator to give it a try. So she ran the two-hour session I had worked up and I think we had six people sign on. Since then Penn Camera was bought by Calumet and Capital Photography Center in Washington, DC it has been a consistent partner with me offering iPhone workshops in the Baltimore and Washington marketplace. We offer a 4-hour intro to iPhone photography and daylong sessions processing with apps in depth. I am also offering a six-night course with Johns Hopkins University that filled last fall and now I am in the process of developing an intro three week online learning course for the Johns Hopkins Odyssey Program to be offered in this spring. It is keeping me very busy! I love teaching as it is inspiring to see new ideas and creativity from students.

Top Five Tips…


© Karen Messick – “Lanaconing Cracked Window” – Apps: Camera+, Pic Grunger and Image Blender


Joanne – What are you top five tips for iPhoneography?

Karen –

1. Check your app settings in all places; on your device and within the app to make sure you are maximizing image resolution and other cool features.

2. Read about the apps you are going to use by accessing the developers website offerings. Often you can find in app tutorials and information.

3. PLAY PLAY PLAY! I constantly say what if I ran this image through this app, what would it look like? What if I combined this image with that image? What if I chose a different blend mode – constantly play and explore.

4 Observe, Observe Observe!! Slow down and look at what is all around you. Great images are everywhere to be captured.

5 Experiment, Experiment, Experiment!! Use different shooting apps – Try Slow Shutter, Try Average Cam, try some HDR panoramas and step out of your comfort zone. It often opens up a whole new world of possibilities.



© Karen Messick – “Lanaconing TV” – Apps: 6×7 and Noir


Joanne – Do you edit images on your iPhone or do you prefer to do that on a desktop/laptop?

Karen – I almost exclusively use my iPhone/iPad for editing. If I am sending images to a stock photography house I will run the image into Photoshop and check for any issues in sharpness, tone and any editing issues, that might be more apparent on a big screen.



© Karen Messick – “Longwood Water Lilies” – Apps: 6×6, Snapseed and Grungetastic


Joanne – Do you enjoy videography with your iPhone?

Karen – No I don’t do any video, I am really a still image photographer.

The Future of Mobile Photography…


© Karen Messick – “Lucketts Virginia Barn” – Apps: 6×7 and Snapseed


Joanne – Where do you see the future of mobile photography?

Karen – Wow, hard to say but it’s not going away. It has a place in the art world. It is a developing medium. I like to think of pixels as digital paint and we can push around, blend and texturize, much like a painting until we are satisfied with the results. While it is two dimensional in its projected form, when printed it can be very textural.



© Karen Messick – “New Mexico Qbiqui Window” – Apps: Camera+ and Old Photo Pro


Joanne – What do you think is the most popular area of mobile photography?

Karen – I think people use the iPhone most for capturing travel and family images as well as documenting daily life. The percentage of images posted on line, as ‘high art’; like the work on IPA work, is minimal compared to the steady flow of daily shots people are posting on sites,. On sites like IPA you have a significantly higher ratio of ‘artwork’ to daily life shots.

Where In The World?


© Karen Messick – “New Mexico Split Barn Door” – Apps: Camera+ and Iris Photo Suite


Joanne – Do you think its country specific – are some nations more clued up?

Karen – Mobile photography is worldwide where the economy is such that people can afford the technology, Internet access and where individual freedom is a way of life. I enjoy checking out where hits are coming from on my iPhone site. Most of them are in the US, but I have folks from Russia, Germany, the UK, Canada, Poland, France, the Netherlands, Australia and the Philippines, so yes some nations are more clued up!

iPhone 5…


© Karen Messick – “New York Airport” – Apps: Slow Shutter, PhotoArtistaOil and Snapseed


Joanne – What are your first impressions of the iPhone 5?

Karen – I like it a lot! The images look great and the speed is super.



© Karen Messick – “New York City: The Meeting” – Apps: 6×6 and Noir


Joanne – What do you think of Joanne and theappwhisperer.com?

Karen – Joanne is amazing! I don’t know how she does it all, keeping up with this technology moving at the speed of light and all the people involved with the medium. Fantastic! A great source of information and inspiration! Just awesome!


© Karen Messick – “Washington, DC National Portrait Gallery: Red Sofas” – Apps: Capture Bracket Mode, Autostitch, AntiCrop, Retouch, Snapseed and Glaze


© Karen Messick – “Washington, DC National Portrait Gallery: Marie” – Apps: Camera+, Snapseed and PhotoToaster


© Karen Messick – “Washington, DC Window National Portrait Gallery” – Apps: BracketMode, Autostitch and Snapseed

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Joanne Carter, creator of the world’s most popular mobile photography and art website— TheAppWhisperer.com— TheAppWhisperer platform has been a pivotal cyberspace for mobile artists of all abilities to learn about, to explore, to celebrate and to share mobile artworks. Joanne’s compassion, inclusivity, and humility are hallmarks in all that she does, and is particularly evident in the platform she has built. In her words, “We all have the potential to remove ourselves from the centre of any circle and to expand a sphere of compassion outward; to include everyone interested in mobile art, ensuring every artist is within reach”, she has said. Promotion of mobile artists and the art form as a primary medium in today’s art world, has become her life’s focus. She has presented lectures bolstering mobile artists and their art from as far away as the Museum of Art in Seoul, South Korea to closer to her home in the UK at Focus on Imaging. Her experience as a jurist for mobile art competitions includes: Portugal, Canada, US, S Korea, UK and Italy. And her travels pioneering the breadth of mobile art includes key events in: Frankfurt, Naples, Amalfi Coast, Paris, Brazil, London. Pioneering the world’s first mobile art online gallery - TheAppWhispererPrintSales.com has extended her reach even further, shipping from London, UK to clients in the US, Europe and The Far East to a global group of collectors looking for exclusive art to hang in their homes and offices. The online gallery specialises in prints for discerning collectors of unique, previously unseen signed limited edition art. Her journey towards becoming The App Whisperer, includes (but is not limited to) working for a paparazzi photo agency for several years and as a deputy editor for a photo print magazine. Her own freelance photographic journalistic work is also widely acclaimed. She has been published extensively both within the UK and the US in national and international titles. These include The Times, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Popular Photography & Imaging, dpreview, NikonPro, Which? and more recently with the BBC as a Contributor, Columnist at Vogue Italia and Contributing Editor at LensCulture. Her professional photography has also been widely exhibited throughout Europe, including Italy, Portugal and the UK. She is currently writing several books, all related to mobile art and is always open to requests for new commissions for either writing or photography projects or a combination of both. Please contact her at: [email protected]