Still Life, with Instagram Envy

I don’t do Instagram. I don’t need another social media account to complicate my life. I also don’t carry my camera on a regular basis. But every so often, the spirit moves me, and I whip out my phone to document a moment of my life and Facebook it.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve always liked saturated colors; and now you see them everywhere, alternating with retro-faded snapshots, everything framed with faux-Polaroid or frayed-linen style borders. Photos seem naked without the effects. My straight-to-Facebook photos look so… bland. So I picked up Camera+, a camera plus filter app for the Instagram-envious.

I also picked up CameraSharp, a no-frills, no-filter camera app that gives you control over focus, exposure, and white balance (Camera+ does, too). Hurray, now I can play!

For a test run, I decided on some vanitas-style still lifes: a skull, some fruit, a watch, some wine. Strictly speaking, the wine should be in a tipped-over goblet, and I ought to have a fish or game fowl in the picture too. But I’m not spilling wine in my living room, and the closest we had to game fowl in the kitchen was a package of beef jerky, so that was out. Also, a vanitas is supposed to be an allegory about the ephemerality of life and the futility of pleasure;  using it as the subject of a tool that basically stands for instant gratification and the culture of self-marketing — well, that’s amusing, too.

For comparison, I took some shots with my “real” camera (a Lumix-LX5), too.

In the end, I got bored with the filters. Part of the reason is that the photos were pretty decent to begin with. The light was bright but not harsh, and the subject wasn’t difficult. I think I really only want the fancy filters and effects when my photo is flawed by bad composition, or bad lighting. The exposure control helps with the latter. I’ll probably use the saturation filter a lot, and maybe the “Ansel” filter (high contrast B&W), but I don’t see myself leaning too much on the rest. The focus and exposure controls are really useful, and  I like the white-balance lock.

Of course, now that I have the filters, I could start using them to start juicing up photos I otherwise would just trash — and then I’ll start juicing up everything…

At the moment, I like the plain photos better. I wonder what I’ll think a few months from now?

4 thoughts on “Still Life, with Instagram Envy

  1. I think filters look good with mobile phone images because they cover up the flaws in exposure and focus. In you comparison at the end it does show that it is really the light a composition that make the image.
    Nice post.

    • Thank you! I agree with your assessment; I think apps like CameraSharp that give iPhone photographers control over exposure and focus can help with muddy or washed-out shots, or shots where the auto-focus guessed wrong. So that might alleviate dependence on filters.

      Of course, you have to be able to hold the phone and work all the controls at the same time. When I was doing my experiments, I noticed that, overall, I composed better with the Lumix, just because I could hold the darn camera, so all my brain cells were free to work on framing the shot, not on holding the phone in the correct position without dropping it.

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