To all those of you who have ever said it's daft to take photos with an iPad…
The first time I ever saw someone holding up an iPad to shoot a photo I, like some of you I would guess, thought it looked daft.
But, as someone who spent a fair slice of his youth shooting 4×5 and 8×10 view-cameras [large format], there is some sense to the iPad as camera.
Composition is everything, the bedrock onto which all your other photographic skills are anchored. If you can't compose for shit, what's the point in investing in equipment, learning how to operate it and then spending hours and hours using it?
I'm not saying that along the way of doing those things you wouldn't 'pick up composition'. It's feasible. But you really don't need much to hone your eye, as the link below will help illustrate: an article I wrote about using a cardboard frame to help you get your head around composition.
The world is a big place, full of a feast of potential pictures from any one viewpoint. The trick is, though, which bit of that world around you to frame and cut out.
Gary Winogrand once said that photography places a frame around the facts and that the frame changes those facts. It's very true. Our cameras isolate a moment from the world around us and alter it, make it shareable.
Framing that 'isolated moment' is the key. You don't need anything more than a piece of cardboard to do that. To capture it, obviously, you need something else.
Back to the iPad and why I actually think it's a great tool for taking photos with…..
When I set up a large-format camera I end up with, in front of me, a large and clear picture of the world in front of me – as projected onto the camera's ground-glass screen. The image is upside-down and back-to-front which is something to get used to but which eventually adds to the process of composing, not least because it forces you to examine very closely and for some time the elements within the frame and how the frame contains them all.
The iPad does something similar: it's a large frame which you can view with both eyes open. Learning composition through a DSLR viewfinder is a bit like trying to learn composition by looking through the cardboard tube in the middle of a roll of toilet paper. Yes, it's doable, but it's harder to do. The great thing about the cardboard frame I use with my students [and with the iPad] is that you have a chunk of the world in front of you which has been framed-off. But because both of your eyes are open and the frame is held out in front of you, you can easily see the rest of the world around that walled-off chunk within the frame.
Around this framed section of world is the border of the cardboard or the border of the iPad: thick enough to separate the framed chunk of world from the rest but not so claustrophobic as to prevent you from seeing the rest of the world around it.
Add a grid to the screen or frame and you can begin to very readily see how the chunk of the world you are interested in fits into some of the prescribed guidelines for composition: rule of thirds, golden mean, diagonals, balancing elements.
I hope you can make some time to look through the material at this link. If you can, make the cardboard frame and use it alongside your camera. I think you'll find it helps you with your scene selection. And if you have an iPad, try the excercise with that as well.
Composition 101, Pt.1
Cheap or free is good sometimes and in the case of our lo-fi aid to getting your head around composition, this is 100% true: it’s free and it’s good. Nice discussion going on…
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