Jackson Coffee Company.
A few months ago, a friend asked me, “How do you take all those cool Instagram shots?”
My simple advice: pull over.
A lot of my Instagram photos are snagged on my work commute, through back country roads with great views of the sky. Some are grabbed when I’m traveling for work, or out doing errands. But the common thread is that I pull my car over, get out, and snap the shot.
Sure, keeping an eye out for possibilities helps. Also, I try to keep locations in mind so that, if I return, I can pull over and grab the shot.
But the kicker is to just get out of the car. That’s it. If I see something noteworthy, or worth grabbing, I pull over and snap the photo. This is how I avoid banal Instagram shots like food or coffee.
Step one: go somewhere. Step two: see something cool. Step three: pull over and take the shot.
There are times when I’m concerned about traffic, especially on highways. And if someone’s behind me, I tend not to pull over. Something about being on an empty road makes me more likely to pull over. But that’s why I keep a mental inventory, for times when I am alone on the road. If a car does happen to pass by, sometimes I’ll pretend like I’m looking for something along the road.
It also helps to make sure no one’s on the property. You avoid awkward questions that way.
I’m usually not afraid to take pictures of someone’s property. Sometimes the shot is worth it. In general though, and for the style of photos I like to share, #abandoned property is best.
For the above shot, I stopped by a house that I pass fairly often. I noticed the For Sale out front, and saw that some of the barns in the back looked pretty rough. So I pulled over to walk around the property to grab some shots.
I probably looked mighty suspicious to neighbors, who had a clear view of the property. But the light was just right, and the abandoned buildlings were in disarray. It was a great opportunity to do some iPhoneography.
All I had to do was pull over.
What can be said about the iPhone that hasn’t already been said?
Personally: I (gladly) waited for the second one. I love having a camera with me at all times. I sync it every night.
It’s my everything. My muse. My camera. My window to the world. My mobile fact checker. My jukebox. My communicator.
I’ve broken it. Dropped it. Had to replace it. Upgraded it. Traveled with it. Did my work on it. Everything.
I waited a long time between the 3G and the 4S models, and in a lot of ways that worked out well. Now I think I’ll stick to the “S” updates: the good made better. The beautiful, revised.
And when the new one comes out, I’ll get that one, too. Gladly. What else would I do?
// VSCO Kodak T-MAX 3200+ (switched to color mode)
One time I got something stuck in the headphone jack of my iPhone 3G.
Being the DIYer that I am, I decided to fish it out with a Q-tip. Bad move.
From then on, no audio jack plug worked with my iPhone. The fibers from the Q-tip became stuck inside the audio jack, preventing a secure connection. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
This meant I couldn’t listen to albums or podcasts on my morning commute. Thankfully, my trusty iPod Shuffle came to the rescue. I used it every single day as my on-the-go audio device until I purchased an iPhone 4S.
To say the iPod Shuffle is simple is to be coy. There’s no visual interface. Just a few buttons and a clip. But its simplicity is its beauty – and its usefulness. I use mine all the time.
The blue one was my first one. It was a refurbished model, all of $50, that lasted until I left it in a pants pocket and it took a trip through the wash cycle (I’m hard on my iPods). Try as I could to save it, it was done. Retired.
But I didn’t want one of those goofy 3rd generation Chicklet models. No, I wanted real buttons. So I bought a 2nd-gen model on Amazon – a low-key silver one that works like a dream.
These days I mainly use my Shuffle for gym workouts. The clip is everything: it helps the iPod stay out the way, stay secure, and stay with me. And it does one thing well: plays audio. Boom.
The one complaint I have is that, if you accidentally his the Reverse button, you erase all the progress on a podcast – meaning you have to fast forward through to the point you left off. It’s annoying, and it happens enough that I’m complaining about it.
But despite the abuse, despite it’s simple nature, and despite being a two-generations-ago model, I do appreciate the little bugger.
I’m a frequent Instagrammer – usually averaging two photo posts a day. I also try to post a photo to Flickr every day, and some of them are iPhone photos.
So how do I edit my photos to share with the world? Like this:
When taking a photo, I’m not picky. Usually the default iPhone camera app, accessed from the lock screen, does a good enough job.
If I’m not in a rush, and I want to take more time on composition and framing, I’ll usually use one of these three camera apps:
I prefer not to have a camera app store each photo in the app itself. The iPhone photo gallery is usually my go-to place. But sometimes the app doesn’t allow for this kind of photo storage.
I like VSCO cam because the shutter is fast (however, it does have a tendency to corrupt photo files).
KitCam (above) is great because you get a preview of what the film/lens combo will look like before you snap the photo. I tend to like the Brooklyn film and Accent lens presets. But you can have a lot of fun (and get a lot of flexibility) out of various combinations, à la Hipstamatic (another camera app I enjoy using).
And Camera + is a good, all-around camera app to use.
When it comes to editing iPhone photos, my number one editing app is PicFX (shown above). The combination of editing styles and filters – plus the ability to layer effects on top of each other – makes it a killer app.
As shown above, I tend to stick to straightforward filters. The vintage film effects, the PFX 15/150 filters, and the greenish Meadow and Creek filters are my favorites.
PicFX is nice because it crops photos in the square format, too, making it easy to share with Instagram when you’re done editing. In fact, sharing your edited photo with Instagram is as easy as hitting the Share button.
For “problem” photos (like the one above, where it’s a bit underexposed), I try Camera+’s “Clarity” scene preset. It tends to lighten the shadows a bit – although sometimes (as with the photo above) you get a glossy HDR effect. I’m not a fan of this look, so I usually try some of the other scene modes to see what looks appropriate.
Camera+ offers some nice filters as well. I try to avoid the obnoxious ones. The black and white whites tend to be good on certain photos.
My newest editor is VSCO Cam. You can import photos from your default gallery into VSCO, or take the photo from the app, and turn its film-style effects loose on your image. I’m a big fan of VSCO film packs for Lightroom, and you get a bit of that old-school look with this app – especially that faded, grainy look that’s so popular now. A nice, subtle vignette is easy to do with VSCO cam, too.
Finishing and Posting
After editing, I save the finished photo in a photo album called “Instagrammable.” Rarely do I post a photo immediately after snapping it – I usually save it in the album until a certain mood catches me.
My Instagram album is full of photos. I’ll dip in and grab a photo that fits whatever I’m thinking about that day, or fits a song lyric I like, or is weather-appropriate. There’s no hard and fast philosophy.
Often, I’ll take a photo and re-edit it if I find a filter I really like. Also, rarely do I use the standard Instagram filters anymore. Not that they’re bad. I just like a unique look, and I find the third party editing apps do a better job of creating the look I like.
For posting, I do two Instagram posts a day: one in the morning that’s shared with other social networks (Facebook, Twitter, sometimes Flickr). The other one gets posted at night, usually before bed. The evening photo is exclusive to Instagram. It’s also where I play around with styles, and get creative trying out different looks.
Find me on Instagram to see what I’m up to, where I’ve been, and what I find beautiful or interesting in the world.