01/04/2012

Shooting with the Hip

Whilst out walking in the early morning sunshine this week, I set myself the task of getting to grips with the Hipstamatic, camera, application for the iPhone - regular readers of the blog will know that I have had the phone grafted onto my right hand. Having downloaded the software over three weeks ago I finally decided to put the app through its paces. In previous weeks I have only experimented briefly with the Hipstamatic software and found the results a little disappointing.

The basic principle of Hipstamatic is that it turns your iPhone into a camera. When the app opens you are presented with what looks like the back of a film camera, including viewfinder, shutter and flash buttons. There is another button that allows you to toggle between this screen and the front of the camera. The front screen lets you access various lens, film and flash types. The app has become known as the plastic camera with the golden button.



Rear view of UI featuring Old Glory Camera Case


You have to purchase Hipstamatic through the app store at a cost of £1.49. It comes bundled with four lenses, three film types and three flash guns, all producing different effects. Additional 'hipstapaks' can be bought at an extra cost of 69p, these include more lenses, films and flashguns. Although Hipstamatic is digital photography the aim of the app is to make images look like they were shot in an analog era. The tagline on the Hipstamatic website reads:

'….an application that brings back the look, feel, unpredictable beauty and fun of plastic toy cameras from the past."



Front view featuring Americana lens


I didn't take to using Hipstamatic straight away and struggled to like any of the equipment in the bundled starter pack. The combination of John S lens and Blanko film was probably the pick of the bunch. I really had to make a concerted effort to shoot using Hipstamatic and not the iPhones regular camera, which has a pretty good user interface, complete with AE and AF lock. I think this is the function I miss most when using Hipstamatic, that and the speed at which the camera functions. That said, the app's main aim is to recreate the imperfections of an analog toy camera, so with this in mind I persevered and purchased more hipstapaks. 


Americana Lens, Blanko Freedom13, No Flash

Of the new 'paks' I purchased, the one I took to immediately was America, it contains a lens, two films (one mono and one colour) and a retro camera case. I instantly liked the combination of Americana lens and the colour film Blanko Freedom13. This film seemed to suit the outdoor conditions of sunshine and bright blue skies. Its effects evoke memories of using, out of date, analog Fuji film stock.

John S Lens, Blanko Film, No Flash

I wasn't as impressed with the 'paks' mono film, US1776. It's a little too 'soft' for my liking. A much 'harder' mono film containing more contrast and deeper blacks is BlacKeys SuperGrain found in the Camden Hipstapak. I like the results this film gives when used with the Americana lens. Most of the combinations I liked seemed to benefit from shooting in bright, sunny, outdoor conditions. So far I have accumulated eight lenses and eleven different film types. From these my favourites are combinations of the following: 
Americana or Jonh S Lenses with BlacKeys SuperGrain, Blanko or Blanko Freedom13 films.
The other lenses and film types really haven't impressed me so far. I am not sure if this is because they don't suit the weather conditions I have been shooting in this week, so I will reserve judgement until I have tested them under different lighting conditions.

Americana Lens, BlacKeys SuperGrain Film, No Flash

It is worth noting that the final image in Hipstamatic is definitive - no further editing can be done and an original, unaltered image is not saved to your camera roll. Once you have chosen the lens and film and 'touched' the shutter button you are committed to that style. However, a recent update, to the software, allows the user to 'share' an image to Instagram where additional filters can be added. Personally I'm not all that keen on over-manipulating digital images but I did find that subtle tweaks in Instagram did improve some of my Hipstamatic prints. The image below was shot using Hipstamatic and then shared to Instagram, here I added the Lux effect which increases vibrancy and brings out detail.

Americana Lens, Blanko Freedom13.  Lux effect in Instagram

I find working with Hipstamatic hugely different to working with Instagram and apple's own camera app. I think you need to be a lot more considered, when composing shots and generally work more methodically (which is no bad thing). At least now I have a grasp of the application and what it's capable of. It is a lot of fun to use and you can achieve some great results with a little experimentation. I do find the user interface a little sluggish and would hope to see this rectified in a future update along with the inclusion of an AE (auto exposure) lock button. Maybe I'm asking too much as these changes probably go against the whole ethos of Hipstamatic. For further information visit the Hipstamatic website. 

Americana Lens, Blanko Freedom13, No Flash