Is Instagram Ruining Photography?
Smart phones are changing the way we take, edit, view, and value photos. Apps like Instagram and Pixlr-o-matic are altering the way smart phone users perceive photographical value. Social media frequenters post images that they’ve filtered through Instagram (an iPhone App), Pixlr-o-matic, PicYou, Picplz, or a host of other online or mobile applications. While each have unique aspects, all are purposed to filter low-quality photos in an interesting way. Commonly, it makes the images look like polaroids circa 1970.
“The reason they do this is because of faux-nostalgia. People, and in particular brand marketers, have associated good times with the past, and “vintage” things — wine, clothes, cars — with higher quality…There’s also artificially altered expectations: it may be a terrible cellphone picture but it’s great for a polaroid.” – Laurie Voss, computer scientist and writer for Seldo.com
Pros & Cons of Free Photo Editors
• They are FREE
• They are usable anywhere (with internet connection)
• They are web compatible
• They are incredibly easy to use
• They make pictures look cool
• They take away from the photography industry
• They eliminate pixels- compromise quality
• Their effects are generally uniform
• They enable users to find less value in high quality photographs
Sara Tollefson, a recent Cal Poly graduate, works as a photographer in San Luis Obispo. Sara studied photography while at Poly,
so she understands and appreciates the art it takes to make a quality photograph. Here’s what she had to say about the shift in photography:
Emily: What are your thoughts on the growing accessibility of cameras and photo editors?
Sara: I wish that photography was still film because I know my passion would be all the same and people wouldn’t be undermining it or saying how simple it is. You wouldn’t be going and doing two clicks and uploading a filter and having some neat-o effect and call yourself a photographer. Or you wouldn’t be buying a camera, an SLR camera and thinking that you were a photographer without having the knowledge or experience of working with lighting or with people. Or just the aesthetic compositions and things like that. And like a lot of art, there’s a misconception that you areborn with it or talented, which definitely is the case for a lot of people, but it is a skill that takes a lot of practice and knowledge.
Emily: So are applications like Instagram and Pixlr-o-matic and other online or phone applications that put filters and borders on pictures undermining photography? Is that changing the industry at all?
Sara: It’s funny because it’s something I haven’t really thought about before. Because it feels so minimal and subtle. But, probably yes, because that sort of thing, like wanting to have a nice picture of yourself, when you can just download a free app and have something instantaneous does take away from the market of people who would go to a photographer. To have cute pictures of your friends nicely done, when you can just download some retro filter and be satisfied. Also, today’s consumer is more satisfied with lower quality images than they have been in the past. So it doesn’t help a competitive photographer in a day and age when people will compromise quality and be satisfied for something with a lower quality, so they’ll be paying less money and getting less, and be ok with it.
What do amateurs think about these easy-to-use photo editors?
“I like Pixlr-o-matic. I think it’s a fun way to edit your pictures. It’s easy to use and you don’t have to know a lot about picture editing and software and all that stuff, which is good for me,” said Kelsey Markley, a local hair stylist.
Meghan Pranger, a fourth year engineer said, “I like Pixlr-o-matic because it’s really simple, and I like how it has three steps and it’s not overwhelming. I’m not very good at Photoshop, so I wouldn’t be able to manipulate all the different tools and know which filters to use and what they’re called. I like how [on Pixlr] you can honestly just scroll through and choose your favorite effect. I’ve also done it before on random, and it gives you random combinations, and if you go through it enough, sometimes you get lucky.”
• Winner of last week’s photo contest is Arnes Klisura
• Photo shoot scavenger hunt with local photographer, Tina Loveridge
• Google map of our route around SLO
Smart Phone Photo Contest Winner
This winner caused a unique shift in my former contest parameters: not only did the winner take his photo on a brick (not smart) phone, but he did so from another continent!
Name: Arnes Klisura
Camera: Nokia 7230
Location: Sarajevo, Bosnia
Photo Treasures of SLO
This week, my professional interview was more organic than my previous ones. Tina Loveridge, a local photographer and friend of mine, took me on an adventure around San Luis Obispo to take pictures of her favorite spots to take pictures ( I have put all 8 locales into a Google Map for you to see). Along the way, we took photos and discussed photography.
Stop 1: Johnson Ranch
Tina likes to take families and couples out here for portrait and engagement shots. I can see why. The ranch is gorgeous, secluded, and vibrant with color. “It’s even better in late spring and early summer, because the hills are green instead of brown,” Tina said. “But the contrast between the hills and the blue sky is still awesome.”
Stop 2: Cerro San Luis (Madonna Mountain)
We took a short jaunt up Lemon Grove Loop, stopping to take pictures of Tina’s favorite landmarks. One was a very mature-looking tree. “I like it because it has good shade- not speckled, but complete shade. And it’s kind of gangly and gnarly; it gives good depth perception when I’m shooting portraits.” Tina said. We walked a bit further up the trail to a small cactus garden. “It makes for a quirky shoot.”
Stop 3: Bishop Peak
The small wood at the base of the peak is wonderful for shooting. We walked up to the near edge of the wood to one particular tree. It reminded me of something out of Lord of The Rings, because it was serenely, almost surreally, beautiful. And with the late afternoon sun sending glowing rays through its branches, I was compelled to think of when I next needed my photos taken…. maybe graudation?
“When a photo subject looks to boring or common, shoot high and shoot low. The unique angles will make the photo more interesting.” -Tina Loveridge
On our way back though the wood, Tina stopped to take photos. “When a photo subject looks to boring or common, shoot high and shoot low,” Tina said. “The unique angles will make the photo more interesting.” She stooped, letting her camera graze the leafy ground to get a low angle shot of the path before us.
Stop 4: Brick Wall on the Corner of Chorro & Palm
Who knew a realty building would be a great photo backdrop? Anderson’s Commercial Real Estate surely is. The faded brick walls, festooned with crisp ivy makes for a textured backdrop. “I’m all about textures,” Tina remarked. “Different textures make a photo more appealing.”
Stop 5: de Tolosa Mission Garden
By this time, it was near evening and the sun was setting, casting that magical, bronzed layer of light over everything. What a perfect time to be in a luscious, Mediterranean garden. “There are a lot of pockets of scenery that you can use as a backdrop. There’s some uniform-looking trees and a grassy area, and the big trellis that you could use to do something nice with lines and depth of field.”
Stop 6: San Luis Obispo’s Creek
Everyone from SLO is familiar with the creek between Higuera and Monterrey Street. But whoever thought of it as a great place for portraits? Other than Tina, that is. We rushed through the mission courtyard and over the bridge to make it to the creek while there was enough light. Not only was it bursting with that same Lord of the Rings-esque etherial beauty, but the sound of the bubbling water made it even more enjoyable. Blanca Torres, a local, said, “This would be a great place for a photo shoot because it’s so beautiful… and peaceful.”
Stop 7: Linnaea’s Cafe
I’m certain that most college students in San Luis Obispo have been in Linnaea’s before. I’m also fairly certain that very few customers have ever considered Linnaea’s to be a great place to take portraits. The great thing about Linnaea’s is that it has a large window at the front of the shop, furnished by a coffee bar. On warm days, the window is usually open and customers can sit, enjoy their coffee, and soak up SLO’s amazing weather. Tina and I ordered Italian sodas and took a couple pictures of the photo-worthy window.
Stop 8: Meze Wine Cafe & Market
Meze is a relatively new cafe off of Santa Barbara Street. It resides in a renovated brick building that it shares with Yoga Centre and Cygnet Software. “I love that it juxtaposes the old antique-y brick walls with the modern, clean lines of the metal framework,” Tina said. “I usually take my younger, more adventurous subjects here.”
• McKibben, a top green journalist lectured to 800 at Fremont Theater
• Global success of the 350 movement
• McKibben called SLO residents to surround LA senator’s home on Nov. 6 to protest the Keystone XL Act
McKibben packs out Fremont
Bill McKibben, a renowned eco-journalist, spoke to a sold out crowd at the Fremont Theater in downtown San Luis Obispo on Sunday, October 30th.
It was one of the largest climate-focused gatherings San Luis Obispo has ever held. The event was organized and hosted by the Central Coast Clergy for and Laity and Justice (CCCLJ), an interfaith coalition that values “compassion, generosity, non violence, and respect for diversity”. Attendees ranged from college-aged adults to senior citizens, all engaged in what McKibben had to say. “I’ve been following the issues on air quality for quite some time, well before I retired,” said John Schutz, a ten year resident of San Luis and former automotive engineer. “I thought this may be a very good discussion of what we may need to do to bring CO2 down to a sustainable level.”
The Harrowing Facts
McKibben addressed the energetic crowd of 800, calling himself a “professional bummer-outter”, but that he hoped to end the evening on a positive note. He spent a good deal of his lecture on the shifting global climate, just in the past eighteen months. He told of how 2010 was the hottest year on record, how droughts and flooding are increasing all over the world, and how it is all due to a one degree increase in temperature. He also told of what kind of climate change the world can expect in the future. “If things keep going the way they are, we can expect a four, five, or six degree change in temperature by the end of the century,” McKibben said. “And we can expect every one degree increase to result in ten percent less grain worldwide.”
Hope Around the World
To combat the climate shift, McKibben co-founded an organization called 350, which is how many carbon parts per million the atmosphere should be, as opposed to the current 393 parts per million. 350 is a global movement that utilizes peaceful protest to get the attention of government officials. McKibben shared on the Fremont’s screen photos of members all over the world holding “350” signs, or making the shape of “350” with a large group of supporters. The photos were sent to 350.org on a certain day to be posted live, making a political statement and showing solidarity. McKinney shared that people around the world, particularly in developing nations, care deeply about climate change, because they will be the first affected.
A Call to Action
Although much of his message was grave, McKibben encouraged the crown with a provocative call to action. “We have some advantages,” he said. “Scientists and engineers have done their job in telling us what we need to do. The problem is, as much as science and engineering have succeeded, our political system has failed; there have been no bi-partisan [climate] initiatives in the past 20 years. We have the power to change this.”
McKinney is no stranger to protest; this summer he and many others peacefully surrounded the White House, and were thrown in jail. Near the end of his lecture, his suggestion to the audience was to protest the Keystone XL act, which, if passed, will allow a pipeline to transport oil from the tar sand pits in Northern Canada through the US, and down through the Gulf of Mexico. It is the second largest concentration of carbon in the world, and distributing it will wreak havoc on our already fragile climate, according to McKibben. He and many members of 350 will once again surround the White House on Sunday, November 6th, protesting the act, which is to be approved or vetoed by the end of the year. McKibben asked the 800 SLO civilians at his lecture to surround Los Angeles Senators’ homes on the 6th as well, in peaceful protest. Actions like these will get the attention of politicians, and those fighting for sustainability can only hope they will affect legislative decisions concerning carbon emissions.
McKinney stepped down from the stage to a standing ovation. “I was absolutely thrilled, because I felt the response was overwhelmingly positive, and it energized the group of people who were here to go out and take action,” said Rev. Susan Brecht, a CCCLJ member and one of this event’s coordinator. “That’s what needs to happen. If we just sit here and listen and continue our lives, nothing will change. We need to take action.”
Last Sunday, Tina Loveridge, a friend of mine and photographer, took me to her favorite spots to have photo shoots. Some spots are hidden; places people probably wouldn’t know of without a map. Other spots are in the middle of town; some are common stomping grounds that few would think to photograph.
• Second smart phone photo contest
• Video of SLOcals answering where they would have a photo shoot in SLO
• Interview with Amy Shen, an ASI photographer
Smart Phone Photo Contest: Round Two
Photo Shoot Video
A couple sunny Sundays ago, I asked people strolling around Downtown SLO what their ideal local photo shoot location would be.
Amy Shen is a fourth year business major concentrating in marketing and minoring in photography. Not only is she a wealth of photographical knowledge, but she is also a photographer for Cal Poly’s ASI. Here are the highlights from our conversation:
Emily: When did you become interested in photography?
Amy: It started when I was in middle school. I started bringing a digital camera to school, and I would take pictures of my friends and I would upload them to Xanga, which is really old school (it’s a blog for those who don’t know). All my friends would naturally want to go see their pictures on it. So, during seventh and eighth grade, I would take a bunch of pictures during lunch. I was also on the yearbook staff in eighth grade so I got a lot of experience with that.
Emily: What do you like about your job with ASI?
Amy: I just started this September. I think what I really like about it is that it is on an as-needed basis, so we’ll get emailed about different events that ASI wants photography for. There’s three of us, so basically we just have to email her back saying which job we’d like to do. So it’s not like we’re forced to go to all these events; we actually get to choose what we want to do. I think that makes a huge difference, because when you choose an event that you’re going to, you want to be there and there’s something there that attracted you to be there.
What’s also cool is the opportunities I have through this job. This past week I went on a helicopter ride. Our current president and former president were supposed to go on a helicopter ride with ROTC, and they actually brought a helicopter into our WOW-O-Rama Field. That was really cool. Our boss emailed us about a really cool opportunity to go on a helicopter ride, and we have room for one photographer. So I emailed her back and got the job.
Emily: Do you have a favorite lens or filter that you like to use on the job or for recreation?
Amy: When I shoot people and candids, I like to use a 60 mm one, because it gets really close to the subject and you get really intimate. So that’s what I like to use for portraits and candids.
Snap pictures whenever you can. – Amy Shen
I also like using a 70-300 which is a super expensive lens. That one’s really good for event photography-just shooting pictures from far away when people aren’t looking. It can be kind of stalker-status because you can really zoom. It’s really good for candids because its a really high-tech and professional grade lenses.
I just used a lens called a tilt-shift lens, which I just learned to use.That’s actually what I borrowed for my helicopter ride. It kind of makes things look miniature. So, if you take pictures from above or from higher up or from further away, it makes things look like little toy-scales of things. I just discovered it and I really like using it and playing around with it, so that’s definitely a lens that I want to look more into and play around with.
Emily: What kind of camera do you use and why?
Amy: Right now I have a Canon 40D, which isn’t that good but it’s good enough. I started using Canon because my brother suggested it to me once I got into high school. He said, “Hey, maybe you should invest in a DSLR.” I think that influenced me to get a Canon because he always used a Canon and he’s pretty artsy and goes to film school. I just took his word for it. It’s one of those things like when your mom buys a certain brand of laundry detergent, you’re more likely to just stick with it when you grow up. So now I’m just sticking with Canon.
Emily: Do you have any tips for aspiring photographers?
Amy: Try really hard and snap pictures whenever you can. Don’t be afraid to fail. I think that’s something that I struggle with, because I’m a photo minor, so being in a lot of photo classes it gets kind of intimidating because there are so many people that I feel are so much better than I am. It’s really hard to be confident in yourself and to just trust that you’re going to be happy with whatever pictures you take. So knowing that if it makes you happy, it makes it worth it. Don’t be scared to ask for help, and shoot A LOT because that’s how you’re going to get better.
I spoke with Alex Bozarth, a fifth year math major at Cal Poly, and asked him how photography has affected his life.
“Well, my grandma was a professional photographer, and she inspired both my mom and my sister to do photography. My sister is pretty big into it and considered it for college for a while. My grandma won some awards and was a wedding photographer until she retired when I was a child.”
• Photo contest winner is Rich Graziano
• Trevor Povah talks Architecture Photography
• Local answers candid question on what he likes about photography
Photo Contest Results
To show how easy and accessible photography is in this age, I sent out an open invitation for people to send their smartphone or brick phone photos my way. I got a great response, and last week’s blog highlighted five photos taken on cell phones from all over SLO county. The winner is:
Name: Rich Graziano
Location: Cal Poly Campus
Quote: “What a fun idea.”
This week, I had the opportunity to chat with local photo guru, Trevor Povah.
Emily: How long have you been practicing photography?
Trevor: I graduated from Cal Poly in ‘04 with a degree in Video Production; in ‘08-09 I transitioned to photography.
Emily: When did you start practicing photography in San Luis Obispo?
Trevor: Over the past three years—starting in 2009. I stayed in SLO after graduating and opened up my own production company. I released my first movie in 2008, and from there transitioned to digital photography.
Emily: What is your favorite form of photography?
Trevor: Sports photography is what I really enjoy to shoot, although Architecture Photography has found me, and that is what primarily pays the bills. As far as income goes, commercial Architecture Photography and high-end residential homes are the greatest contributors.
“I like the idea of being able to use perspective and different angles to put a creative spin on a setting.” -David Moore
Emily: What makes being a photographer in SLO so appealing?
Trevor: For me, I was lucky that Architecture Photography found me—there’s definitely a niche for that in that area, and I have a background of shooting that. My client base is expanding, and I’m looking to expanding to Santa Barbara and Monterey.
Emily: Is it easy to be a photographer in San Luis?
Trevor: Being a photographer in SLO, there are quite a few athletes who train and it’s a beautiful area, so there are plenty of things to shoot. There’s a wide variety but there’s not too much opportunity. There are a couple companies who sponsor niche photographers, so through those companies there are good opportunities.
Emily: Do you have any techniques for amateur photographers?
Trevor: The business side of photography is definitely undervalued. People think that if you can produce a good image you’ll be successful. I tell students shooting is only 20% of the business. You need to know how to run a business and be confident in writing contracts.
I asked SLO resident (and recent Cal Poly Graduate) David Moore what he likes about photography…
“I like the idea of being able to use perspective and different angles to put a creative spin on a setting. So like putting your camera on the opposite side of a bridge and looking down the bridge and looking at the perspective and the vanishing point—just a different angle. Being able to add filters or color scales to pictures after just to be creative or artsy. It’s fun.”
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San Luis Obispo is a beautiful city, full of beautiful people. Photo opportunities are so incredibly prevalent, it would almost be a sin to not take advantage of the amazing scenery around us. We all have the tools to take photos. Whether it’s a camera, a computer, a smartphone or a brick phone- anyone can be a photographer to some extent.
“When you find a place you like, you should make sure there aren’t one hundred photographers that do the same thing in that area.” – Tom Meinhold
To prove how easy it is to be an amateur photographer in SLO, I am asking people to send me photos they have taken in the area on their smartphone or old-school cell (I call them bricks). This is a contest, and I will continue receiving photos from anyone interested in entering. Here are some options to get involved:
1. Vote for your favorite photo above!
2. Send your favorite smartphone or brick photos to firstname.lastname@example.org, including when are where in SLO County they were taken.
3. Check back to see who won the contest each week!
This week, I spoke with a very popular local photographer, Tom Meinhold. He has been a photographer in SLO for twenty years, and specializes in family and senior portraits, events and commercial photography. He has so much expertise in the field, and I was very excited to discuss his work with him. Here are a few things we talked about:
Emily: “When did you start practicing photography and where?”
Tom: “I graduated from Brooks Institute in ’87, and assisted in LA for a few years. I moved back to SLO in ’94 because I was born and raised here. I started my photography business once I cam back to SLO.”
Emily: “What drew you to open your photography business in San Luis?”
Tom: “I was living in LA and working in LA, and it wasn’t my bag. Didn’t like the traffic or the people. I got homesick. I also got hurt on the job and came back to SLO to get treatment. It all came together from there.”
Emily: “What is your favorite aspect of being a photographer in SLO?”
Tom: “I really like working with families; it’s probably my favorite thing to do. Usually because it’s a lot less stressful of a pace, especially compared to weddings. I get to spend a lot more time with my clients, and see what they are looking for in their portraits.”
Emily: “Of the types of photography that you specialize in, which is your favorite?”
Tom: “One season of photography rolls into the next and I like all of the stuff that I do. If I don’t like a kind of photography, I don’t do it.”
Emily: “Can you give any tips to aspiring photographers?”
Tom: “If you want your own studio and you want to be successful in your area, you should do your demographics homework. When you find a place you like, you should make sure there aren’t one hundred photographers that do the same thing in that area.”
While I was walking to Kennedy Library, two girls with a camera caught my attention. I went over and asked them what they were doing. The girls, Katie and Marisa, architecture students, were taking photos for their photo manipulation course- ART 182. While we were on the subject, I asked them what they like about photography. “I like that you are able to change an image through the use of different lenses,” Marisa answered. Katie’s favorite aspect is that “you can see an image or situation in an entirely different way.”
I asked a fellow journalism student, Lauren Scott, how she feels photography will affect her future career. She had some interesting things to say: “If I choose to work for a newspaper, I need to understand the importance of photography, as every story has a visual element. I also hope to work in video production, and photography is a huge part of video production that I need to learn-it’s definitely important.”
All this talk about photography is inspiring me to get out and take some photos myself!