A Glimmer of Hope

I used to place all iPhone camera apps (and really all camera phone apps) into two categories: useful and distracting. The useful camp was usually a lonely place, population one: the basic image capture tool that came with the phone. The distraction camp was filled with hundreds of whiz-bang apps that made your photos retro-social-HDR-cover-up-your-story-with-fluff cool.

This month, I’ve had to admit that a few apps have finally brought the useful.

Hueless

There’s a reason the best photographers embrace black and white. In the words of one of the greatest living landscape photographers, Clyde Butcher:

“Color is duplication, black and white is interpretation.”

Black and white reveals the most important aspects of an image for the discerning photographer: pattern, texture and luminosity. It’s just the biology of the human eye to be distracted from these elements with the addition of color. Black and white photography is not about purism or minimalism, it’s about mastery of a craft.

Leica recently took advantage of the resurgence in serious black and white photography by introducing their M-Monochrom digital camera. I won’t even get into the sense of buying an $8000 camera that might be obsolete in five years, when for $2000 you can have a Leica film camera that will last a lifetime and still be worth $2000 when you die, but I digress.

Hueless is an app meant specifically for shooting in black and white, with black and white previewing (including the typical black and white filters). This is not processing for black and white after the shot, but viewing in black and white in real time. I still prefer to visualize in black and white and process to match that visualization (interpretation as Clyde says), but if you want the accuracy of a digital preview and you’re trying to capture a fleeting shot, nothing will get you there quicker than this app.

iPhoto for iOS

I’m trying to skip over all the needless and clunky parts of iPhoto for iOS (and there are many) to get to a sapling of hope for lesser photographers: Photo Journals. Let’s face it - as much as we know our photos are better when they’re part of a larger story (including text and other elements) - we’re terrible at taking the time to construct those stories.

What iPhoto Journals attempts to do is make storytelling easier by allowing the simple drag-and-drop publishing of images, captions, maps, weather and dates to a responsive web page for sharing. It’s a sorely-needed start.