Let’s close out the year in style!

December Reflections | SusannahConway.com
Introducing the very first December Reflections!

I so enjoyed doing the August Break photo challenge this year I thought it would be fun to do something similar to end the year on a creative high! Like the AB, the idea is to take a photograph every day in December as a way to pay attention to what’s around you and reflect on the year that’s closing.

I’ve put together 31 photo prompts so we have something to photograph or share each day. We have an Instagram hashtag — #decemberreflections — a Flickr group if you prefer to share photos there and also a blog roll so we can find new blogs to read.  

December Reflections | SusannahConway.com
All the details are over on this page and we start December 1st — fancy joining me?

By the way, this isn’t meant to be another obligation — it’s simply a lighthearted way to make the most of the last month of the year and maybe make a few new friends along the way. I’ll be sharing my photos on Instagram and can’t wait to explore the hashtag (we had over 22,000 photos shared on IG in August. Crazy.)

* And for those of you who were expecting this to be the workbook, have no fear! The Unravelling the Year Ahead workbook for 2015 will be ready for you NEXT WEEK with an extra treat to help you figure out your word for 2015.

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How I shoot with my iPhone

How I shoot with my iPhone | SusannahConway.com
I often get asked how I create images with my iPhone so I thought it was about time I put together a post. The short answer is: I don’t actually do much at all. When I first started taking pictures with my phone I’d go through phases of using a particular app or filter that took my fancy, and, of course, whenever a new bells ’n’ whistles app is released I still download and give it a try. But these days I find myself shooting and editing in pretty much the same way every time.

Whatever camera you use to take photos, whether it’s film, toy, a DSLR or a phone, I believe it’s the strength of your composition that makes your photo work (or not). Doesn’t matter if you’ve used the most expensive camera on the market or the cheapest — it’s not the camera that creates the image, it’s your eye. One of the reasons I love shooting with film cameras so much is because it takes me back to photography basics: you set the exposure, compose the shot, focus and shoot. I don’t have to fanny around with white balance and the other buttons on my DSLR I haven’t bothered to figure out. Likewise, I use my iPhone in an equally simple way. I’ve tried plenty of camera apps but they all have too many gizmos — I just want to compose my shot and take it. So here’s my very simple (updated) method…

How I shoot with my iPhone | SusannahConway.com
I shoot all my photos with the basic camera app that comes with the phone (an iPhone 5S), alternating between the rectangle and square format, depending on how I want to frame the shot.

When taking the picture I hold the phone up keeping my arms close to my body — for crisp shots you need to keep the phone as steady as possible. When shooting Polaroids I always hold my breath as I take the shot and it’s the same with the iPhone. I only ever take one or two shots of a particular scene, a habit from shooting with film and not having many shots to spare — I also don’t want to use up all the memory on the phone with duplicate images. I take my time, compose thoughtfully, touch the screen to adjust the exposure and then take the picture.

For editing I mainly use the VSCO cam app — I brighten the shot, maybe up the contrast a smidge and then apply a filter dialled down to about 60%. My current filter faves are M6,  S2 and C2, with B3 and X1 used occasionally for B&W.

How I shoot with my iPhone | SusannahConway.com
I occasionally put words on my pictures using Over or Word Swag. If I need to straighten or crop an image I’ll do it in VSCO; the SKRWT app is useful for correcting distortion in buildings. I use Snapseed for dodging & burning and TouchRetouch to remove stray cranes on skylines.

When posting to Instagram I use Afterlight to add white borders to rectangular images and I use the Dropbox app to upload edited images to the Dropbox folder on my computer. And that’s it.

For self portraits I use the basic camera app reversed (the lower resolution of the reversed camera helps smudge wrinkles ;-) and edit as usual with VSCO cam. In a moment of vanity I downloaded the Facetune app to test the skin-smoothing function and I can report that, yes, it works but I’ve yet to share a Facetuned photo anywhere as it looks so fake.

When it comes to selfies I’m not very adventurous — I think I got it out of my system at art college. Good hair days, feet shots and hand shots are all I feel the need for these days, so for some self portrait inspiration, check out my mates Amy Palko, Susan Tuttle and Vivienne McMaster.

How I shoot with my iPhone | SusannahConway.com
Once in a blue moon I’ll use Hipstamatic just because I see it on my phone and think ‘oh, yeah, that app was always fun to use.” But in all honesty, I’m over it.

When sharing on Instagram I never geo-tag my photos purely because I switched off that function when it geo-tagged my home. If was travelling the world maybe geo-tagging would be fun, but usually I’m in London or with family — I don’t think people need to know exactly where I am. Privacy first and all that.

Other photo apps I’ve downloaded and kept on my phone: A Beautiful Mess, Diana Photo, PicTapGoLitely, and Autostitch. There have been many more, of course, but they’ve long been deleted.

How I shoot with my iPhone | SusannahConway.com
Shooting with my iPhone hasn’t changed the way I take pictures so much as facilitated my desire to shoot every day. I see photos everywhere and like to record my days, just for the sheer pleasure of capturing colour, light and shape. When I leave the house I always have my phone with me, though at this stage I really do view it more as a camera than a phone. For a while I was worried that using my iPhone more than my Polaroid cameras or even DSLR meant I was ‘cheating’. How could I call myself a photographer if I shot predominently with a phone? But I’ve always believed that being a photographer simply means you express yourself using the photographic image — the tools you use don’t matter so much anymore (did anyone ever critique Picasso on his choice of brushes? No.) A writer writes, a painter paints and a photographer photographs. Simple as that.

I actually love that digital photography and now smart phones have made photography so accessible to everyone. These days photographs aren’t just taken on birthdays and holidays — we’re now recording and sharing our daily lives. We pay attention more. We’re exercising our creative muscles. Our eyes open wider every day.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Allowing time for play

I’m back from a weekend at my sister’s and missing Noah already. I have a cold. I have lots to do for next week’s new course but this morning I just wanted to lie on my bed quietly moaning. But instead of doing that, I downloaded a new photo app to my iPhone and played for an hour. Playing is such an important part of the creative process, and playing with images is in my Top Ten Best Things to Do Ever (the other nine are cuddles with Noah, journalling, reading, eating anything delicious, flying anywhere, karoake, standing by the ocean, coffees with my soulsisters, and *cough* hot sex *cough*)

What’s in your top ten?

The Instameet

We will definitely be organising another one – it was so much fun! Big thanks to Xanthe for getting us organised and Katherine, Julia, Donna and everyone else who came along xxx

Ps. Today’s August Break prompt is taste… again. This isn’t an intentional repeat, just what happens when you put together projects too quickly ;)