Thursday, May 7, 2015
Hi, my name is Jaime, and I'm an Instagram addict.
From classic standbys like Amaro or Valencia, to the newer filters, such as Crema or Ludwig, I can't help adding that vintage tinge to my photos before clicking "Share". A few months ago, I graduated to using apps like VSCOcam, which provide more subtle filters - you know, filters that look just a little bit more professional and less like you just pressed a few buttons on your phone. More recently, I've stopped using pre-set filters all together, opting for making slight, deliberate adjustments to the brightness, contrast, saturation, and temperature of a color - I think of it as lazy Photoshop/Lightroom for amateurs.
But my addiction to filters runs deep: I love it when my photos look just that much brighter and vibrant. Sure, the trees in Sri Lanka were lush enough without any help, but with a tiny little boost to the saturation, the verdant palm leaves just popped that much more against the blue sky. Uploading photos without any filters or touch-ups makes me feel insecure: naked and exposed. But how often have you scrolled through your Instagram feed, only to find images that had been filtered to within an inch of their lives? Too often (and I'm guilty of this myself!).
Every year, London City Airport runs the #NoFilter project: a campaign that encourages travellers to "get back to the root of photography, celebrating the fact that photos don't need to be Instagrammed to show how beautiful a city is." And as a bit of added fun, Duncan Rhodes, editor of Urban Travel Blog, will be judging all the posts and selecting a winner on May 16th.
This year's focus is on Amsterdam: the city of gorgeous, color-popping tulips in Spring, pretty, boutique- and gallery-lined streets, and - of course - those unmistakable canals and narrow boats.
When we visited Amsterdam last year, we had amazing weather: it was sunny and bright the whole time, which is key to taking good photographs without a filter! Unless you're taking night shots with a tripod and a brilliant camera, having good light is a must when taking photographs - whether it's an indoor shot of a product or an outdoor snap of the landscape. The sun does wonders to make colors come alive, and you can play with showing more sky if it's bright blue, or water if it looks particularly turquoise and clear.
The photos that I've featured in this post were all taken on ... my iPhone 5. I think that camera-phone photos are becoming more and more widely accepted these days; a while ago, I was asked to contribute a photograph to a magazine and I felt really nervous about it because I'd taken the photo on my iPhone, instead of using John's Canon DSLR, and the magazine was really particular about the resolution and size of the photograph. When I wrote to the editor of the magazine admitting to this, she quashed my worries instantly, saying, "I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of the images I received were taken on iPhones!"
Looking at these photos now, I'd be lying if I told you I'm 100% comfortable with them. And yet, at the same time, there's a realness to them that I haven't seen for a long time - both in my own photography and that of the photography I regularly see on Instagram and even magazines. In fact, I can't think of a photo I've seen recently that hadn't been retouched or had a filter applied.
It's difficult to remember that life isn't one perfect, Instagram-filtered square. When I look back to these #nofilter shots of Amsterdam, I remember that this is exactly what it looked like: the sky wasn't any bluer, the wisteria wasn't a brighter or deeper purple, and the trees were that same, lovely, mossy green. Looking at these photos, I remember how happy I felt - ice cream in hand - strolling along the canals and tying my jacket around my waist because it was too hot to wear one. I remember the sound of the canal boats politely maneuvering and navigating around each other; the smell of the fuel from the boats rising up from the water.
And, of course, Amsterdam is a photographer's dream! The perfect subjects are around every corner. I suppose another difficult aspect of not using a filter is ensuring that your photos feature a lot of bright colors. For example, the photo above with the bridge isn't one of my best - the grey concrete and brown water don't offer much interest, though the bikes do. In contrast, the first photo I've included is more interesting - not only because of the depth of perspective, but also because of the color from the trees and boats that line the canal. Poorly composed shots (like the one above) can hide behind filters. But take the time to consider the set-up of your photo, and you're less likely to need one.
What I loved most about our trip to Amsterdam last Easter was the fact that everyone was out - in contrast to my first visit (when it was cold, wet, and dreary), doors were flung wide open, families were sitting in windows reading together, and people swung their legs along the edge of the canal, chatting away the afternoons. Cyclists whizzed by and friends picnic-ed in the parks. We had such a fantastic time, I didn't want to leave. Amsterdam is bite-sized compared to London; it's nice to experience a city's that on a smaller, more manageable scale, yet one that retains so much interest and culture.
So, next time you upload a photo to Instagram, think about whether or not you really need a filter ... often, they can detract rather than enhance! I know, I know ... easier said than done.
Do you find yourself overusing filters? What apps or programs do you use before editing your photos, if any?
This post was written in association with London City Airport. You can read more about the #NoFilter project here! Posts will be judged by Duncan Rhodes of Urban Travel Blog, and a winner will be announced during the week of May 18th.