What is your background?
My background is in design. At the moment I work as a freelance web designer/developer and digital marketer but my career started out as a traditional graphic designer back in the early 90’s. At that time, I was working for a couple of advertising agencies, where most of the work I did involved designing magazine spreads, holiday brochures, catalogues, leaflets, adverts, that sort of thing. Then this new and mystical thing called the internet started to become the hot topic of conversation, and all of a sudden, people wanted websites. So I decided to find out more about it and before I knew it I was working full time as a web designer.
— Andy Butler (@mobiography) April 4, 2016
How did you end up doing what you do now?
I’ve always had an interest in photography. I worked my way up to having a Nikon D50 but always found it a bit big and bulky to carry with me, especially on family days out or on holidays.
In May 2012 I was sat in the garden enjoying the sunshine when I searched for an app I had been reading about. The app was called Instagram and there it was. It had just been released onto android and at the time I had a HTC phone which explained why any previous searches I had done for the app had not returned anything.
From then on I was hooked. I was out shooting everything and anything I came across. For some reason though, I forgot everything I knew about good photography and composition. I found myself substituting these core concepts in favour of the liberal application of filters and blur to everything I photographed. In part, I think this was due to the liberating nature that mobile photography offers. It meant I could shoot, edit and share anywhere. Thankfully, I’m glad to say I have come to my senses and now shoot with a lot more thought.
— Andy Butler (@mobiography) June 7, 2016
Coming from a web design background and being a bit of a web geek, I decided to start a blog about the photos I was taking with my phone and use it as a way to document what I was learning about this new subculture of photography that I had discovered. So in January 2013 I started Mobiography.net – www.mobiography.net – but as my knowledge of mobile photography developed so did the website. It started to become less about my own photographs and more about the subject of mobile photography, the people I was coming across and their work.
At about the same time a friend introduced me to a publishing platform called Magcast, which allowed you to design a magazine and publish it to the Apple Newsstand. The concept blew me away and after looking around I found there wasn’t really anything specific to mobile photography which covered the things I was learning at that time. I saw a gap in the market so decided to give myself six months to put together and launch my own digital magazine. That was three years ago and Mobiography is still going strong today.
1 min pitch for Mobiography?
Mobiography is a digital magazine dedicated to the subject of mobile photography. The aim is to inspire people and teach them how to take better photos with their smartphones. At the moment the magazine publishes on a bi-monthly basis (every two months) to iOS and Android and is available on tablets and smartphones. It has been going now for three years, and as far as I am aware it is the only digital magazine specific to the subject of mobile photography. Each issue featuring interviews with talented mobile photographers, tutorials, how-to guides as well as app and accessory reviews.
The next issue is out now and features a special look at the rapidly growing mobile photography scene in Asia. We have interviews with the talented Laurence Bouchard, a UK mobile photographer who now lives in Japan and Arik Chan, a retired policeman turned street photographer who has an interesting use for the selfie stick. We look at FiLMiC Pro and take a new app called Blackie for a test drive and Ireland’s Brendan O Se tells us about the photo lectures he did for Monogram Asia in Bangkok and Jakarta earlier this year.
It looks great, how is it going?
It’s going well, thanks. The readership has been steadily growing although it’s a long way off where I need it to be. The magazine has a loyal following and has grown to become a highly trusted source of information on the subject. In the past three years there have been several other digital magazines released on the subject of mobile photography but they have since closed their doors. I think this has been mainly due to the amount of work and cost involved in producing these type of magazines compared with the return or up-take they have received.
One of the reasons why I have survived is that I do almost everything myself which has meant I keep my costs down. My approach has been to publish on a bi-monthly basis so I’m not overstretching myself in terms of workload and finances. Due to my background as a graphic designer the design and production process was something that came natural to me. Also due to my background as a web developer the tech side of things hasn’t been a problem either.
I now have a growing team of writers who provide a diverse range of views on different areas of mobile photography but I now need to start working towards expanding that team, going monthly and taking the profile of the magazine to the next level.
— Andy Butler (@mobiography) May 14, 2016
We all take more photos but have less physical copies, how do you think things might go in the future?
Like you say, these days we take more photos than ever before basically because we can. Nowadays, we can do this without incurring any physical cost from getting our films developed. In the old days I would go on holiday and be limited to a couple of rolls of film totaling 36 exposures. I had to think about what I was shooting. Now I can shoot a couple of thousand photos without batting an eyelid. The problem is that firstly, there is a danger that not much thought goes into the photos we take and secondly, the photos we do take then just sit on a hard drive gathering dust with some of them probably never actually viewed at all. I don’t think this is much different from the hundreds of physical photos I have gathering dust in old shoeboxes in my wardrobe. Both digital and physical photos are hardly ever looked at, only on special occasions or when tidying up. That is unless we do something with them.
The change I am seeing in this area comes from the growth of services like Printastic, Canvas Works and Kite.ly. Services like these enable us to easily print our photos into high gloss photobooks, into framed prints or canvas’s, calendars and other forms of accessories or gift ideas. Many now link directly into platforms such as Instagram which makes the whole process so easy and seamless. Getting my own work printed is something I have started doing as I get so much satisfaction out of seeing my work mounted on the walls of my house. It is something I think everyone should do it at least once or twice.
— Andy Butler (@mobiography) May 17, 2016
Mobile versus dslr, are we reaching the point of little difference?
I don’t think we are quite there yet. Smartphones can still struggle in certain situations and DSLR’s still have the edge in terms of picture quality and dynamic range but the gap is certainly closing. You only have to look at the quality of the photos that smartphones were producing a few years ago and compare them to those you are getting from the latest iPhone or the Samsung S7 to see how far smartphone technology has come. The gap is closing and I think as it does, photos taken on a smartphone will become more recognized and will receive the recognition they deserve. Ultimately though, the quality of the photo the camera produces are going to be down to the skill and creative vision of the photographer.
What cameras do you use?
These days, I just use my trusty iPhone 6, although I’m eagerly looking forward to the release of the iPhone 7. I’m afraid, my old Nikon never sees the light of day anymore. I just find the iPhone so much more convenient to shoot with and much more portable than my DSLR. It is always with me, it allows me to shoot what I want, where I want and have the option to edit and share right there and then.
What are you favourite pictures?
One of my own favourite photos is a shot I called ‘Towering Shadows of Steel and Glass’ and was taken in Dublin last year. I was speaking at Mojocon, a conference about mobile journalism organized by RTE. On this particular day I was out on an organized photowalk. We were walking up a street and the the sun was shining down one of the adjacent streets opposite. It was creating this fantastic contrast between light and shadow. As I started to frame the shot a noticed this guy walking towards me, he then started to cross the road and the shot just fell into place. The image won me photo of the day by the photowalks organisers and now hangs on my office wall as a canvas print.
Regarding my favourite photos by other people, that is a difficult one. There are so many photographers that I admire and through the nature of what I do I am coming across new people all the time.
Brendan O Se’s ‘Shibuya Night’ is up there amongst my favourite photos – . I love the vibrancy of the colours, and the way the surrounding shadowy figures with their translucent umbrellas frame the central figure of the lady stood with her legs crossed. Brendan is a hugely talented photographer, he is immensely passionate about what he does and has become a good friend.
Another photographer I admire is Julian Calverley. He is a UK landscape photographer who last year produced an book called #iPhoneOnly – http://www.juliancalverley.com/ – I love the gritty nature of his photos which I think beautifully sums up the harsh weather conditions that he shoots. I have found his work has inspired me to get out and do more landscape photography myself.
Other photographers that I admire than I think need a mention are this years Mobile Photography Award winner, Jian Wang, Chris Harland, Laurence Bouchard, Richard Koci Hernandez and David Ingraham, to name but a few.
How can people sign up for the magazine?
Either go to the App Store – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/mobiography-smartphone-photography/id624150296?mt=8 – or Google Play – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bdgdffffce.eigbdgdffffce – then download and install the app. Once installed if you tap the big yellow subscribe button, then tap current subscriber and if you enter the promo code MOBI2WEB it will give you a two-month free subscription and access to the latest issue plus any subscriber only issues. As a subscriber you get automatic access to all future issues.
Do you have any tips on how people can take better photos with their smartphones?
I’d recommend people think about the subject that they are photographing, then pay attention to the composition and how they frame that subject – http://www.mobiography.net/tutorials/composition-tips/. Use camera apps such as Procamera or Camera+ which enable you to split out the focus and exposure points so you can expose for the highlights but focus on another part of the photo. Finally, when it comes to editing, one of the biggest problems I see are images that are over-apped. I would recommend people edit their photos to enhance them, not mask the flaws in what is essentially a poorly taken photograph. Get to know a couple of apps and learn how to use them well. Snapseed is my recommended co-to editing app – http://www.mobiography.net/apps/how-to-use-snapseed-to-enhance-your-mobile-photography/
Anything else we should have asked / you’d like to add?
I’d just like to say something about the community aspect of mobile photography. Since discovering mobile photography back in 2012 I have made so many friends throughout the world. Many of whom I have since had the pleasure of meeting. This is one of the key aspects of mobile photography that gives it the edge over DSLR photography. It is something that has enabled me to connect with other like minded people and get feedback and validation on the photos and work I do. I would urge people to join, follow and get involved with the mobile communities out there.