A Grab Bag of iPhone Photo Apps

The iPhone is more than a phone and much more than just a camera. It can do things that are impossible to do on a “real” camera, like effortlessly stitch together panoramas and instantly share pictures worldwide.

These creative possibilities were explored by Jack Davis in “iPhoneography: The New Frontier of Creative Photography,” a free seminar at Photoshop World in Washington, DC. Davis is an award-winning photographer and the author of the Photoshop Wow books. In an hour-long free talk, he shared the dizzying number of iPhone apps he uses. Here are his favorites:

Snapseed – Give your photos a grunge look, put them in interesting frames and make them look like old film. The iPad version of this app is gorgeous.

ProHDR – There are enough adjustment tools in this app to produce HDR that doesn’t look totally fake.

Photo fx (Tiffen) – For $2.99 you get a lot of the tools and adjustments of the desktop Tiffen program which costs hundreds of dollars.

PhotoSync – Wirelessly transfer photos between your computer, iPhone and iPad.

Photo Sender – This app allows more flexibility in sending images from your iPhone to your computer, email and social media, including the ability to send lots of images all at once.

FastCamera – Indulge your inner sports photographer and shoot hundreds of images a minute.

360 Panorama – I remember the old days (just a couple years ago) when shooting panoramas required a DSLR, a tripod and an expert knowledge of Photoshop. Instead, let this 99-cent app do it for you!

You Gotta See This! – Cheesy, but fun, this app lets you create a collage of images, as if you scattered a stack of Polaroids on a table and took a picture. Again, another complicated Photoshop task now done with a click.

King Camera – This app bills itself as a replacement for your big camera. We’ll see.

Big Lens – Another camera replacement, this app does nice depth of field shots.

SlowShutter – I love this app and have written about it before. It’s great for photos that show movement.

Instagram – You can’t talk about iPhone photo apps without mentioning this social media app.

Olloclip 3-in-1 Lens – This is actually a piece of hardware, a little lens to get fisheye, wide angle and macro shots.

This is just a sample of what Jack Davis uses. His iPhone and iPad were crowded with dozens of more apps. All these great and easy ways to create beautiful imagery demonstrate the fun of iPhoneography.

What It Was by George Pelecanos

what it wasI live a block off 14th Street, the setting for much of George Pelecanos’s gritty crime novel, What It Was. Set in 1972, it’s a fascinating read for anyone who likes books set in the Washington “beyond the monuments.” Watergate is briefly touched on, but this book contains no Senators, no wacky Masonic conspiracy theories and hardly any politics at all.

What It Was concerns the lives of real people, mostly cops and criminals, in a city scarred by riots. The popular conception of 14th Street is that it was a wasteland, from the disturbances of 1968 to the start of gentrification in the 1980s. But life went on. Pimps, drug dealers and hustlers of all kinds moved in. And for a lot of them, and the cops that pursued them, it was a hell of a time, even a good one. Continue reading “What It Was by George Pelecanos”

A Book for Anyone Who Wants to be Famous – The Winner Stands Alone

The American dream is no longer about accomplishment – it is about achieving a Kardashian-level of fame. We’ve become a society that values the famous more than we do the virtuous.

This desire to be seen, to be known, to be recognized (no matter your dubious accomplishments) is insidious, teaching people that having your own reality show is the ultimate American achievement.

For anyone that thinks that happiness comes from being on screen (or having millions of Twitter followers), I’d recommend The Winner Stands Alone, a thought-provoking novel by Paulo Coelho. He’s the author of The Alchemist, a global phenomenon of a book about the authentic pursuit of your dreams.

Set in the glamorous world of the Cannes Film Festival, The Winner Stands Alone starts out as a murder-mystery but is more a meditation on the desire for fame. It’s a cruel book, at times, as it illustrates the lengths that the aspiring will go to become members of the “Superclass” – and the hollow center that they encounter once they arrive.

It’s a great book for anyone who wants to go to Hollywood, exposing the phony and worthless nature of the “fame game.”

The Winner Stands Alone is far from a perfect book. With all of Coelho’s novels, characters and dialogue are largely secondary to the parable that he wishes to tell. Everyone sounds like Coelho, the wise teacher.

The Alchemist is about following your dream; The Winner Stands Alone is about the danger of following someone else’s.

Book Review: Purple Cow by Seth Godin

I’m a fan of Seth Godin, particularly his book, The Dip, which is about knowing when to quit and when to keep going. His thoughts on traditional publishing are also really compelling – it’s an industry that is broken. I read just about everything he writes.

purple cowPurple Cow is one of his older works, published in 2003 and updated last year. Purple Cow is a book that will push you to create something extraordinary. Godin’s basic point is that we don’t remember ordinary experiences, like the airline that got you to your destination on-time or the meal that was merely OK. Instead, we become passionate over excellent, “above and beyond” service and products. We rave about them to our friends and neighbors, which is the best marketing there is.

And about the only marketing that works.

Which is Godin’s point – in order to break through the clutter, we must create the truly extraordinary. Do work that scares you, that’s on the edge. Don’t be like other people – be unique.

A compelling idea, but one that probably doesn’t deserve a whole book (even a slim one). After a while, it’s the same story of iconoclasm again and again. Also, some of the examples are dated now, like JetBlue as a paragon of customer service and Godin’s comment about mobile phones being commodities at this point – obviously written before the iPhone.

But if you’re a fan of Seth Godin, or are currently working on a new product and need some inspiration, then it’s worth checking out.

Note: The 2010 edition includes an appendix containing stories of companies and organizations that have adopted the Purple Cow philosophy successfully.

Book Talk: Prohibition in DC

It’s hard to imagine but booze was once outlawed in DC. The Prohibition era is the subject of a fascinating new book by local author Garret Peck.

He’s an excellent speaker with an encyclopedic knowledge of the city. I wrote an article for the Pink Line Project about his book talk, where he shared what life was like when Washington was “dry.”

Friday Photo: The Polaroid Retrospective II

The Polaroid Retrospective II

Think the Polaroid is dead?

New media doesn’t replace old media; it complements it. While millions of people are snapping photos with iPhones, a select few carry on with the cameras your grandparents once employed.

The results can be seen at The Polaroid Retrospective II show at the Lamont Gallery. Running until the end of April, this is a fascinating exhibit that demonstrates the artistic possibilities of low-fi cameras. The little square photos which line the brick walls of this gallery aren’t perfect, their not crisp, they don’t have the slick sheen of digital photography – and that makes them all the more charming and personal.

Update: check out my article on this great show.

How to Market Your Movie: Tips from Allied Integrated Marketing

The March DC Film Salon offered tips from Allied Integrated Marketing on promoting your independent movie or documentary. The salon is a free monthly networking opportunity for film and video professionals.

The meetup began at six, allowing filmmakers plenty of time to mingle before the presentation started at 7. There were about forty people at the super-hip Gibson Guitar Room, one of my favorite venues in DC. Located near the Verizon Center, it’s a beautiful space complete with a piano and scores of electric guitars.

After showing a “sizzle reel” (a flashy intro movie about their agency), Ivory Zorich and Gloria Jones from Allied Integrated Marketing shared their expertise on how to bring a film the attention it deserves. Allied Integrated Marketing is a marketing agency that specializes in the entertainment industry. They have offices around the country, including a small one in DC.

Ivory and Gloria shared examples of how they promoted the films that they represented. Their talk held some interesting tips for anyone promoting a product:

  • All marketing is local these days. Even in Washington, newspapers want to see a local angle. You can’t just have a story about a movie – you have to tie it to the local community somehow. For example, if one of the stars is from the area.
  • Secondary press partners are key. These are smaller publications like the City Paper that are easier to pitch too.
  • Use niche marketing. For example, with the film Sin Nombre, they targeted Latino audiences. Milk was aimed at the LGBT community.
  • Tastemaker screenings are another useful marketing tactic. These are preview screenings for “tastemakers” in the community, i.e., influential people who love movies.
  • Partnerships. If you have a documentary about AIDS, then you should partner with AIDS organizations to get the word out.
  • New media. They mentioned Brightest Young Things as a “hipster” site to reach out to. (I am not hip – I find BYT to be unfathomable.)

One question I had was, “How do you measure results?” That’s difficult to do, according to Ivory and Gloria. It’s hard to tell if a movie’s success comes from PR or something else. I think that’s part of the reason why the field can be so frustrating to people – if I bought Google Ads, I can track how they’re performing. But how do you measure schmoozing tastemakers?

Still, these are all excellent ideas for getting the word out about your movie, or your product. The most important thing is to think about your movie from the perspective of the audience, and tailor your efforts accordingly.


New Article on Silent Code Features

Check out my latest article for the Pink Line Project on local filmmakers – this time I look at Silent Code Features. This local production company is helmed by Anthony Greene, a screenwriter I’ve known for a couple years now. He writes very punchy, topical scripts.

Out of the four films by Silent Code that I saw at a special screening on March 12, the one that I liked best was “The Favor.” Greene handles controversial material with a deft touch. It’s also a very funny film.

Party Report: DCist Exposed Photography Show

party sceneLast night was opening night for DCist Exposed, a gallery exhibit of some of the most interesting photos from around the Washington region. Read my FAQ to learn more about this interesting show which, by the way, runs until March 27 at Long View Gallery.

After hanging out there for a couple of hours, drinking beer and talking to photogs, what did I learn?

  • Long View is almost too cool to be in DC. It’s enormous, sparse and separated by historic Blagden Alley by just a glass garage-style door. Last year, it played host to the opening party of DC Week too. One drawback: only two little bathrooms in the back, not ideal for large crowds served beer.
  • I cannot tell the difference between the various varieties of Yeungling that they served last night.
  • Giving the photogs and DCist staff name tags was an excellent idea. You could easily spot the show’s participants.
  • From Samer Farha, one of the show judges, learned that Mpix was a good place for prints and Apex in Virginia was a great place for framing. We both agreed: insanely expensive to print at home.
  • Brian Mosley informed me that you don’t have to go too early down to the Mall on July 4th to get a shot like this. I find this hard to believe.
  • Art lovers bought photos on opening night, including this classic shot of a stunned-looking Mayor Fenty. The photographers don’t know who buys their pics.
  • Selling tickets in advance was a brilliant idea. No fire marshals and there was plenty of room for everyone.
  • Heather Goss, who started DCist Exposed, has about five different jobs. But not to worry, she’s apparently a machine.
  • People liked my line in the FAQ I wrote for the Pink Line Project about the DCist commentators being a “riotous crew of misfits.” That’s me literary background.

Be sure to check out these great photos of the night from Vincent Gallegos. Can’t wait til next year!

Update: more great pics from DCist!

Super Sad True Love Story

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart starts off as a hilarious farce, an inventive look at the future gone wrong. All your paranoid fears about the Department of Homeland Security are well-represented as a bureaucratic error throws Lenny, the book’s narrator, into absurdist peril.

But the novel is much deeper than that. It’s not just a farce, it’s an honest and painful look at a nightmare vision of America. In this dystopia, our country is obsessed with sex and shopping, in hock to the Chinese and teetering on the edge of financial collapse (not too different from today).

The book steadily grows darker and darker as history unravels – we feel for the characters who are so clueless about the inevitable reckoning. And we feel for this country, all the values we hold dear – democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty – all imperiled by decades of folly.

That’s what this book is about – Lenny’s collapse into middle age is mirrored by the collapse of America. Ultimately, it’s a very upsetting book. You don’t want the country to end up this way. The book is dark and funny but it’s also a warning to us as a nation to get our act together. Otherwise, the future will be very cruel.