Shooting from the Hipsta.

First things first: I am a decidedly amateur photographer with more enthusiasm than ability. But I enjoy it, it doesn’t harm anyone and it keeps me out of mischief. Pottering about with a camera is a great, relaxing pleasure, I think. I have four cameras that I use on a regular basis. A Nikon D90, which I think of as my ‘serious’ camera: the one to use when you need to be sure of the results (and when you need more than one lens). A Leica D-Lux 4, which is great when you need to be more discreet than holding an SLR up to your face (which has got me into minor trouble in both Marrakech and Palermo); this is a brilliant little camera that produces some stunning results. I love it. My (un)trusty Holga, which I only use when the results don’t really matter: they might be brilliant, or they might be crap. I love it and I hate it. (See this post for more on Holga.) And my iPhone. Yep, my phone.

Ever since I discovered the wonderful Hipstamatic app, my phone has become as creative and spontaneous a way of capturing images as any of my other cameras. Well, probably the most spontaneous way.

For anyone who hasn’t seen it, Hipstamatic lets you (theoretically, of course) change lenses and film to create different effects; much as you would if you were…er…changing lenses and film. The interesting about Hipstamatic is the way in which the retro interface is actually quite reassuring – a kind of antidote to everything slick and digital. It even makes you wait for your ‘prints’ to be developed. In that sense it’s a bit like the Holga (and some of the effects are quite Holga-like), but not so hit and miss.

The app is a boon to bloggers and twitterers everywhere, or anyone that wants to record what they see on the move, but with a bit of character and personality. But it’s being taken more seriously than that too. Last November the New York Times featured four photographs of the war in Afghanistan on their front page. They were taken with an iPhone, using the Hipstamatic app, by NYT photographer Damon Winter. It wasn’t a gimmick. Winter has taken a whole series of stunning images, all in the same way.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising. After all, it’s the photographer that takes the shot, not the camera. And shots taken with a phone are probably about as candid as you’re going to get. I can’t help thinking that I might have got a better set of shots in the souks of Marrakech with my phone than I did with my Nikon. Now there’s a thought.