The work of Marzia Bellini aka Milkydrop seems to have been a regular feature in the Mobiography showcases for some time now so I figured it was probably about time I found out more about her and her iPhone photography.
Marzia Bellini lives just outside the city of Milan, Italy. By day she is a web developer and by her own admission is ’a bit nerdy and a lover of technology and all things code related’. Outside of your web related work Marzia is a talented iPhone photographer whose work was recently shortlisted for the MIRA Prize. Looking at her portfolio of photography it’s not hard to see why as she has mastered the art of creating photographs with interesting compositions.
I caught up with Marzia to find out more about her iPhone photography, her approach to composition and see if there were any takeaways she could share that people could learn from and make use of in their own photography.
How did you first discover iPhone photography?
In 2008 I bought my first iPhone and some time later I downloaded an app called “Best Camera”: I totally agreed with that – the best camera is the one you have with you. So I started taking shots of Milan using my iPhone and uploading them to the app.
What inspires you to take photos?
Sometimes I just take shots on instinct. Other times it’s geometry or colors. Urban scenes also caught my eye sometimes (but I’d love to improve my streets shots: there’s always something to learn).
How would you describe your style and approach to your iPhone photography?
It’s always difficult to describe one’s own style. I’d say I have colored style with a common use of geometry and vanishing points. I sometimes do a bit of street photography but I am too shy to go and shoot people in the open.
I also love to play with reflections: not only using puddles or water – I have a small sphere, the ones used by street artists. It is a wonderful device to get flipped view of a common subject.
Looking at your portfolio of photography, bold lines, reflections and clever framing feature a lot in your compositions. Tell us about your approach to framing a good composition?
I try to search the uncommon, and even when it’s a classic shot of something you have seen million of times, I try to approach it in unique way. I love depth of field (pretty difficult sometimes with an iPhone) and perspectives so I do look for them where possible.
What would be your top tips or words of wisdom to help people achieve better composition in their own photography?
You should always train your eye and you should do it looking at others’ photos. I’m not talking about learning from the greatest (well, you should do that anyway, it’s pretty obvious), I’m talking about looking at a photo and try to understand what works and what does not. It’s not simply saying: I like it, I don’t like it, it’s a bit deeper. Also, do not over-edit your photos. I see many fairly good looking photos ruined by the over-use of filters, effects and textures.
What apps do you use and is there a process or methodology that you apply to your post production editing?
I just use three: Photoshop Express, SKWRT (if needed) and VSCO cam. In Photoshop Express I do all the base editing: highlights, shadows, clarity, sharpening and noise reduction. Photoshop Express has the best noise reduction tool I have ever used. Just pay attention to what you’re doing, especially if your photo features sky and clouds because it tends to smooth them at the point they seem unnaturally creamy.
In VSCO I use a preset to finally boost the look of the image. As I said before: never over-do your shots so I double check them.
Are there any photographers that have been a big influence or inspiration to you?
I know I might sound naive but I think we are influenced by the people we live with. My father, who introduced me to photography, and Marco Lamberto (@marcolamberto), who continues to support me.
Do you have any interesting photographic projects or stories that have influenced your photographic journey that would would like to share?
I have this little hashtag with Marco #chinpsin .. followed by the location we are photographing. It serves as a container for all our trips and location, a memory box. But it’s also a fun way to effectively recount our experience as travelers around this beautiful planet.
Tell us a bit about the story behind them a few of your favourite photos?
The first one is a shot I took last November while traveling to Cremona from Milan on an old historical steam-powered train. Without any notice, the train made a big puff of steam and my friend happened to be inside of it with her rainbow-colored umbrella. I was fast enough to take a couple of shots before the steam vanished and this is the result.
The second one is a more recent shot: I took this in Monterosso al Mare last June. What caught me here was this particular light: the sun was high so the shadows where particularly sharpen. Also the bike is half in the light and half in the shadows.
Also the last is recent: it’s from Venice, a look on the Canal Grande made taking advantage of a puddle. It was quite difficult because the sun was very high and the phone was very near to the water but it was certainly worth it.