By day Paul Cunningham is an IT systems consultant in Brisbane, Australia. Outside of this he is a keen amateur but enthusiastic photographer who shoots with an iPhone as well as with a more traditional DSLR.
Paul is currently undertaking a 365 photo project to try to take a photo a day for a year, 365 days straight. This is a difficult project to undertake, I know as I have tried (and failed) to complete one myself. I wanted to find out more about Paul, his iPhone photography and his experiences and advice on undertaking a 365 photo project.
Tell us about your introduction to iPhone photography
My first iPhone was the 3GS, but it wasn’t until I got the 4S that I really started using it for photography. Mostly I was taking pictures of our kids growing up. Early on I had a clunky old point and shoot camera that was not very convenient to keep on hand for those moments in a child’s life you want to capture. With the iPhone 4S in my pocket all the time I found myself taking literally hundreds of photos every month.
Then one day I bought the iPhone Photography ebook from Digital Photography School and it made me realize that there was this whole community of mobile photographers out there, and all these different iPhone apps that I could experiment with.
By the time the iPhone 5S came out I was hooked. I nearly switched to the Lumia 1020 but there were none available on the day I went to buy it, and the very next day I got the 5S instead. A week later we travelled to New Zealand and I took this shot which remains one of my favourite mobile photos I’ve ever taken (that wasn’t of my kids).
Describe your style and approach to your photography
My approach is basically just to have my phone or camera with me as much as possible, ready to shoot, and always be looking around instead of just moving through the world blindly.
Often I will simply walk along with my phone out and my thumb on the volume trigger ready to shoot from the chest or hip if I see something interesting. Apps like Procamera, Camera+ and Hipstamatic are useful in these situations. Other times I will pack up my DSLR and make a deliberate trip somewhere like a beach at sunrise.
In terms of style, I guess you never really stop evolving. I’m still at a stage where I am emulating shots I’ve seen from others or following tutorials, just to get a feel for what styles have that emotional connection for me. I’ve got a handful of Hipstamatic combos that I love to use, but also lately I’ve been enjoying some of the looks that VSCOcam gives you.
You have been undertaking a 365 project to take a photo a day for a year what inspired you to undertake such a project?
One reason was that I got a DSLR for Christmas and wanted to learn how to use it. But also to push myself to explore different styles and get out of my comfort zone. I can’t take 365 unique photos hiding out at home or walking from the train station to the office. I need to get out there and explore new parts of the city, take my phone or camera with me to a wider variety of locations and lighting conditions.
And most of all, prove to myself that I can commit to a long term project that is entirely passion-driven and has nothing to do with money or my career.
To take a photo a day for a year requires dedication. How do you remain focused on maintaining your stamina and staying inspired to continually take photos on a daily basis?
I commit myself to shooting every day, no matter how good or bad the photos turn out. My goal is to publish a photo every day, but knowing that getting a decent shot every single day would be impossible I give myself a bit of wiggle room by allow my shots to come from different days.
So for example, on a single Friday when I’m working in the city I might shoot in the morning, at lunchtime, and in the early evening before I head home. From those sessions I may end up with 3-4 shots that get published over the next few days. Meanwhile, I keep shooting, trying to keep a little buffer of shots ready to publish in case I get sick or need to travel.
This is also important because I don’t publish photos of my family in this project. So while I may get a beautiful shot of my daughter and her birthday cake, that one stays personal and I’ll publish something else online that day instead.
What advice and tips would you give others looking to undertake such a project?
My number one tip is to make a set of rules that work for you. Some people give themselves very strict rules and I think that is fine if your lifestyle and commitments make it possible, but there is no point setting yourself up to fail by being too strict. Set rules for yourself that are challenging but still allow you to fulfil your creative side and enjoy the journey.
I’m past 200 days now and going through a rough patch, but I can’t stop now!
Of the photos you have taken in this project do you have any favourites and what is the story behind them?
These are two of my favourite mobile photos from the project. They both happen to be black and white and shot with Hipstamatic.
I flew to the USA for a conference. The flight arrives in LAX early in the morning, and when I stepped outside of the terminal I paused for a moment and took this shot. I like the shadows and the way the lines curve off into the distance. And it always reminds me of that feeling of stepping outside and taking your first breathes of the air of another country when you’re travelling.
I was buying sushi for lunch and on the way back to my office I saw this man in the alleyway and stopped to take a photo. He has that tired look on his face, sitting on a milk crate in the corner and smoking a cigarette. He just looks like a guy having a rough day and I think a lot of people can identify with that.
What apps do you use to take your photos and process them?
I’ve experimented with so many apps over the years. I used to process with Snapseed but these days I’ve settled on Procamera, VSCOcam, and Hipstamatic. I try not to buy new ones these days as it is so easy to get distracted by the apps and lose sight of the photography.
Procamera is just a great shooter. Fast, sharp, easy to use. I like some of the preset filters as well, and the processing tools are simple but help you get some good looks.
VSCOcam is a recent one for me. I bought all the films and played around with it for about a week and decided it was another favorite.
Hipstamatic is just so much fun to play with. There are so many films and lenses I don’t think you could ever run out of new combos to try. I haven’t bought all of their most recent paks as it is getting easier for me to spot films and lenses that aren’t my style. But it remains one of my go-to apps, especially for shooting from the chest or hip.
What would make up your perfect photo?
This may sound a little corny but I have some photos of my wife and kids that look perfect to me. But they are personal and will stay that way forever I imagine.
For a photo that I would publicly display I think the perfect photo would be one that presents my city as I see it. Something that has a human element to it, and that creates a connection with at least one other person who sees it. It’s hard to really put that into words, and I guess I’ll be searching for that photo for a long time.