Whilst the iPad 2 is probably one of the bluntest photographic tools imaginable (even my out-of-date iPhone fares better in terms of image quality), I have always believed the quality of a photograph depends not on the lens itself, but what happens in front of it. And of course the light.
One of the joys of the sorely-missed Polaroid era was its instant gratification appeal; where friends could see the image straight away, burst out laughing, and take another. As a photographer who adored working with Polaroid SLR, it makes my heart flutter just thinking about it.
Even just working with a single model, Polaroid SLR created this incredible synthesis between photographer and subject that has so far not been recreated even in the digital age we now live in. Just take a look at the excellent work of Lou O’ Bedlam, one of the superstars of Polaroid for example. Or take a look through my own little love affair with Polaroid.
This week I’m photographing for Topshop in Dublin, and next week the same in the Broadway store in New York. It’s for Topshop’s “Wish You Were Here” promotion. This is one of those inspired ideas of the digital age which you only really ‘get’ once you see it in action. But within a matter of minutes of greeting shoppers who agree to step-in to the studio, they are induced into fits of giggles and delight – and handed a gorgeous postcard print-out of their shot. With their permission, the photo may optionally be uploaded to their Facebook profile as well.
The concept features an interactive style of photography using an iPad 2 connected wirelessly to a nearby table of iMacs.
Shoppers are invited into the mini-studio which has been set up on the shop floor, and they are allowed to dress up using a rail of clothing and accessories. Promotional staff, personal shoppers, and stylists are on-hand to help out. Mirrors and a makeup station are provided. In special cases where shoppers have their eye on a particular outfit they have seen in the store, they can change into it and come for the shoot.
We then work with the models to get the very best out of them for the few minutes they have in front of the lighting, suggesting poses and offering encouraging words. The studio lighting is adjusted for each model so as to get the best catchlight in the eyes and offer the best level of diffusion for the skin tones. This takes a matter of seconds during which time models can get themselves ready in front of the lights and prepare.
A couple of test shots are taken on the iPad which allow the models to check they are happy with their poses and expressions.
Then we hand over the iPad 2, and let models choose their preferred Instagram filter.
In many cases, we have a filter in mind when we take the shot. Sometimes you see a face and you just know what works…
Even after the first two days of shooting – as I write – the overall concept of the ‘Wish You Were At Topshop’ promotion has been a huge success. For me it somehow captures that same cult spirit of Polaroid.
It’s one of those projects where the technology becomes a little bit transparent, allowing the visual and kinesthetic pleasures of making photographs to take the stage again. This is mostly thanks to the great system design by FreshNetworks which automates the entire process and packages it beautifully.
And the concept itself? The combination of the grabbable iPad, the playable Instagram, the ubiquitous Facebook, the gleaming iMacs, and plain-old good quality 6×4 instant printing is clearly one that has already won a number of hearts.
I’d be surprised if the whole thing didn’t turn into a craze in itself.
In fact, at times, it makes you want to throw away your 5D and use an iPhone to take photos for the rest of your life.
Okay – maybe I’m not ready for that quite yet …