Old School Portraits with a New School Camera by Andre H

I am not a fine art portrait photographer. I am a mobile phone shooter. I love having the ability to use my mobile phone like my old Speed Graflex 4×5 camera. Combining my Lumia 1020 with Hipstamatic’s Oggl app, I did just that. What most excited me about the Oggl app paired with the Windows phone was a new film roll that emulated the old tintype prints of days past, and the razor sharp image quality from the optics in the device.

On Christmas Day, 2012, I began exploring the Oggl app and it’s ‘D-type plate’ film roll and various lens combinations. I immediately fell in love with the ability to duplicate this old historic process by digital means. I began creating portraits of friends and family. Soon this experiment blossomed into a portrait project that grew beyond friends and family and began attracting strangers and friends of friends.

At the time of this writing I have photographed 50 people. These portraits explore the very concept of identity. Since a good number of people are photographers who made portraits with me, my intention was to explore  how people perceive themselves when asked to be, well, themselves, in front of the uncaring gaze of an, oddly-enough, mobile phone camera.
Creating these portraits were challenging. I did not have the benefit of hiding under cover of black fabric to look through a large 4×5 framed piece of ground glass to focus through. That would have been easy. No, I faced my subject with a fairly small, undiscerning digital camera, entertaining the questions and comments of how I was going to do this with a mobile phone. I assured everyone it would all be good and they wouldn’t know the difference. So what I am about to share with you is a step-by-step guide to how I used my Lumia 1020 and the Oggl app to transform my mobile camera into an antique medium format camera, creating beautiful tintype-like portraits.

Image #1-2: Before you get started, set the Oggl app to ‘portrait mode’ for shallow DOF (see image #1.) By choosing this setting you are telling the camera app that you want a shallow depth of field. Remember, large aperture (big opening) is a small number i.e f2.2. In portrait mode the Nokia 1020 will utilize a f2.2. aperture. When making portraits make sure to stand at least 2-3 feet away from your subject to avoid wide angle distortion. Focus on the corner of the mouth, (see image #2) to ensure all of the face is in-focus (this is an old/trusted technique.) This will come in especially handy if you’re trying to focus on the eyes of someone who wears glasses. The frame of the glasses will be in focus leaving the eyes soft.

Image #3-4: Open the image in ‘Photo editor by Aviary.’ (See image #3.) There aren’t that may good photo editor apps out there for Windows. This one I found to be pretty good, and there’s a Mac version as well.
Click ‘Effects’ choose ‘Clyde.’ This will immediately warm your image (see image #4.) Yes, apply ‘Effects’ before ‘Enhance.’ It makes a difference when it comes to filter stacking. Either way, please, experiment.

Image #5-6: Click ‘Enhance.’ Choose ‘Balance.’ This will adjust the white balance of your image, cooling it down slightly. If you look closely (see image #6), it is a minute change but a significant one in regards to toning. The slightest shift in color temperature can really make a difference sometimes.
Image #7: My image is now finished. At this point I can continue to tweak this image to my heart’s desire. And, I have experimented with adding/subtracting contrast, brightness, sharpening—the whole gamut. What I came to realize is that this final ‘magic mix’ was a good combination that resulted in an image that still felt organic, not over-processed. Feel free to give it a try and find a combo that works best for you. My next step would be to print or transfer these images on to tin plates to complete the process.

The whole set of images can be seen here.