To Filter or Not To Filter, that is the Question

mickyates B&W, film, Painterly, Photography Leave a Comment

I rarely take selfies. However, I do play around with Hipstamatic on my iPhone, experimenting with its combination of lens effects and film types. Β I have always been interested in ‘vintage looks’, so decided to shoot a ‘TinType’ selfie, and posted on Facebook.

I was rather surprised to see the debate that ensued. Here’s an edited and abbreviated version. My good friend Liz started the conversation, with a typically honest assessment of the picture:

Liz Musch: Nope, sorry, don’t like that one

John Deakin I’m with Liz on his one πŸ™‚

Chris Meyer Another vote for Liz. Other shots hide your creepiness much better.

Mathew Eggleston I like the idea very much. While I’m not sure if it works 100% yet keep working with it and I think you’ll get something really great with this concept

Mick Yates Thanks! Just keep plugging along …

Mathew Eggleston That’s what we do

James Rock Keep Experimenting …

Mick Yates As goes life, so goes photography …

Goncalo Proenca Hmm can’t say I’m a fan of the processing / filters used.

Mick Yates Just experimenting – Β it’s a 19th cent TinType emulation


Jono Slack is another good friend, and an excellent, thoughtful photographer. His take:

Jono Slack: No – I’m with Liz – you can pretend to be creepy if you like, but one doesn’t need to approve πŸ™‚

Mick Yates Really interesting to see the responses to this image …

Jono Slack Well, okay – let’s be more explicit . . I don’t really like the image as it doesn’t seem to me to represent the guy I know . . and I don’t like the treatment where the face is in focus and everything else artificially “bokeyed” – but hey – no big deal!

Mick Yates Jono, totally respect your view

Mick Yates I took this as a “one shot selfie” on my phone, without any extra processing. Used Hipstamatic. I can’t actually remember the last time I posted a selfie .. truthfully, never did other than the usual profile pic which I have used for ever. I just am really intrigued as to the level of ‘controversy’ this image creates.Mathew Eggleston

Mathew Eggleston In your opinion Mick what do you think of this image? If you like it, where does it work for your creativity and if there’s bits you not sure of or don’t like where do you want to change it? Only ask as everyone has a different look on it so wondered what your thoughts are


James Rock, another good friend, Ingrid and I had lunch together in Bath that day. James is another thoughtful photographer, and an innovation thinker by profession.

James Rock: Damien Hurst’s cow and Duchamp’s fountain were similarly controversial..
#maverick #pushtheboundaries #marmite

Jono Slack Yes, but neither were created with a Hipstamatic plugin James!

James Rock Β They weren’t created with a paintbrush either .. Exploring different media has always been an artistic imperative .. otherwise one becomes a technician

Jono Slack I thought that using a plugin from someone like Hipstamatic was just that .. being a technician

Jono Slack .. not of course that I’m questioning Mick’s rights to use it .. just that I don’t think that simply being controversial put’s everything into the same league

James Rock Jono Slack definitely not .. Isn’t it about creating a different image, like different lenses, different film. Can’t see why people are critical even if they don’t like it .. #SomeWillSomeWontSoWhat

Jono Slack Β I like so much of Mick’s stuff (and say so) that when I don’t like it (very occasionally) it seems reasonable to say that too … I’m not for a second suggesting that I’m right … just an opinion

James Rock Perhaps it is through prototyping, reflecting, seeking feedback, that we learn most? Hockney is a master at it… Contemporary artists are brave enough to submit themselves to criticism. I like Mick’s other stuff too, but applaud his bravery in just putting this out there..

Jono Slack Hey Hey – was I criticising him for posting it? I was providing feedback: It doesn’t help anyone if everyone just says “Yeah, Great, Love it” – Maybe my criticism reflects my suspicion of ‘effects’ plug-ins generally

Jono Slack I’d be much more interested in this if Mick had created it himself (in Photoshop or whatever) rather than applying someone else’s ‘effect’ to his photo … (unlike like Damien Hurst or Duchamp or Hockney – who, as far as I’m aware don’t use commercial plug-ins for their work)

James Rock To critique is to offer both / either positive and / or negative evaluation …

Jono Slack Friendly discussion indeed Mick – certainly not arguing … but it’s interesting typing this with Mick’s steely look heading right atcha!


Mick Yates I really find it fascinating that the image has created this conversation. And grateful for that.

Jono Slack I think there’s a much deeper discussion about the use of ‘effects’ plug-ins generally which would be good to have.

Mick Yates Jono, actually, every time we use Lightroom or similar, aren’t we doing that? Plugins I mean. How do we arbitrate ‘pure imagery’? In fact I just took the shot on my phone and posted it

Jono Slack Mick –Β  No, absolutely not, which is why I said ‘effects’ plugin. Lightroom allows you to control all aspects of an image (and allows one to be vulgar or wonderful) but it doesn’t just stamp an effect on the image – nothing wrong with iPhone images, the camera is really good. There are tools in Photos on the iPhone as well, which are there to allow you to make what you want of an image, but the effects plugins just apply a formula of someone else’s devising … drawing the line between one and the other is not quite so simple!


Mick Yates Maybe using a ‘real’ Tintype camera is artistically OK, but not an iPhone. I especially like the Nick Nolte pic ..

Tintype Portraits of Celebrities at the Sundance Film Festival

Jono Slack Fine with an iPhone . . but questionable with an iPhone and a Hipstamatic tintype plugin (those pictures are lovely!)

Mick Yates Β Why questionable? It’s an emulation …

Jono Slack It’s a plagiarism, Mick πŸ™‚

Mick Yates Does that also mean that anyone trying to emulate the style of, say, Tri-X or Kodachrome plagiarism?

Jono Slack Yep – exactly. But possibly there are degrees of vulgarity and perhaps the Silver Efex Pro plugins (which I use) are the other side of that line I was talking about.Β More to the point, a Tri-X plugin is applying an algorithm to the image as a whole, rather than splashing pre-determined stuff on it without much reference to the content.

Mick Yates Β At the end of the day the artist chooses where that line is. Every image ever made has been manipulated to one degree or another. Digital just extends the possibilities.Β And the question of ‘vulgarity’ is another book πŸ™‚


James Rock I recommend this… any image can (and should) be edited to convey the desired message


Mick Yates Jono, actually the Hipstamatic TinType has a very defined focal plane which is pretty much how the cameras work too

Jono SlackΒ It’s something I’ve thought a great deal about. Of course, there shouldn’t be any ‘rules’ and if an image really comes off then there can be no criticism of the process (whether you use an ‘effects’ plugin or not) ..

.. which perhaps brings us around full circle in that I don’t feel this image comes off, NOT because of the plugin, but because I don’t think it works very well (I think it would probably work better without the plugin).

I feel rather the same way about your ‘Beginners mind’ series. If the treatment adds to the value of the original image, then, really, I’m all for it (whatever you do) … but if it doesn’t …

Rather like 3 dimensional chess really – the original is sophisticated enough without the need to add layers of complexity.

Mick Yates Jono, totally fair comment.

Mick Yates Jono, Hipstamatic captures a raw image as well as the emulation .. here’s the unprocessed raw. Honestly I don’t like it, so maybe a selfie was just a bad idea!

Jono Slack James – I completely agree that every image can be edited to convey the desired message (within the bounds of honesty). I’m absolutely not being doctrinaire about how/why or if an image should be modified … but it does need to convey the message …

And yes Mick – I prefer the original by some margin (maybe a Tri-X emulation in Silver Efex Pro would do it good?)

Jono Slack Fascinating how different is the emotion conveyed by the two images. The original is certainly the Mick I know . . . . humorous and challenging as opposed to grumpy and belligerent

Mick Yates Kind of Tri-X …

Jono Slack Perhaps the tension of the falling picture frame was more exciting .. mind you, you are about to get your head cut off by the dado rail πŸ™‚

Mick Yates LOL


James Rock Jono Slack, actually, the reason I switched back to film for all my serious work is that it requires much greater discipline to get the composition right-first-time in the camera

Jono Slack Interesting James .. and the reason I gave it up again is that I feel that my only asset is my imagination, and the greater discipline required by film seems to take that away. (hence no tripod, no flash etc.) .. but I understand that it’s absolutely …S ee more

Jono Slack The first photography lesson I had was from my father (a fine photographer) who said “take a grab shot – and then think about it and get the composition right and take the real photo”.. as time has gone by I’ve found that it’s increasingly the ‘grab shot’ which is the good one (back to first stage thinking)

Mick Yates Jono, I think that’s why I often miss. For me, the composed version is always first. Hence I would shoot just one frame of a scene on film

James Rock Jono Slack the challenge for me is to make the first and second stage in my mind, on the street, so I get the reframed 2nd shot first time – I’m a less-is-more photographer – I’ve had two solo exhibitions shot with just one roll of film.


Mick Yates One shot …

Jono Slack It’s not about it being the first shot, Mick.

It’s about it being an instant response to what you see (rather than a considered response) – again, back to first stage thinking .. it hinges around the old fight or flight mechanism – your subconscious bra…See more


James Rock This set were all one shot from a single roll of Tri-X on a Rollei 35s – no cropping or filters …

Marrakech:Β street photos of people and situations in the city

Jono Slack James – I think that some of them are great . . (nice camera as well). But what if you’d taken whatever struck your fancy? Personally I’m no machine gunner (rarely take more than 100 images in a day) but I’m not keen on any restrictions. . .

Mick Yates I will for sure buy the “instinctive” first move … even today, I am always surprised at the odds of the first in a series of digitals being the best. I think that is where the famous 10000 hours comes in. It all comes to fruition on the first shot. But what truly surprises me is that even before I had that 10000 hours, the one shot was ‘it’

James Rock Jono Slack taking fewer teaches me to look harder – I concentrate more i.e. In the zone – I would never shoot 100 in a week

Jono Slack Well,James – I’ve just spent 3 weeks walking in Crete, and I took around 1500 images … but the picks at the moment amount to about 324 .. so perhaps you have it!

James Rock Jono, with my Bronica I can be really focused and shoot 1 shot per hour or 1 roll a day – looking and deciding not to press the button is often very difficult but always leaves film for a better shot

Mick Yates Jono, James, been a great discussion – thank you. Now time to call it a night!


The morning after …

Steve Hunter Good discussion. Took a look at the Tintype Celebraties photos you linked to. Must say that I really liked the treatment which captured a feeling of the celebrity. Timeless images all of them. Sadly the iPhone App doesn’t get anywhere close.

Daz Smith I liked it – the effect is a bit abrupt and probably needs a little work, but overall it leads the eye of the viewer to the face of the person, which is generally the most important part of a portrait.

Mick Yates Thank you, Daz. It’s always fun to try something different!

John Deakin What a interesting discussion between the three of you, thanks for the insight into how you all ‘think’ and ‘feel’ the shots you take and the end results. I never shot film, I’m completely self taught and have never been a part of an intellectual group of photographers who discuss such things, nor, if I was to be part of such a group, could I add anything of value I’m sure, however I have found this short discussion between you of interest. Thank you.

Mick Yates John, it was a great discussion, and I think more to come! I must say I really enjoy the conversation that happens around photography. I, too, am largely self taught, though did grow up with film and its attendant disciplines. I am totally certain you also have much to say on photographic subjects. Whilst I take some landscape and wild life, I am just an opportunist compared with the professional approach you and Karen take.

Mike Chopra-Gant I like it. In fact I really like hipstamatic, even though I haven’t had an iPhone for years so haven’t been able to use it. In fact it’s probably fair to say that hipstamatic is largely responsible for me having the passion for photography I have today.

Although I was a keen medium format user 25 years ago, I was a lapsed photographer until I got an iphone and started to use hipstamatic. That rekindled my passion and I’m sure its no coincidence that, having been through digital, I now shoot film almost all the time now, and recently increasingly medium and large format. So thanks hipstamatic.