I’m really excited to share this interview with Fatima RK, a talented iPhone photographer who takes incredible photos in urban environments. Whether she’s shooting portraits, architecture or street scenes, she has a fantastic eye for light, composition and detail. In this interview you’ll learn more about Fatima, and how she creates such wonderfully captivating photos with her iPhone.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m an advertising veteran and currently reside in New York City.
After taking a break from the 9-5 routine, I now dabble in communication strategy for freelance projects.
How did your iPhone photography journey begin?
I think the minute you buy an iPhone, you can’t help but take photos. I mean there’s a camera in your hand practically 24/7!
It was when I joined Instagram back in June 2014 that I became more fervent about photography.
What inspires you to take photos with the iPhone?
We all capture the views that mesmerize us, whether it’s a fiery sunset, a sublime landscape, or an emotive face.
For me, the iPhone lets me do all that without any fuss or any pre-planning. I don’t miss those moments because like they say, “I never leave home without it!”
You primarily shoot street scenes with your iPhone. What draws you to this kind of photography?
I have a penchant for urban photography which is probably driven by the cities that I’ve lived in these past few years.
This hobby began in London, and I used to wander around capturing the cityscape and the street vibe with my best friend who actually pushed me to take this seriously!
When I moved back to New York I started to experiment more with the gritty and iconic subway stations.
Street photography is all about storytelling, capturing a moment in time in the lives of strangers. What tips do you have for telling interesting stories through photography?
I always seek a character in my shots – someone who makes your photo cinematic. I try to create a shot that almost begs you to think of a story for that character.
I believe that capturing raw moments, whether these are candid shots or portraits, helps you to tell a story.
I’m a sucker for words! So I also augment the storytelling through my captions.
I try to weave the emotion that a particular shot evokes in me, either by using poetry or song lyrics.
I feel it helps the audience to view the photo the way I envisioned it.
One of the main challenges with street photography is photographing people you don’t know. How do you deal with this, and do you ever encounter problems when photographing strangers?
My strategy is to remain discreet as that helps in getting candid shots. I feel you capture more interesting moments that way.
Also, I think an iPhone makes it easier because even if you’re busted, you can always pretend you’re taking a selfie!
You make great use of architecture in your compositions. What tips do you have for taking better architectural photos with the iPhone?
Practice! I think architectural shots are all about training your eye. Once you start spotting symmetry or leading lines, you see it everywhere.
You should experiment with different perspectives or shooting angles. My favorite is usually the “low-gram” or the ant’s point of view.
I always feel that shooting from a low angle gives an edgy perspective and scale to a traditional building or site.
A lot of your photos are taken in low light or at night. What advice do you have for capturing sharp photos in low light conditions?
Night shots are by far the trickiest to capture in iPhone photography.
I try to shoot around a source of light like a street lamp or restaurant lights as this helps draw focus to your subject.
It creates that mysterious contrast between the stark space and the lit area which makes for a great moody shot.
Apart from street photography, what else do you like to shoot with your iPhone?
I’ve recently started trying my hand at portraits as an extension to my storytelling.
I like to shoot a raw intensity from my subjects that almost makes the viewer wonder about what they’re thinking. At least that’s what I’m aspiring for in these captures.
Let’s talk about photo apps. Are there any apps that you use for taking photos besides the native camera app?
I think I may be the only one left who still uses just the native camera for taking photos!
What are your favorite apps for post-processing?
Do you use any iPhone photography accessories?
Can you briefly explain the story and editing process behind your three favorite iPhone photos?
This is one of my favorites for a couple of reasons. First, because this was the start of my portrait photography and it fueled my interest in it.
Second, it epitomizes my gravitation towards capturing raw emotions or intensity in my subjects – almost like the film noir genre where you have this mystique about your character.
I wanted the model to be caught mid action, to make the viewer feel on edge as if she’s about to jump over or she’s running away from something!
I remember when I was composing this shot that I was more focused on the graffiti and the grittiness of the window than the striking sunset against the iconic New York skyline.
It’s funny because I’m a big lover of sunsets! The reason that window drew me in was this kind of abandoned beauty quality – like it’s this enigmatic pathway to another dimension. In that moment it felt like a painting to me.
I edited the photo in Snapseed to bring out the details of the window and the buildings. I finalized the touch-ups in VSCO where I gave it a more moody vibe to emulate that painting feel.
This was a candid shot, and actually the only one I got of her since she zoomed past me in a few seconds. I really got lucky with her white coat and the stride. She just made the shot!
Chinatown has this distinct character and it’s always a fabulous backdrop for street shots. As with all my favorites, the photo does the storytelling for the viewer.
Again it makes you think about who she is or where she’s going, and that’s what I want to achieve when I photograph such moments.
I actually didn’t edit this shot much. I wanted to bring out the warmth to boost the lit area, so I used the E7 VSCO filter and some manual touch-ups in Instagram.
Do you ever feel the need to use a larger format camera for your photography, or does the iPhone do everything you want?
Shooting night shots is really when I flirt with the idea of owning a DSLR. But I think the convenience of my iPhone outweighs that every time.
You’re a keen Instagramer, and creator of the #SymmetryKillers hashtag and hub on Instagram. What does this online community mean to you, and what effect has it had on your iPhone photography?
Instagram is my creative outlet. The community has really pushed me to look at even the most ordinary things with a more artistic eye. It’s a constant source of inspiration.
I created the hashtag #symmetrykillers for all my symmetry-obsessed friends, so that I could curate all their artsy shots that went beyond just the traditional symmetry.
Thats how the SymmetryKillers hub took off, and now we have over 20,000 fellow symmetry lovers!
What tips do you have for beginner iPhone photographers who want to start taking more creative photos with their iPhone?
Don’t be afraid to experiment! That’s my only request to everyone out there.
I feel sometimes we’re fearful of the feedback and we don’t push ourselves to try new things in photography. So shoot what you love and push the envelope.
Which iPhone photographers do you admire the most?
I get so amazed by the vast pool of talent I come across on Instagram every day.
It’s like a free pass to daily art and photo exhibits. It makes you realize that there’s so much depth to creativity and so much to learn.
Where can we see your iPhone photography?
You can view my images on my Instagram gallery @fatiography.