I’m really excited to share this interview I did with Cat Milton from Mobile Photography Central. Cat is a talented iPhone photographer, mobile photography blogger, teacher of iPhoneography workshops, and she uses her iPhone photos to run a website with millions of readers.
In this awesome in-depth interview you’re going learn more about Cat and how she approaches iPhoneography. Cat was extremely generous with her answers, and there’s a lot to be learned from this interesting interview.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi Emil, thank you so much for inviting me to take part in this interview!
My name is Cat Milton and I am a ridiculously passionate iPhoneographer, iPhoneography teacher and the editor behind the new – somewhat stuttering – Mobile Photography Central website. I live and work on the tiny island of Ibiza, just off the coast of Spain.
How did you your journey in iPhoneography begin?
I intentionally swapped from a HTC (I think, at the time) to an iPhone 4, (now 4S), simply to explore its camera capabilities. I was far from an Apple fan but the photographs people were taking had caught my eye.
I was based in the UK at the time and used to visit a place called Hatfield House, home to Marquess of Salisbury. It’s open to the public for much of the year and has a beautiful park and gardens. I would walk around for hours taking photographs on my iPhone. Then one day I arrived and it was closed. I was so disappointed that I spoke to the security team about gaining access.
At first they weren’t very forthcoming and wanted to know why I wanted to visit out-of-season. So I shyly pulled out my iPhone and showed them a couple of pictures I had taken. To my enormous surprise the officer warmed immediately, helped me with my year round pass and gave me the details for the Estate CEO, saying “You want to send him a few of your photos. They might be interested in buying them.”
I was floored. Although photography had always been a passion, it was an unsubstantiated one. I had never taken a course, couldn’t afford a subscription to a photography magazine, let alone a decent camera… In essence, I knew nothing except what beauty looked like to me and every time I saw it, I tried to capture it through whatever lens I had available.
What inspires you to take and edit photos?
Beauty! In all its forms.
Where I live, Ibiza, is an incredibly beautiful island. Much more than just the common reference of Clubbing Capital of the World. Travel outside the resorts and you are greeted by deep valleys, rolling hills, dramatic coastlines and an eclectic mix of people to delight.
I am renowned for driving around and suddenly popping the hazard lights on, jumping out of the jeep and racing across a field or back behind me just to capture a moment.
So much so that a couple of years ago a dear friend who was a passenger with me shouted, “Cat! Stop the car!” so I slammed on the brakes and looked at her, wondering what on earth was wrong. She looked at me sheepishly and said, “There was a nice photograph back there.” She wasn’t a photographer but my passion seems to rub off on people…
Do you have any favorite photography scenes or subjects, or do you always try to look for something new and different?
Again, it is beauty driven. I love walking around the island and capturing seascapes, landscapes. I love watching my (six) kittens and recording their lives via images. Although I haven’t done anything much with it for some time, I also run Humans of Ibiza, a Facebook page where I force myself to approach interesting characters and ask them if I could take their photograph. Nerve-wracking!
Ibiza is a very welcoming, broadly multi-cultural island and I never know what language people might speak – Spanish, German, Dutch, sometimes if I am lucky, English. Interrupting their moment with a “Hi, could I please take your photo…” really knocked me out of my comfort zone! Even more so when I then pulled out an iPhone…
This year I was invited to have an exhibition, See the Beauty; Take the Shot, the first iPhone Photography exhibition on the island, and I was to be the sole exhibitor. You’d have laughed at the tiz-woz that sent me spinning into!
However, whilst much of the exhibition revolved around Ibiza, I also played with more extreme editing and a stronger, more corrupt artistic slant to showcase a series of images about the deterioration of memory (it was a tipping of my hat to friends who love the island as much as I do, but can’t live here). That was both fun … and poignant, for I miss friends from my years in London.
Decimated Memory is an example from that series.
What apps do you normally use for taking photos?
I’m not averse to using the native camera. However, professionally, it helps if I take my shots in 3:2 format. The native camera only allows (if you’ve upgraded to iOS 7), 4:3 or 1:1 format.
So I was using Pro Camera, which allowed me to photograph in 3:2 format. However on the upgrade to iOS7 it started to fail me terribly. The shutter would sound but the image would never appear in my Camera Roll. I was heartbroken, missing a couple of amazing moments. So just this last week I’ve moved across to Pro Camera 7 and frankly, I’m loving it.
Tell us a little bit about your photo editing workflow. Which editing apps do you use the most?
By far my favorite – and I despair of sounding like every other iPhoneographer whose interview I’ve so excitedly read! – is Snapseed. More often than not for a majority of my images, I need to use nothing else.
2. Perfectly Clear
In the workflow process, I usually use Perfectly Clear first and then move the image into Snapseed. I really love the ‘Fix Dark’ function on Perfectly Clear and the fact that I can then tweak the image, usually exposure, further.
3. Photogene 4
Photogene 4 is also a solid favorite – the Clarity function as well as the ability to tweak the noise of an image means it’s right up there, nibbling at Snapseed’s heels.
4. Camera Noir
For Black and White, I invariably default to Camera Noir. It is ridiculously simple, with almost no facility to tweak, but if I’ve got the image right the first time, Camera Noir converts into Black and White superbly well.
5. Camera Bag
I love Camera Bag for vintage. I recently attended a friend’s wedding and their photographer had let them down. My friends asked me to step up. I got out my iPhone 4S and shot the entire thing on it and then edited all the shots through Camera Bag… It worked out really well!
6. Glaze and RePix
For an artistic slant, I like both Glaze and RePix very much … I’m not in the least bit artistic but these apps effortlessly make me look like I have at least a little skill, thank goodness!
Here’s another favorite across time but I tend to have months of using it, and then months of abandoning it … Still, I return to it eventually, like a wayward, somewhat sheepish friend.
What advice do you have for new mobile photographers who are just starting to explore the creative possibilities of their smartphone?
May I be so bold as to offer two pieces of advice?
1. Care not for what others think and yet listen to everyone!
The simple fact is even the greatest artists known to man couldn’t please everyone. Not everyone loves or understands Van Gogh or Picasso. People look at Michelangelo’s work and their eyes glaze over with “Eh?” If someone is nonplussed by your amazing image, don’t worry at all. If you love it, run with it!
In the same breath however, listen to what people do say. I always ask for feedback and by goodness do I get it. I’m a huge fan of really bright, bold, vibrant colors – massive over-saturation and more often than not, over-exposure too. To me, it encapsulates not just what I see but what I feel.
But yes, quite often I go a step too far and listening to others, reassessing my work, sleeping on it and looking again, I think “Darn. Yep, good point” and re-tweak the image accordingly. Sometimes…
2. They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert.
The iPhone 3G, which seemed to be the pivotal point when iPhoneography showed the first glimmers of potential, was released in 2008. In essence, 5-6 years ago. Let’s say 6 years ago for arguments sake. And let’s say that keen iphoneographers played with their phone every single day of those six years = 2,190 days.
Taking it a step further, let’s say those same iPhoneographers photographed and practiced and explored their editing for four hours, every single one of those 2,190 days. That equals 8,760 hours – still short of the 10,000 to become an expert.
My point? This game has only just begun – fingers crossed iPhone continue to stride ahead with camera improvements and app developers continue to wow us with their offerings – and there’s plenty of room for new and upcoming creatives in this field. Get stuck in!
Could you briefly explain the story and editing of your three favorite iPhone photos?
Emil, I am a terror. My two iPhone 4S only have 16GB memory so I am constantly backing them up and clearing the Camera Roll down. Eek! Therein, rather than my 3 favorite images, forgive me if I just select three recent shots…
Stormy Days, Ibiza
1. Shot in native Camera app
Tune Image – Ambience (50%) Contrast (5%) and Saturation (15%)
Crop – 3:2 format
Details – Structure (50%)
3. Rainy Daze – clicked randomizer a few times until I liked the look!
Stevie (from Humans of Ibiza Facebook Page)
1. Taken using Pro Camera 7
Tune Image – Ambience and Saturation
Details – Structure
Crop – Square Crop
3. Tadaa SLR – I’m just starting to play with this app – blur selected background
4. Re-import into Snapseed and Tune Image / Warmth.
I like playing with what is referred to as “Extreme HDR” (High Dynamic Range) and there’s a ton of recipes available but I thought I’d share this one, with a before and after close-up
Please note, my bad – it’s not the best original image in the World (rather rainy in here at the moment so grabbed and massively cropped this shot from my Camera Roll).
Drama 2, save.
Revert and Drama Dark. 2, save.
2. Import both images into iCamera HDR [this app is longer available on App Store]
Shadow – 100
3. Noise Master
Reduce noise by 80
Details – Structure 100%
5. Noise Master
Reduce noise by 65
6. Photo FX
Sharpen 120 (Add layer)
Enhance 5 (Add layer)
Color Looks – Halo – 50% or to suit
You teach iPhone photography courses in Ibiza. What is the one thing that all your students should learn in the course?
Teaching came about in such a funny way. I was being constantly asked by other iPhoneographers “How do you do that? Can you teach me, please? You should teach this stuff, Cat!” After literally months of this, shrugging it off, I came home one day and announced, “I’m going to run an iPhoneography Course.”
Ha, then I had to figure out what to teach! Yikes!
I’ve taught three courses to date and my students have absolutely wowed me with their achievements. I’ve ended each course with a smile and the thought that the students have ended up teaching the teacher, in one way or another. It is amazing to watch how others perceive the world.
If there was only one thing I would love all of my students to walk away with, it is the knowledge that they actually have a very real talent. I wasn’t expecting it to be this when I started teaching but as the three courses ran, I was staggered to find that those drawn to photography – really drawn to it – seem to have a latent skill for it.
As they learned, as they practiced, as they explored what set them on fire, their talent just seemed to light up and bubble over. It was extraordinary!
Tell us a little about your business and how you use iPhone photography to support it.
I like to say that I have the best job on the island of Ibiza! My work delights and inspires me for I am fortunate enough to be the editor-in-chief of a super website that is Google global no. 1 for the island. We have a massive multi-million audience and we look to update daily with all things Ibiza that would interest our demographic.
The mainstream news has been for pretty much the last year photographed by iPhone. The reason was both simple and two-fold.
Firstly, trying to haul a huge pro camera around throughout the summer, with temperatures often in the mid 30s to 40, from beach to restaurant, to horse-riding, jet skiing etc, with lenses, spare batteries and the rest of the kit, was utterly exhausting and often quite worrying! The kit is expensive and not often that resilient to dust, humidity etc. Whereas an iPhone slipped into the pocket (I carry two, both iPhone 4S).
Secondly, our audience have come to trust us, implicitly and we work to the nth degree to maintain and build that trust and loyalty. The iPhone images allow us to tell it like it is. There is very little editing aside from occasional cropping and sometimes a little sharpening and voila, we’re ready to say ‘This is a great place for the perfect day out – have a look!”
Alongside the website, I run and maintain a 450K+ Facebook fan page, which requires a daily image of Ibiza. So, as I go through my week, I keep my eyes open for the images I hope our fans will like and each morning, share them. The feedback and appreciation is wonderful and those images – iPhone 4S – reach literally hundreds of thousands of people!
Which iPhoneographers do you admire the most?
I admire so many iPhoneographers – but no one most because each have a different strength, a different style and it is for that that I appreciate them.
I love how Skip (Paul) at Skipology shares his workflow so precisely and generously – and his own results, wow! Skip’s style is far more subdued than mine – pastel colors, whereas I go into overdrive for vibrancy but it in no way stops me from appreciating his creations.
The list goes on and on and it’s one of those dreadful scenarios where I could write pages about other iPhoneographers I admire and still not mention them all!
I think what is also so often overlooked is those who run the iPhone or Mobile Photography websites as well. We may not see quite so much of the webmasters’ work (e.g. Marty at LifeInLoFi, etc.) but the fact that yourself and others put in the effort to share your knowledge is phenomenal – and to me, priceless. Thank you!
Where can we follow your work in iPhone photography?
Ah yes… social media. Herein I am a bit of a dud. I use (too erratic to apply that word with any degree of real honesty) several platforms. My full time job on Ibiza means I often forget or dismiss uploading my personal iPhoneography but I try to pop things up on
- Flickr (mostly light strength work – e.g. sunsets, etc.)
- Humans of Ibiza on Facebook
- Photographer behind the new website that I run with my partner
- I guess, going forward and time allowing, my work will start to show through much more on Mobile Photography Central. As much as I hope it will inspire and help other iPhoneographers, it is also my own playground for trying out new apps and techniques…