Tools of the Trade

Copyright © 2013. stFOTOgrafer. All Rights Reserved!

Copyright © 2013. stFOTOgrafer. All Rights Reserved!

I rarely leave home without a camera, a journal and a voice recorder. These are my tools. The journal and the voice recorder are just as important as the camera. Without them together, a story might not be completed.

The journal is important because it’s where I keep my research on the locations that I’m going to explore. Upon my arrival, I jot down three short sentences on what I see, how I feel. Sometime, I describe the smell of the place. This helps me to find better perspectives to capture the essences of my stories. And while I’m working with my subjects, I may add notes or more information about the stories.

Copyright © 2013. stFOTOgrafer. All Rights Reserved!

Copyright © 2013. stFOTOgrafer. All Rights Reserved!

The voice recorder comes into play when I need to interview someone, when I think particular ambient sound may help to kick starts certain memory or when I can’t afford to put down my camera to take notes. It’s useful sometime, but a voice recorder also comes with some negative aspects. First, it relies on batteries so I always have to carry extra juice. This means adding more weights to my shoulders. Second, the stops and starts during the playbacks are the pain-in-the-Minion-butt. To avoid this, I have to break each recording into short sessions whenever I can.

Copyright © 2013. stFOTOgrafer. All Rights Reserved!

Copyright © 2013. stFOTOgrafer. All Rights Reserved!

I don’t shoot fashion runways or safaris so I don’t care much for fast DSLRs and big zoom lenses. I shoot with whatever I can get my hands on. Point-and-shoots are fine with me; as long as their RAW files are decent enough for 16×20 prints. Occasionally, I even use my iPhone to capture my stories.

Of all the tools I mention above, the iPhone is the ultimate tool which I can’t be apart from it. It’s my camera, my journal, my recorder, navigator, magazine, etc.. The only feature that I rarely use on the iPhone is making phone calls. What can I say; I’m not the talkative type.

I used to toggle from one photography app to another to get the photographic effects I wanted for my images. Not any more. Now, I only use Oggl to shoot, process, then directly share my photos to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter without leaving the app. Oggl offers endless ability to mix lenses and films to achieve various type of filters I want for my photos. Once in a while, I use Bokeh Lens to separate the subjects from the backgrounds.

Copyright © 2013. stFOTOgrafer. All Rights Reserved!

Copyright © 2013. stFOTOgrafer. All Rights Reserved!

As for the journal, I use Evernote and Headspace apps. Basically, the Evernote is a cloud base note-taking and note-sharing app. The folks at Evernote also made this app available for Mac and Windows base desktops. I sometime use Evernote to store screenshots, videos of the information and the places I do research on. Evernote’s search features and its powerful tagging help keep my notes accessible and organized. The advantage of using the Evernote is that I can sync data across all of my desktop, laptop, iPad and iPhone. The disadvantage of this app is that it’s an electronic notebook; it becomes useless if the battery in my iPad or iPhone is dead.

Copyright © 2013. stFOTOgrafer. All Rights Reserved!

Copyright © 2013. stFOTOgrafer. All Rights Reserved!

Headspace is a brilliant mind mapping app for both iOS and Mac platform; a powerful tool for getting the ideas out of my head. Beautifully designed by Flat Black Films, Headspace allows me to create and group items on a 3D floating plane. Although I can attach notes, links and photos, I choose to use Headspace for short phrases, to-do lists and simple information.

Of course, I can just walk the streets aimlessly, photograph every corner and everyone I see. But for photo essays and stories, researching and taking notes about the places and the subjects beforehand grant me better details. Hence, a journal and a voice recorder is just as important as my camera.

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About Kris Phan

I'm not a photographer. I'm a camera user. View all posts by Kris Phan

2 responses to “Tools of the Trade

  • this is lemonade

    Thanks for sharing this! Very insightful and interesting. Love learning about your work process, and you have lovely handwriting too. With the extra juice and hence weight, does your iPhone have a good enough voice recording facility to save on one more thing to carry? (I guess you’d need more battery for the phone though) I used to have an old SLR in my bag all the time, but with modern things, they might be easier to edit etc. but seem to come with so much paraphernalia!

    • Kris Phan

      Aww… Thank you for your kind words, Ms. Lemonade. I like to learn about your cooking techniques, too.

      The iPhone works well for taking notes and short interviews, and yes, I do have an extra battery for my iPhone. It’s convenient, but can’t replace the pro-tools.

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