Hipstamatic to release ‘Ben Lowy lens’ with minimal image processing

The New York Times
Conflict photographer Ben Lowy has championed the use of image-filtering smartphone apps such as Hipstamatic and Instagram, and now the company plans to release a new lens under his name. The lens will apply “minimal processing and would fit the ethical constraints of newspaper and magazine news photography,” he tells James Estrin.

Critics say such apps are not appropriate for photojournalism because they change the image with effects such as vignettes and blurring. Lowy tells Estrin that there’s no difference between these apps and a camera with particular properties.

He also believes that an explosion of images and the increasing ease of access compel photographers to use different tools to be noticed.

“If you make an image look different enough, peculiar enough, I think that’s that hook,” he said. “I think that if you create a different aesthetic than people are used to seeing, you can attract the public — you can bring them in and then all of a sudden that is when the content is delivered.”

Lowy approached Hipstamatic about creating the lens that will bear his name; he told me he’s not making any money off of it. “I feel like it’s probably going to be more acceptable to the purists out there that say that it’s changing reality,” Lowy said.

He didn’t want to give away too many details of what the lens will do, but here’s what he told Estrin:

I thought turn back the saturation a little bit, have the clarity up, a little bit of a grain and some contrast, but not enough that you lose the highlights. I found that a lot of time, you lose the highlights with an iPhone. And that’s it except maybe a slight vignette.

And hopefully, that will quiet the ruckus. Until we all end up shooting HD video and taking frame grabs, because that’s the future anyway.

In his Q&A with Estrin, Lowy describes why he has a problem with people overusing Photoshop and says he doesn’t do post-production on his images anymore. “I know what the lens is, and I know what the film is, and I take a picture, and the picture that I get out, that’s what I use.”

Earlier: Photojournalists debate ethics of Instagram, HipstamaticDamon Winter explains process, philosophy behind award-winning Hipstamatic photos

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