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iPhoneography with Cole Rise

Hey folks, it’s been a very busy few weeks for us here at TBL and as such it’s been a week or so since we’ve had a chance to continue with the iPhoneographers series – but we’re back and let me tell ya, it’s a good one! We first saw Cole Rise’s work through Instagram, as he’s one of the very popular Instagramers – and it turns out Cole is also a photographer by trade. So read on for Cole’s interview…psssst…awesome tips for creative iPhoneography ahead! You’ve been warned.

Cole Rise 1


Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your background in photography?

The affair started when I was really young actually, with the family camera. We had an old Canon SLR with a rather long zoom lens that my parents kept in a wicker picnic basket in their closet. Everything about it held my attention, from the feel of the focus ring, to the little red numbers that came up when you half-pressed the button, to the tiny knobs and film cranks and the sound it made when you took a picture. It was my cardboard spaceship, so to speak. I’d sit and play with it for hours, even if it didn’t have any film.

As I got older, that grew into a hobby. I’d wander either around the house or around town with my digital camera, committing arbitrary little bits of life to a 32MB card. It was my version of a journal. Since then, i’ve fallen hard for surrealist landscapes. I’m basically still doing the same thing, though these days I’m able to wander a bit farther. Between licensing and selling prints, and the odd gallery show, photography has turned into part time profession, partly funded by an internet company i started a few years back. Nerd by day, photographer by… well, it depends on the day.

How and when did you catch the iPhoneography bug? What makes the medium so special for you?

I’d say my iPhoneography affliction is deeply rooted in many years of experimenting with mobile photography, which goes as far back as 2003 when early camera phones were just starting to get popular. Back then, phone cameras weren’t very taken seriously – no one expected to get prints out of them, or even cared enough to transfer them to their computers. They were just tiny digital memories that lived on your phone or shared through text messages. For me, they were a new way to make art. Hell, the resolutions were so low, the photos ended up looking more impressionistic than photorealistic anyway. But that was all we had, and i rather enjoyed the result. Since then, i’ve celebrated every incremental improvement, from better resolutions, better color representation, to the first LED flashes.

Check out some of Cole’s first mobile shots!



Naturally, when the iPhone was announced in 2007, i was pretty excited. I worked at Yahoo! Mobile at the time, which was working closely with Apple to provide stock and weather information, so i had the pleasure of playing with one under close guard at the Apple campus, before it was publicly available. The first time i saw the camera in action on that big, beautiful touchscreen, it was immediately apparent we were in for something big. Sure, there were a few phones with decent resolutions, but Apple’s camera implementation would bring a change in the general thinking of what a mobile photograph meant. It was smart, it made it easy to share and transfer, and the photos looked pretty darn great, to boot.

I soon found myself caring more about the details i could capture, and the fidelity of the final photograph. Suddenly, mobile photos were something more. That’s special to me because i’ve watched the medium progress, and i feel privileged to witness it first hand.

Cole Rise 1


You have a very distinctive photography style, tell us a bit about your style and how you came to develop it. Do you feel it’s important for aspiring photographers to develop their own style?

A friend of mine once said “People don’t want to just see cool photos, they want to see how you view the world. They want perspective.” I think that describes quite well what photographers strive to do – provide a perspective. For me, that perspective lies somewhere between what we cannot see beyond the fog and what we imagine it to be.

When i think of style, i think of brand, and i think every serious photographer should work hard to establish one, just as a company would for a product. Consistency is important, but probably more so in your message than the image itself. One of the most rewarding aspects of photography is when someone can immediately recognize one of your photos without the byline. If people like what you’re about, and they can trust you’ll keep delivering, you can easily build a following.

Cole Rise 1


What tips and tricks would you share with other iPhoneographers? Do you have any favorite apps and treatments?

There’s so many ways to get creative with an iPhone, or any phone for that matter. Here are three tricks that i’ve had success with:

  • Shoot through your sweater. Any sort of knit fabric stretched over the lens plays with sunlight in such a satisfying way. This is also a great use for that scarf you hate.
  • Create nifty light leaks with a carefully placed drop of water. Put it in that spot between your flash and your lens, and make sure your flash is on. Clear plastic also works, like sandwich bags or scotch tape.
  • Shoot straight up in the rain with a the Slow Shutter Cam app. Again, make sure the flash is on, and that you’ve got the app set to “Light trails” mode. The water droplets rushing towards the lens looks like warp speed! Slow Shutter is also amazingly useful for your more obvious long-exposure iPhone shots.

Aside from Slow Shutter I tend to use PhotoForge2 for it’s photoshop like control of the color curves, and Cross Process because it’s just generally awesome with what it outputs.

Here’s links to the apps:

Cole Rise 1


What do you envision for the future of iPhoneography for casual photographers? For professionals?

I’d say I care as much about capturing something with my phone as i do my Hasselblad or DSLR. Why? Not because of the resolution or quality – my specialized equipment will always do it better. It’s because my phone is connected, and it’s the easiest way to immediately share where i am, what i’m doing, and how i feel about it.

I have no doubt that we’ll soon witness the demise of the specialized point and shoot camera, as mobile image sensors improve and people rely more on what’s already in their pocket. If you’ve been to a concert or show lately, the future is immediately evident with all those glowing screens. There will be smartphones, and there will be prosumer / professional cameras with interchangeable lenses, with a little gap in between.

Anybody will be able to take crisp, high-fidelity photos, which is wonderful for casual photographers. The professionals on the other hand, will have to work a little harder to differentiate themselves from the masses. :)

Cole Rise 1


Tell us a little bit about your current and future iPhoneography projects.

My current project involves getting my hands on that new 8MP sensor in the iPhone 4S! Once that’s solved, I’m planning a 2600 mile drive from San Francisco to Colorado and back, which will take me through the salt flats in Utah at 3 in the morning. I’m curious to test what kind of night shots i can get.

You can check out more of Cole’s work on his website, or follow him on Instagram, @Colerise

Cole Rise 1


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2 Responses to “iPhoneography with Cole Rise”

  1. Very nice interview, i really enjoyed reading it.


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