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Photography book: 'David Hume Kennerly, On the iPhone'

Photography book: ‘David Hume Kennerly, On the iPhone’

The last photo in David Hume Kennerly’s book is shown. Kennerly writes: “I knew this Route 66 sign on the Santa Monica Pier would be the last photo in the book, but I hadn’t counted on the flight of pelicans passing over to give it a lyrical touch. It was the perfect ending and shot in a place I frequently visit, but with a perspective that was new to me. Elements of the expected and unexpected coming together like this are a big part of why I love what I do.”

So, you’re a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist. You were the chief White House photographer for Gerald R. Ford. You’ve have won every major award presented to a photographer.

So, basically, you’ve seen and done a lot throughout the years of this ever-changing industry.

So, what’s next if you are David Hume Kennerly?

You embrace the most common photomaking device in the world. The phone.

In 2013, Kennerly gave himself an assignment — or challenge — to make at least one good photo every day. In his new book, “David Hume Kennerly, On the iPhone,”  he says: “Having that little photo-taking instrument built into your mobile phone puts every shooter on the same playing field, and we have all have one. But the moment I hold that camera up to shoot, the game changes and the art of telling stories with images takes over.  The bigger picture is one I can share with everyone, particularly on how to use the camera phone to better effect.”

Kennerly_TipsWith Kennerly’s challenge, it was surprising and charming to learn that even such a seasoned professional got a sense of anxiety and excitement. His book is not only a collection of interesting photography, but reads like a great instructional guide to enhance your own work. Kennerly gives practical tips along with his insights, drawn from his catalog of experience.

The book is broken up into easily digestible tips on how to approach people, make portraits, see light and use the environment and has a very practical tone. He speaks on color, black and white, textures, details, moods and moments as well. You can’t help but learn something as you flip through the pages.

Kennerly expertly and easily explains the craft of photography — not just phone photography. When speaking about moments, he writes: “Shooting pictures is like driving — you can’t just keep your eyes on the car directly in front, but instead you must look further down the road in order to be aware of the unexpected.” He speaks about being patient, anticipating and not settling. In a lot of ways, this trait and dedication defines the difference between a decent photographer and a great one.

As for filters? Kennerly suggests trying out several and not getting “stuck in the same app rut.” He also warns against overusing filters to “compensate for mediocre photography.”

The book’s chapter on “Overcoming Familiarity” is one that functions as a good reminder that we don’t all have to travel to exotic places to create amazing photos. In a very whimsical fashion, Kennerly offers this tip: “One way to overcome that fatal photographer familiarity problem is to pretend that you’re a Martian who just landed on Earth and strive to imagine what you might see for the first time in this totally alien environment.” So, imagine for yourself, expanding your own visual vocabulary with something you see every single day. Perhaps it’s the lighting, the angle or the mood that feels different now because you’re training yourself to see just a little more. Kennerly gives nice examples of making pictures of the everyday moments in his Southern California environment.

As much as the title of the book suggests it’s about iPhone photography, Kennerly’s book is beyond the iPhone; it is a guide to simply making all-around better photography. All the principles and tips he dispenses work with any camera of your choice.

This book is absolutely not just a picture book — although the photos are impressive. Kennerly’s words are just as significant. It wouldn’t be a stretch to use this book as part of a class curriculum on phone photography. (And yes, many schools do offer such classes now.)

Lastly, Kennerly is honestly a photographer’s photographer. The end of his book is broken down into “60 tips for better pics.” Follow even half of them and I think you’ll see an improvement in all of your work.

For all of you who want to push your phone photography, too, I challenge you to take what I’m calling the “Kennerly Challenge” and try creating one good phone photo a day for a year.

Keep following Kennerly’s iPhone work on Instagram  and on Facebook.  And follow us too at @latimesphotos.

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