Jan 15 2013

Instagram: Why I’m Sticking Around…

Over the last few weeks a lot of people have been talking about leaving Instagram in the wake of their recent changes in Terms and Conditions. A few of the people I follow have obviously deleted their accounts and some friends are certainly planning on doing so in the near future. I’m sticking around. Here’s why…

Instagram Logo

For those of you unfamiliar with the service, Instagram is a social network based around a mobile application (initially on iPhone but more recently on other mobile platforms). It allows users to share their photos on Instagram and across several other social networks at once (including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr) and hosts a vast online community of mobile photographers. Many users when they first come to the application see it as an easy way to edit their photos with it’s range of custom filters, borders and tilt-shift type  functions and you can certainly get some great results using it’s basic edit suite.

As many of you know I am  big fan of mobile photography. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you will no doubt be aware of the umpteen photo posts in any given week, all of which would have been shot and/or edited on my iPhone. In fact, the last four albums I put out (including [un]plugged and the new trio record Foreground Music Volume I) have had their cover art created entirely on my iPhone. A lot of the techniques I use have been learnt from Instagram. It is a fantastic resource for mobile photographers. With the plethora of applications available it is great to be able to see how other mobile photographers create and edit their shots and the ability to search Instagram via tags can be incredibly useful. Instagram-based groups such as JUXT and AMPt provide great tutorials and interviews with mobile photographers (professional and amateur) as well as providing curated feeds showcasing some of the best work on the network. Both of those groups now have their own dedicated sites.

Juxt Logo

I have learnt so much about mobile photography and photo editing from my time on Instagram. I don’t feel this would be possible on any other one social network. Rival networks such as Flickr and Tumblr simply don’t have the same sense of community.

The crunch came when Instagram was bought up by Facebook in September last year. In December they released a new set of terms and conditions which, to be fair, could very easily be read to mean that Facebook had the right to sell your photos. It prompted headlines such as this in the Guardian:

Facebook forces Instagram users to allow it to sell their uploaded photos

After the obvious backlash and droves of users quitting the network, Instagram revised the published terms and privacy policy to clarify the situation and take into account users feedback. Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom issued this blog post about the revised terms. The way I see it, the new privacy policy and T&C’s are no different to those of it’s now parent company Facebook. If I post any image online it is essentially public wherever it’s is posted. Whether Facebook, any other site or individual uses one of my images (which I find most unlikely to be perfectly frank) is pretty much beyond my control anyway. There is nothing to stop me taking a screenshot of any image online and using it, apart from the obvious copyright implications. Facebook already uses your profile picture in targeted adverts (ie; “Your friend Simon Little is using Instagram; why not give it a try?”) and they will supposedly/presumably be using Instagram images in a similar manner. Whatever…

Dylan Tweney recently wrote an excellent blog post about how to take back control of your social networks. Virtually all the social networks have very similar privacy policies and terms. Facebook pages have become rather elusive now unless you pay to ‘promote’ your posts. Who can and can’t see what you post is very much under their control and we become ever more reliant on fans and  followers sharing news items to their friends if we want them to be seen. Good old-fashionned bloggery is the way froward boys and girls. This is probably warranting another post of it’s own…

The only preserve of the actual users of any social network is the sense of community that only they can maintain. There is a fantastic and supportive community on Instagram that I would sorely miss if I were to quit. Just as I would miss it if I were to quit Twitter (Heaven Forbid!). I have learnt so much from this community and I learn new things every day. This is why I am sticking around thanks very much…

If you are an Instagram user, come and say hello! I am @simonlittlebass over there. If you’re not but would like to see my gallery, you can do this via the marvellous Statigram, which is a handy web interface for viewing Instagram shots if you’re not a registered user (or even if you are!). I shall leave you with a little gallery of recent shots. Until next time ;) x


May 14 2012

The Lowdown On The Artwork…

Hey guys

Well, you asked for it so here it is. This post does once again come with an Amber Geek-Alert. You have been warned…

Since I released my latest album [un]plugged a few weeks ago I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the artwork. This is the third release for which I’ve put together my own cover art. So for those of you that wondered; here’s the process I used this time.

Those of you that know me well or follow me on Instagram (@simonlittlebass) will be very much aware of my little obsession with iPhoneography; that is, the art and technology of iPhone-based photography and photo-editing. So it will not surprise you that the [un]plugged cover was almost entirely put together on my iPhone. Only the text was added separately using Gimp for Mac (a free and rather excellent image editing program), and that’s only because I haven’t found the right iPhone app(lication) yet…

1. I started out with an image of what is left of Gotham City Hall in Six Flags New Orleans. Hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the site is set for demolition. I edited this image with the fantastic iPhone app(lication) Snapseed to give it a more gothic feel and darken the sky. I always start with the crop and auto-correct functions, then play about with the Tune Image settings and Drama filters. I think I may have also used the Tilt-Shift to add focus to the centre of the image. The first stage looked like this…

2. I then put this image through Tiny Planets. This is a fun little app(lication) that twists an image one of two ways into a circular pattern. I mess about with this a lot. The results are pretty haphazard at best and you have no real control over the final image but occasionally it comes up trumps. The resulting image looks like this:

3. It was at this stage that I transfered to my laptop and added the text to the bottom right corner. Gimp also allows use to match the colour of text with a colour from the image itself. I went with one of the grungy grays from the building.

4. I then immediately went back to the iPhone (!) and put this image through ScratchCam. This is an excellent app(lication) if you have time to fiddle with it and download all the extra filters (which are all free but not included in the initial download). I tend to use the random button to generate a few different options as a starting point and then edit in more detail from there. This is how I got the folded and torn look…

5. Now, as you can see here, the image became rather washed out in ScratchCam so I went back to Snapseed and essentially repeated the steps in mentioned earlier; mainly using the Tune Image and Drama functions to bring the colours out once more. The resulting image is the final cover art which we all know and love.

Hope this answers some of your questions regarding the artwork. I love the fact that you can manipulate images to this degree and sophistication on a mobile phone. I’ve been playing around with the applications a great deal over the last year and am only just starting to scratch the surface. As for the musical applications, well that is another post entirely…

Hope you’re all enjoying the album and don’t forget to tell your friends and help spread the word.

Just out of interest, here’s a couple of other images I put through Tiny Planets so you can get some idea of the possibilities. Out of the applications I use regularly, this one is the least consistent but often comes up with the most surprising results (Both these images were heavily edited in either Snapseed or Iris before being run trough Tiny Planets)…

Until next time…


Apr 23 2012

Barnados Oldie Composers Sessions Photo/Videoblog

Hello folks,
This week I spent two days at BBC Maida Vale studios as part of the band for the Barnados Oldie Composers songwiting competition sessions. The last time I worked with Barnados we were recording the top four songs from their Young Composers competition (see the original blog post here) and the process was the same this time. Songwriters were asked to submit their material to the star-studded panel of judges who chose their top four songs to be recorded at Maida Vale by professional musicians. The competition was organized by the wonderful Hellen Bach and Norman Macintosh of Charity Goods, and the sessions were produced by my good friend AD Chivers.

We had a great lineup for the sessions, which were on Monday and the following Sunday. We had Nick Mason and Steve Rushton on drums, Grant Windsor on piano, Marcus Bonfanti on guitars, the string quartet Bond and VocalWorks. There was even a string section coming in on Monday night. A really big production all round. Lead vocals were provided by Anthony Head, FTW and our very own Clare Teal.

Once the tracks are mixed and mastered they will be available for download to raise money for Barnados. Which is where you come in…

I shall of course let you know when the tracks become available. The songs were written by Trevor Wiles & Paul Hadler, Marina Florance, John Mackfall and Maggie Duffy. The songwriter with the most downloads by the deadline will win the competition. More information on the contest and how you can help this great cause can be found at the Oldie Composers website.

Rather than harp on about the session I thought it would be far more interesting for me to post a little photoblog. So here’s a gallery of some of the pictures I took from the two days at Maida Vale. I hope you like them.

Here’s a little video I shot of Vocalworks recording their backing for Marina Florence’s Cry

And here’s a little video of FTW running through some of Loves Forever by Trevor Wiles & Paul Hadler with Grant…

Until next time. Which will be very soon indeed as my third solo album [un]plugged was mastered today with Steve Alexander and as I type the tracks are being uploaded to my Bandcamp page ready for release. Watch this space for the big announcement. Probably tomorrow in fact as I cannot bear to sit on it any longer and want to get it out there for you all to hear…