Geek Speak: Kris Krug, co-author of Killer Photos With Your iPhone

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      Kris Krug says the past few months have been “crazy” busy for him. The 33-year-old, Vancouver-based photographer and Web strategist is the co-author of Killer Photos With Your iPhone, which came out in June.

      In May, Krug embarked on a tour of Asia with GeeksOnaPlane. The “geek cross-pollination” program brought techies and entrepreneurs to Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, Singapore, and Tokyo, where they hosted and attended conferences and events about technology and start-ups. June saw Krug visit Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida as part of the TEDxOilSpill Expedition. The weeklong trip brought together several photographers and videographers to document the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. On June 28, Krug presented what he saw at the TEDxOilSpill conference in Washington, D.C.

      Born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Krug runs Static Photography. He wrote Killer Photos With Your iPhone, which is published by Course Technology, with Matthew Bamberg and Greg Ketchum. Specifically, Krug contributed most of the photographs in the book and wrote its app reviews and workflow sections. This fall, he will teach a continuing-studies class called Community-Building Through Photography, which will be offered by the Emily Carr University of Art and Design’s Social + Interactive Media Centre.

      The Georgia Straight reached Krug by phone at the Waldorf Hotel in Vancouver.

      How did the book come about?

      It came about through my literary agent, actually. I have a woman who acts as my agent and brings me interesting technology-book ideas. In fact, I’ve hooked her up with several other Vancouver people. So, Rebecca Bollwitt has her now as her agent as well, and she brought her book. Then Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo, she was able to take their Friends With Benefits e-book and turn it into a physical book. So, she’s in San Francisco, but she’s working on behalf of lots of us up here.

      She paired me up with these guys. Matt has an extensive photography kind of how-to and tips manual book-writing career. And I have another one in the works with her as well.

      What’s that book about?

      It’s going to be an alternative guide to portrait photography. So, kind of not your serious portrait photography—kk-style portrait photography.

      What photography apps do you use?

      Well, I use a bunch. My two favourites right now are probably the CameraBag app and Hipstamatic. Those are kind of two apps that give you a whole bunch of different cool looks to photos, and then allow you to upload straight to your main social networks and stuff like that. They’re the kind of full-featured ones where you can flip back and forth between, you know, cross-process look and vintage look and black-and-white. So, I use those one a lot.

      I have a couple other favourites that are a little more obscure. One’s called ToyCamera, and one’s called OldCamera. As opposed to giving you a bunch of different options of different looks you can have, they kind of only have one look. But it’s almost like using a toy camera or an old-style camera. You can’t flip through the different options, but you get really interesting, unique, personal iPhone photos with your camera if you use them. So, I like those ones.

      What’s one tip for taking killer iPhone photos?

      Well, I think that there’s so many cool apps and photography tools on the phone. You know, one tip is to experiment with the different apps and tools that are available to develop like a unique recipe for your photos. You know, run it through the TiltShiftGenerator and then run it through the OldCamera thing, and finally use the Photoshop thing to crop it, and then upload it to your Flickr.

      So, the image that you capture with your iPhone is just a starting place, and then there’s all these software tools and tricks and techniques you can do to make them cool and interesting, and then upload them and share them right from your phone. That’s really my iPhone photography tip.

      Do you think the iPhone is making certain kinds of cameras obsolete?

      I don’t think it’s making certain kinds of cameras obsolete. But I’ll tell you that people have realized that the best camera that you can have with you is the one that you always have in your hand. So, while people have an expensive point-and-shoot camera and a DSLR, they find themselves taking a lot of iPhone photos, because really it doesn’t matter how good or bad your camera is if it’s not with you when you need it. And people always have their iPhone, not just with them but often in their hand. So, I don’t know so much that it’s making it obsolete as it’s just the other cameras are finding themselves lonely in favour of the iPhone, which happens to already be up when the action happens.

      It’s so easy to share from your phone too. One of the big reasons people take photos these days is to document that they’re somewhere and then share it with their friends and family. What easier way to do it than directly from your communication device? Sometimes in the field, I even take an iPhone photo of the back of my DSLR. I’ll push Play, so you can preview the image, and then I’ll shoot that with my iPhone and then upload that to Flickr as a preview while I’m out in the field, before I’ve had a chance to download my cards and edit them and upload them to Flickr.

      What did you find challenging about the TEDxOilSpill Expedition, taking photos on that?

      Well, emotionally it’s like shooting in a war zone. I mean, the people that you’re around are stressed and anxious, and no one really knows what the outcome’s going to be. It’s a really hard time on all these people, and it’s really on the top of their minds.

      I think the hardest thing about it, and the thing I’ve been trying to convey to people, is any time you see a photo, whether it be on CNN or my photos, and it’s like a bird or a group of birds or a whole island even—the part that freaked me out is when you pull your face away from that camera or that one shot. You realize that from horizon to horizon it’s uniformly covered with that same thing you’re trying to show people. It’s not just one island or a group of birds. It’s horizon to horizon. Every island and every group of birds is full of oil.

      That was the hard part for me to deal with. That was when I felt like I wanted to cry was just kind of the enormity of it all. It’s hard to convey that photographically or even on television, right? Anderson Cooper’s out there shooting birds and bird islands and all this shit. But it’s not just that one. It’s all of them are like that. When you’re flying over it, you kind of absorb all that impact at once, where it’s island after island of baby bird sanctuary being devastated. That’s the pretty hard part.

      What are you going to be teaching your Emily Carr students this fall?

      Well, community coalesces on the Internet around creativity. So, whether it’d be music or people blogging and diary-style writing or photography, that’s where sort of the action is. Trying to manifest community out of vapour doesn’t happen.

      So, I’m going to talk to them about how to grow an audience for their work, actively engage—whether they be nonprofits or activists or whoever or artists even—using photography to connect with their thousand true fans and get their work out there, how to cross-pollinate with other artists and stuff. Really, how to make one’s work relevant to people using the Internet.

      Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? Tell Stephen Hui on Twitter at




      Jul 20, 2010 at 5:01pm

      Stellar work by KK in the Gulf Coast. Keep in mind, that because he releases his photos with a creative commons licenses, non-profit groups and media outlets can share the devastation in a timely manner without jumping through agencies and licensing agreements. This a truly way to build awareness and community about urgent events of public concern.

      PS Nice cap from USS Olympia.

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