Subjects That Move You

When they boarded the bus for our first shoot at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the boys had skateboards in hand. Scuffed up and loud with color, each board was unique. Before the mobile photography workshop began, I had been thinking about potential shoot destinations. The Botanical Garden was an easy first pick, but where would teenage boys and girls really like to go? What would inspire them to experiment with photography? I wasn’t sure, but I left the question and destination for the second shoot open, and hoped that the answer would reveal itself.

The weather was magic that week. While some families loaded up their vehicles and left town for the week-long school holiday, 14 budding photographers, ages 13 to 18, came together from three different Metro Atlanta Boys and Girls Clubs each day to learn the art of mobile photography with me. Most were there because they had expressed an interest in photography, but a few confessed that they just liked the idea of going on field trips.

"Bring your skateboards," I said. Our second field trip sent them rolling through the graffiti-rich Krog Street Tunnel and concluded at the skateboard park in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. It was inspiring to watch them move and take turns shooting one another, doing what they loved. And it reminded me how important it is to put yourself in locations and find subjects that move you, not your audience.

I shot this image using the native camera app and processed it using the VSCO Cam app, increasingly one of my favorite apps because of its creative preset collections and comprehensive editing tools. While the icon-based interface takes a little time to master, the vast degree of image customization options makes it worth the effort. I first applied the Levi’s Commuter (LV1) preset and reduced its saturation. Using the edit tools, I increased the exposure to +1, warmed the temperature and increased the sharpness just a bit, cropped the image to a square format, and finally added a vignette at +7 saturation to soften the edges and emphasize my subjects over the setting.

You can see images shot by some of my students and teens across America in The New York Times LENS "My Hometown" project at

Stephanie Calabrese ( is an award-winning documentary photographer and author of the best-selling The Art of iPhoneography: A Guide to Mobile Creativity, 2nd Edition and Lens on Life: Documenting Your World Through Photography.

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