The Photography Blog: Rise of the smartphone, but smart photography too?
Facebook recently paid $1 Billion for the smartphone app, Instagram. Assuming Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t got his sums wrong, the market for smartphone photography is booming. So what impact is the smartphone having on our photography and what is it’s role in our photo taking process?
Wikianswers estimates that there are 964 pictures uploaded to Facebook alone every second and research from NPD Group found that last year, smartphone photography grew from 17% to 27% of all the photos and videos we take. It’s unlikely to start a downward trend anytime soon.
That said, we’re still more likely to use single purpose cameras for important events. Maybe there’s a perception that you can only take ‘proper’ photographs with a ‘proper’ camera. Perhaps we’re still not convinced we can get the results we’re after from a smartphone on a one off special occasion.
However, smartphones’ cameras are only going to improve, especially I would argue from the manufacturers that don’t also have to try and maintain sales of a product range of dedicated cameras.
With smartphone photography on the rise, what impact is it having on the rest of us still plugging away with our traditional cameras-compacts and DSLR’s alike?
I see a technical and creative pressure on the other photographers amongst us-and I include professionals and keen amateurs here. With a smartphone, you can capture, creatively style and publish an image to the rest of the world in a matter of seconds.
In the world of wedding photography where I work, brides are often asking about the availability of photographs before the end of their reception. It’s obvious to me that this notion stems from the speedy turnaround delivered by the smartphone. A guest can shoot the bride and groom arriving, apply some fairly stylised effects with their Photoshop app and have a neat looking shot of the bride up on Facebook before the canapés are even finished.
Where does that leave me lugging my big camera around while other people are producing images around me? Well, leaving quality versus quantity issues aside, most couples don’t want a slideshow after dinner-they’ve usually got other plans and in fact look forward to the treat of their professionally taken, carefully edited and retouched photographs on return from honeymoon. Honeymoon? But that’s like, two weeks? We used to say the pics would be ready in a couple of months!
So expectations for the speed we turn even our professional digital photography around in are higher, but what else has the smartphone done to the photography landscape?
The attack of the apps has reshaped how millions of people style and share their photographs. Effects like retro toning, vignettes and stylistic borders that seemed the preserve of the expert print maker or advanced digital photographer are now a few clicks away from everyone. Sure, they may not be as sophisticated but they can look great viewed on the phone/ipad/social networking site.
Considering what the end use of our photography is remains the key for me here. If all we want is some cool looking shots to show people on our smartphone or ipad, or even to have printed off at 6×4, then the smartphone isn’t going to tremble with fear at being exposed (no pun intended…) as being not up to scratch.
Most people print shots at or around this size so will they care if the photographer used a smartphone as long as they love the end result? I doubt it. OK, the final thing is a digital mutation of the original photograph, but the effect is popular and some pros have gone for the retro look, for example, completely wholesale. Whether it will last or not remains to be seen.
Of course the beauty of apps is that they can adapt to new fashions. If one style loses popularity, someone will introduce a new one for us to download. Apps are therefore giving people greater creative freedom to present their photos in a style that suits them and their images. They serve a purpose, they’ve got people shooting more and more photographs and, hopefully, enjoying photography, which is a Good Thing in my book.
Where I am concerned is where this fast paced style of image production becomes the accepted norm and a view is formed that all great photography must be this easy to produce. As I say to people on my workshops, you can put a great camera in the hands of a fool and a point and shoot in the hands of a master and the best photograph will always be made by the master.
Understanding the principles of good lighting, timing and composition coupled with a solid grounding in technique are the ingredients for great photographs. No app in the world can replace these. They help turn the mundane into the interesting, but they can’t make a ‘moment happen’ or capture it for you.
Consider the moment when the wall came down or when that brave guy in Tiananmen Square with his shopping bags stopped an entire column of tanks. Moments brilliantly captured by the photographer with the camera being nothing more than the tool for recording the moment.
In the future I see no reason why these moment couldn’t be shot on a smartphone. Viewing the results via the news feed on our ipad, for example, image quality will be fine. And will we care such a weighty issue was captured on a mere smartphone? I doubt it. Ultimately, all that maters is the impact of the image, the story, the moment being captured and presented to us, not the gadget used to record it or process it.
Join us in the debate:
Do you think there’s room for smartphone photography in photojournalism? Can we trust apps to still deliver an image that isn’t somehow a lie?
What do you see your smartphone for on the photo front? Do you carry a smartphone and a dedicated camera or is your smartphone your camera of choice for all occasions?
Do you enjoy the various apps that help you style your images or do you think they are gimmicky and a fashion waiting to die?
As smartphone cameras improve, can you see a day when we will no longer need even consumer level SLRs?Tagged in: Instagram, photography, smartphone
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