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Monday Mood: Is the Smart Phone Era Hurting or Helping Photography?

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

I was having a conversation with someone the other day about recording a video and they told me that they’ve just been recording things with their phone lately because their iPhone quality was now better than their GoPro’s. That really surprised me because although this rectangle that we all have in our pockets is amazing, if I’m spending $200-400 on a camera I really hope the quality is better than my phone’s. But then I took a deeper look at it and a lot of marketing has shifted towards cell phone camera ability. If you take a look around you’ll quickly find an iPhone ad with a beautiful landscape picture or something with “taken on an iPhone X,” underneath. Basically just ignoring the fact that it’s a phone, because they know you’re going to buy the phone, they want to market you the extra incentive of a “professional quality camera” attached to the phone. Then on top of that there’s instagram and a million photo editing apps out there all geared towards convincing us that everyone can be a photographer with their phone alone.

It’s a striking thing, really, the fact that now pretty much every person has a phone and a high powered digital camera with editing capabilities built right into it in our pockets. In our POCKETS! If you could travel back in time to the 80’s and told someone that, their heads would explode. But is it detrimental to the photography industry? Think about it, after hundreds of years of portrait painting to document who we are and what we’re doing it, the camera quickly swooped in and took that over. Then from there a whole new industry of documentation, photography, came about. From there, video was born and it moved into an even more advanced direction. Then, almost as quickly as it appeared, suddenly everyone had a camera in their pocket and within just a few years those cameras were so advanced everyone thinks they’re a photographer. The camera quickly became the tool of a master craftsmen and just as quickly became an everyday commodity.

So is it bad? As a sculptor, if suddenly everyone had a pocket sized metal shop on their person at all time, I wouldn’t be thrilled. It just seems like a controlled watering down of an industry because for everyone who’s studied the camera, the tools, the theory, every aspect of photography to be a good photographer there’s thousands of instagram superstars who think they’ve got unreal filter game.

I don’t really have an opinion on this, I think it’s crazy, but I don’t know if it’s good or bad. We’ve talked about how problematic selling art can be so is this cell phone photographer era eliminating the need for true photographers? The documentary photographer could be replaced by a selfie stick if people convince themselves they’re just as well off with their phone camera, and prints would become irrelevant if people could take pictures themselves and just store them in the myriad of albums on their photos app. Or have we created a tool for everyone to create a gateway into an industry that they always feared entering? Maybe being able to take nice photos on our phones will inspire people to go out and buy a quality camera, research the craft and truly explore the photography world. Commodities like cell phones, and the cameras within them, are certainly excellent tools. But are they hurting or helping the craft of photography?

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