Smart phone photography, taking pictures with the camera built into a modern multipurpose cellular telephone, is here to stay. Even the most “old school” among us has come to appreciate that the cameras in our phones can replace the point-and-shoot cameras we once toted around, at least in some cases.
- Smart phones are always with us
- Smart phones in 2014 are fully integrated with social media like Flickr, SmugMug, and Shutterfly
- Smart phones are less conspicuous, allowing a certain level of intimacy and candidness
- Smart phone photography tends toward mundanity and silliness, such as…
- The smart phone scene is rife with trends like Instagram filters and hold-away selfies
- Shooting with a smart phone leads the photographer take his craft less seriously and subjects take him less seriously
- Smart phones, like very small point-and-shoot cameras, are easy to lose and easy to steal
- Tiny image sensor plus tiny lens equals diminished image quality on several levels, such as the lack of selective focus and high-ISO noise
- Social media integration means images are always in JPEG format instead of RAW
- The tiny lenses collect tiny dust, which can interfere with image quality
- So far, anyway, there are no interchangeable lens smart phones, meaning you are stuck with the characteristics of a single, compromise lens
The really ugly…
- Last year, the Chicago Sun-Times laid off their entire photography department, 24 photographers in favor of training their reporters to take pictures with smart phone. No one, not even the managers who did that, believes that smart phones can, on any level, replace bigger, better cameras and, more importantly, real, full-time professional photographers.
The trump card of the cell phone camera is decidedly its convenience, not its quality. As a result, that’s when I use them, when quality takes a back seat to handiness. If that sounds like a microcosm of western life, it is. Thus is the struggle of the artist, to guard against shallowness and sacrificing our vision because of convenience.
I’m not a futurist, and I could be completely off base about this, but I believe that smart phone photography can coexist within the rest of the art. It would be a conceit to imagine that those of us who consider ourselves artists are above the clutter of commerce, so it might be a smarter play for photographers to see their art, along with their lives and careers, in balance.
Another potentially maddening thing about embracing technology like this is that in two or three years, it will seem antiquated, as more and more impressive devices appear. That can be something of an impairment to creativity, since it is easy to fall into a downward tech spiral, instead of an upward creative curve. The solution to this curse it to stay on task: creative photography.