Are Smartphones Ruining Photography?

The best way I can start this off is by saying, don’t hate the player, hate the game. The smart phone ruining photography debate seems to be coming up more and more. I’ve read some very passionate opinions on both sides of the fence. Phonetography, I get it. It brings photography to the masses. Instagram, one click editing. Its easy and fun, I get that too. Photography should be fun. I can see where some purists get upset though. I mean, I’m not a pro or anything, but there are some things about smartphone photography which upset me too, but more on that later.

 The good:

It gets more people interested in photography. I see a few people on my social networking feeds who are making conscious efforts to take real nice phone pics. Their photos have great composition and interesting subject matter which to me carries most of the weight of a photo anyway. I’m not usually a fan of filters but they seem to use them to great effect. But the most import thing is they are having fun.

The bad:

A lot of people in my feed don’t even bother to make sure the pictures are in focus. Mundane subject matter, bad composition. Quantity over quality. Most people ditch the notion of carrying around a real camera anymore because the one on their phone is good enough. Even though that nice point and shoot they purchased 2 years ago sitting in their drawer can take a far better picture than their phone. Another negative is Facebook ruins your photos by reinterpolating them for faster viewing speeds and destroy the quality of the original picture.

I put the blame on social media more than anything else. Smart phone photography and social media go hand in hand. If there was no Facebook or Instagam, chances are your camera on your phone wouldn’t see as much use. Like wise if your phone didn’t have a camera, your Facebook wouldn’t have as many photos. A lot of people are just too lazy, or think hooking up a USB cable from a camera or a computer is too hard or time consuming. At the same time I also see it as a natural progression. Think back to 8 years ago and beyond what did the average person do with photos? How did we share them? We made photo CDs, we had photo books printed, and we printed 4”x6” photographs to hand out. Our 4”x5” phone screens are the new 4”x6” and our albums on Facebook replace our printed albums.

My hope is that people who are using their smartphones taking pictures eventually take it to that next level. I’m not talking going out and buy a whole DSLR set up or even to shoot film, well maybe a little lol. But go back and look at where photography started and respect the craft. I’m an artist. I was trained in fine art. I cant paint in oils, acrylics, airbrush. I’ve sculpted. I’ve studied commercial art. Eventually I came into the digital era. I traded my pastels for a Wacom tablet and leave my sculpting to 3D modeling programs. I understand where purists come from when they get upset about smart phone photography. Other artists guffawed at me when they saw my digital paintings. “Oh the computer is drawing it for you.” To an extent. But, I had to design and build each model. I had to design the and make the textures. I made the composition. I chose the “camera” angles. 3D design is far from a one click process. But what made my artwork stand out was my fine art background. Having that respect and and knowledge, paid off in my designs. The same goes for photography, what I learned in film transpired to digital.

But then I say to my self whats really at stake here? I look at my wife. I bought her a DSLR and she just doesn’t have time to devote to it. I tell you what though. She takes great pics with her smartphone. Then I realize all this smart phone stuff takes place inside this social networking bubble. And in the end It really doesn’t effect the type of photography I like to do.

Have smart phones really changed photography?


Lately I’ve read a lot of articles on how smart phones have changed photography. On either how intuitive it is, or how now the lines are blurred between a cell phone and high end camera, or how it forces you to be more creative blah blah blah. This one article on the Verve in particular really pushed me over the edge to even write this. This article is written by pro photographer, James Bareham

“Post process why the smartphone camera changed photography forever, Or how a pro fell in love with photography again” The author makes these comparisons of web shots shot by various cameras and an iPhone. Then proceeds to say how the iPhone is the better choice of camera. Also the sample comparison images were “safe.” The best possible lighting conditions and displayed small in size. No night photos, low light or interior pics were shown, although we know how they would have looked. But stating iPhones are better than dedicated cameras is a weird trend right now. Also in the title, “Or how a pro fell in love with photography again.” To me when you make that statement, it tells me you aren’t enjoying what you are doing now. Maybe the guy is burnt out from doing professional work and found happiness taking candid shots with a cell phone. At least that’s how I read it.

The biggest changes I have seen isn’t what most people are talking about. I believe there are two areas where cell phones in addition to social networking have impacted photography. First is less people are buying point and shoot cameras and secondly less people are printing their photos. Just like the way people used to share their 4”x6” prints a decade ago. They now share them on social networking and are content with viewing them on their 4”x5” screens.Here’s an article  that shows how DSLR sales are up while point and shoot sales are down.

Another thing I see pop up in the cell phone vs camera debate is, “A cell phone forces you to be more creative.” The creativity is up to you, the individual. Not the equipment. Maybe more resourceful to over come lighting limitations, distance ect, but certainly not more creative. Take a look at Digital Revs excellent series “Professional Photographer Cheap Camera Challenge” on Youtube and you’ll see the difference between creativity and resourcefulness. Hands down a DSLR will always give you more creative tools at your disposal. And I’m not talking about included filters that are on some cameras but the ability to control light and exposure. More usable ISO ranges, shutter speed, lens options. Bottom line you still have to compose your shot, and have something interesting to take a picture of no matter what camera you are using. After all a nice photo is a nice photo regardless of what it was shot with.