Thursday, June 04, 2015
Smartphones, smart photos?
The differences between photos taken on a smartphone and those taken on regular digital cameras have become far less visible. Not because smartphones are getting better but because of where the photos are being viewed. The majority of imagery is now seen in the exact same places: on smartphones, tablets via apps such as Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and most importantly Instagram. At a small size of 612x612, who can tell whether the photo was taken on a smartphone or a Canon 5D? And does anyone really care?
Like Marmite, whether you love it or hate it, Instagram has changed the way we look at photography. This is because Instagram lives on the devices that the vast majority of us are using to take photos. It has fused the act of taking pictures with the act of viewing and sharing pictures. This has resulted in Instagram creating one seamless experience: shoot, process, share, view, like, comment, shoot, process, share and repeat.
But, as regular digital cameras become more connected, there will be even more ways to share pictures. It’s not cheating to shoot on a digital camera – which many Instagram purists view as ‘cheating’ - #iPhoneOnly. Taking a photo on a smartphone or a digital camera isn’t relevant any more – either people like it or they don’t; your equipment no longer defines you, your photographs do. Professional photographer or not, whether you shoot an iPhone, a Samsung, a Canon or Nikon, it’s the creativity with which you take and share that matters and the mind behind the lens, not the hardware.
We, the audience, are not responding to the sharpness, the clarity, the minimal chromatic aberration or lack of it – we’re responding to the honesty, to the originality and the intimacy of the photographs people are posting. The smartphone may not have taught us all to love photography, but it has taught us to take pictures differently: seamless, stress free and most of all enjoyable, we all now seem to strive to shoot in a more natural, real and honest way. They have introduced us to a completely different kind of candid photography.
If you think about it, in many ways it’s nothing new, just history repeating itself.
In 1913, Oskar Barnack at Ernst Leitz Optische Werke designed a revolutionary small, light camera that used 35mm cinema film - the Leica. Barnack wanted to make photography accessible, to give everyday people a greater opportunity to photograph the world around them without having to rely on bulky, expensive equipment and to shoot candid, real pictures of their lives — a complete change from the stiff and formal portraits of the time.
The Leica camera enabled photographers to take an entirely new kind of picture and its success had very little to do with better image quality. Ninety-four years later, the iPhone helped kick off another revolution that not only changed the way we take and view photographs, but changed the way we view the world.