...Because they are introducing photography to a whole new generation of future photographers. We might not reap the benefits immediately, but twenty, thirty, and forty years from now, many of the great photographers of that future era will describe how they got interested in the problems and the possibilities of photographic imagemaking after they started taking pictures with their smartphone cameras. Cellphones are a recruitment device—arguably the most democratic and widespread window to photography ever provided to the public.
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Featured Comments from:
psu: "This is not why cell phone cameras are great. Cell phone cameras (really only iPhone cameras) are great because at least some of them finally use to great advantage the fact that a digital camera is a computer with an image capture device in it. If the camera companies had any kind of real competence in building computing devices, they would have seen this 10 years ago and built something interesting instead of basically rehashing a 20-year-old design and putting a CCD in it. Now I'll go leave this same message in the next post. :-) "
Nicholas Condon: "I don't know how probable this is. Did the advent of the word processor make more good writers than there were in the days of the typewriter? Or the quill?"
Mike replies: I don't know about "more," but the advent of the word processor made me a writer, literally. (And as I usually add, I know what "literally" means.) I'm heavily dependent on a rewriting-rearranging type of workflow, and I had difficulty in the days of the typewriter (which I experienced when I was young). The Macintosh liberated me and made a writer out of me.
Jayson Merryfield: "The increased sociality of photography platforms these days exposes more and more fresh, impressionable minds to great photography from great photographers across the globe. Instagram works as a communications platform, but also an educational tool as well."
David Miller: I'm sceptical. I am surrounded by people for whom cellphones are an integral and—in their view—essential part of daily life. Selfies and snapshots proliferate from them in an unending and apparently satisfying stream. Although I know people who use cellphones in addition to other types of cameras to make good photographs, I don't know anyone who has started out capturing images with a cellphone and who has subsequently made the switch to more thoughtful and demanding photography, be it with a cellphone or other form of camera. Do you?
Mike replies: That's like looking at a sea of 7-year-old Chinese gymnastics students and saying they're not great gymnasts. It's the pool that matters. Of course the great majority of cellphone users won't go one to become photographers. But by enlarging the pool you more effectively locate, identify, and encourage the always-rare talented individuals. What would the world think of Michael Jordan if he'd been born into a Georgia slave family in 1825? The more kids who grow up playing backyard and playground basketball as a matter of course, the more Michael Jordans there will be.
I do think it could be argued that another essential condition of encouraging talent is for society to value the activity; as an example, society in Vienna in 1820 greatly valued classical music composers and they're not much valued anywhere right now. The graph of society's valuing of photographers has gone up and down crazily since 1839, and it could be argued that society doesn't place much of a value on it now. But I still think that by broadening the pool you will at least increase the number of photographers and photo enthusiasts.
Stephen McCullough: "[I know a number of people who started on a cellphone and are moving on to more serious cameras.] My daughter is an example. She is 16. She has grown up aware of my photographic life, and enjoying the results but showing no interest. Her iPhone enabled photography anywhere, anytime, but also made her want to try things for which the iPhone is less than ideal. She asked questions. She borrowed my cameras. She inherited my beloved GF1. She now has a commercially successfully blog (Food and Fashion) for which her photography is a driving force."
a2b: "There is more to cellphone cameras than 'traditional' photography. Above all, it's an ultimate note taking device. I would never think of using a DSLR to take a photograph of a USPS shipping receipt, so I can record the tracking number, or to photograph a wine sticker label so next time I go for groceries I have an easy time remembering what wine I like."
Wjcstp: "Cell phones are great (at least in comparison to my current digital camera) in that they can email or post photos online immediately after taking them. That capability alone is my primary reason for taking pictures with my phone. I rarely edit photos at all on the phone, if the photo is important enough to need editing I'll wait until I can use LR at home. When I eventually upgrade my camera, the ability to at least use Wi-Fi will be high on the list."
Chad Thompson: "For me cellphones have resulted in another revenue stream. They allow me to live Tweet, Instagram, and/or Facebook a client's event in real time. At the end of a couple hours not only have I have photographed the event but I have also delivered product and billed the client with the same device that fits into my front skinny jean pocket."