Will the Camera-Phone destroy Photography?

In any "photo opportunity" moment, it is impossible to miss the invasion of the camera phone.

Where it used to be easy to tell when a camera was around and if people had them on straps around their necks or in their hands, now anyone with a phone is a photographer.

Even at occasions that used to be ruled by the professional photographer such as weddings, we now see those dozens of hands going up snapping photos with camera phones that seem to dominate the scene.

I have noticed a sharp rise in the fact that many brides have made it an official requirement for those attending to not take photos especially at the ceremony - so her photographs are not photo-bombed by everyone holding up their mobile phones and tablets.

Conventional photography is a highly developed profession and many people spend years just studying how light effects the way an image is created - because its all about the relationship light has on a subject. This creates a massive contrast in the work of a pro vs amateur.  Education and equipment (that's really what you pay for).

The precision of the equipment and the ability of photographers to deliver a high quality product to their customers is well known and the result of decades of evolution of the craft. But today it is possible for anyone to become an amateur photographer using that tiny cell phone in their pocket or purse.  

The question needs serious consideration for three audiences. 

For the professional photographer:

  • Is this the end of your profession?  
  • Will digital phones wipe out your customer base and make you obsolete?  
  • For the aspiring photographer, what about your future?  
  • Should you even invest in learning to use the sophisticated equipment that makes professional photography so superior?  
  • Why bother if camera phones are going to make it all obsolete?  
  • And for you the consumer, can you get the same quality of photographs with using camera phones as you can by hiring a photographer?

These are important questions.  It is very common when a new technology begins to make inroads into a profession for the veterans of that profession to feel threatened.  

It happened when television came along and the media called it the death of radio.  It happened when sound and then color was introduced to movies and television and at each technological improvement in the music world.  With each dire prediction of the demise of an industry, the opposite took place and that industry adjusted, evolved, got better and prospered all the more.

So there are good reasons not to worry that camera phones is going to destroy photography as we know it including...

1. Camera phones cannot achieve the same levels of quality.  

There is a good reason that the professional photographer has invested in the highly sophisticated equipment that he has in his studio and that he or she takes to a shoot. A lens worth 2-3 thousand dollars that has ultra high quality glass inside it that causes crystal clear images cannot be replicated by a tiny mobile phone lens. If that was the case - we would all invest in a decent mobile phone and ditch the camera - they are heavy and long shoots can be exhausting carrying all that gear.

The many years and decades of research have surfaced the problems with quality that primitive equipment could not deal with.  
Modern photography equipment has precise instrumentation to handle lighting issues to properly frame each photograph and to produce a professional quality outcome that people want from a wedding, a portrait or any kind of professional photography.  
You can bet that forensic photography, fashion photography and photography for publication will ever be willing to accept the low standards of quality that are the outcome of camera phone pictures.

2. It's an amateur game.  

Camera phones take unbelievable photos for what they are... But when you see people holding up their camera phones at a concert to snap a picture, you know that device is not going to result in a professional quality shot.  This is especially true in a live setting like a concert where there are myriads of issues such as lighting, visual noise and other problems that have to be overcome with sophisticated instrumentation just not available on a camera phone.  Camera phones are an amateur photography device, and they will always occupy that niche.

3. Standards of the final product would be compromised.  And high standards of quality are what make professional photography a value to it's customers.

This is not to cast camera phones in a negative light.  They have their place and they are great fun.  But we in the professional photography world have nothing to fear from the growth of this technology.

Put simply, being a photographer - i mean being paid for photos requires you to provide a product at a certain level of quality, just to be on par with everyone else. 

I have taken photos for people that have expressed the fact they can see a dramatic difference in the quality of their image that were previously taken on a mobile device or point-and-shoot pocket camera. This is what your paying for.

In a world where everyone is a photographer - look at peoples work. What makes it look different? What makes it worth paying for? Is it any different to something you can create yourself?

Do your research, ask questions, and this will ensure you get a photographer that not only knows what he/she is doing, but can produce exactly what you want or need that a mobile phone simply cannot.

Below is a recent article from Feb 2015 on that subject in the Sydney Morning Herald regarding brides banning photos and calling them 'unplugged weddings'