The Takeover of iPhoneography

A piece written for the Journalism module. 14.01.2019

The Takeover of iPhoneography

Almost everyone nowadays has a smart phone with a half decent camera, which is mostly used for selfies and cute pictures of their dog. Meanwhile the novelty of owning your own camera has worn off. With snapchat filters and easy editing tools, the need for manual and complicated, DSLR cameras is long gone. Is iPhoneography the new professional standard?

iPhoneography definition: the act of creating photos with an iPhone. It has been on the rise since the release of the first iPhone in 2007, and hasn’t faltered 12 years later, with almost 220 million iPhones sold every year. The trend has been noticed by phone makers and with every new release, there is a better, fancier camera for people to enjoy, even if they have no idea how it works. The same could be said for ‘point-and-shoot’ cameras - similar to iPhone cameras, but with more features, the handheld cameras are always running on auto-pilot, making them easy to use but also slightly better than an iPhone.
However, according to a report by CIPA in 2013, there were over 13.8 million new DSLR cameras being sold worldwide. Even though that number is declining by about 10% each year, it is still an impressive statistic, and means that people are still spending money on them.

Taking photos on an iPhone may be a lot more convenient and stress free, as the lack of fiddly controls and fancy language makes it easy to take a photo with just one click of a button, but there is very little variety of settings to take different types of image. For example, different lenses for DSLR camera offer a different perspective, and can vastly improve the aesthetic and quality of an image. With an iPhone there is little to do that will affect the shutter speed and depth of field unless you have one of the newest iPhones. To be fair to Apple, their new features such as portrait mode and live photos are very easy to use and can produce some great photographs when on the go. Even though there are more settings to a DSLR, photographer Robin Barr says that “It’s easier to photograph on a DSLR after a lot of practice, but there’s still a lot it can do that I haven’t discovered yet!”. After 6 years with a Canon 550D and 5 lenses, it’s not surprising that shooting with a DSLR comes naturally. Despite this, he still find his phone camera useful; “It’s a more discreet way of taking [candid] photos.”

More and more beginner photographers often stick with their smartphones for more creative images, with the use of Instagram and photoshop-type editing apps, it becomes a lot easier to edit and handle all of your images compared to having to edit them on a computer. Looking at photography as an art form, sometimes the equipment isn’t the most important aspect anymore. Photographer Brandon Kidwell, famous on Instagram for his captivating double exposure images taken on his iPhone, said in a 2014 interview that “Using an iPhone as a tool first allowed me to focus on the most important ingredients of photography – the story, the subject and the composition… The iPhone allowed me to ignore the technical advantages/limitations and just shoot what I feel.” According to the same interview, he always plans to shoot with both an iPhone and a DSLR as he applies something new to each medium, learned from the other.

Kidwell sets a standard for iPhoneography, and shows how much is possible with just an iPhone,
however, he doesn’t get a perfect double exposure from just one tap. Each image has been edited and photoshopped into position to create his artistic vision, using iPhone apps such as Snapseed, VSCO Cam, Filterstorm, and many others. Although this can be applied to shots taken with a DSLR camera and edited with adobe photoshop, it is easier to capture images as you want them, and therefore eliminate as much post editing as possible.

With everyone being able to operate the new features on the iPhone camera, does this mean that the need for professional photographers is gone? For example at a wedding, or a gig, almost everyone has their phone out snapping pictures of the event, so why pay a lot of money for someone to do it with a better camera? Semi-professional music photographer Ethan Tomlinson disagrees with this; “I don’t believe people could replicate what I do on an iPhone - the low light makes it incredibly difficult to work in without manual settings which aren’t available on phone cameras.” The quality of the image also takes a hit if taken on a phone, which is an important part of the appeal – “the megapixels on a phone camera are far too low to get an image of useable quality.” Might be better to hire a photographer if you want some high quality photographs then.

So is iPhoneography the new professional standard? I don’t think so. There are too many things that an iPhone camera cannot do yet, but that’s not stopping you from using it. If you aren’t too fussed about having the ability to shoot in manual mode, or it’s too expensive and time consuming to learn, then just using an iPhone camera isn’t the end of the world. As said before, it can still do some impressive things, and with endless apps at your fingertips, you have the possibility to edit however you want to – even if it’s just a nice filter from Instagram or adding a cute flower crown. Its gives everyone the opportunity to take photos, which is a wonderful thing – but if you want some high quality images it might be better to hire a professional rather than rely on your iPhone. At the end of the day, it’s always your decision, and just because you don’t have an expensive camera doesn’t mean you can’t document your life with nice photos.