There are a lot of smart phones out there and dozens of camera apps (some of which we talked about here). People have praised the capabilities of cameras in our phones, in some cases even suggesting they may replace the DSLR. We see example after example of the amazing quality of photographs you can take with your phone. Chase Jarvis even wrote a book about it. Not only can you shoot with your phone, you can also post-process with the click of a button on that same phone then send it to Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, etc. It can be all over the world in seconds. But, have apps like Hipstamatic or Instagram that made the process too easy? Does there come a point where the technology stops the creative process entirely? With 32 or even 64 gigs to play with, do we just blindly shoot now without really having anything to say? Do we simply shoot random, uninteresting crap, slap a filter over it and call it a day?
It is a fine line to walk. I know I struggle between using it as a tool rather than a crutch. As a tool it is used to enhance my imagination. I take photos that I normally wouldn’t take because, using my iPhone, I see things differently. The act of just holding it out in front of me allows me to look for patterns, light, and shadows that continue beyond what I would only see through the viewfinder of my DSLR. I find that I look more for shape than for color. The subject isn’t as important as the lines. Just having such an accessible camera makes me want to use it everyday. I don’t know about you, but my phone is always with me, which means I am never without a camera. I don’t have to schedule time to “go shooting” because the time is always there. It doesn’t take long to open up the camera app, compose and take a photograph. Using the filters has opened my eyes as well. Again, rather than relying on them, I find myself trying to use them as tools. Seeing what they do inspires me to try to emulate or capture those effects in camera. And, knowing what the effects will look like, I also scout photo ops that will make the most of those filters.
I find it very easy to cross over that line, as many of you probably do. The tool becomes a crutch, something to rely on to make photography easy. Because it is so simple to use, taking a photo just to take a photo becomes something you don’t think about. Often, all of the benefits of having the tool easily becomes a deterrent from going through the process. You don’t have to think anymore. Your creativity is no longer needed because the phone, with all of its wonderful apps, filters and effects, is doing all the work for you. See if this sounds familiar: You are trying to complete a 365 Project and have taken no photos for the day. So, you set up some old books on a shelf, shoot, add a filter and send it to Flickr. Boom. Done. There is no longer any art (or vision) involved. But, you still get comments so you think you are doing a great job. After all, Flickr is the new hug, right? Believe me, I’ve been there.
Photography is an art. It takes thought, purpose and intent. There are many tools out there that make it simple for us, but we need to remember that the biggest tools we have are our eyes, our passion and our vision. We need to make sure we are using those first, above all else.
Some of the photographs above were taken with the iPhone, while others were taken with my DSLR. Can you tell the difference?