“That fuckin guy…” was what the photographer standing next to me in the photo pit said when a young man started pulling a smartphone out of his pocket and squeezed into our tightly packed space. “How can you get a photo pass for a photographer that uses a smartphone?” he continued, “There are no standards anymore”. I smiled and pulled an iPhone out of my pocket and got ready to shoot as his eyes dismissed my very existence.
So I pose this question to you: are smartphones the auto-tune of photography or can they become a viable tool to publicists, bands and brands? The smartphone is becoming what the laptop became to turntable purists at the turn of the millennium: a cruel threat to those who spend an entire lifetime perfecting their craft and sacrificing personal comfort in pursuit of a dream. I’m no Sigmund Freud, but it is my conclusion that the ego is definitely at play here. How could it not be? I would never claim that a smartphone could capture all of the nuance of a properly set aperture. I do however, submit that in the right lighting and proximity, that a smartphone can capture amazing images that most traditional camera’s can’t and vice versa. I’m sure the detractors would point out the limitations of shooting in low light, capturing motion and poor performance when shooting at a distance. These are demerits that are indisputable, but with smart phones like the NOKIA Lumia 1020 and the Sony Xperia Z2, these limitations are quickly being eliminated. With the stiff competition in the smartphone marketplace, it is my prediction that these weaknesses will soon be an afterthought.
Even DSLR cameras have a downside that smartphones do not. As a writer, I’m there to experience an event through my own eyes, not through a lens, but my smartphone photo’s are often used along with my copy. For this reason I purchased a high-end DSLR in an attempt for my images to be taken more seriously. I was really proud of some of the shots I was getting on my phone and wanted to explore taking my photography to the next level. I returned the camera a week later after taking it to one show. To me, the bulky piece of equipment was a fun crusher and in reality, I couldn’t jump in the pit if the music inspired me to do so. I definitely couldn’t snap any shots while on top of a wave of people, crowd surfing my way to the next physically demanding shot. Even if I could, the learning curve would’ve taken me years to get the same quality from the DSLR as I get from my iPhone.
Many might say leave the writing to the writers and the photography to the photographers, but in the DIY world, boundaries and limitations are constantly being challenged and I hope that trend continues. Many of you reading this now are scoffing at the prospect of smartphone photography being accepted in the same way as DSLR images. Probably the same way your grandparents scoffed at The Beatles being real music or that hip hop was just a passing trend.
I do have a greater appreciation for music that’s recorded analog, straight to tape. I have HUGE respect for DJ’s on vinyl. I enjoy the feel of natural breasts over implants. Objectivity is important in life, though. Just because something is GREAT doesn’t mean there is no value in something that is really good. Imagine all the great art and innovation we would’ve missed out on if people stuck to tradition. There might not have been a Basquiat.
Much like traditional photography, there is no expectation that 1,000 exposures will yield 1,000 great shots. We are all looking for that one magical exposure and it’s high time that photographers, publicists and professional appreciators accept the smartphone as an acceptable tool of the trade. I’m not here professing that the end product of a smartphone is identical to that of your high end DSLR. Sometimes, it’s worse — but sometimes it’s better — but it’s ALWAYS in the eye of the beholder.
All the photos in this article were shot with iPhone 4S — iPhone 5S. Just imagine how much better quality they would be with the NOKIA Lumia 1020 or SONY Experia Z2.
Feature by Danny Baraz
So how do you feel about smartphones in the photo pit? Please leave your input in a comment below.
More features by Danny Baraz: