The Yin and Yang of the Camera Phone
Have you ever seen or taken a photo that is at once both frightening and majestic, or mesmerizing yet common place? They often make for the most moving of images - they are yin and yang personified in digital realism. They represent what is both positive and negative in the world, and yet are able to achieve a balance. Over the past couple of years, I've come to look upon the camera phone in much the same way.
We all know the smart phone has changed much more than just how we communicate. Not only is it how we get our information, there are now apps for every task, thought or self-inflicted itch we may have.
But what has really made them so valuable to both pro and amateur photographers alike are their built-in cameras. These convenient devices were a game changer for the entire photographic industry. However, for every positive yang feature they have, they also have a yin consequence.
Today's higher-end handsets snap pictures that rival many standalone point-and-shoots. Plus, your phone is always in your pocket or purse, and as any photography enthusiast will tell you, the best camera is the one you have with you.
However, their convenience and ease of use has basically led to the death of the point-and-shoot camera market. Now, as a pro photographer, the Canon's and Nikon's make plenty of money off of my ilk as it is, but they should take comfort in that even the best smartphone cameras lack optical zoom, and of course none will stand up to even the least-expensive interchangeable lens camera. Even so, you'll be amazed at the quality you'll get from some camera phones. In fact, for most people, they are good enough that you can probably leave the point-and-shoot behind for good. Score one yang for the camera phone.
Of course one of the most compelling things about camera phones is their ubiquity - it's not unusual to see several people snapping away on any given day, not to mention our obsession with selfies. Because of this people tend not to notice, stiffen up or feel as imposed upon when you get snap-happy with your camera phone as opposed to when you lug out your 2 pound DSLR. Simply put, camera phones allow you to capture a more relaxed and "real" portrait of your subject.
On the other hand, being small and covert isn't always as appealing as you might think. For one thing, they get broken and lost a lot more often than a good solid camera. Also, they can be used for nefarious purposes - exposing intimate or embarrassing situations and general spying are all things that make these small devices a real nuisance. But when used to shoot photos or videos of unjust or illegal acts, or other news worthy happenings, they are true revelations of the times we live in. This one's a push, yin and yang are in balance.
Not surprisingly, a lot of us believe – or at least fantasize, that we have an inner Ansel Adams or Annie Leibovitz in us - both amateurs and professionals alike. I believe that anyone can take a great photograph, as sometimes the photo gods smile down upon you and you capture a real beauty – even with a smart phone. However, as with any skill, it takes study and practice to consistently come away with beautiful shots, and no matter how much you squat down or do that framing thing with your fingers, you'll still be SOL more times than not.
In order to improve their photos, some phone wielding predators have taken to stalking those of us who at least look like we know what we're doing. They try to muscle in on the locations "the big camera people" have set up to take the "perfect" shot. Common manners then seem to fly right out of their apertures as these phone jockeys jostle tripods, or lean against others in an overly intimate manner all to get a shot they will mostly likely just delete. This one goes against the camera phone – yin's point.
Ultimately, however, what tips the balance in yang's favor for the camera phone is that whether you use your camera phone for good or evil, beauty or otherwise, the ability to instantly upload images to social networking sites, email or photo sharing websites makes certain the camera phone is the wave of the future, and isn't going away any time soon.
So what do you think my fellow Photo Travellers, do the yang's of the camera phone outweigh it's yin? Do you find yourself using them more and more as your convenient camera of choice at home and abroad? Or are you going to stick it out with your point-and-shoot camera and hope they become as versatile as the smart phone one day?
I gave up my point-and-shoot years ago. I just didn't see the point in lugging it around along with my phone. I use my DSLR any time I am going somewhere "interesting" otherwise it's always my trusty iPhone - which takes petty good pics IMO.
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