A new kind of photographic aesthetic?

The world has changed.

Ten years ago the thought that we could take quality images on a mobile phone was laughable.

Since then we’ve had a revolution, and images – and video – taken on mobile devices are everywhere.

Apple has long had a knack of capturing the digital ‚Zeitgeist‘ and to peek into the future.

But has Apple got it right when recently stating that the new generation of iPhones offer „…the only camera you’ll ever need.“

I suspect that Apple has a point (but only to a point).

It could well be that in 5 -10 years no one will raise an eyebrow when seeing professional photographers shooting some of their images on a mobile phone.

And let’s not forget the ability to instantly sell images through the ‚cloud‘.

I think that photographers who ignore this will be wondering what happened.

It’s not unlike the shift we’ve experienced when moving from darkroom based processes to the digital darkroom.

This shift is still quite new in the context of photographic history. And there are many photographers who until today prefer film and never fully embraced the digital environment.

The quality issues with shooting images on a mobile phone are not overly problematic.

Most photographers would agree that it’s not the camera but the photographer who makes the difference, and that a technically deficient photograph can nevertheless be a great photograph if the viewer connects with it.

So there are limitations in what mobile phone cameras can currently achieve technically.

There is the limitation of the available dynamic range. There is also the problem of capturing 8 bit jpeg files that leave limited scope for post-production. These issues may of course be solved in the future. No one knows if Apple, or Samsung, or whoever, will offer RAW capture. I can’t see any reason why not.

Megapixels certainly aren’t an issue anymore for screen based publishing and small print reproduction.

But do technical limitations always matter in a world where the publishing of images is moving away from print based media to the screen?

I think not, as it’s often hard to tell on screen if an image was taken with a current iPhone, Nikon or Canon.

In the meantime I think we will experience a change in photographic aesthetics.

The clean, technical qualities offered by, for example, DSLRs will take a backseat and the more impressionistic/grungy/organic feel of mobile device images will become more ‚household‘. Just look at the popularity of the ‚Instagram‘ style images created using the freely available iOS and Android apps.

This change is not necessarily a bad thing as it shifts the photographic focus from technique towards image content, story telling and emotional impact.

My view is that the sooner professional photographers accept the change in technology and aesthetics the better off they will be in the future.

And it’ll still be the photographers with the best trained eye, sense of light, people skills and conceptual ability who’ll create the images that are sellable.

All images taken with my Samsung i5503t mobile phone using a 2 megapixel camera:

Hagley Park, Christchurch, New Zealand

Hagley Park, Christchurch, New Zealand
Hagley Park, Christchurch, New Zealand