Many art critics are reprimanding cell phones for creating floods of self proclaimed "photographers." They argue that the high quality cameras on smartphones pump everyday people full with false confidence, which produces hoards of "artsy" photos. Their primary worry is that this trend will downgrade the expectations that the public holds for the visual arts and cause them to lose respect for fine photography. While I agree that the photos taken on a phone rarely match those taken with a DSLR or a manual camera, the smartphone has opened important new avenues in photography.
Being a photographer involves battling comments like "anyone could do that" or "all you did was click a button." Contemporary artists often face the same kind of criticism, when their pieces include paint drips or items a normal person would simply throw away, to which I find the appropriate response remains, "but you didn't do it." This trend may explain why some photographers have become so defensive of their titles and feel the need to discourage or look down upon smartphone photographers.
Anyone who has ever seriously attempted to immerse themselves in the art of photography knows that a picture is much more than just the time it took for the shutter to close. Having a phone on you at all times can actually help facilitate the development of your eye and aid you on your next big-time shoot. I for one do not always carry my DLSR, whether I want to bypass the camera strap tan or I'm worried it might get stolen. Cell phones serve as a great way to capture unexpected moments in everyday life and are an essential starting point for the progression of any amateur photographer.
Most cell phones surely outdo the quality of my first camera, whose memory card could only hold fourteen photos at a time. Admittedly, most of those photos were also of my thumb.
Any committed photographer knows that the composition of the final photograph is more important than how much you spent on the camera it was taken with. No one can deny technical skill when they see it. Even when I see photos that are not as focused as I would like them to be I can appreciate them if the artist was able to observe something I would not have otherwise noticed.
Shooting with a DSLR is hard work and although smartphones cannot capture the same resolution as a fancier camera, they allow you to be a photographer 24/7. Similarly, mobile editing apps are not as good as Photoshop or Lightroom but they remain a valuable creative tool. Combining the two spheres of photography is always an option and when I taken an exceptionally good photo on my phone I will not hesitate to download it and enhance it in Photoshop.
It is also important to understand what your phone camera is capable of. A good mobile photographer makes use of different modes, like HDR (rich tone), which is better for landscapes. But be aware of the limitations of other features like panorama. I have found that panoramas usually turn out better when several photos are manually or automatically pieced together using Photomerge on Photoshop.
Personally, I enjoy mobile photography because of how easily I can share my work with others. I rarely get around to updating my website, but with apps like 500px, which preserves full resolution, and Instagram I can reach a wide audience in seconds. It is incredibly encouraging to see acclaimed organizations like National Geographic holding annual Instagram photo contests, proof that mobile photography is creatively beneficial.
The photography community evolves with every new technological advancement. I can only hope that each change brings about more enthusiasm for the art form and that our society can find ways to avoid diminishing its the value.
Instagram username: farqi_fresh
View mobile photos: http://mobilephotoawards.com/
Editor: Sarah Goto
A lantern captured on my Samsung Galaxy 5 Mini.