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Summary:

The trends have been in place for a while — sales of standalone cameras are in decline thanks to the growing popularity of camera phones. No amount of whiz-bang technology can compete with convenience. It is also redefining photography, thanks to network connections and apps.

iPhone4s

You can’t turn a webpage without coming across an article about Lytro, a new company making a bleeding-edge light field camera that is supposedly redefining photography. Maybe it will, but I am not holding my breath. Instapaper creator Marco Arment said it best when he wrote last week, “It’s a novelty for shooting one type of photo, and not particularly usable for anything else.” I agree — because increasingly cutting-edge technology means nothing to John and Jane Doe. And it is not just Lytro, but other standalone digital cameras who are under the gun as they compete with a simple little thing: convenience.

For me, that convenience comes wrapped inside the iPhone 4S. For others, it might be a Samsung Galaxy. But in the end it is the convenience that makes all the difference.

Let me explain!

I have a Lumix GF-1 on loan from a friend, but frankly, my rowing machine gets more use than that camera.

Why? I am just one of those weird people who likes taking photos with my iPhone 4S, which is with me all the time (except when I am sleeping). I don’t need to carry any extra chargers or different cables. These days with iCloud and PhotoStream, I don’t even need to back up photos constantly. In other words, it is damn convenient. But mostly I like the iPhone as a camera because it is just there, ready to go into action, when the right moment strikes.

Sure it doesn’t have the greatest lens and has shortcomings. I like its constraints, and I like its simplicity. And I like the fact that the photo is not a snapshot, but instead it is a networked moment, meant to be shared.

What photos mean today is changing

The iPhone 4S actually fits how I like to take photos and why I take photos. For me, photos are not creating art. Instead, for me photos are social experiences, moments (a phrase often used by both Path co-founder Dave Morin and Kodak) to be shared with others who matter to me. Most people take hundreds of photos and then find the perfect one.

I do the exact opposite. I find the perfect moment and take a picture of that. Think of it this way — the frame (or the moment) unfolds in front of my eyes, my brain captures it and then I whip out the iPhone to digitally record that moment in my brain. That moment has context and emotion attached to it, and that is something I like to share with others.

Sharing is the important part. Recently, when I went to India, I found some old photos from my college. I uploaded the scan of those photos to Facebook and tagged a bunch of my classmates. And a wonderful discussion — a trip down memory lane — followed. It was less about the photo and more about the shared context.

Camera+ apps + network = New photography

In many ways I think of taking photos much like how I write and take notes. In the past, I would typically take notes and capture the mood, decor and location and feelings attached to something I was doing. If I was traveling overseas, I would create a travel journal. Airline tickets, restaurant receipts, stubs of museum visits and random drawings would find their way into my notebook.

Now, my photos are those notes or “moments.” Apps such as Camera+, Photogene and Snapseed that come with different filters help evoke context and emotion. (For instance, my photo of Connaught Place, a British-era shopping area was filtered to evoke that vintage feeling of the past and yet it was contemporary.) The GPS sensor helps provide the location context, which is also important.

What iPhone (and other camera phones) and photo apps (filters and editing) and networks (Path, Instagram, Facebook) are creating is a new kind of photography. Some call it iPhoneography and that’s fine by me. I am just happy snapping photos. Gotta go take some photos of Seattle!

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  1. I think a lot of people figured this out a long time ago…if something is easy and accessible we’ll do it more often….not a particularly insightful article

    1. I think you are missing the point. You are correct that the easier something is to use the more people will use it. However, this article is highlighting the technology and time it took to get to a point where all this is possible.

  2. Ian Andrew Bell Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    Shorter way of saying the same thing: connectivity is the killer app for photography. Or perhaps more specifically, being in your pocket all the time is the killer app for photography.

    I, for one, find the filters and mattes applied by most of the photo apps to be trite and contrived — and a crutch for those who don’t understand photo composition.

  3. Swapnonil Mukherjee Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    Camera+ Apps + Network = New photography. Brilliantly put.
    That’s exactly how Apple’s Ads have depicted iPhone photography over the years and most people realize that photography is not about lenses anymore.

    Incidentally, does anyone buy iPhone camera accessories? Are they worth it?

    http://www.pcworld.com/article/240423/15_musthave_iphone_camera_accessories.html

    If those are near half decent as they sound, the camera accessories market may be about to skyrocket!

  4. Stefan Buttigieg Friday, March 9, 2012

    With the latest iOs(5.1) on the iPhone it’s even much much quicker to take a snapshot. Just one flick upwards, point and shoot!

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