How Your Phone Changed Photography, Forever
The first photograph was taken in 1826, but it took nearly 75 years before Kodak made the Brownie, and photography became possible for ordinary people.
The next 30 to 60 years saw photography become progressively more accessible, with the first electric flash, first commercially successful 35mm film, the Polaroid camera, and the Kodak Instamatic, which sold 50 million units in seven years. (The iPhone, by the way, sold as many in just two and a half.)
Every Christmas party, every birthday, every high school graduation was peppered with fathers wielding flash bulbs.
Yet the changes we've experienced in just the past 20 years have represented revolution, not evolution.
Both Photoshop and the digital point and shoot came to be in the early 1990s, but it was their more pocketable grandchildren—the camera phone and photo-editing apps—that have changed everything.
Suddenly, making dramatic improvements to a photograph hastily taken was not only possible, it was free and mindbogglingly easy. And taking 100 more photos cost nothing, so cameras weren't just for birthdays and graduations anymore, they were for the everyday. Often, multiple times a day.
And most important of all, cameras not only started to fit our pockets, but they were likely already in them—for most of us carried a cell phone, and nearly every phone now contained a camera.
All of a sudden, our relationship to this thing changed dramatically. No longer an art form, and no longer a way to document life events, the photograph became a way to communicate and share experiences.
Twenty years ago we took a photograph, had it printed, and kept it safe in an album we brought out once a year. Now we snap a photo, or more likely a dozen, share them online on the spot, and forget about them just as quickly.
Opportunities for photography are as common as a phone call, sometimes more so. In fact, I've now taken a hundred times more photos with my iPhone than I have taken phone calls. And I upgraded my last phone to improve my camera quality—not my phone quality.
Being a photographer—someone who shoots to create art or communicate an idea, whether lo-fi or in double-digit megapixels—once required thousands of dollars of equipment and pounds of lenses and add-ons. Today, an iPhone photographer's kit is measured in ounces and looks something like the photo below, showing an iPhone telephoto lens, Photojojo Phone Lens Series, and the Phone Lens Wallet.
We're blessed to live in an age where photography has become truly ubiquitous and I think we've only begun to understand the ramifications. I'm convinced the most interesting and timeless photographs of the next decade won't come from National Geographic or a press corps photographer on assignment—they'll come from an ordinary person who just happened to have a phone in her pocket.