“Haters gonna hate” is an Internet meme that I'm sure everyone has seen at some point. When there are a group of people large enough to actually hate something that usually means they are scared, jealous, envious or don't understand what it is they are hating. The iPhone has changed how hundreds of millions of us use a cellular phone, but it's also drastically changed photography. With that comes haters, which is sad in many ways.
To fully understand the hate, lets take a step back and look at the last few decades of photography, starting with the Canon AE-1 Program. This 35mm SLR camera was groundbreaking, setting both the shutter speed and aperture automatically. For seasoned photographers, this was a crime, moreover, it was a fraction the cost of a medium format camera and only pros used medium format anyway.
The early to mid 1980's saw the first major wave of photography growth as a hobby because of this camera – in turn the number of wedding photographers increased 100-fold and the number of students who were now more interested in photojournalism spiked. The old fashioned medium format shooters shamed them, calling the film format too small for anything of use and cried about the lack of skill it took to operate the camera.
Truth was, it was the camera that opened the secret door of photography for millions of people.
Moving forward a decade or so, the early and mid 1990's saw the introduction of the first somewhat affordable digital cameras. The DSLR market was priced so high and frankly the quality was so bad that it didn't pose much of a threat to film – even the form factors of point and shoot camera were awkward. That said, the Internet was ramping up the ability to share photos the same night you took them was amazing, with the caveat of well the quality isn't good because it's just digital, but it didn't cost anything to develop the film!
My the middle of the 2000's though, point and shoot cameras became so affordable they became disposable. The DSLR had dropped so far in price that now the 35mm wedding photographers were the ones crying that digital shooters were taking all their clients and that digital didn't have the look or the feel of film. Film was real, it meant you knew and understood your craft. Film however, has nearly died and only purists, students and a small group of people still shoot and love film.
The iPhone, while not primarily a camera, follows along these lines. At first the camera in a phone concept was a novelty. Today though, it's the camera most likely to be found in the pocket of everyone around you. With the introduction of the iPhone 4's 5mp camera and 720p HD video camera, followed a year later by the 4s version sporting an 8mp camera, the quality has increased 10-fold. Additionally, hundreds, if not thousands of coders have spent countless hours creating apps to help enhance your photos right on your phone, then share them out to the world.
Numbers don't lie. Flickr, the site that revolutionized photo sharing started in 2004. Their are however, more photos on Flickr taken with iPhone 4 cameras than any other camera, and it's only been available for the last 20 months or so. That means people use them. If you take the time to look through some of them you'll find that these are far more than just casual snap shots at the bar with friends, they are absolutely beautiful.
Over the last year or so Instagram, a photo app for the iPhone has sprung up as a front-runner offering funky filters and a square only format. With 15 million registered users and growing like wild fire, I'm finding the most interesting part being former Droid users switching to the iPhone just so they can use Instagram, as it's iOS only with no plans to be available in the Android Marketplace as of now.
The camera in an iPhone can be used for practical applications too. Take a photo at your favorite place of business when you walk in of the hours on the front door and set that to be the default pic for the contact in your phone. Now you'll instantly know before you call for that late night pizza if they are open or not. Shoot a picture of the parking spot in the mega-monster mall's parking deck so you don't forget where your car is. iPhone photography is so much more though. It's the ability to instantly capture what you see, edit and share it with someone or everyone.
At the end of the day, the photograph is what should matter and how it was captured shouldn't. If you have to add a caveat to your photography that reads, but it was taken with…. then the photograph itself can't stand on it's own two legs anyway. This holds true for Lomography, Holga, Pinhole and just about every other kind of photography. As a viewer of photography I can't see nor do I care how the photo was captured, I want to be visually entertained and in my honest opinion, photographs taken with an iPhone can do this.