Why Nobody Should Hate iPhone Photography


“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.

Down at the docks in Jakarta
Photo by Light Stalking

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.

Crossing the Street :: iPhone
Photo by Jonathan Kos-Read

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.

About Author

is a professional photographer. See his site at Mike Panic Photography.

I agree. I don’t care how people take the pictures…I love looking at the final results, whether they are traditional cameras or camera phones. I just love pictures.

I sometimes forget I have a camera on my phone…..but its nice that I do! I love the once in a life time shots that people take, otherwise they would be missed……thank the camera-phones for that!

I’ve slowly come round to the camera on my iPhone… I hated it at first but with so many apps to tweak them now, it’s hard not to whip it out whenever you see something you like!

I’d highly recommend the adobe Photoshop Express app, especially as it’s free! It’s just missing a white balance option (the one thing I nearly ALWAYS take issue with!)… Great article!

I haven’t got an Iphone. I’m one of those few dinosaurs who don’t use a cell phone and don’t plan to anytime soon. And I have some reservations about privacy now that cellphone cameras are ubiquitous.

So I was one of those who scoffed at Iphone photography.

But my friend who has an Iphone takes such wonderful pictures with it. Like this one:

(it’s by Richard Jobson. His website is http://www.richardjobson.com )

And there are some wonderful examples of Iphone photography in this post. The one with the ships is really goose-bumpy.

I agree with the best camera is the one you have with you.

Sadly I am often disappointed with my iPhone shots as they are often full of noise and really only designed for web/fb/twittwer use.

I love phone photography. Simply because it is convenience. But credit goes to iPhone again? I have been using my Nokia and Sony Ericsson to take photos long before iPhone was created. With apps, people start taking crappy photos, apply random effects and call them retro. IPhone has indeed change how people take photos. Written by an obvious fanboy who obviously not a photographer and done only one-sided history check.

I abandoned my Canon DSLR 2 years ago. It still comes in handy for animal photos, but otherwise the iPhone is a fantastic camera. And all the great apps make post proceccessing easy and on the spot. No more sitting at the computer working on a photo. Just do it on the phone. I’m on my 3rd iPhone. Highly recommended!

Good points in this article. It is about the image you capture, not the tool you use. I’d happily use a pinhole that I hand built if I could get the dang thing to share it to Flickr for me.

what a great post mike. thanks so very much for writing this up.

technicians seem to hate. Artist seem to love iphjoneography

count me in on the love side of this

Decent article, I think it should be about mobile Photography in general tho, not Just the iPhone side. Instagram will be on android soon btw, they are working hard on it now.

IMHO nothing wrong with the thing that iPhone users can take pictures. The wrong, and hateable thing with it is the hype with and around iPhone, and thinking that mobilephone photography can be done only with iPhone.
BTW those iPhone photos are taken with special apps, that are simulating some old photoapparates.
But for example the Nokia N8 with its 12 Mpx sensor and Carl-Zeiss Tessar lens can produce much more good images, and it has not only a very good camera application, but also a very good image editor (yes, by defautt, from factory!), giving a much wider freedom for the artist to take pictures and give the effect on the photo as/what he/she wants personally, not just those predefined “retro camera” styles. Ofcourse if somebody wants, can use some “retrocam” apps on N8 also… 🙂

As a staff newspaper photojournalist I’ve actually taken iPhone photos and submitted them for print and web. The phone’s ability to capture high quality images and transmit them from the field is remarkable.

nice article indeed!
I don’t have an iPhone, but I do use my mobile camera sometimes, because thats what was available to me at that moment… and that instantly becomes more valuable than any other camera that I might have somewhere else… its not just iPhone, I think… its about the most mobile camera ever invented…. and many other phones other than iPhone also have that camera… if its not just about the image quality and apps, then all other mobile phone cameras should also be right up there along with iPhone….

Having shot professionally with everything from the first Nikon F and Hasselblad 500C through Nikon D3s, Canon 1Ds MkIIIs plus Hassie H series et al. I can say with complete confidence I have had a total blast shooting with each of the five iPhones I’ve used daily. As cameras. The first two or three sucked as cameras and were only pretty good phones but overall they lead here to this conversation. I’ve even shot (partially) the occasional job with Steve Jobs’ idea of a camera. Just thank God for Adobe!

I would rather use a fujifilm disposable camera then a iPhone if I was really trying to do any “photography”. The iPhone camera is great for facebook photos only.

Apps are to iPhone photography as lenses and dark room techniques were to old-school camera work. In the future, how many images will be printed and displayed on paper vs on monitors and screens? All is ephemeral, be it images on paper or bits and bytes stored on a hard drive.

Well then, congrats to all the iphonographers out there.
You’ve been redefined by the tool that made it meaningless to be defined by a tool…or something like that.

It’s all almost as bad as the word “hate” being dumb’d down so far as to be applied to silly topics like cameras instead of the very useful emotion between people that it really is.

WPPI just announced the winning wedding albums for this year’s contest. #4 was an album shot with an I-phone, and created without Photoshop.

Just goes to show you what a basic tool in the hands of a master (Jerry Ghionis) can achieve.

Times are changing.

I no people will say it does not matter what camera you use its the photographer that counts.. thats rubbish. Photography is a combination of science, equipment, art and skill. Without all the aspects you will always be limited. The thing is all the iphoneography i have ever seen shows off everything i hate about modern photography. Take a below average image and add loads of actions or over photoshop the image to make it look what in some peoples mind is good. When is the day going to come when people will see this over produced rubbish for what it is… Of course thats just my opinion ha.

I agree with Andy A.S Photography because his non-iPhone photography is exceptional, moving and not at all evidence of a complete lack of talent. Burp.

When I was younger I apprentised with commercial studio still-life and food photographers. 8×10  4×5 and 2 1/4 film formats were the norm.  For me 35mm film was for running the streets.  I would switch between my 35mm Nikons and a 35mm Olympus xa1 film camera.  My Nikons today are DSLR’S and now my iPhone has replaced the need to always carry a full  scale camera when out and about.  The best part is not having to go back and forward to the photo lab and having to put out cash for rolls and rolls of film.
All cameras have their place, Snap snap.

I love iphone and my NIkon D90 – but my iphone is SO MUCH MORE FUN!!!!! I love the apps – I ADORE juxtaposer. I find that pro photographers often dislike iphoneograophers – but worse than that – iphoneographers dislike DSLR users.

I use both – If I could get a pic to save at 3MB so I could blow up the pic to a big size for print – that would be good – but as technology constantly changing – it won’t be long before this is the case.

The iPhone camera is great and all, but certainly has it’s limitations. You can’t compare an iPhone to a DSLR with a decent lens.

But then again, a lot of people who buy DSLR’s never really utilize their features, so those shooters may be better off with the iPhone as it can produce satisfactory, and at times stunning results.

But yeah, if you want full control, the iPhone will not deliver.

I don’t hate I Phone. Don’t like the none expandable memory, the lack of an HDMI, the smaller screen, the slower processor, the shorter battery life, the proprietary overkill of a none open market app store, and the fact that Apple has the nerve to yearly come out with an equal to last years Motorola Android and says it’s state of the art. Cameras are good but not destroying competition. They are for Hipsters, sheep, and people who believe everything on tv along with their Apples computers. There are versions of the same apps described on Android some are held back because of the mentality that they are cool but when hardware is concerned they are substandard. Maybe next year they will move the earphone jack again to keep it fresh. Most people that try to shove that logo down my throat sound more like they are trying to convince themselves instead of me. Have fun with that.

There’s always an element for me of wishing I had my other camera, when I see my photos taken on the phone. I’d rather have a good point and shoot. I don’t hate it, and don’t hate on it, it’s just not my thing, the phone-tography stuff. Maybe I haven’t given it a fair shake, who knows? I do like that it gives most hobbyists what they’re looking for, so they don’t feel like they have to drop a lot of money on it. Maybe it will solve the issues that most seasoned vets complain about – everybody and their dog trying to go pro with their dslr. Who knows? It’s just not my thing.

The photographer is the most important thing and the second most important thing is not the camera but the glass you have attached. I’m sorry but iphones will never be there. Yeah everyone wants that smooth bokeh and a shallow depth of field until they have worked in a studio environment and realize the beauty of a sharp closed off aperture. The compression of a telephoto lens putting your subject into the action cannot be duplicated with and iPhone. Sorry but try again.

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