Expanding on my 5 Ways to Not Be A Photographer article, I feel the first thing I should really delve into is the usage of cell phones as “professional cameras”. As I stated in that article this is the most annoying ideology I have ever encountered as a photographer. My original sentiment to this idea was that no professional photographer would ever think that an iPhone is a respectable replacement, but more and more of my colleagues have begun to do just that. It’s gotten bad enough that I’m seeing iPhone pictures in their portfolios. For that reason I feel it is now necessary to explain why this is wrong.

The implementation of cameras into cell phones was a technological marvel initially. As cell phones developed into smartphones the resolution of these cameras has increased exponentially. With the ability to share pictures taken from these cameras on a near instant basis with a vast audience is a technological marvel I doubt the initial inventors ever even considered. This allowed documentation of virtually any aspect of life as it happened, and the ability to share it with everyone. Most people take this for granted, but as a person who initially thought bag phones and Nokias were and always would be the technological peak of cell phone technology (Snake on the Nokia blew my mind), it is still a little awe inspiring.

As awe inspiring as this may be, it has developed into a problem. As people start documenting life in real time with cell phone cameras, people have started to fall into the ideology that there is no need for real cameras anymore. Why carry around your DSLR when your iPhone allows you to take pictures, edit them, and upload them? Several reasons.

1) Shutter Speed and Aperture control

Image by MarkPhu Studio.


Many people might argue that quality is a bigger issue, and it is an issue, but in reality this is the biggest problem. A cell phone camera has less control than a point and shoot camera, and in fact ranges on par with a disposable camera (In truth that’s exactly what it is, a disposable camera you can keep using). Any decent photographer knows what the shutter speed and aperture do in regards to photography, so I will not go in depth on explaining that. Without this control however, you are left with whatever your phone decides is correct. Yes, you can adjust the brightness, contrast, and other features of your cell camera, but adjusting these is the equivalent of a digital zoom. They adjust the image digitally, creating artifacting and other quality issues.

2) Quality control

Image by Merete.


It does not matter if your phone has a 32 megapixel camera, quality will be an issue. While phones have definitely improved camera quality over the years you being to see this quality cap out for the same reason you’ll see a quality issue in a cheap 20 megapixel camera compared to a moderately expensive 16 megapixel camera. At a certain point the number of megapixels a camera has is irrelevant, what really matters is the megapixels in comparison to the Image sensor size. It doesn’t matter how many megapixels you cram onto an image sensor if the sensor is small the resolution will still be bad. This is the problem with cell phone cameras, to keep phones small we will only ever get a small image sensor in them.

3) On Board editing

Image by jespahjoy.


Relatively new compared to the other issues, this has become one that is almost as intolerable. I am an advocator of the idea that virtually all images need a minor amount of correction in post, save for a few rare instances, but the idea of editing on a cell phone is one of the most ridiculous notions I’ve ever heard of. For some pictures these editing apps can be good to make them more fun, or try to aid in a bad shot without opening up Photoshop on your computer, but more and more it is becoming the “best way to edit”. While cell phone photography is bad enough, layering on filter after filter, adding sparkly text, and harsh vignettes is just the icing on the “Oh god, Why?” cake.