Rise of the iPhone and the Fall of Photography

Some time ago, I wrote a post about the death of the point-and-shoot camera at the hands of the camera-phone.  We see it all around us – people hoisting their phones in the air to take a photograph.  When was the last time you saw someone under the age of 50 using a point and shoot camera?  It is rare.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of those people.  When it comes to pictures of my family, the breakdown is probably about like this 10% DSLR, 10% point-and-shoot and 80% iPhone.  The scary part is… I’m a professional photographer!  I bet it is safe to assume the average family is 100% phone.

My cell contract comes up for renewal in November and I can’t wait to get the newest iPhone.  Is it because of Siri or some of the other new features like the bigger screen?  Heck now- I just want to upgrade my everyday camera!  Apps like Instagram have changed the world of photography- but is it all good?

The Decline of Photography

As a society, we set our standards according to what we see around us.  Every day, we are inundated with images on Facebook, Twitter, texts, etc.  Most of these are snapshots from someone’s phone.  They might be a little out of focus or grainy, but after a while you get used to it.  Slowly our standard starts to drop. This is fine if you are just snapping a shot of yourself at the baseball game or at a party – but it has caused us to rely too heavy on these passing, casual images.  Because we have so many images flowing in, we get less and less worried about the quality and just focus on the quantity.

The Pros and the Fauxs

Another unfortunate side-effect of the digital age is the rise of the “Faux-tographer” – basically someone with a decent camera, but no real training or expertise.  I’m always on the lookout for new photographers and love to check out their work online.  So many times, I visit their website and see tons and tons of mediocre snapshots.  Why anyone would pay for something they could do themselves on a camera phone is beyond me- but it happens all the time.  Most don’t use any lighting or even a tripod.  They just grab a DSLR and shoot a thousand shots- hoping for a few good ones.  That is not portraiture.

The Missing Portrait

The unfortunate victim of the digital revolution has been the classical portrait.  The elegant, timeless image.  Only because it is my business, I’ve managed to do a decent job of maintaining some nice portraits of my boys.  We’ve even done a pretty good job of getting a family portrait done every few years.  I realize that I am the minority on this one, which is a shame.  When my kids are grown up and move away, I know that the formal portraits will be the ones I ultimately treasure the most.  Most phone snapshots never even get printed.  Its the wall portraits that are enjoyed every day when I walk through the house.

A Return To Timeless

My hope is that sloppy photography is just a passing fad.  As children grow up, their parents are going to realize that they don’t have any true portraits of them.  All they have is a folder of camera phone snapshots on their computer.

Every year, cell phone cameras get better and better.  It really is incredible.  However, I don’t know that they will ever get to the point where they can light and pose the subject. When it comes right down to it, photography is all about lighting and that is something that takes time to learn.  Quantity has never been a substitute for quality and it never will.  Whether you come to me or choose someone else- I hope you will schedule some time to get a real portrait done of your family this fall.  You’ve got plenty of pictures – invest in a portrait.


  1. Spot on with your article. I started blogging a few months ago and quickly realised that a dedicated camera is 10times better than anything you can get on a phone. Besides that, phone battery life just can live up to the rigours of taking hundreds of pictures in an event.

    • Larry

      The one area where the phone has a huge advantage is availability. We ALWAYS have it with us. I think that is the biggest part of the phenomenon- for better or for worse.

  2. Giovanni B.

    I do agree: “When … kids grown up and move away, portraits will be the ones I ultimately treasure the most.” The same is for my wife, my parents, my close friends… even if they are not moving away.


  3. L’usage de l’appareil photo n’est plus le même, avant le numerique et les smartphones, la photographie servait à arrêter le temps et ainsi avoir des souvenirs, maintenant la photographie sert à montrer aux autres ou l’on est et ce que l’on fait , elle sert à dire : j’y étais .

  4. Hey Larry,
    These days iPhone cameras are used to capture the valuable moments, as the cameras of these phones are so efficient. But I still believe that the formal cameras have their own charm and the phone cameras can never take its place. Thanks for the share.

  5. James Moralde

    You’re so right Larry about the iPhone’s threat to the regular DSLR’s territory. I have both. But I know the iPhone, inspite of its seemingly advanced picture-taking features, are limited in some way. I doubt it will ever replace the household camera totally. What will probably happen though is the rise of the number of people who are totally blind to the fine points of photography.

    And yes, my youngest daughter had asked me why she doesn’t have as many printed picture albums under our living room center table’s drawer as her big brother. She however has almost a thousand digital pictures uploaded on our family facebook account. :)

    • Larry

      Yeah- the family photo album is really the long-term thing that will disappear. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!

  6. Hi Larry, great insight..Although, I’ve maximized my camera phone to its full potential during my last trip abroad, there’s nothing like shooting with an SLR. I’m very much hooked on Instagram too so I’m enjoying the best of both worlds :) Thanks!

  7. I agree. I would also add that despite the major advances of home printer technology, trying to create a photo album from the thumb drive of camera photos is not the same as getting actual physical prints. Even though, it’s great to get a CD of photos from a portrait photographer, holding personalized works of art is greater!

    • Larry

      I think eventually everyone will just have shoe boxes of CDs, instead of shoe boxes of old photos. Kinda sad since nobody will ever look at the CDs.

  8. I agree with you, technology is advancing and people are now ignoring the fact that they can take much better quality photographs, and they are just using their mobile phones. I think it does save people carrying an extra item with them, however it is a lot nicer to have proper high quality photos.

  9. I have this habit of using my phone to capture anything I find interesting and I’m glad it does the job quite well. Mobility is too important to be ignored nowadays, but I have yet to experience the iPhone 5, I heard that its resolution is way better than the iPhone 4. Thanks!

  10. It’s a brave article which shows some truth regarding photography. Instagram had actually turned pictures monotonous nowadays. But then who knows? As long as there are passionate and high-spirited photographers, the legend of genuine photography shall continue.

  11. Hey Larry, I really like your blog and I totally agree with this!

    I am take photos by myself but I also broke other professional photographers for customers. Many times customers don’t really understand why to pay for professional and experienced guy when they can take pictures by themselves. Customers don’t learn or understand anymore what professional photographers can do better.

    • Larry

      Its always sad when I see someone with pictures that were done by a part-time pro who doesn’t really know what they are doing. The problem is… if people can’t tell the difference, they won’t pay for the difference.

  12. Hi Larry,

    I’m really torn with this particular post because while I can clearly see the decline in the art and professionalism in photography now thanks to the rise of the camera phone, I also see just how many more people are snapping casual moments in their life – vital, magnificent memories in places where they once never would have thought that have brought a camera to catch the moment.

    I say in terms of professionalism, camera phones are a real shame but in regards to families, loved ones and capturing memories during our one and only time around this world, I say it’s a shame we’ve had to wait this long.

    • Larry

      There is definitely good and bad to digital photography. I guess we have to just accept both. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

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