12.13.2011

So here's what I know about iPhone-ography.

People like to take photographs.  They would like to take photographs that are really, really good.  But some people are really, really lazy.  They don't want to work very hard at doing most things.  They would also like an "automatic" way to do things that would otherwise take: talent, vision, hard work.  They'd like a camera with lots of controls.  They'd like a camera that offers a wide choice of lenses.   They'd like a camera that shoots fast.  They'd like a camera that can make files that can be printed large and still be of high quality.  They'd like a camera with raw files. They'd like a camera that puts them in total control....etc.

But some people are very lazy.    So they really want a camera that isn't hard to carry around.  They think their pockets are really camera bags.  They would love controls but are too lazy to use the controls so they really want a camera that DOESN'T give them control.  They want to be unique so they use the same program 800,000,000 other people use to make their camera phone photos look acceptable, in a 1960's, distressed, piece of crap, way.  Like everyone else.  But if it's fun and nobody gets hurt....

If they decide to use a cellphone as a camera then they have a ready ally in their excuse about their photos looking like hammered crap.  They can blame the "camera."  After all, "it's only my iPhone."  The lens is short (and fixed) the sensor is tiny and the ergonomics suck.  But if it's fun and nobody gets hurt....

So, like the Lomo cameras that promise magic by taking away most choices, "iPhone-ography" is just another way to abdicate control over your images, and your vision.    But if it's fun and nobody gets hurt....

And who benefits?    The people who profit from making unwieldy crap to glue to your phone, or clip to your phone in an attempt to help you try to wrest back some modicum of control.  The people who have photo sharing websites that depend on you to create free content to wrap around their advertising delivery system to sell online ads and make money from your friends fulfilling their obligation to go look at the crap you did on your phone that could have been so much better if you hadn't been too lazy to use a real camera.  The people at AT&T who sell you unlimited data plans so you can upload crap that you would have been too embarrassed to show back when you had the  energy to actually carry your camera around with you.  The stockholders at AT&T.  The people at Hypsteriagram who sell you, and millions of others, software to make your "one of a kind" images that look like everyone else's "one of a kind" images.

I know that Apple worked hard to make their phone adequate at taking documentary images.

So what do I know about iPhone-ography?  It's a lot like playing Solitaire.  And just as rewarding.  Buy a phone for talking.  Text if you absolutely must.  But, if a subject is worth photographing then pull out your "A" game and go for it.  Or put your multi-tool back in your pocket and get on with your life.  Don't crawl when you can run.

Someone will write to rebut.  And I will agree in advance.  Picasso and Leonardo da Vinci could make great art with an iPhone.  They could make great art with mud on a stick.    Use the right tool for the right job.


92 comments:

Anonymous said...

You absolutely nailed the whole iphone camera thing. Now you will be crucified on the web by a bunch of lemmings who think that doing the same thing as everyone else makes them an artist. Nice knowing you. I hope they don't burn down your studio.

Mbkinsma said...

Well stated. Although I own an iPhone, I could not agree more.

JeffW said...

I have an iPhone and I use the camera. Well, I use it for two things:

1. Taking photos at work of damaged items, labeling errors, or other problem things where I'm shooting from fairly close, in OK light, and there is no attempt to make a good image. Record it email it, erase it.

2. Those rare occasions when I do have my phone and don't have a camera when I se the perfect shot. This gives me evidence that I MUST remember to carry my camera.

kwaphoto said...

Great post Kirk! I've owned an iPhone since the original. The cameras on them okay until the new iPhone 4s which gives most p&s cameras a run for their money if you like a fixed focal length (which I do). No kidding, it's a phone and handy if you don't have anything else on you. Ex. I use it shopping (photo of item to remember it for later research), location scouting, etc.

Yes, I've used it as a p&s and it's great for that, I just don't use a p&s a lot. I much prefer my Fuji X100 (sweetest EVF/OVF I've ever used) or micro 4/3...even my p&s LX5 with the crappy EVF from my GF-1.

If you use it (iPhone 4s) as a tool without all the app "magic crap" that people buy, it's actually a good tool within its limitations. If I truly can't bring along my X100 or m4/3, sure, my 4s is always with me. However, I cannot imagine a phone as someone's primary camera...yikes!

I also agree about "phone-tography" and the apps, they all look the same from most users...iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc. My favorites are the ones that look like they came from a Holga with a lot of light leaks...ack! Puke!

seany said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Spiney said...

I agree on many of your points. It was a fun read, could really tell if you were being sarcastic or really pissed off. I'm writing this on an iPhone 3gs which has a crappy camera and horrid ergonomics as a camera. For those with a 4 or better they make a pretty decent P&S. The big plus is it's always with you. And they are "good enough" that they are killing the P&S market. Imagine how many more really hard hitting images there would be, perhaps from inside the Twin Towers if there had been decent camera phones on 9/11/2001. But to use them for serious work I agree. Like I said. I'm writing this on one. I have a Canon G11 "pro" P&S. But my go to camera is my new Nikon D7000. I feel so much more in control with a "real" camera with all the right controls in the right places, especially a Shutter Release!

Anonymous said...

If you aren’t an artist but don’t know about it then you won’t make anything significant even if you use Leica S2. There are plenty of photographers who make very boring pictures using biggest and most time-consuming cameras (look at Flickr LF-group). So people you are talking about are not only iphone-shooter. For someone who isn’t an artist, don’t want to be one, don’t bother other people with his/her pictures and only likes „to see what the world looks like in photographs“ iphone is “ the right tool for the right job”.

Wolfgang Lonien said...

Wow, this really made me smile. "Buy a phone for talking", yeah, that's what I have. On a line in our home. A mobile phone? Never had one, never wanted one, never needed one. I'd rather be in the here and now, thanks.

mickld said...

>software to make your "one of a kind" images that look like everyone else's "one of a kind" images.

That's not restricted to iPhones though, is it? Not even to software and photoshop plugins. For example, as much as I 'owe' to the Strobist site for learning about flash, it did lead to a homogenised look. I think the tendency for the web to impose conformity is to blame for the web generation of new photographers (including me) to all develop a generic style.

Then again, without digital cameras, software and free & easy access to instruction, I probably would never have taken to photography in the first place. It does accelerate your journey along the technical learning curve compared to the film days. The aesthetic learning curve is as slow and painful as ever.

shooter said...

Kirk you have touched on something I have been espousing forever, it fits so well with the hordes of photographers who own good quality gear.

They eventually will try to use some obscure way of injecting something into their bland and boring photography. Usuually it"s the pinhole or the holga or one of the many variants on that genre..why because they see it as a way to show individuailty.

It's like the bandwagon jumpers who use five million f stoppers to create the same effect as hosts of others, it's i guess flattering in a way to the original artist but give me a break and change the record people.

The problem we have with the modern dig slr or csc is that the exposure modes and programmes are fail safe and will produce acceptable pics most of the time..the fact it's akin to land fill is irrelevant. I remember posting some while ago a similar post where I said that give a monkey a EOS1DS,D3, et al and it would produce an acceptable shot.

Surprise surprise some fella actually had that happen, I forget his name but he had placed his camera near to some wild monkeys in a jungle and guess what the monkey obliged and took a self portrait ! There followed a debate as to who owned the copyright !! I laughed so hard I nearly choked, I could see some snake oil salesman in court defending the monkey and getting a serious amount of money from the errant photographer.

I would add that I am also an apple man, my iphones beeping so I must look see what's arrived.

Seasons Greetings to you and yours and all who follow you.

Andrew Cox said...

All true, foaming at the mouth negative, but true. 9/10 as a cleansing rant, 4/10 a serious commentary on phones with cameras.

I see the phone camera something in addition (or possibly subtraction) to other cameras. It's not like leave a bigger, more competent camera at home just because my iPhone has a (sucky) camera. I still carry a G11 everywhere, and the best, heaviest, most capable camera I have (a D300) when I have a particular goal in mind. The iPhone is a threat to photography in the same way that the skateboard is a threat to car ownership. It carries a different traveler on a different journey entirely.

So I think you're pretty spot on, but I do enjoy your positive efforts slightly better than this 'un. Still a cool post, but.

Matthew Miller said...

I think you're wrong, but not for the reasons you state. People are having fun with their cameras, and they're making photographs that they enjoy sharing with their friends. You've got plenty of standing to say that they aren't doing photography right, but it's laughable to say that people are doing fun wrong. And people having fun with photography, even if it's cheap, mass-market crap fun, well, that's a good thing.

G. said...

LOL. So very true.

Those precooked effects do a great job at drawing the eye though with their high contrast and oversaturated unnatural colors. They make a photograph instantly 'interesting' to our brains by tapping into the very primitive functions that draw our attention to the flashy, the colorful, the unnatural. Plus for extra effect the fact that they look old triggers an instant 'nostalgia' reflex with all its associated affection.

And as attention goes to the surface of the image instead of deeper into the content, these effects conveniently take away the burden of having to put in real effort looking for interesting subjects, content, viewpoints or opinions. It makes it easy for the photographer as well as for the viewer - no need to ask questions or forge interpretations, just let your brain be instantly wowed.

In that respect Iphoneography fits in perfectly with our overly busy lifestyles: we can grab and give attention with minimal effort. Instant result, instant effect, no thinking required.

Steve Burns said...

How to make your first million.

Someone will put up a photo blog named www-myphonejusttooka****dotcom. Then someone else will write an app for direct access and upload to it.

From then on one person will be richer, and for those that care there will be one more repository of note for those images.

Seriously though, the best camera is the one that you have with you at any given moment when its needed. I'm just hoping that the majority of folks that care about images have access to something better with them most of the time.

Anonymous said...

Right on!

Don Jagoe said...

Well, here's where we part company (briefly, I'm sure). Yes, my 5D2 is the best choice for almost everything. Hands down. Yes, my new Nikon V1 has restored a large degree of fun to my daily runs around town by being amazingly good (and did I say fun?). But you know what, I take good photographs on my iPhone, enjoy the images just as much and it is TRULY always there. An image is an image. And an iPhone is a pretty darn good photographic tool, and nothing more or less. Love the site, brother.

kirk tuck said...

Happy for people who take nice photos with their phones. Also happy to have expressed my feelings about going out and seriously trying to use phones to make photos. If you don't like the essay you probably don't want to do a "photo walk" with just me and your phone.

Jim said...

Feeling curmudgeonly today Kirk?

Don't tell Dewitt Jones. He's selling ebooks of his iPhone photos.

Mark W. said...

Kirk,
What I enjoy most about your blog is that you are you... And you're not afraid to be you! This is the first blog I visit in the morning and the one I have gleaned the most from as far as understanding photography (thanks for the books) and learning what the word "art" means (hard for an engineer...). The art I have enjoyed most after your portraits has been your words. Thank you for sharing. Keep up the good work.
Sincerely,
Mark

Steven willard said...

I've found two uses for my cell phone/camera; I photograph labels of wine I like, books I want to buy, and the menus of places I want to eat again. I also like to record interesting items I come across in men's rooms...maybe I'll do a coffee table book one day. I need suggestions for the title.

Jean-Yves Mead said...

Don't know about iPhoneography, but I will say that my most cherished photos were taken with the CrappyCam(tm) on my poverty-spec-can't-do-much-more-than-make-and-receive-calls mobile phone - both photos of my children just after they popped. The first arrived four weeks early, the second and third (twins) six weeks early, and in both cases with minimal warning and no time to do much more than grab the emergency bag and try to remember the way to the hospital. The dSLR, the Leicas, and the medium-format cameras all stayed home. The shots were of execrable quality to be sure, but I still go 'em - and in the end that's what matters most to me.

I love phonecams for their always-with-me nature; I just don't expect them to make me an artist.

Courtney said...

I love this post.

I also am a relatively new iPhone owner. Prior to having one though, I did have a little bit of animosity towards the people who take a photo, use an instagram filter, and then call themselves a photographer. Granted, I now do the same thing, however, it is not always convenient for me to carry around my Nikon. In addition, I do enjoy the fact that I'm more prone to taking at least one photo a day as opposed to scheduling some type of shoot just to use my Nikon. All in all, real recognizes real. If you know how to take a photo, you can do so on any instrument.

jason gold said...

A different annoyance is someone who owns a Canon 5D Mk-II, shows me his portfolio or shoot on a phone!
Another friend who hates digital but is now using it, allows one to see his stuff on the camera screen only..
I want prints.jason

Timothy Gray said...

Great post and spot on.

Like you, I'm tired of all that instahipstamatigram bullshit. It's crap - complete waste of time.

Considering the cost of the iPhone plus a 2 year contract with AT&T or Verizon, it's surprising more people don't just go out and buy a Holga.

Gbiz said...

I suspect that camera phones are embraced by the same folks would have been using a fully automatic p&s anyway, so I wouldn't say that the iPhone is making anything worse.

But I have made similar groans at supposed "bridge" cameras that are used to justify the lack of manual control surfaces in compact and entry level enthusiast lines such as many m43 models. Is there really an a market that wants to spend $600 + on a camera that makes all the decisions? I never believed it -- it would be pure vanity on the purchaser's part. (more likely is that the manufacturer wants to charge precious more hundreds for ever dial/button at no r&d cost to themselves)

Any way, thank you for the reminder - this is an art, and as in any art, only must master the fundamentals to become truly good,

Rob said...

Applause!

Yoram Nevo said...

I have a cure for my laziness. If I think about taking only my compact camera mi girlfriend gives me a look and asks: "why do you have that DSLR and that bag with lenses for" ? And if I say: "OK, but can I just keep the 105mm macro (wich weights 1kg) at home" ? then I get such a scary look that I quickly put it in the bag.
Regarding the traffic light issue - in Israel there is no such problem because you get an audible reminder from all the driver behind you when the light had only turned orange :-)

Andy said...

Although the iPhone 4(S) can indeed take reasonably good quality photos, the ergonomics are terrible. It's thin and slippery, and the shutter 'button' is in an awkward place and can't be pressed by feel.

So, while I'm generally satisfied with the pictures that my phone makes, I rarely enjoy the process of taking those pictures.

Regarding the Instagram/whatever thing: I think it's a bit of a stretch to claim that everyone only uses those apps because they want to be different. Surely a lot of people would just be using them because they like the results? Like Matthew Miller said above, people are having fun taking photos, and nobody has any right to say they shouldn't be doing that. You could say it's a kind of free speech thing, and conversely you're well within your rights to complain about it :)

Joey said...

This is the blog that motivated me, after months of lurking, to sign on! You are a breath of fresh air!

Mike Shwarts said...

I agree and can't add much to what others who agree have said. However, your comment about photos made to look like 1960s prints that sat in a box in the attic for 50 years brings up questions. Why do most people want the old print look? Heard mentality? Why not a reproduction of what a good photo from another era looked like? If you are going to pay tribute to another era of photography, then do it right. :)

Mike Shwarts said...

I agree and can't add much to what others who agree have said. However, your comment about photos made to look like 1960s prints that sat in a box in the attic for 50 years brings up questions. Why do most people want the old print look? Heard mentality? Why not a reproduction of what a good photo from another era looked like? If you are going to pay tribute to another era of photography, then do it right. :)

Matthew Miller said...

To be clear, I don't begrudge you a curmudgeonly post. I just think you're mistaken.

I do agree, however, with you in some contexts, as when I saw a bunch of Hipstamatic photos from a reporter in Afghanistan. That's cute once. It can even serve as a commentary, by presenting scenes of what we might think of as very foreign world through (almost literally!) a filter of western consumer culture.

But once it's been done, we don't really need to see it again.

Greg Roberts said...

I have always been disappointed by people taking intentionally bad photos and calling them art. While under a number of definitions they are indeed art, by even a greater number of definitions they are bad art.

Thanks for the great essay!

Juznobsrvr said...

Man, I wish I wrote this piece. Brilliant, Kirk!

John and Phyllis said...

Hi Kirk,

Loved the post. Not sure if I agree with you or not, but reading passionate writing is a pleasure for its own sake.

Those who are too mentally lazy to separate their own views from the appreciation of well expressed opposing views are probably the same people that are too lazy to carry a real camera.

Frank Grygier said...

I just read on the Strobist blog that someone has an app to synch off camera flash with the iPhone. Where will it end!

Max said...

Don't worry, I hear Canon is coming out with a camera that makes phone calls...

...and it will be available in green, yellow and orange.

Cab said...

Understood. No one should do anything creative or artistic unless they are willing and able to fully commit to it. No one should photograph unless they do it with the right gear and platform to share it (assuming this means museum/gallery shows). No one should write unless they're properly trained and working on publishing a book. No one should participate in athletics unless they are hardcore training towards being a pro and/or Olympian. No one should sing or play instruments unless they are working up to their Carnegie Hall debut.

Heaven forbid we allow people to have fun!

I carry my D300 and my serious tripod with me at all times (in the car anyway, I don't physically lug them into the office every day). When I think something is "really" worth photographing I use my "real" gear. That's assuming I have the time: after all I do have a job and family and commute, it's hard to take even 20 minutes most days to "play." You can say that means I have my priorities messed up and I should be taking my art seriously, but paying bills and spending time with my family are pretty serious too. Photography is my hobby, and sometimes a fun shot on the iPhone that is quickly and easily shared with other people who think the medium is fun is the way to go. Others who don't like such things can pretend they need their glasses and can't see my photo and click on to something else. No hard feelings.

I completely agree that the people who assert that posting iPhone pics make them serious photographers is silly. But most people I know who use Instagram or other similar platforms are doing it for fun.

You say that the greats could make art with an iPhone, and imply that the non-greats couldn't. Well, I think you're right, but also those same non-greats couldn't make art even using the "real" tools, either. It is, after all, the artist and not the gear that makes the image great or not, no?

I love your blog even though I disagree with a fair number of your opinions, and I'm certainly not going to stop reading over this or any other opinion you share. I'm sorry you don't get more comments on your positive stuff, I'll try to make a point to share when I enjoy posts... assuming I can put down my iPhone long enough. ;-)

John Krumm said...

Dear curmudgeon,

My wife is camera-lazy, I'm not, and we have one iPhone in the family, hers, which she uses to take photos when she wants. She loves it. The Lx3 I bought her last year sits in the junk drawer and I'd sell it but it comes in handy once a month or so. I agree about all the filter garbage though (she's even too camera lazy to use those, thankfully). Google's free photo organizer Picasa just came out with version 3.9, and what's the big update about? Google+ and smartphone style filters.... yawn.

Jonathan said...

Hi Kirk

Some interesting point's but I don't feel obliged to ague either way.

One thing though, there's no point getting annoyed with people doing 'stupid' things. People do things all the time I don't understand but that's the way of the world :)

Myself, I like taking photo’s on different cameras and I’ve sold images from mobiles, compacts, mirror less and DSLR’s J

I enjoy you blog grumpy or not.

Jonathan

Ken Norton - Image 66 Media said...

How is this any different than us REAL photographers using REAL cameras post processing our images using the same effects in Adobe Lightroom?

A great read! I stood up, cheered and then saw something that I wanted a quick photograph of. Took it with my cellphone.

Ken

kirk tuck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Russ Poole said...

Thank you Kirk Tuck - you brighten my morning reading! I agree with the general consensus - camera phones are fine for record shots and snaps or for those times you don't have a real camera. Beyond that?????????? As for my choices - DSLRs and a cheap Tracfone which only makes and receives calls. It does do text (never bothered to try) but I have it for my convenience not to impress anyone... Keep up the great posts, they're a breath of fresh air on the Internet.

LeftCoastKenny said...

Don't mistake me for Santa Claus.

Darn! And your photo looks so much like him!

Been enjoying your posts since first learning about them on TOP. Looking forward to many, many more.

Ken

kirk tuck said...

Wow. Sinister? Really? Slagging silly cellphones is akin to starting wars, stealing from the poor, stalking people, wrecking cars, creating nerve gas, selling dioxin laced baby formula? Really? Sinister?

I thought I'd just vent some honest opinions after sitting behind scores of people who helped waste my day byblocking intersections all over Austin while glued like zombies to the screens of their "smart phones."

Curmudgeon? Yes. Sinister? You've got to be kidding...

ILTim said...

Art snob.

There's room in this world for rich, fulfilling, non-artistic, ugly, bad photos of good things. Many bad photos contain content so worthwhile that the image becomes known the world round, despite its imperfections. Many more contain content worthwhile only to a small group (all baby pictures?).

Who cares that every photo could be better? Every photo. That emphatically includes master works made with the most elite equipment. The march toward technical perfection can be exhausting and distracting, see the rebellious toy camera movement. Those folks have jumped ship, moved against the herd, and put their efforts on the parts of photography that are far more important and must come before the technicals.

John said...

A nice polarizing post! I have mixed feelings on the issue.

As the contrarian, I would suggest that art is made by the artist, or the person who has a vision of something that is unique to the person. Art, in many cases, is not reliant upon the medium. One could sketch a scene with crayon, pencil, finger paint, water color, oil, etc. They could photograph that scene with an iphone, a V1, a D3s or an 8x10 view camera. In the end that choice is sometimes made out of convenience, sometimes out of economic constraints, or simply style choice.

I prefer photography as my medium and I guess I prefer to shoot with mid-range level equipment like a Nikon D3s or other slr, or even a V1. I like to see a print of very good quality, but I have chosen formats where the image quality is not THE defining feature of the photograph.

I visited some galleries while on a shoot at Pebble Beach last week - the Weston Gallery in Carmel. Great variety of prints. There were Cartier-Bresson prints that, in terms of image sharpness, clarity, etc, could have been shot with almost any camera. The subject matter and the moment define the image. There were other huge prints that were clearly intended to show off the technical expertise and benefits of a large format capture. I respect both, but I really prefer the former type photograph - an image that doesn't HAVE to be huge to be strong.

The movie "once" was low budget, no lighting to speak of and image quality was quite low in many scenes. But it was a great story and the limitations didn't hurt it. Spielberg and A-list actors probably would have killed the rawness of the story.

I think the story is king. The point of view. The subject. And whatever means one is most comfortable syncing with the subject - so be it!

John

kirk tuck said...

Yes. Art snob. And a member of the herd.... Oh wait. I just read that the iPhone is the single most popular "camera" by number on Flickr. Seems I missed that herd thing again. I get the rebellious toy movement. This is just the lazy toy movement. Whole nuther category.

But where in my post did I mention that you should be put to death or otherwise constrained from shooting with your iPhone if that's your heart's desire?

People do lots of stuff I disagree with. Just because I might be right doesn't mean you have to stop.

Alan Fairley said...

Hey Kirk, please let your inner curmudgeon sit down at the keyboard more often! Thanks for the post!

Ted Zimmerman said...

Kirk, your are fully entitled to your opinion. It is your blog, after all.

That being said, and I'm sure you're aware of this, posts such as this one are bound to alienate some of your readership. Maybe that doesn't matter to you, but I suspect it kind of does.

I assume that you blog because you're passionate about your craft and you have a desire to share your perspectives with the rest of the world. In the short time I've been reading your stuff I have been enlightened and motivated to improve my own approach to photography. That's because you present compelling and reasoned arguments that are borne from a fundamental ethic of hard work and dedication to your craft. That resonates with me.

In that context I understand why you wrote your post today. It smacks of condescension and is belittling to the world of users who appreciate and use the simple and fun tools given to them. But what I really think you're getting at here is that the iPhone, by the nature of its simplicity and ensuing use by the great unwashed, cheapens and demeans the art of photography. Perhaps you're right, but I don't think so.

In any event, I do appreciate your opinions even if I don't agree. If I had come across this post today as my first introduction to your blog it would have been a one time affair. But thankfully I have had the privilege to read and appreciate your larger body of work, so I know that you're just having an off day.

Thanks,

Ted Zimmerman
tedzimmerman.ca

Anonymous said...

By 'sinister' I obviously didn't mean world domination, just that your post had an uncharacteristically angry hostility to it. It made for an unpleasant read.

Think I better remain anonymous *ducks*

Scott said...

Yes!!
Great post and an excellent blog. You have a lot to say and you say it well.

John - Visual Notebook said...

Hear! Hear! Are you sure you're not Santa Claus, because this post was a perfect gift!

Travis said...

Sheesh, all this angst over tools. If you're trying to create art, use whatever tools best allow you to express your vision. If you're trying to have fun, use whatever tools are the most fun. Doesn't that about settle it?

The funny thing here is that you, Kirk, more than anyone else, helped me put tools in their proper place as subservient to my vision. I'm still working on developing that vision, but no matter. I know that tools can support or hinder expressing it, but in the end they're just metal, plastic, glass, and liberal doses of silicon. Not worth getting worked up over.

(And I do understand that you're complaining about people's attitude toward a particular tool, not really the tool itself.)

Peter Reichert said...

I guess you hit a nerve in some. I think everyone wants to be creative and they want to do it in a new way, a way which will differentiate them from the next guy. A camera in their phone, they think, provides the means. But they don't realize how many are already making "art" that way and worse, they don't realize they have nothing to "say". I agree Picasso could make art with an iPhone. Probably. It's like people who learn to use, say, water colours. They've mastered their medium but can't get beyond painting the same old flowers because they don't have an artistic vision. Of course, the same may be said for some who own 5Ds.

Robert Roaldi said...

Not all photographs need to be good, let alone high (or low) art. But everybody driving a car should damn well pay attention to what they're doing.

hbernstein said...

Your opinion. Motivated some folks to raise some good points. Didn't piss me off.

I'm staying.

Craig Yuill said...

I generally agree with your post. I do use my Blackberry's camera when I forget to bring along a real camera. I certainly wouldn't try to do use it for any serious work.

But there was one time when I got a shot with the Blackberry that a real camera didn't. I was writing a chapter in a math textbook. My publisher e-mailed me one morning asking me if I could quickly send them a photo of a Mira, a semi-transparent object where one uses a lined-up reflection to make a perpendicular line. I quickly took a photo with the only camera I had on hand, my Blackberry, and e-mailed it to the publisher. A reflection could be clearly seen in the photo. But the photo was horribly grainy and generally ugly. I went to see a co-worker who had a Nikon D90 and a 105mm f/2.8 AF Micro Nikkor. We got much nicer shots with that camera. Nice tones. No visible grain. But there was one major problem. There was no reflection to be seen in any of the D90 photos. In the end the publisher went with diagrams for the draft, and ultimately eliminating that part in the final product.

cidereye said...

Posts like these are exactly why (IMHO) your blog is one of the best, if not the nest, photography blogs on the web Kirk. I've given up reading most others as they are just a waste of time and effort for minimal (if any!) value gained.

Thanks Kirk, for continuing to be *You*. A thinking man's photographer.

dolan said...

Someone else brought up "the best camera is the one you have", and I pretty much *always* have my phone, even in situations where I *wish* I had brought my camera.

Is my iPhone 4s capable of taking a great picture? I'm not totally sure. I certainly haven't taken any i'd consider great so far. But should that great situation present itself when I'm least expecting it, at least I have a shot at capturing it. So that begs this question:

Is an amazing moment not worth capturing simply because the recording device is sub-standard?

Paul Glover said...

This is like people getting the same types of tattoos that everyone else is getting in order to "express their individuality", isn't it?

I want to like the idea of a camera which is really easy to carry and therefore is always along for the ride, but I know I'd find myself wishing I had the "real" camera with me when I do see something worth photographing. Plus having only one button to push does make me lazy and do stupid things like shoot from my moving car. I've made photos I was very happy with using a $1 plastic camera found at a thrift store, but ONLY when I force myself to not be lazy about it.

Which might explain why I'm sitting here with a medium format TLR loaded with HP5+, handheld meter and a filter or two as my "grab and go" camera. It's not *that* much hassle to carry and if something looks worth spending a frame or two on, I'll slow down and take the time to do it right. With this gear choice, I don't really have the option to make a half-baked attempt. I *have* to bring my "A" game, or just not bother at all.

As to whether I'm making interesting art or just turning silver into crap, well that's a matter of opinion and I'm not sure *I* know yet, myself. But at least I feel like I'm honoring my subjects by doing the best job I can on them.

BruceK said...

God, I love your blog!! Please continue!

JFGilbert said...

This is really funny!
The post is funny already, but some of the comments take it to a whole new level of humor. I did not think there would be so many readers of this blog who do not get the difference between recording an image and making a photograph. And who would be get offended when someone spells it out and dares to tell them that, if they were Picasso or the new HCB, it would be known.
I guess Kirk just wanted to cull the herd.

Sean said...

The camera on the phone is one thing. Maybe the guy sitting at the green light was checking in at the intersection on 4square? These are all important things...:)

Gregg Mack said...

Kirk, I thought the post was fine. It's your post, and you get to express your views. I agree with you on this issue.

I suppose that there is a time/place/use for the cellphone camera... but that's not "zoning out" at the traffic light in front of me.

Mick O said...

"But most people are very lazy. Very, very lazy. So they really want a camera that isn't hard to carry around. They think their pockets are really camera bags."

I feel the exact same way about 35mm.

And, autofocus.

Renze said...

Hahah, hammer hitting the nail exactly on the sore spot! Good piece Kirk!

Silvertooth said...

Love the post! I especially like the part about people being lazy. It seems that most of the comments have missed that part. I had one of my students at the high school read the blog (after she finished her final exam) this morning. You are now on her favorites (on her iPhone, none the less)!

Our society and culture have grown incredibly lazy throughout my life time. I include myself in this category. I have recently been giving much thought to the idea of craftsmenship. We are moving into a new school building over the Christmas break. Our old building is 54 years old; I doubt the new one will make it that long. I think that is what I miss about Europe, where they have young buildings that are only 150 years old and in great shape.

Commercial Photography Handbook is great, by the way. So is Precision Camera; I was in Austin over Thanksgiving and paid them a visit and bought some film. Those folk are great.

Enjoy!

Matt Buntyn said...

One little rant, and everyone gets their knickers in a twist. 59 comments as I write this one. Meanwhile, dozens of posts with valuable information rarely get over 15 comments. Sad.

Cris Mitchell said...

Looks like some cross town rilvary be a brewing haha classic.

The Year in Pictures said...

I see your point and share your sentiment. Perspective and experience informs us that while lots of people take pictures, nearly no one has ever taken a photograph, and that includes lots of people being paid for it. This situation isn't new to the iPhone, but has been enabled by photo sites and Facebook. Its kind of fun if you look at it that way.

Anonymous said...

In fact, the important aspect of smartphoneography has to do with the ability to edit and process photos on the device itself, something most proper cameras cannot do right now. In fact, a smart phone might be the right tool in some cases. It does not have to end up as faux retro schlock. Just look at the work of someone like Teru Kuwayama. Seems like you did not really think about this characteristic of a smart phone. Sounds like you had a crappy day. Peace to you and I hope tomorrow is better. Curtis

Helioz Photography, Yves Vandervennet said...

That's a jolly good post, Mr Tuck. Very good to read a strong opinion, in the World the positivism by default.

kirk tuck said...

"Take a breather and go take a picture."

Go write your own blog.

Michael said...

So you won't be sitting in on any cell phone camera workshops?

Gosh.

Rick Ricozzi said...

Kirk,
Admire your work, have one of your books. I thought after reading this piece you might want to switch to decaf? Slightly kidding.
I have always liked Chase Jarvis's attitude of the best camera is the one that's with you. For many the IPhone or whatever, fits the bill at a moments notice. If that's all you have it's a way to record.
That said, thanks for sharing your opinion . Enjoy the holidays. Don't forget your IPhone though.

Gordon Ryan said...

So if I'm understanding the vibe of this post and the readers who agree with it...art requires the use of difficult tools? While I certainly don't think the application of a "vintage" filter makes a inherently photo good, I don't see the harm in using such tools for serious photography.

My pro kit is monstrous, infinitely flexible, and costs more than I can justify sometimes. It's capable of enabling me to take fabulous, sellable photos. I wouldn't imagine using a phone for most of my work.

However, I do use Instapaper and Hipstamatic for casual photography and personal projects. I don't use random filters—every setting I choose is for a reason. I don't think these tools make photography lazy. I think they have inherent limitations that make their use a challenge. I particularly enjoy Hipstamatic's approach—filters cannot be previewed and you can't change them after the photos have been "developed." Therefore you have to know the intricacies of the lens/film/flash you use in order to make great photos. It's not just shoot and hope it looks cool.

I'm babbling at this point. Ultimately, I don't think this is a black/white matter. Lot's of grey area. I choose my lenses, shutter speed, aperture, etc. for certain effects. 10+ years ago, I chose my film and paper to get a particular look. If a photographer is making these choices, whether it's on a "legit" camera or a virtual one, I don't see a difference.

By the way, you might not be Picasso, but I sure as hell am ;o)

Debbi_in_California said...

Boy oh boy have I missed you! I unbookmarked you 2 months ago when you said you spent too much time blogging.
Wizwow commented on this iPhone post and I had to see, yep, you are posting everyday again. too funny
Excuse me while I catch up on my reading.... Loved the Mexican food post!
Debbi

Travis said...

Man, I don't know what's going on over there. 99% of what I read here inspires me to be a better photographer, and make whatever kind of art I have in me. This isn't one of those posts. You don't owe me a damn thing, so I'll just check back another day and see how things are going.

Tomorrow I'm going to stay off the Internet and go take pictures...

stefano60 said...

thank you so much for this article, i could not agree more!

i do not even have an iphone, i fell for its first incarnation (did not wait in line like a dummy though!), and i gave it up after a while; it turns out that it was a mediocre phone, mediocre ipod (poor batery life), terrible camera ... altogether, an interesting concept, but i really do not want -or need- a phone to do anything other than make and receive calls.

that is all.

now, why is it so difficult to find a simple phone that doesn't do all that crap now, but simply works as a GREAT phone??

Richard said...

Dear "I am not Spock...err Santa":

Now doesn't that feel better now that you have it all off your mind?

Cheers,

Richard

kirk tuck said...

Yes Richard. It does. Sometimes I go overboard. That's my nature. I still think the whole hipstermatic thing is as overdone as a black rapid strap but I do get that the iPhone can be a useful camera in a pinch.

By the way, have you seen the new black rapid strap for the iPhone? Very mil spec...

Juan Rizzo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Juan Rizzo said...

In my case, this didn't come across as a particularly "angry" or "negative" post (it was actually quite an interesting and amusing piece of writing, IMHO). Nevertheless, I took your point to be about yet another stupid trend we might be getting caught up in ("iPhone-ography" was just your name for it). Now SOME people CAN take great pictures with an iPhone, and some people ARE in fact doing just that. But, at least as I understand it, that's a whole different subject (try "photography", for example).

Pm said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
kirk tuck said...

Touché. Nicely played. It would work better if you could make up just some of your own original content.


Wanna read the novel?

kirk tuck said...

The very first commenter said it best.

Brad C said...

I'm looking forward to your iPad as camera post...

:)

kirk tuck said...

Funny you should ask. I saw a person making an iPad video of a school Christmas program from a front seat of the audience area. She was holding the iPad out in front of her as steady as she could and watching the screen to make sure her composition didn't wander. I won't bother telling you that the people around her were distracted because of the transmissive light. Who should care....

kirk tuck said...

We devote photo-Calvinists have all but outlawed the idea of having "fun" with a camera. This is serious business... :-)

kirk tuck said...

Ted. If someone is turned off to the other 1100 posts by my honest feelings about a trivial and banal sideshow of photography let them go and read something more "Sound of Music" and "Mary Poppins."

The VSL put this post through their giant bank of super computers, cross referenced all the data and came to one conclusion:

Even though all of this is subjective I'm still 100% right. :-- )

Kirk Tuck said...

looking back nearly a year later: I was not having an "off day" and still stand by exactly what I wrote. Cellphones were originally made to enable emergency calls when away from a land line. They have evolved into a tool of Satan that might just destroy all civilization. Or annoy real artists.... :-)