• Tom Lee

Is it Real Photography


I’ve been tussling with this little #conundrum for some time, and run the risk of opening old wounds between the #film vs #digital debate. Although the parallels are similar, I think the issue is a much wider one – can the use of the mobile camera phone constitute ‘real’ photography?


Let’s start from the beginning, the definition of photography according to Google was less than helpful – ‘the art or practice of taking and processing photographs. ’Let’s take the first part of this quote, the fact that we ‘take’ images on the phone may well construe this as being in the realm of #photography. The second part of the definition is however, a bit more difficult to quantify.


So many phone photographers take and send images directly to #Facebook or other online forum, without so much as checking to see if the image looks good, let alone ‘process’ the image before doing so. I would go so far as to say that this is not photography in the truest sense of the definition. This is mere button pressing in order for the marvel of electronics to do everything for the #unthinking user and get ‘liked”!


#Processing however, can still be done on a camera phone either before or after the image has been taken. Most of these techniques are very rudimentary and again usually relies on an ‘App’ or ‘Plug-in’ to do it automatically for you. This does little to connect the photographer with what I would call ‘due process’.

The #art of photography starts before any button is pressed. #Composition, subject matter, lighting and #visualisation of the end image should all be considered, if it is to be any more than a lazy snap. In the days of old, photographers had to consider film type, sensitivity, colour or black and white, lens choice, 35mm or medium format, ambient, flash or tungsten lighting….and so on. This is ‘real photography’; a creator in #sympathy with the subject matter and end #result. This was much the debate when digital photography came along and film users had a pop at digital practitioners, purely because technology gave us different tools to complete the same job.

My point is (and I am getting to it), that the use of camera phones can be #real photography, it’s just that the users choose not to treat photography with respect. There are many ‘App’s available that mimic the functionality of it’s more advanced cousins, but users choose not to use them, usually because they have to pay for them, or they feel they are too complicated for #casual use. Similarly there are many advanced programs to handle post processing, but are not used for similar reasons.

It may well be that casual users have no interest in anything else but ‘instant’ results that demand no #thought whatsoever other than the knowledge of how to post!. There is a reason that camera phones produce some shitty results, but please don’t blame the camera. It’s possible to produce some stunning imagery using a camera phone, but it takes #skill and #dedication to produce something more than a likeable snap.

When was the last time you actually #printed something from a #phone? I bet most of you can use less than the fingers on one hand. If you did, I bet you were disappointed with the results…..

The truth is that we don’t make prints, and this is probably the true domain of the phone camera, to be an #instant gratifier. After all, if it turns out crap, we can always take another one! Oops let’s take one more….

I think the answer is basically, camera phones are ‘real photography’, but only when taken by a ‘real photographer’. Let’s face it, it’s not technology’s fault.

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