What defines the photographer?
Over the course of the past decade, and exponentially so in the past five years, a deluge of commercials have cultivated a decidedly “contemporized” variant of photographer. One for whom I’ve adapted this identifying title “Techie Media Moguls” Yes, they are out there in full force, too! Undoubtedly, any professional photographer who might be reading this is likely gnashing their teeth about now; going though how often these TMM’s have proven to be intrusive, to us who are purposely representing a client that has hired us to provide high-quality photographs of the images they want and expect to receive, absent of noise and free of clutter (this includes subjects and objects in the frame that the client isn’t paying to have included in any shape, form, or fashion … in any shot!!) You may have noted that the word used in the opening sentence (contemporized) is in quotations? I want to emphasize this as I sincerely believe that many of the “phoneographers” see themselves as utilizing that latest, most advanced photographic devices on earth, and have determined that we who use film and DSLR’s are not wanting to concede that they have what it takes to do the job… we are dinosaurs! We have watched as these overly eager, enthusiastic, aggressive TMM’s step invasively and inconsiderately into our field of view when shooting photojournalism (news, sporting, and civic events), weddings and family celebrations of all sorts.
Much of this attitude is a throwback to advertisements that borrowed a form of promotional technique used in infomercials – that being the conveyance that the viewing public infers a sense of enlightenment, as well as a gain in knowledge, though witnessing the item being delightfully and effectively used. Our TMM’s have attained that higher-plateau of understanding in that high res. pixel ratings is the true measurement of photographic capability (cough, choke, shake head disparagingly); thusly, techie-media-moguls now have, at their willful disposal, superior equipment. That, commensurate with the myriad of selfies, landscapes, parties, and pet shots they’ve taken, gives them a feeling of deserving the same professional entitlement as that of “Photographer”… be that event, portrait, journalistic… etc.
Don’t get me completely wrong here, I have seen, and have taken, some really amazing pictures using a cell phone camera. But here is where that truth leads us. If I randomly hand out 100 lower-end DSLR’s, these people, over a six-month period of taking photos of their typical interests, will produce hundreds upon hundreds of really good photographs. Having said that, we must bear in mind that this would likely be from a pool of thousands upon thousands of actual shots taken. In addition, how these people achieved the better images, verses lesser quality images, is something that they would not be able to thoroughly define reasons for, in an absolute sense. They in fact may perceive that it is the result of being in better surroundings, or how they selected a more interesting subject matter. About 50% of the population will produce these so identifiable better images. Then, of that population, approximately half will have studied the booklets that came with their cameras, to some extent, while the remaining half will have poured over the manuals more extensively. It is a simple fact that the majority of us don’t thoroughly study manuals and instructions that accompany a product. That number would convey to about 25% of the population having picked up some skills on how to get the best performance from their cameras. From the group of people who more intensively studied the accompanying materials, a portion of them will go on to develop a deep enough interest to where they are motivated to learn and study the art and techniques of photography… beyond what is relevant to their cameras.
There are notable improvements with camera technology, and the companies that offer cell phones go to exhaustive measures to make certain they get that message out. Everyone who has owned any previous model can attest to how much better their new cell phone camera is; and comparative reviews of the latest technology to the old… pretty dramatic results.
What has transpired is that we see mass displays of images taken from cell phones every time we look at any social media page, or photo sharing site. The number of smart-phone users is expected to reach almost 5 billion globally by the end of 2016. With that, the majority of the world’s population that utilizes internet technology observes images taken from every make and model of cell phone on the market; there is old verses new, and brand verses brand. While a high-end camera, in the hands of a trained and accomplished professional will always “ALWAYS” result in far superior quality than what the best cell phone (including iphone generation X) is capable of producing, as a population we are most accustomed to seeing “variations on a theme” so to speak. That is cell phone to cell phone; albeit far better now than before, the population (photographers tend to be the exception here, as they can most readily detect key variations produced by a cell phone camera) by and large is accustomed to comparing this form of photography from within its own ranks. That population is tending to embrace, legitimatize and standardize the device as a genuine photographic tool. There is a prevalent inertia regarding any tangible, direct comparison to professionally photographed images, examined on a comprehensive level.
An added element that TMM’s will use as a point of contention, revolves around the acceptance of these amateur shots, particularly as of late, by the media. Make no mistake, the managing editor and everyone within a news organization recognizes the inherent degradation a cell phone picture carries with it, as compared to a professionally shot image. But an agency may choose to weigh in on two other components “it’s fast, and the majority of time it comes to them free of charge!!” The overriding concept is that while it may not be the best photograph, it’s clear enough to get the point across… which is pretty well characteristic of the how the technology is promulgated at a so called professional level.
As is the case with my example of the general use of DSLR’s, there are going to be a certain amount of users who aspire and succeed at getting the best performance from whatever camera they are utilizing, they will consistently produce images that are at the extent of the limitations of their equipment, and reach an understanding of how they will benefit by upgrading to something better…
Mull on this: You’ve cooked many a meal at home. You have worked with the cooking apparati that are at your disposal; have adapted your personal best in employing self-taught techniques and have presented results that earned the acclaim of your esteemed family and friends. Do you suppose that pronouncement would qualify you to walk into a leading restaurant and declare yourself as a “Head Chef”?!
Here too is this fitting analogy: A cellphone camera is to a state-of-the-art, flagship professional camera, what a fast-food establishment is to a 4 + star restaurant – And, an avid cellphone image processor is to a professionally trained photographer, possessing commensurate skill-sets, and using professional equipment, what a short-order cook is to a gourmet chief…