iPhoneography: Is it Photography?

Posted by on Mar 14, 2014 in Photography | Comments


In 2012, GoPro sold 2.3 million cameras, and was expected to sell at least twice as many in 2013, making it the best-selling camera in the world. Apple sold about 55 million iPhones just in the U.S. last year, which, if all those buyers use their camera, would top GoPro’s numbers by quite a bit. There’s no doubt that billions of photos have been taken on iPhones. But as these are photos snapped on a multipurpose device, how do we in the photography community feel about it being considered photography?

Does iPhoneography count as real photography?

Landscape Photo, Shot with an iPhone

Landscape shot on iPhone 4

The iPhone is undeniably a useful tool for photographers

In any craft, every tool has a purpose. I would say that the iPhone is one more tool that the photographer can use for specific purposes.

It certainly has advantages over many other cameras:

  • You typically always have it available and powered on
  • It’s compact and easy to pack
  • Images are easily shareable through cellular connections
  • Image editing is available right on the device through a ton of photography specific apps

It also has disadvantages:

  • Limited resolution
  • Lack of RAW processing and digital zoom
  • Limited compatibility with off-camera flash
  • Lower lens quality

Depending on what you are photographing, the iPhone could be the best camera for the job or a terrible choice.

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How do the specs stack up?

With each new version of the iPhone, the camera specifications get better and better. The newest version, the 5s, has an 8 megapixel sensor, a f/2.2 aperture, includes a variable color temperature flash, and image stabilization. It also records video at 1080p HD at up to 120 fps. The 5s has HDR functionality built in, a large 4-inch display, fairly quick autofocus, and now has a burst mode for taking photos in rapid succession. It is expected that the next version of this phone’s camera will be even better, with a wider aperture and better glass, among other features that we probably can’t even imagine being in a device so small.

Recent changes may encourage you to try

With the new features that continue to be added to this camera phone, its uses continue to expand. The first iPhone, the 3G, had a 2 megapixel camera. This meant the photos were about 1600 x 1200 pixels. This is not a terrible resolution for many uses like posting photos to Facebook or Instagram, but print sizes would be no larger than 4 x 6 before you would see an unacceptable drop in quality. With a relatively small file size, there was not much room for cropping or editing without seeing a loss of quality that further limited usage.

However, the newest iPhones’ uses have expanded with their capabilities. I started photographing weddings on an 8 megapixel camera, so the resolution on the iPhone 5s is certainly good enough for some professional uses. The files sizes are over 3,000 pixels wide, meaning you can print a full-page photo in a magazine pretty comfortably. So, a few years ago you might have had only a few professional uses, but now days there are a ton of professional uses for an iPhone.

Wedding photo shot on iPhone

Wedding photo shot on iPhone 4

Pushing the limits

There are some interesting artists out there that are pushing the limits of what iPhones can be used for. I’ve seen weddings shot entirely on iPhones, major newspapers and magazines publish iPhone photos, and unreal landscape photos taken because the iPhone was the only thing available at that one moment. And the limits continue to be broken, with adaptors that allow for macro photography, fisheyes and zooms. There are even new ways of processing the images, like the 645 Pro app, that get us even closer to RAW processing by cutting down on compression.

In short, I think iPhoneography is definitely a serious form of photography and will only get more serious with each new version. It’s an exciting time for compact camera technology!

What do you think?

We posed the question “Is iPhone photography really photography? Why or why not” on Craftsy’s Facebook Photography Club. Here’s what fans had to say:

“The best camera is the one you have with you”

“While I don’t think a paying customer would appreciate their photographer showing up with an iPhone , I do believe an artist can take a beautiful photo with ANY camera…it really is about how the “pro” works with the tools they are given…that is the challenge.”

“Photography is about the end product….not the medium”

“If photography is art then your camera is your palette. The better the camera the bigger your pallet. A good artist can make images with a pencil.”

“No I do not. I do take a lot of photos with my phone but I also have a Nikon DSLR that I do all of my sessions with and I don’t consider photos from my phone true photography.”

Do you think iPhoneography is photography? Have you ever published or sold a photo from your iPhone?