Smartphones: boon or bane to photography?

Some photographers feel that the world of smartphone photography is taking away the charm of capturing images on high-end or DSLR cameras

It is important to learn the basics of photography to achieve good results.

Photography is not as simple as a tap on an expensive smartphone that has a high megapixel camera. It requires a combination of good equipment and skill in photography; even while shooting with a smartphone, it takes good ‘composition’ to get good end results. 

Back then, there was only one way to do serious photography – buy a film single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. In the digital era, while professional photographers go for a digital SLR (DSLR), casual shooters can choose compact cameras.

Things became slightly complicated when smartphones began to get advanced camera systems with multiple lenses. What was once a big procedure of shooting and then getting the film developed and printed was made simpler with digital compact cameras and DSLRs. 

There is also a line of thinking that accuses smartphone photography of killing the art of photography.

Renowned German film director and photographer Wim Wenders believes that with smartphones ‘photography is more alive than ever but also more dead than ever’. He had once told the BBC that when photography was invented, it was meant to be a more truthful testimony of our world than paintings. But with smartphone photography, he goes on to say that he is in search of a new word for this activity that looks like photography, but it is not really photography.

It is not that great pictures cannot be shot with smartphones. A casually shot photo, which might have a huge number of likes on social media, might be mistaken for a good photo by someone who is serious about photography.

Most smartphone photography is done with fully automatic settings. It is imperative to understand the technicalities and use them to the fullest to capture good photos. 

More than the gadget and technology, a good picture requires the shooter to think about the lighting situation. Of course, one can end up with ordinary photographs even with a DSLR if the lighting situation is not assessed properly.

But most individuals who buy a DSLR will try and understand a bit about aperture, shutter speed, composition etc. Otherwise, the whole idea of buying a DSLR is defeated.

One of the major problems in the photography world is that people are misled by the megapixel race. A lot of people falsely assume that if the megapixel count is higher, it will automatically result in great pictures.

The megapixel number indicates nothing about the quality of the picture. Unless the photo is going to be printed out as a large poster or banner, megapixels don’t really count for, say, webpage use.

There are technical side and artistic sides to photography. Though it is possible to get good shots from a smartphone with a bit of imagination and technique, there is also the technical side as to why a smartphone cannot be a substitute for a DSLR. This is because of the sensor, which records the image the user sees in the eyepiece.

In film cameras, the size of each frame was 36 mm in length. There are DSLRs with 36 mm image sensors and these are called full frame cameras because they are of the same size as a film frame. Then, there are advanced photo system – type C (APS-C) sensors, which are about 22 or 23 mm depending on the manufacturer. In a smartphone, the sensor will be a tiny fraction of these sizes. Think of it like this – a bigger sensor has more area that can capture more detail of the light that is coming in from the lens. Therefore, the picture quality will generally be better in a DSLR. Even within smartphones, image sensors can be of basic or high quality depending on the segment.

Of late, mirrorless cameras are becoming more popular due to their smaller size compared to DSLRs. 

Whether an individual wants to stick to smartphone photography or go the DSLR/ mirrorless camera route, learning the basics will definitely yield better pictures.

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