Wick Communications

In defense of camera phones

In Photography on 21 Jun 2012 at 9:30 pm

These days, many of us – and importantly, many of our readers – have cameras in our pockets at all times. What’s more, that smartphone is not necessarily a dumbed-down camera. Some, like the newest iterations of the iPhone, are serious photographic tools with eight-megapixel resolution and high-definition video.

This isn’t exactly headline news. Cellphone cameras have been used to great effect to cover news in the Middle East and in the middle of nowhere. This guy shot his entire movie on a cellphone. Not only are they useful tools, cellphone cameras might even be better in a couple ways that have nothing to do with technical capabilities.

I’m stealing the concept from Keith Jenkins, a multimedia producer for NPR.org, who wrote about his cellphone camera usage for the Poynter Institute this week. He got me thinking about the way people respond to cameras generally.

Many of us stiffen up when a real photographer points the weapon of his craft in our direction. We stand straight and tall and smile for the camera. Now think about the last time you were in a crowd and someone started taking cellphone shots. If you are like me, you hardly noticed.

Cellphone cameras are ubiquitous. That means they can be used casually. I’m not suggesting you use them surreptitiously. As a journalist, your subject should know he or she is being photographed. But the absence of a big old camera lens may well add an ease to the photo shoot.

And, if you have ever used a cellphone as a camera, you know they can be much quicker to use than any camera. I can shoot something with my phone before I even dig my camera out of the glove compartment of my car (let alone take it from its case and remember how to use it.) There is an immediacy to the medium that means you are often able to capture something newsworthy that you would have otherwise missed if you were left to your traditional camera.

And cellphone cameras are only getting better. They are real journalistic tools.

Clay

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