The photography industry is dying, and it's all because of that little device that has invaded our modern lives: the smartphone. The company Sharp released the first camera phone in Japan in 2000, not knowing that they would inspire a whole generation of change. Of course, these photos were low-resolution and of no real value. Through the early and mid 2000s, camera phones were used to capture quick snapshots of memories and moments, just for the sake of nostalgia. When one of the earliest of smartphones, the original iPhone, hit the shelves in 2007, it featured 2 megapixel camera with no flash or autofocus. (This is compared to the iPhone 7, which has a 12 megapixel camera with flash, autofocus, and a whole suite of features to improve your photos.) Camera phones were an absolute revolution — you could take photos whenever and wherever, so long as you had your phone.
Digital cameras were also peaking during the time of the smartphone. These cameras were small and user-friendly, often taking photos of fair quality that would preserve family memories in a safe, easily-shareable digital format. The photography business as we know it would begin to take shape as the digital camera market grew. No longer did you have to go into a Sears Portrait Studio to get your family photos taken and printed, and no longer did photos have to be developed. Those with a keen eye for staging and lighting could take photos and see their results instantly, allowing for adjustments to create the perfectly composed photo. Professionals began charging for outdoor photo shoots, which were a new and novel way to take those famous family portraits. The more artistic side of photography grew, too, with the introduction of social media like MySpace, Facebook, and Instagram. These sites allowed digital photo sharing — leading to a whole new era of photography: social media photography.
Social media photography is exactly what it sounds like, photography for the sake of sharing it with friends and family on social media. This market has skyrocketed as smartphones have produced better cameras, yielding better photos. Photos can be shared instantly on social media, receiving likes and comments galore. A lot of people just "do it for The 'Gram," that is, taking photos simply to illicit a positive response on Instagram. (We saw this same trend with the rise of the selfie in the late 2000s.) While there is nothing wrong with wanting to keep distant loved ones up-to-date on your whereabouts, or wishing to share your art with friends, photography for the sake of likes is killing the photography industry.
Photography is an art, and it's losing its value as smartphones get smarter. With an advanced phone, like the new iPhone X, a person with no skills nor experience in photography can create a photo matching the quality of a DSLR and a skilled photographer. With a few adjustments on an editing app, anyone can be a photographer. While I love the convenience that the camera of a smartphone brings, constantly improving the quality of phone cameras is decreasing the value and worth of a classic, good quality camera. People are basically walking around with an SLR in their pocket.
So let's bring it back, folks. Photography is an art, and photographers wish to keep it that way. Do photography because it is your passion, your talent, and your hobby. Share it for the sake of getting your art out there, not for the sake of social media fame. Use a camera once in a while — it's a whole different experience, I promise. To smartphone companies: stop improving your camera! Spend that brain power and money on making a shatter-proof phone, why don't ya? And to you, reader, consider snapping a few memories with your phone, then put it down. Live in the moment. A picture is worth a thousand words, but a memory is worth a million.