Are Cell Phone Cameras Making Crap Out of Our Memories?

It’s the age of the cell phone camera. Ok, Smartphone if you want to sound current. We can capture every moment we experience, no matter where, no matter when. What could be bad about that? Not a thing, right? Wrong.

Cell phones are among us. Everywhere. They’re not leaving, nor should they (well maybe, but that’s really a conversation for another time). They’re only becoming more and more capable as time goes by, letting us make calls, take pictures, send messages, write email, get directions, and a whole bucket full of other crap that somehow we managed to do in some other way, before the Smartphone. But the focus here is on the pictures part.

What are Smartphones doing to out pictures? Good question. They’re making 90 percent of the pictures that 90 percent of us take look like pure crap. Forget the random selfies, and the drunk pictures, and all those other pictures that everyone knows will come out relatively crappy anyway. I’m talking about the critical pictures. Births, graduations, celebrations, weddings, you know, the important pictures that you want to remember. The pictures that you want to share with other people, that you want to save forever. Smartphone cameras are turning them into crap.

You should consider yourself lucky if you get a halfway decent picture with a cell phone. Considering the tiny lens, the tiny sensor, the terrible low light performance, the horrendous short throw LED flash, the small maximum aperture, the lack of any kind of image stabilization at all, the lack of optical zoom, the graininess of the digital zoom, the fact that so many cell phone cases interfere with the camera in some way, and the abuse that the lens takes being pulled in and out of your pocket or bag several times a day every day, it’s amazing that these things can take a picture at all.

Now I know what a lot of you are going to say. “Well look at how good this picture came out” or “All of my pictures come out just fine”. Yea, I know. You can definitely get a good picture out of your cell phone. But understand that when you get a good picture, it’s because the conditions were just right. You had the right lighting, you had good composition, and you took a good picture. That’s not the norm. And if you’re the guy or girl getting all good pictures from your phone, then lucky you, but one of two things is happening. Either you’re always shooting in ideal conditions, or your pictures actually do suck, you just happen to like them. Either way, if you’re happy, I’m happy. Also, this probably isn’t for you.

A good camera shouldn’t require ideal conditions to get a good shot. A good camera should have some ability to compensate for crappy lighting, and fast motion, and camera shake that are all part of the photography process.

There’s no reason you should be settling for dim, grainy, blurry memories, when you deserve crisp, clear images to look at and to share.  How many times have you tried to get a shot of something that was moving, even slowly, with your cell phone only to realize that it came out completely motion blurred and now the moment is over? Or how many times have you picked up your camera to take a picture at dusk and all you got was a mostly dark and completely unusable picture? Yea, same here. It’s time for a real camera.

I was recently at a wedding as the photographer, and a guest. It was great and the pictures came out terrific. Of course they were taken with thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment, and you definitely don’t need that unless you’re looking to be a professional photographer. That’s not the point though. A few days later, I was talking to one of the guests who had brought their brand new Smartphone to the wedding. They were showing a few people their pictures and half of them came out blurred or too dark. Some were ok, some were even good, but half of them, and some important ones, turned out like crap. After browsing through them, she said that she regretted using her cell phone at all, and wishes she had brought in her “real” point and shoot camera, that was in the car.

Look, I have no hate for cell phone cameras and I’m not making this post to bash them any more than they deserve to be. I’m using this post as more if a public service announcement and a guide. When you’re taking pictures of your lawn, or your flowers, or your lunch, or your dog, or whatever other random thing you think you need to post on Facebook or Instagram and hashtag the crap out of, go ahead and use your cell phone. That’s what it’s there for. However, when you’re taking pictures of life events that you’ll want to remember forever, please don’t be that guy or girl with your cell phone out and obnoxious LED flash burning people’s retinas. Pick up a “real” camera that was designed to be a camera. Not something that was designed to fit inside a thick slice of cheese next to all of the other things that make your phone a phone.

Remember, just because it can take pictures, does not mean it should.

Just a disclaimer. I know that cell phones are getting better and better at taking pictures, but dedicated cameras are getting better at the same rate, if not faster because they’re not constrained to the same small space that a cell phone camera is. I also understand that some people can get great pictures out of their cell phones, and I would love to see them! Go ahead and post them in the comments if you have them. I’ll be updating this post as time goes by and I would love to include some of them in it. Remember though, if you’re getting great pictures out of your cell phone, you’re in the minority. For the rest of us, most of our cell phone pictures suck.

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