Over the last decade we have seen a rise in mobile technology and mobile applications like never before. Each new cell phone that comes out not only boasts an amazing amount of data storage and speed capabilities, but boosts camera megapixel ability as in DSLR cameras of a few years ago.
At the same time, mobile apps have moved from apps of convenience (satellite tv streaming, staying on top of sport scores, etc.) to creative and graphic apps such as Instagram that provide creative filters, plus a feature to instantly share the photo. This gives cell phone camera users instant access to distribution for their work.
What is the impact that this will have on hardworking creative professionals who work hard on their craft, spending years and years to master their technique, only to be compared to cell phone snappers?
What about photo editors and designers who work hard to create something that a mobile app can deliver to you in seconds?
It has been said that cell phone quality doesn’t hold up to certain editorial and other submission standards for print, which is true, but it has the best distribution medium to reach millions of users and viewers; the internet. So while there are plenty of technically sound, professional photographers out there, they are competing with even more cell phone photographers, that thanks to apps like Instagram and others, they have an instant audience to take in their work and give it praise.
In the long run, this could fizzle out and not have a real effect on the creative market. However, if mobile technology stays at its current pace, there is no telling how this creative market will work out.
Will photographers choose the cheaper, more unprofessional route of clicking and sharing, or will they still try to thrive as they currently are? Chances are that the photographers at the top of their game will be able to work out just as well, but these improvements will make it harder for those starting out in these fields to break into it.
Who wants to spend time, money, and effort on a profession that people are able to replicate with something they keep in their pocket?
It takes awhile to really find your stride as a creative professional, and if you’re competing for quality feedback within a world praising cell phone photos, you’re going to have trouble.
What is most worrisome troubles for me, a working photographer and filmmaker, is that we will face the same challenges brought from other social media sharing sites.
Starting out as a filmmaker, I only had limited options of distribution, mainly being Youtube. I competed for critical feedback. My work ran against videos of people falling out of trees, stupid public displays of what happens when you hook up a skateboard to the back of a truck, etc. While these videos still have their place, it provided easy distribution without the ability to stand away from the noise.
Mobile technology and applications are doing the same thing to true photographers who want to splash without getting caught up in the ether that is cell phone photography. It really makes me happy that I was able to make my start when I did, when actual photo sharing sites were the norm, and you could receive critical analyses of your work.
It will be interesting to see how this trend plays out, and it is one that I hope will still provide young emerging artists with the ability to shine more than their casual counterparts. Mobile technology has done some damage to the creative industry, and I hope that some space will be carved out for true work to shine through.