We often hear lamentations about the impact of the rise of smartphones on the camera market. And it’s true, the compact camera market has shrunk radically since smartphones became ubiquitous. Now that everyone carries a camera phone everywhere, fewer feel the need for a dedicated camera.
But is that bad news for photography? I don’t think so.
Let’s think back a bit. When I was a little kid, we had one family camera. This was produced on special occasions like Christmas, birthdays, holidays and the occasional trip to the zoo. Most of those photos made it into an album, if not a frame. They were treasured and pulled out for occasional viewing and reminiscing.
Today, every member of the average family has a camera that they carry all the time. And what’s more, it gets used a lot. Many people take photos on a daily (if not more frequent) basis. They also post their images online for their friends and followers to see.
Okay, there are only so many shots of fancy dinners and cleared plates that you want to see, but the point is that people are using photography as a means of communication and connection. They’re documenting their lives.
In the process of taking these everyday, ordinary shots, more people are learning more about composition. They’re finding out which images connect with people more than others, how to convey a message and how to take better photographs.
In some respects, smartphones like the Huawei Mate20 Pro and Huawei P20 Pro enable photography in situations that are just not possible with a dedicated camera. You can get decent results when hand-holding the phone near darkness, for example. And thanks to their multiple camera set-up, you can replicate the effect of shooting with a wide aperture on a camera with a large sensor. As you can see from the image below, the results are pretty impressive.
This means that in the process of using the smartphone controls, non-photographers have the opportunity to learn about things like the impact of aperture and depth of field. And if they decide to get more serious about photography, they already have an understanding of some the creative decisions that they need to make and the key controls. That’s going to make using a ‘real camera’ easier.
There are still plenty of advantages to using a dedicated camera that offers control beyond that of an old ‘point-and-shoot’ model. Larger sensors, larger pixels, bigger optics, tilting screens and viewfinders all help deliver high-quality images in a wide range of situations. Recent sales data also indicates that high-end, more advanced cameras are an increasingly important sector of the market.
So while the entry-level camera market may have been decimated by them, smartphones are a great training ground for budding photographers. And that’s good news for photography and camera manufacturers.