If you've travelled on the underground in the last couple of months you might have seen some gorgeous sweeping landscapes, tumbling waterfalls and stunning vistas, all ‘Shot on iPhone 6’.
A few years ago if the world’s biggest technology company wanted to do a global marketing campaign it would have hired the best photographers and equipped them with high-end cameras.
For Apple’s latest campaign the tech giant instead only used photos taken with its latest smartphone by ordinary people. Apple picked 162 photographs from Facebook, Flickr and Instagram, and hung them on billboards, in underground stations and across buildings in 73 cities around the world.
In June ‘Shot on iPhone 6’ was named ‘best outdoor advertising campaign’ of 2015 at the Cannes Lions international advertising festival. But ‘Shot on iPhone 6’ is more than just a clever and creative display of marketing, it’s a clear signal that photos are core to today’s smartphones and everyone can be a professional photographer.
It’s hard to fathom just how big the photography market is now. At the peak of the film-camera industry in 1999, Kodak revealed consumers took a total of 80bn photos that year. Today over two billion photos are shared on Facebook and Instagram every day, with another 700m shared on WhatsApp and 700m-a-day on Snapchat.
It’s safe to assume there will be at least 1.5 trillion pictures shared across these services in 2015, and pictures shared is likely only a tiny fraction of the overall number of photos taken.
Last month media regulator Ofcom reported that 60 per cent of adults are now using a smartphone as their primary camera, among teens this rises to nearly 90 per cent. Ofcom described the UK as a “smartphone society” and the mobile as the most popular camera with over 1.2bn selfies taken last year alone.
In just 16 years we’ve gone from 80bn film photos taken in a year, to 1.5 trillion smartphone photos shared, but how did this happen? As usual, Apple is to blame.
The best camera you have
“If you want a good indication of just how far we've come, Instagram in 2010 was invented to enhance rubbish smartphone pictures and make them look a bit better,” CCS Insight mobile industry analyst Ben Wood told City A.M., explaining that the app’s filters worked to disguise the poor quality of smartphone photos at the time.
“That's almost not necessary anymore as everyone is able to capture extremely high quality pictures. We no longer have problems of blurring, which is being solved by optical image stabilisation [which compensates for movement when you take a photo], and aren't poorly lit, because the latest smartphones perform so well in low-light conditions now.”
Indeed, while the first camera phones emerged in the early 2000s, for the most part photos were plagued with poor picture quality.
“Even the original iPhone in 2007 had a very poor camera with a low resolution of just 2-megapixels,” IHS senior director and head of mobile and telecoms, Ian Fogg, told City A.M. “It was only since the iPhone 4 in 2010 Apple prioritised the camera as a core component of the iPhone design.”
And it’s not just Apple; Sony and Samsung have also pioneered quality cameras in their Xperia and Galaxy smartphone ranges.
Last week in Berlin at IFA, Europe’s largest consumer electronics conference, Sony unveiled its Xperia Z5 smartphone with a 23-megapixel camera and last Wednesday, Apple unveiled the iPhone 6S with far improved rear and front-facing cameras.
So with these highly advanced cameras in our pockets, does that mean everyone is a professional photographer?
Everyone’s a pro?
“We see smartphone photography as a new strand of photography,” Becky Hayes told City A.M. “Smartphones have made photography more accessible to the masses, which is a great thing, but from a quick glance on Instagram you can see a big difference between the professionals and the non-professionals.”
This is exactly why Hayes saw the opportunity in 2011 to start Foto Ruta, one of the first photography schools to focus on smartphone photography, or ‘iPhoneography’.
“We teach people how to frame their images, composition, how to think more like a photographer using repetition, pattern, colour, texture, and finally how to edit the image using a the best apps available,” says Hayes, who now offers smartphone photography tours in London, Barcelona, Santiago and Buenos Aires.
While maybe not everyone is a professional photographer just yet, we all have the ability to document our lives with a clarity and ease never before seen in history, and by doing so we’re actually changing the way everyone sees the world.
Last month in the Port of Tianjin, China, two huge chemical explosions rocked the city, leading to 160 deaths. With no national or global media nearby, the world might never have seen what happened if it hadn’t been for hundreds of people on the ground taking photos and recording the horrific events.
“Most if not all of the footage on TV was recorded from smartphones during the explosion in China,” says Wood.
“It’s part of this extraordinary phenomenon of citizen journalism, which means any news event is instantly captured and shared everywhere.”
The proliferation of photography hasn’t just changed our individual lives, it’s fundamentally changed the way we record our world.
Of the hundreds of photos you take this year; while they may not be of world-changing events, expertly taken or even ‘Shot on iPhone 6’, they will capture friends, families and moments most important your life, and they will definitely be taken with a smartphone.
Top smartphone camera tips
Foto Ruta runs smartphone photography experiences and workshops in London which can be found at www.foto-ruta.co.uk. Here are their top tips:
1. Move your body and think about viewpoint. Using creative angles to frame your shot will take an ordinary photo to new heights. Think of bird's eye perspective, or get down to street level.
2. Crop instead of zooming. Zooming using your smartphone’s digital zoom can result in quality loss. If you’re far from your subject, take the shot and crop later.
3. Download a camera app, like Camera+, and use it to shoot as well as edit. Camera apps are generally superior to your in-phone app, as they offer additional functions such as focus and exposure points.