The shot on the left was taken with my Android Galaxy Nexus
cell phone and processed via Instagram
filter in a few seconds. Total Cost: FREE
I need a phone, the camera just comes with it, right?
The shot on the right was taken with my Nikon D800E
and processed in Lightroom 4
in about an hour. Total Cost: $4,550
(Camera $3,300, Lens $1,000, CF Card $100, Lightroom 4 $150)
Earlier this week, I was out shooting with my Nikon all day and not really getting anything I liked. Then I took the photo on the left with my Android and I instantly loved it. It was a bit frustrating to be honest! So I tried to take the same photo with my Nikon (that's the shot you see on the right). It took me several minutes to try and frame the same shot (and, as you can see, I still couldn't get the exact same composition). It was much easier to hold the cell phone at a certain spot and get an angle by looking at the live screen on my cell phone than it was with my Nikon on a tripod.
When I got home, I started working on my Nikon DSLR photo. I had to crop it up to cell phone dimensions and then processed it in Lightroom 4. It took me about an hour to get a similar effect to the cell phone pic. Of course it only took a few seconds to choose the Instagram filter for the cell phone version. (Note: I've also used my Android's in-phone processing to get results I like in a just a few minutes.)
Now ultimately, I'm much, much happier with the large version
of my Nikon DSLR pic. When you compare the photos at full size on a big screen, there is no comparison. The Android pic quality is not as sharp and the Instagram filter adds a lot of grain to the image that only looks good to me on a small screen. When I process an image by hand (as opposed to choosing a single filter), I can be a lot more precise and dodge and burn different parts of the image.
But I find it enlightening how the photos are not so dissimilar when considered side by side at a small size. I like them both at this size.
I've chosen to make them about cell phone screen size here in this post. If you click on the comparison, you can see them a little larger and see how the Nikon photo starts to look better (well, at least to my eye,... You may hate both photos.. haha)
I think this illustrates two interesting things.
1) Cell phone photography really is its own, new medium.
The photos are meant to be viewed on a small screen and the filters that companies like Instagram create look much better at these small sizes than they do when blown up. Traditionally we've looked at photography in magazines and in art galleries, and then on our computer screens. The cell phone size screen is a new medium and the camera technology and editing software we have now is taking advantage of it in a unique way.
2) Why is cell phone photography so popular?
It's easier to understand why cell phone photography is becoming so big when you consider the simplicity and speed with which you can produce something you like. The cell phone pic took very little effort and cost me nothing to produce. I didn't even buy the camera... It just happened to be included in my smart phone. With traditional digital photography I need an expensive camera, lens, memory cards. The DSLR is large and I've got to lug it around. The DSLR image itself doesn't look as interesting straight out of the camera. In fact, it took me about an hour to proces this image in Lightroom 4 and that's after 6 or 7 months of intense practice on processing images.
I guess in a way this post is just a restatement or visual illustration of some of the points I made in a post I wrote last year about Instagram and photo apps: http://bit.ly/qWqG9Z
Techcrunch made it a guest post if you'd like to see the discussion over there: http://tcrn.ch/oDemxk
Btw, shortly after writing that post, I realized I should have wrote that technology was evolving
art rather than advancing
it, but you get my meaning, I hope. :-)