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Stop Taking Important Personal Pictures on Your Phone

Smartphones are more prevalent than ever, and the majority of us always have one on hand, meaning they have become our default camera for capturing life's little and big moments. That may be something we come to regret in the years to come, however, and this excellent video essay makes a case for why we should reach for a dedicated camera even for just personal shots. 

Coming to you from Sara Dietschy, this interesting video essay discusses why we may regret using our phones for capturing the majority of important life moments as we get older. For Dietschy, the issue essentially comes down to image quality. No doubt, smartphone cameras have become remarkably capable in recent years, but they still lag behind even basic dedicated cameras in a lot of scenarios, particularly low-light situations. And while there is certainly nothing more convenient than the phone we all carry with us, especially for being able to share moments instantly, that tradeoff we make in image quality for the sake of convenience may be one we come to regret when we are looking back on memories and are left with a mismash of grainy, soft photos instead of true captures of those important times in our lives. Check out the video above for Dietschy's full thoughts.

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23 Comments

Alexander Petrenko's picture

How many children does she have and how often really important personal events unfold in front of her with the pace allowing to go to a cabinet, grab and start up her camera without missing them?

W Mitty's picture

Would that not also have been true for her grandfather and parents? Yet, they captured many invaluable memories. Every little thing doesn't have to be documented, and I don't think she is suggesting that only cameras can be used, never cellphones. I believe she is saying that one should make an effort to capture important moments (births, birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, graduations, etc) with a higher quality instrument - sometimes life's important moments are known in advance.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Our parents did not capture our memories with the top of the line equipment. Probably other way round, at least in my case. Cellphones are amazing in capturing everything. The only thing you have to do is to print.

And I personally find moments when my children do some stupid stuff daily more memorable than something "major".

W Mitty's picture

I don't think she was suggesting that one has to use "top of the line equipment". In fact, she even mentioned lower end DSLR's (T3i) and point and shoot cameras. Her video is obviously not intended for someone who is intent on disagreement.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

DSLR is top of the line (and over the top :) ) for most of people and phones are new point and shoot.

W Mitty's picture

Okay. Whatever.

Reginald Walton's picture

As the saying goes, "the best camera is the one you have in your hand."

N A's picture

Thing is, that saying is patently false. The best camera is the proper tool for the job. Phones are getting better but still can't compete with cameras with larger sensors. We put together a 12x12 photo book recently and the evening outdoor phone images are a pixelated mess in print. No comparison to the ILC images. We have over a decade's worth of phone images and they're not holding up on newer displays or in print.

Computational photography is interesting but I'd like to see a line of affordable point & shoots which have a larger sensor, respectable zoom + macro mode, killer auto mode, basic editing and connectivity options on par with today's phones.

The P&S form factor is still a good one. Easy to fit in any bag/purse or dangle off a wrist strap. The Olympus TG-6 looks pretty close to this. WIFI + direct upload to Instagram and/or VSCO is an essential feature if cameras want to gain traction.

Nick Viton's picture

You're patently missing the point of that saying.

N A's picture

No, but feel free to explain your interpretation.

Venson Stein's picture

Most people take as "Cellphone camera" is better than no camera at all.

William Nicholson's picture

I must be old for I hardly use the camera on my Note 9. Yea it is ok for those silly shots but I preferer to grab the Nikon D-500 and the selection of lenses invested in. Nothing can compare to your DSLR. I don't do social media so there is no reason to take pictures and post. Sad story is that my wife uses her phone rather than the nice point and shoot I gave her and she never backs up the phone or down loads the pictures and the micro-sd card crashed and she lost years worth of photos of the kids and events. SO yes, use that DSLR or point and shoot for those once in a life special moments. Never have I had cards go bad and always down load and transfer to 2 external hard drives. We can never get those moments or memories back if you don't secure them. Oh and by the way, I do take my DSLR camera with me ever where I go and I am not a photographer by profession rather a personal choice.

Rhonald Rose's picture

It depends. There is no one size fits all solutions. I find it easy to take quick pictures of my kids using my smartphone when I am outdoors.

I don't print most of the family pictures large and the quality I get out of the 12mp smartphone camera is good enough for a descent print.

When I do planned shooting, I use either my apsc or MF and it works. I usually print those large (40x30 or 120x60).

Christophe Ferreira's picture

I agree, it's better to use a camera ... well, that being said, I find the pictures with iPhone 12 pro to be very good so I haven't used my dlsr much since I got that phone ...

Also, the article makes it look like it's "phone or dslr" but for most people, it would end up being "photo or no photo" because they don't have a dslr or don't want to bring it with them at events.
And in the end, a grainy photo is better than no photo.

As for photographers, there are sometimes challenges ... I know that taking out my dslr would lead to people hiding their faces etc ... it's far more conspicuous to use the camera.
I feel that a lot of people are more accepting of being shot with a phone.

I don't know why though, maybe it's that the camera feels like "professional work" so they feel they should pose, redo the makeup etc, no sure.

N A's picture

>And in the end, a grainy photo is better than no photo.
The problem isn't just the shots you get, it's the shots you miss.

Maybe it's just me but I delete 98% of my low light phone shots. Out of focus, motion blur or noise that goes so far beyond grainy it's unusable.

Phones are fine in daylight. As soon as the sun starts to set they become increasingly useless.

My parents had no problem slinging a 35mm SLR over their shoulder for 18 years. We didn't have a problem with them taking our photo. Neither did our friends or their parents. Camcorders were all the rage. Our Sony Hi8 handycam went everywhere. Our grandparents Super8 was a constant companion before that. So I don't get the camera shyness now. If it's family and friends, just get out your ILC and shoot. All you have to do is preface it with "I'm gonna take a few photos". I've never had anyone say anything other than "ok".

Christophe Ferreira's picture

I guess your experience is just different than mine. I know a lot of people who don't want to bring their dslr because of bulkiness. I'm starting to fall in that category too, unless I know I'll visit a very nice spot.

As for the camera shyness, it's just something I noticed. Of course, it's not everyone. Two weeks ago my niece loved posing for me but most of the people look the other way when I lift the camera.
With the phone, they sometimes notice it only when they hear the shutter sound (phones in Japan have a mandatory shutter sound when taking pictures).
It's not new really ... I remember when I was a kid and people moving away from the person with the instant camera.

One even more extreme case, I was eating breakfast at a hotel lounge in Korea. When I lifted my dslr to take a picture of my wife, I was asked by the staff to refrain from taking photo as it made people around uncomfortable ... I showed him only my wife was in the frame since I was pointed toward the wall anyway. He still asked me to put it down because "people don't know where you're pointing".
I took pictures with my phone right after and I wasn't told anything ...

I don't mind using the iPhone as much as I used to because it takes decent low light pictures. Of course, it has its limits but so does my dslr.
And mostly, I love being able to start working on the edit while on my way home, on the train.

William Nicholson's picture

Interesting analyst. Phone or DSLR and what might be actions of the people. Could be open for long discussion, however your statement is rather true. Society has accepted the clever cell phone as a way to take pictures some what discretely versus pulling out that awesome very expensive high MEP massive sensor DSLR with a lens as long as the day that scares the heard away. So to conclude my analyst, I agree with you that a grainy picture is better than none at all. For those of us using what every it is at our disposal, we are just taking a photo to capture that moment in time.

Danish Naeem's picture

Can we have point and shoot shooters and DSLRs uploading directly to the likes of google photos or sharing directly over WhatsApp etc? Because that's why for the casual shots i use a phone.

William Nicholson's picture

If I am not mistaken, there are several DSLR brands that have such functions built in such as some Nikon models that will transfer from camera to phone or tablet over wi-fi. My Nikon D-500 does it but I never use that function. Guess it is all about who you are and what it is you do with your photos. We choose to do as we please, makes it easy and well happy. She just makes a point that the wall hangers look way better using a DSLR.

Brandon Hopkins's picture

When I have my X100t with me, I sometimes send a photo directly to my phone with its wifi feature to share on Instagram or with friends. It's one extra step than "directly" but it's still doable.

Kirk Darling's picture

I personally have to draw a line between being a photographer and being in the moment. When I'm in "photographer" mode, I'm only looking for the picture that tells the story of that subject. But I'm not emotionally in that moment with the subject.

I have learned over the years to be in the moment when I'm with my family. I can't be in the moment with them when I'm angling for the picture with a DSLR up to my eye. I can be in the moment with just a cell phone. Those family pictures aren't going on a wall, they're going into photo books and out to the family in social media. It's better for me to have been in that moment than to have gotten the best possible creative, pictorial, award-winning image.

Larry Epstein's picture

We're retired and childless. I was never a pro photographer, and, for the last 8 years, our pictures from travels and good times have been on a 1"-sensor digital camera. I was finally going to get an ILC for my birthday last week. My wife talked me out of it (although I still harbor cravings). Principally she argued that, for the price of a good mirrorless ILC, I could buy two iPhone 12 Pros, and we both could take pictures all of the time (because we always have our phones with us). So we did. My wife LOVES the convenience of the iPhone. She never would have conquered an ILC. And the quality from the iPhone is quite good. No we won't be enlarging and printing the resulting 12MP photos (hence my lingering cravings), but we will keep them safely for as long as we want. Who knows, next year maybe I will take the leap. But for now I'm satisfied (if not thrilled).

ian Maitland's picture

My iPhone 7 will produce a razor sharp 16x24 inch print - and it is always with me.
Very few people need larger prints. I also use a Leica digital, Leica IIIb, Pentax and Bronica.
At 16x24 inch size it is hard to tell which camera I used.