Stop Learning About Photography, Just Buy the New iPhone

Stop Learning About Photography, Just Buy the New iPhone

Did you catch the big news coming out of Apple this week?  I’m not talking about the new phone announcements. I’m talking about Phil Schiller, Senior VP Marketing for Apple claiming that you no longer need to learn about photography to take better pictures, you just have to buy the new iPhone because (apparently) it does it all for us.

During his key note last week, Schiller said

 “It used to be the way you take better pictures is you learn to be a better photographer. You get bigger cameras, bigger lenses, you learn about all the techniques of light meters and gels and filters, and you can spend your lifetime learning how to take advantage of this and make it work for you. For the people who want do that, that’s great. For most of us, we just want to take a picture, and have the iPhone take a better picture for us.”

For those that want to check it out, jump to 46mins in to the key note video.

While it's certainly true that the new camera technology in smart phones is helping us create better quality images than ever before (the iPhone fashion shoot that Lee Morris did several years back proved that pretty effectively), there is still no substitute for knowledge and experience.

I'd argue stronger image making is actually the result of the opposite of what Schiller said. With every technological move forward, the more reliant we become on understanding the fundamentals of what goes into making a strong image, on how to guide the eye around the frame and how to bring out emotion in the images we create.

Gear and technology advances give us greater opportunity to express ourselves in new ways. Greater ways and means to express ourselves will require even more knowledge on the fundamentals, the rules (and how you might break them). We all know that a bigger megapixel count or a sharper lens doesn’t equate to a stronger image and, as Zack Arias is quick to say, cameras still don't come with a Decisive Moment Indicator.

Schiller’s statement is strange not only because it’s not true, but also because it’s not the direction of the photographic education industry is headed. At every level from consumer to pro, there has never been more of an interest (and demand) for people to learn about photography, to find ways to improve their image making and better understand the business of photography.

What do you think of Apple’s statement? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.



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Previous comments
Juan Garcia's picture

Finally, someone talking with reason. Here, here!!

I am not getting terribly upset by this, but he is perpetuating a myth.

Look at the picture that appears on the screen. It is filled with photographic gear that an able amateur or professional might use. What he is implying (and implication is the real language of marketing) is that the iPhone can replace all that gear that you would have to learn how to use, and it will give you pictures that are equal to what you would get if you learned how to use that gear. In the minds of many people, that further devalues a photographer's skill set.

And this matters precisely because he is talking to soccer moms and other iPhone users. Who do you think customers for photography are? Soccer moms pay for professional portraits and weddings. IPhone toting execs pay for commercial work. These are the people that photographers deal with everyday. Informed clients are better clients. This presentation is marketing which might make it the exact opposite of information.

BTW, I find it hilarious that there is a chromokey background in the photo.

Very early on when I started photography I heard this definition; "Photography is the art of understanding and capturing light". I think this is the truest definition of what we do. It doesn't matter how good or bad the iPhone is if you don't understand that. You'll just get higher resolution crap. So yes it does annoy me when people put down what we do for the sake of a marketing gimmick. But then Apple always has been full of themselves.

Juan Garcia's picture

Actually hold up. Read your post. You sound full of yourself believing apple and iphone users wanna make art. They just wanna capture a moment, better. And not need to learn photography. Is that a must to take pictures in life? Does every mobile device user that takes pictures need to show up at the local community college and sign up for photography 101.

I get that they want to capture moments better and easier and I'm all for that. What I was having a go at was that apple was basically saying that having this new iPhone will make you a better photographer. It does not. It might (and I stress might) make photography a little easier. What Apple were doing in their marketing was basically saying that professional photographers can be replaced by an iPhone. It is marketing crap and deceiving to the consumer. To quote Joel Grimes "A technical instrument cannot make a creative decision".

Juan Garcia's picture

Again, I'm gonna have to disagree. I don't see the marketing saying a professional photographer can be replaced. I think you as a photographer might be reading into it too much. Maybe the term "making you a better photographer" could be construed as insulting to a professional, which you really shouldnt be. What I do see is the marketing using that term to make a common person "a better photographer" which is all about the technology. Not all photography is art, I don't feel people should hold that in regard. Im sure 98% of the mobile photographers out there dont feel every photo they take is that precious.

Andrew Williams's picture

I'm sure this topic will never die... like hipsters and men wearing tight pants that look like they got them from baby gap.

Juan Garcia's picture

I for one do not agree with this article at all. Ask yourself this. Do you believe people who want nothing to do with learning photography are beneath you, or have no right to take better pictures? Does the concept of non photographers wanting to take better pictures agravate you in anyway? You need to step back and ask yourself, maybe, just maybe, there are other people in this earth that exist, that want/need nothing to do with the art of photography. They just want to capture moments in their own lives.......better I feel, apple and the iPhone has accomplished that, and folks here that hate, or praise cameras on cellphones need to check themselves. And have a better grasp on reality. I do nit need to know mechanics to drive a car to go from point A to point B. I don't need to learn aerodynamics to fly on a plane. I do not need to play a guitar/piano to have love for music.

In my sarcasm I will say, maybe if I ran circles around you, then finally stop. You just might realize the world does not revolve around you.

Think il ditch my several grands worth of kit for weddings and just use my Iphone 5 then lol. Tbh it does take some nice photos, but its a damn site harder to get decent photos with than using my dslr's.

Does that mean something?

Obviously, it's just marketing. I wouldn't take that as a serious quote.

For most people with cameras, photography is for fun. Camera phones are now party toys.
Pro shooters are generally not part of that culture. Like someone's comment about Kobe, we can
all shoot a basketball. But when LeBron is in your face, you, me, all of us can't even make the first move. I made 9 of ten free throws the other day in a contest for fun. Big deal. Same in photography. It's only fun and easy when it doesn't matter.