Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro Max sports three camera lenses, offering features like portrait lighting, night mode, and the ability to take live photos (similar to Android models like the Samsung Galaxy S23). Compared to professional tools which typically go for 2x the price, the iPhone offers all the tools one would need from an everyday camera. But now the impressive quality of the cell phone camera is used for more than just the casual photo- as the image quality gets better with every model, taking the perfect photo has become its own right. Both through social media platforms revolving around posting pictures and through the ubiquitous presence of cell phones today, everyone becomes a photographer of sorts.
Even children’s technology, like the LeapFrog or Nintendo devices, often come equipped with cameras. And since the late 90s so have cell phones. With each new release, the cell phone comes with a bigger and better camera than the last, some photos captured by newer cell phones are even indistinguishable from a photo taken by a professional camera.
Assuming the majority of people today own a cell phone, then they already carry around a powerful camera with them 24/7. Aside from being smaller, more durable, and multifunctional, the cell phone is easier and more practical than a camera. And for the most part, does the job of a basic digital camera without the bulk.
There are few photo opportunities the cell phone can’t be used for, the newer models produce photos professional enough that you can even print them out and send them on a family Christmas card, document an entire vacation or night out.
The accessibility of the cell phone has drastically increased the need for photo documentation, like at a concert when all you see is glowing cell phone screens or when your friend does something funny and everyone takes their phones out to capture it. Getting a good picture becomes just as important as the moment itself- maybe it’s because image quality today is so impressive that a video or picture can portray the moment just as real as it was the first time.
It’s undeniable that the convenience and caliber of today’s cell phone cameras encourage their own usage, and coupled with social media apps centered around posting photos, everyone becomes a photographer, whereas once photos were taken to share from photo albums with friends and family, now are taken to be posted on the internet for millions.
Today’s social media is like LinkedIn, but instead of job opportunities, for social opportunities. Users instead curate a portfolio of photos that encapsulates their personal aesthetic or interests.
Posting a photo dump on Instagram is the perfect example, usually 7-10 photos, taken over a period of time, all with a vague but artsy vibe. Generally include an outfit pic, a .5 pic, a picture with friends, a nature pic, or maybe a recent dinner. It’s a way of showing off the cool things you’ve done, worn, or eaten recently, and furthermore a way of sharing this with other people who may have the same interests or style.
Social media and the cell phone are a symbiotic relationship, one without the other just would never have the same effect. And today’s digital culture coupled with each pioneering addition made to the camera influences more and more people to care about their digital image. Taking a photo becomes more than just a memory but also something shared online with the world, and with that the standards for a “cool” photo rise.