Will iPhones Replace Cameras in Professional Photojournalism?

By: Sarah LeBlanc
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, taken by Jorge Quinteros.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, taken by Jorge Quinteros.

Since I purchased my first iPhone in 2012, I have not touched my old Nikon camera. With a device that allows me to edit and post my selfies to Facebook from the palm of my hand, why would I?

I was thrilled, then, when Apple announced on Tuesday that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus would be released with photographic improvements that rival those of professional cameras. Elements such as an optical stabilization system that will help keep videos and images stable, as well as Focus Pixels used in cameras from companies such as Sony and Fujifilm, will all be included in the new iPhone.

With updates like these, are expensive professional cameras even necessary in photojournalism?

Unfortunately, with the higher quality of the new iPhone cameras and the availability for additional enhancements through networked lenses and photo apps like Hipstamatic, I believe that cameras, and staff photographers for that matter, are in danger of being replaced by the all-encompassing iPhone. Last year, mobile photography was one of the Chicago Sun-Times’ reasons for laying-off its entire photographic staff.

The emerging accessibility of cutting-edge photos without the need to purchase a separate and expensive camera has also allowed reporters, as well as the public, to take and post pictures of anything from breaking news to beautiful scenery directly to news sites or social media. As Robinson Meyer from The Atlantic writes, “the smartphone camera is part of a global proliferation of photography.”

With the new iPhone cameras more user-friendly, accessible and convenient, separate cameras are simply becoming unnecessary as the iPhone embodies the epitome of versatility. Will the new iPhone finally render the camera obsolete, or are cameras still perceived as the more professional option for news agencies?

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9 responses to “Will iPhones Replace Cameras in Professional Photojournalism?

  1. I think this is a tricky subject that has been ongoing with the new technology that keeps popping up today. I love my iPhone, and it does take really good pictures. Personally, however, I still like using a camera to take photos and videos with. My phone is always full, and a camera has a totally separate way for me to capture what I want. I do think that people are out to do their work the cheapest and easiest, and if this means that journalists can capture everything they need on their own, then I can see iPhones and other smart phone devices taking the jobs away from professional photographers who capture these events for a living. I’m hoping photojournalists don’t get totally left behind because I still think they’re an important part of journalism, and iPhones really can only capture so much.

  2. I agree that the new photo enhancements on smartphones are awesome and helpful for those impromptu photo-ops or for breaking news, but I personally feel that to get a high quality image you need a real camera. I just feel that professional cameras can capture a more in-depth image. This is really funny because I am currently looking for a new professional camera for my own pleasure and your classwork. In the case of photojournalists, I agree with Maggie, I hope they don’t get left behind by technology; they serve a great purpose in this industry and capture situations that words can not describe.

  3. I think it’s wonderful that cameras and apps for mobile have gotten to be so impressive. It makes sense that they would replace point-and-shoot cameras and even take the desktop computer of editing. It makes photography more accessible (which has benefits and consequences but for purposes of sharing it’s only positive). This accessibility has an impact on the world of photography because it’s no longer just for hobbyists; everyone has the power to be a photographer. But the qualities that make a professional photographer don’t change. Modern technology makes their job easier but as phones progress digital photography does alongside it. It’s becoming more and more possible to take a publishable photo with an iPhone but it’s unlikely that a handheld device would ever be able to replicate what eight pounds of glass can do in ten seconds on a bright day and maintain the same quality of shot. To respond to Maggie, while the photojournalism field is dwindling, I don’t think it could ever completely disappear because consistently good news journalism is a type of art (not that art pays well, but if someone’s passionate about their craft they find a way to make it work).

  4. This is an interesting topic, but I have to say I disagree with your argument. I think it’s beneficial that iPhones are becoming more prevalent among photojournalists. Cameras on smartphones make getting the news faster and easier for readers. In order to keep up with today’s technologically-savvy reader, it’s necessary that publications are posing the news online or via social media as soon as it happens. While I do agree that true photojournalism is an art that will never die, I’m glad that reporters are able to live-Tweet late-breaking images to me from their iPhones. It makes me as a reader feel much more connected.

  5. I think there is a time and place for a professional digital camera, and an iPhone camera. When it comes to photojournalism, i think a digital camera is the way to go. There are so many more options and possibilities. But then i consider the fact that… what if a hard hitting, news story comes about and you dont have time to set up your whole camera crew. What if you have 5 minutes to get to the scene and snap the photo that may be on the cover of the news paper the next day? These are the instances where iPhones are ok to use in photojournalism. When the photo and time are more important than the lighting and pixels are.

  6. This is a great topic to cover! I do think that Iphone/smartphone cameras are replacing some photojournalism jobs, but they also make photojournalist’s job more accessible in creating quicker news coverage. Many people enjoy photography as a hobby, and I think as long as that is a popular activity and people are still willing spend a decent amount of money on a nice camera then they will remain relatively active in the news world.

  7. I absolutely love my iPhone, and one of my favorite features is the camera. I think that Apple products have helped people become a better “daily journalist,” and help people bring the news to an online platform without being a journalist per say.

    However, I don’t think that digital cameras are headed out. With my experience on the newspaper, there is a huge disparity between an iPhone picture and one on a DSLR.

    I think that the iPhone provides a tool for the everyday journalist, and can help people capture those unpredicted moments. But I too feel that digital cameras will always be a necessity within professional journalism.

  8. I remember the big discussion regarding the current role of photojournalism when the Chicago Sun-Times laid off the majority of their photographers. There is this whole notion of being a “Journalist-Of-All-Trades” and teaching j-students it all. There’s this expectation to not only write and report but engage via social media, photography and videography.

    While I understand that it is important (and good for self-marketing) to have a wide variety of skills, I do think that it’s an unrealistic expectation that we can do everything on an iPhone.

    With the immediacy of digital media nowadays, I fear that we risk quality of news with timliness. Being able to be the first site to post a picture of something to Twitter on your phone doesn’t mean that you’re job is done. Traditional journalism will always be vital.

  9. I agree with many of the comments already mentioned. I think that there is a time and place for iPhone photography, but it seems unlikely that your average journalist is going to be able to capture the same image that a professional photographer would with a professional camera. The mobility of iPhones makes them great for journalists on the go. You don’t have to lug around a bunch of equipment or worry about settings in order to capture a good picture. However, I think professional photography will always capture the best image.

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