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Social Photographers Are The Most Creative—And Facebook Knows This

Prediction: Apple(Face)Book Will Rule Social Creativity

I’ve often said and written about how the greatest photographers in the world are those that understand the three C’s, comprehension, communication and creativity.  Though I borrowed some of that ideology from the late, great photographer Dean Collins, I don’t think either one of us were referring to “smartphones” when it came to the communication and creativity part, but according to the latest stats, smartphones are fast becoming the primary camera of the world population and will soon overtake the point-and-shoot market. Facebook knows this better than any social media channel and is strategically becoming the first, social telecommunication media channel via visual, social networking.

Model in Moab

Chandra is an avid smartphone user in her busy world as a 23-year old commercial pilot and model.

As my mentor, Robert Farber told me once when we were both attending the annual Photo Marketing Association (PMA) tradeshow down in Orlando, Florida, “There are no secrets in photography because ultimately it’s still up to the photographer’s creative eye.” Well it’s no secret, smartphones are crippling the camera manufacturer giants like Nikon, Canon, Sony and Olympus as the latter shipped 10 percent fewer cameras this past January than the year before while the increase in smartphone ownership and photography apps are inspiring the creative eye like never before when it comes to photography. It’s almost though a new photographer is born the minute someone purchases a smartphone.

Nielsen released statistics this past February after surveying 20,000 mobile phone owners and determined that over half of all mobile phones are smartphones. The browser Opera followed in March with a study of 34,000 of their users and determined that over half, in some countries, used only mobile devices to access the Internet, not personal computers. Nielsen also sated that as of March 2012, 50.4 per cent of American mobile subscribers have a smartphone vs. a dumbphone and eMarketer estimates by the end of this year there will be over 116 million smartphone users in the U.S. alone and by 2016 three in five consumers will have a smartphone. What is interesting in all this data research is that low-income people, the fattest part of the consumer pyramid, can afford smartphones way before they can afford costlier digital cameras and home-based computer systems. The smartphone provides the camera connected to the Internet without the need of the cable or Internet service provider too.

Bloomberg followed the next month with “…digital-camera shipments are expected to fall 4.3 percent this year to 115.2 million units, the lowest level since 2009, data compiled by IHS show. By contrast, smartphone shipments will surge 35 percent to 642 million units…Japanese camera makers such as Nikon and Canon will bear the brunt of market shift, which has some similarities to the evolution from film-based to digital photography.”

Smartphones bring something to the consumer that digital cameras, both point-and-shoot along with DSLR’s don’t, the ability to use millions of apps, plus texting and voice to communicate with those usually in front of our cameras, the ones we love, plus our close friends. Let’s face the reality of today—we’ve become an app-oriented society thriving on convenience, communication and social networking based on telecommunication products. There are no smoke signals, Morse code, typewriters, beepers or rotary phones, heck most people don’t have home phones anymore, it’s all handheld communication devices, iPads, iPhones or smartphones, the future we grew up watching on black and white television sets is here, now. The telegram society of yesterday is today’s Instagram world and Facebook is betting on it.

Instagram, which was originally just an iPhone app, burst into the other smartphone markets just before Facebook purchased them for a billion dollars. Facebook is attributed as the biggest repository of photos online and their purchase of Instagram was like making Bill Gates the new CEO of Apple while still being the majority shareholder of Microsoft.

Instagram Photo

Photo taken with my iPhone during a Moab photography workshop. Square format and monochrome results are from the Instagram app.

Facebook sees the future and they’ve subtly announced, via their Brazil fan page this month (May 3, 2012) that they’re expanding their Facebook mobile app to include the ability to play with filters when it comes to uploading photos to Facebook. “As part of our efforts to establish a better Facebook experience in all types of phones, we are very happy to announce that the Facebook application to any device now has filters sepia and black and white to your photos. Take a picture, play with the new filters and share them with your friends directly from your application.”

Facebook is finally showing what their true intentions were with the purchase of Instagram, it’s not integration, it’s application of the core app features (Instagram) to their core business (Facebook)—providing their almost one billion users the ability to become more socially creative with their smartphones than ever offered in the history of the world. Kudos to Facebook as they fast pick up where Steve Jobs left off—not as visionaries, but social visionaries.

Facebook didn’t need to pay a billion dollars for 35 million users, that it’s safe to say, were already Facebook members—remember, Instagram is an “app” and the first 25 million were all iPhone users which more than likely were already using their Facebook app. Besides, Facebook is nearing one billion users, so why spend a billion to gain 35 million? The initial 35 million Instagram users were the guinea pigs that proved the Instagram experiment—they grounded the theory that visual socializing through photography is viable and impacts the human psyche. Facebook itself has proved how we as humans hunger for “reassurance” not just from our family and friends, but from the public too. There is a “like” button for a reason and Facebook would cause chaos if they ever implemented a “don’t like” button. (hint: YouTube). Everyone becomes a rock star of sorts on Facebook, albeit, some have more followers (fans) than others, and with the Instagram integration our cameras now become mini-network-television-cameras delivering the “show” or “news” via an individual’s Facebook “channel.”

If I could give Facebook some advice, I’d tell them to shift their focus now on purchasing as much Apple stock as possible for a friendly invasion. After all, Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO stated at the annual shareholder’s meeting this February, “I’ve always thought that the two companies could do more together.” Remember TimeWarner/AOL? Why not Apple/Facebook? Makes sense and besides, AppleBook sounds more user creative and social friendly than MicroGoogle. The irony of it all, the co-founder and CEO of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, worked at one point for Google’s Corporate Development team.

Apple iPad 3

Apple revolutionized the way we communicate, Facebook socially brings it all together.

The writing is on the wall when it comes to creativity as there are more non-professional photographers carrying smartphones that exercise their creativity socially than professional photographers carrying DSLR cameras. Between apps and soon the integration of Instagram filters with Facebook, over a billion people will have creative, social potential—watch out Google, Facebook has trumped you on that move when it comes to smartphones and social media—or what I like to call, SOTELME, social telecommunications media.

Traditional photographers take note, it’s not about the camera or equipment you currently use, obviously you have to know how to use it properly, but ultimately what makes a great photograph is the photographer behind the camera and there are some top photographers that have taken “iPhoneography” to the next level like Chase Jarvis and Jack Hollingsworth.  Heck, today’s iPhone has a resolution almost twice that then when the professional Nikon D2H DSLR camera was introduced many years ago and Nokia recently introduced a smartphone it claims has the resolution five times that of the Apple iPhone 4s.

Today’s smart phone apps, especially those for the iPhones, are bringing out the photographic creativity in people like never before and Facebook understands this fanatic phenomena. If we’re not using “Lomo-fi, Kelvin, Toaster,” or some other Instagram creative photography filter, it’s an HDR app or something similar. In fact, I will go out on the limb today and state that there is more creativity proportionately among smartphone photographers than those that own digital, single-lens, reflex cameras (DSLRs).

Personally I think understanding equipment (comprehension) is the easiest part of the equation, followed by communication skills to your subject, but when it comes to creativity, some have it, some don’t, though the principals are teachable, apps make it instantly user friendly. Facebook is on top of it and you can add visual communication to the “social” list of media, networking and marketing. If Dean Collins were alive today he’d probably say, “The greatest photographers in the world are those that understand their equipment, creativity, communication and social telecommunication mediums.”

As always I close by saying, don’t forget the men and women in our armed services for it was the military that invented the Internet (ARPANET) and that same military ensures our social freedoms. God Bless them, their families and friends, Rolando.

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4 Comments

  1. what a great post. i admire you’re thinking here.
    it’s great to see photographers, like yourself, working through these crucial and critical issues.

    what a great time to be a working and playing photographer!!!!

    thanks again

    • Thanks Jack, coming from you is an honor and yes, it’s an interesting time in the history of photography!

  2. I think you are absolutely right. I have too much pride in my work to post it in the resolution facebook allows and have it look like crap, but you are sadly right.

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