The digital screen in front of me says that it’s 3:32 AM London time; I am 38,000 ft above Greenland on my taxi between NYC and Milan. My laptop is plugged into the airline power system, I am about to order another whiskey, and I wish they had free Wi-Fi Internet access on the airplane like yesterday outside in Bryant Park, NYC.
For many years I carried a Nikon F around every day so I was ready to capture the next ‘Love the Living of Life’ moment to be able to share with others. However, in 1999 I stopped carrying my camera because it was additional weight in my bag. It wasn’t being used often enough to justify carrying it along with the laptop, PDA, cell phone, and associated cords.
A packed bag is the norm for working photographers but my reality was not for working in the field but rather trying to develop new digital imaging solutions. It wasn’t a lack of interest to make pictures but my mind was focused elsewhere.
However, every couple of weeks I would get frustrated that I missed a moment that I would have normally captured with my camera and communicated with others.
Now, the problem is solved, I have a cell phone camera.
Photography means many things to many people at many times. It’s a means of communicating at its core. People use photos to visually communicate with others about a vacation, a bike ride, a news event, a celebrity, or about your “totaled” car to the insurance company. The process of visually communicating is in for a drastic shift due to the arrival of cell phone cameras.
Professional photographers and consumers around the world have finally started to realize the benefits of making pictures digitally but it’s not going to compare to how wireless photography will revolutionize how people make, share, sell and communicate with pictures.
Nowadays, people around the world don’t leave their homes without their designer cell phones unlike with cameras. Professional photographers usually carry their cameras around everyday but there are times even they leave the house without their camera – but all take their cellular phones.
I had been waiting to get my first cell phone camera for years. Professional photographers say they are overwhelmed with the tools of their trade which need to be totted around like; a laptop, PDA, 2-4 camera bodies, lenses, flashes, film, batteries, smart cards, power cords, adaptors, satellite phones, back up hard drives, etc.
Carrying a combined cellular phone and camera is a totally different mindset than meandering around making pictures with a typical camera.
Even after buying my new cell camera, I continued to get frustrated that I was missing moments worth capturing because I didn’t have my camera and then at the last possible second - I would realize that I could grab my cell camera and capture the moment. Now not only could I capture the moment but I can also instantly share that moment with someone around the globe by sending it as a MMS within seconds. Once again I am ready to make pictures wherever I go as I used to do with my analog camera.
On the way to the office the other day, I was making pictures with my cell camera. I came across a war protest that was about to happen… I could have had the scoop but was late for a meeting so I couldn’t wait around. It will definitely be easier for the masses to capture news events when photographers are not present but the quality and legitimacy of their photos will always be an issue.
There are many people that I frequently brainstorm with about the present and future of digital imaging for consumers, professionals and businesses. Below are some of my more recent conversations that add perspective to how cell phone camera devices will revolutionize the photography industry.
I am often talking about technology before it becomes commonplace and that is either a curse, blessing, insight or maybe all of the above. This time it’s no joke – wireless photography and more importantly, cell phone cameras are going to revolutionize how consumers and professional photographers make, share, distribute, sell and communicate with photos.
It has been fantastic to experience the transition from analog to digital photography in the last 10 years. In 1993 I was transmitting digital photos to SABA’s agents around the world with an ISDN line, 24 Hours in Cyberspace in ’95, then I created the first Internet broadband photography portal in ’97, today it’s cell cameras and tomorrow it will probably be photo blogs, personalized digital distribution and new marketing solutions for photographers - but that’ll have to wait until future articles.
The other day I was discussing with David Friend via email how cell phones with digital cameras will revolutionize photography and he wrote the following, which I totally agree with:
There are many examples of how businesses are using wireless photography to do their job better, faster and to save money. Insurance companies are sending people into the field to make and instantly transmit accident photos to corporate headquarters. The other day someone told me a story of a copier mechanic talking on a walky talkie to his office because he couldn’t figure out which plug he should adjust – they kept on going back and forth but the descriptions were not accurate enough. All of a sudden someone offered their cell camera to make a picture of the machine, asked for the office email address, emailed the photos from the cell and within moments the office said ‘WOW’ adjust that dirty red cord next to the blue cord to fix the copier.
The image quality of these cell cameras is 640 X 480 at best but we should have three megapixel cell cameras on the market within 18 months. Anyone who is complaining about the quality of today’s cameras are not focusing on the critical technological and cultural advances that are knocking at our door. Quality is a minor issue today and will be solved in time, as professional digital cameras are now good enough for publishing high quality books.
Additionally, most consumers tell endless stories and share tons of laughter from photos that are barely legible. These cell cameras will not replace professional cameras but they will be another tool just a like a web site, a wide-angle lens or analog film.
Can you tell which of the following
photo strips were made with my cell camera?
I was trading emails with a photography friend and he was a bit outraged with my email that the BBC was asking their online audience to submit photos from cell phones, digital and analog cameras from Iraq war protests around the world. I thought this was a fantastic way for the BBC to develop a more global interactive online community but he took the following different perspective:
I agree that the BBC probably had different agendas
from saving money to interactive programming but I strongly believe
that photographers shouldn’t feel threatened by consumer photographers
because the creative eye and skills of most professional photographers
are far superior. Publishers will always need them to succeed.
I finally arrived in Heathrow at 9AM only to have a 5-hour lay over before my flight to Milan but thank goodness for the business center so that I could re-connect my veins to an Internet IV.
I just had an interesting chat via instant messenger with Damon Kiesow who is a Sr. Photo Editor working the early morning News shift today at America Online in Virginia.
Cell cameras will revolutionize the photography industry because they can instantly share photos from your camera to people around the world! The other day, a friend said that she had hundreds of photos that no one has seen because she is too busy with two young kids to even think about printing, uploading, and emailing the photos. The reality is that digital photography hasn’t made it easier to visually communicate, yet... The photography industry is in the first inning of the first game of a long competitive season.
Many industry analysts are forecasting that camera phones will outsell "standalone" digital cameras in the next couple of years!
Cell cameras will only successfully revolutionize the photography industry if it is simple to make and share photos with these new devices. Additionally, today’s pricing models with the wireless companies have to become cheaper to get everyone addicted like I am. It is so much fun to make pictures with my cell phone and then instantly share them with others around the world.
If the above is not enough to convince you that we are on the precipice of another major transition in the photography industry then the following two stories might help.
After arriving in Milan, I picked up my cell phone camera that I wasn’t able to use in the states because of Italian pre-paid service issues. Within one hour of using my cell camera again in Italy, I had sent 5 new photos as mms messages to friends around the world showing that I was back in Italy. Cell cameras are addictive!
I was at the Blue Note Jazz Hall in Milan and I wanted to share the moment with a friend in California who is a Jazz musician. I made a photo with my cell camera, recorded a couple seconds of audio from the show and then sent the photo, audio and a short text as a MMS minutes later.
Everyone at my table and the neighboring table were amazed, jealous and asked in multiple languages what cell phone camera they should buy! In conclusion, carpe diem and figure out how you should leverage wireless camera devices in order to either visually communicate easier and/or increase revenue for your photography business.