Anyone else tired of people sometimes getting better pictures with their phone cameras than you get with your dedicated DSLR? I'm at an event. Everyone is shooting. Even in low light conditions it seems people often get better pictures than I do. regardless of what mode I m shooting (Auto, Program, A, S or full manual). Is this just happening to me? Have the phone cameras surpassed the DSLR cameras?
The most important ingredient in photography with an advanced camera (dSLR, MILC...) is knowledge. The most important ingredient in smartphone photography is the huge team of engineers behind the camera in the phone!
Apple, Google, and the other Android phone companies have HUNDREDS of engineers tackling the challenge of improving smartphone photography. Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, Pentax, et. al. have a lot fewer! Combined, all those camera companies probably have fewer engineers than Apple has working on the iPhone cameras and software.
When a camera manual is over 500 pages, and it takes 20-30 minutes per page to REALLY absorb, understand, and begin to apply what's on every page, the average camera buyer's eyes just glaze over. They "set the damned thing on full automatic" and pray. They don't realize how "dangerous" that is to their expectations of the precision instrument they bought!
There are so many factors that make up a great photograph. The technical ones require a deep understanding of the principles behind the technology. We have to know when the camera is going to work for us, and when it might work against us, and compensate for that. We have to understand the basic relationships:
• Among ISO and Aperture and Shutter Speed and Light Level
• Among ISO and Dynamic Range and Signal-to-Noise ratio
• Among aperture and focal length and depth of field
• Among shutter speed and action stopping or blurring ability
Then we have to know about:
• Focal length choice vs. sensor format and magnification
• Zooming with focal length vs "zooming" by changing the distance from camera to subject (i.e.; focal length controls magnification, while distance controls perspective)
• Sensor dimensions vs. "megapixel count" (sensor density) vs. resolution vs. noise
• How the camera's light meter works, in all of its modes
• How the camera's autofocus works, in all of its modes
• When to save raw files for post-processing, and when to use JPEGs straight from the camera
... and hundreds more finer points I don't have time to list.
Most people don't want to deal with that bottomless pit of potentials and 'gotchas', so they just use their smartphones and play "Happy Idiot". Not that there's anything wrong with that!
It's always been a challenge to understand and apply the principles of photography.
Before automation, there were snapshooters and photographers, and a huge divide between them. Good photography had high barriers to entry — expensive equipment, and extensive knowledge. It took serious study, thought, training, and experience.
For about 40 years after the dawn of camera automation, amateurs made SOME better photos, but often many worse images, because they did not understand what the camera was doing and why they needed to use a different approach.
Now, the average smartphone can produce results "good enough" to meet or beat the quality we used to get from the lower tier of professional photographers. Good is the enemy of great... Photos are free after you buy the phone and pay the monthly bill. So people photograph everything, and composition is easier and cheaper to learn. We always have our phones with us, so photography has been democratized and has become a universal visual language.
On the artistic side of photography, we need to understand:
• The effects of Light on subject appearance
• Manipulation of technology to produce our desired visual effects
• Point of view
• Purpose and "vision"
• Basic principles, methods, and guidelines for composition
• Thinking in B&W vs. thinking in color
• Moment, perspective, and point of emphasis
• Sense of history, preserving memories, teaching moments, political influence...
...and a lot more.
Is it difficult and daunting to learn this stuff? Perhaps. But take it one day at a time, grasshopper! If you are serious about photography, it will take time, effort, inspiration, purpose, practice, honest critiques, hurt feelings, getting over it, and trying again!
In short, Photography is a vast, deep pool of light we throw money, time, and energy into. Sometimes, we have something wonderful to share.
It is unlikely you will open the box, charge the battery, pop in a memory card, mount the lens, and make great photographs on your first day of owning an adjustable camera... UNLESS you have prior experience.