Now is better than good

In photography, immediacy is now far more important than quality.

Waiting for food like humans wait for photos to be shared.
At one time, the rule of thumb was “The best camera is the one you have with you.” Now, the best camera is the one that shares its results most quickly.

I had the pleasure of having a significant life event recently. I got married. It was a lovely ceremony, done in a style that was distinctly perfect for me and my new spouse.

Unfortunately, like many important events, due to timing and logistics, many of the people we wanted to share it with couldn’t make it in person. Photography and technology promised to save the day.

Capturing the wedding was an excellent photographer we hired and the style of her portfolio fit our taste well. Meanwhile, the audience was busy with their smartphone cameras.

My wife and her family embrace social media to stay connected despite being spread across the country, and photos were rapidly available on Facebook. We even had a live FaceTime feed for those who wanted a more animated experience, but it was Facebook photos that generated the most buzz for our family and friends.

The quality of the images posted to Facebook during and soon after the event varied, but nearly universally they were worse than what a professional would produce. It wasn’t due to lack of skill on the part of the amateurs. The venue was a high floor of a Manhattan boutique hotel, and expansive windows presented an overwhelming lighting challenge for the dozens of smartphones present.

But image quality didn’t matter. The first photos of the event were the most important. By the time we got a few really excellent photos from the professional photographer early the next morning, most of our social and family circles had already vicariously experienced the event.

Left: A lower quality, but immediately sharable smartphone image. Right: A higher quality, but significantly delayed professional photo.

I noticed a similar phenomenon at Thanksgiving dinner. My Canon DSLR, which produces vastly superiors images to any smartphone, has almost become a relic of the past. Everyone was busy documenting the event using Instagram and Facebook, and wide aperture silky smooth bokeh was simply not a substantial improvement compared to ease of sharing.

The DSLR was able to redeem itself somewhat. The Canon 6D has the ability to pair with a smartphone over WiFi, but the procedure for getting the images share was clunky and involved switching my iPhone from the house’s WiFi to the camera’s, transferring the images to the phone, AirDrop-ing to another phone, the eventually sharing to Facebook and Instagram.

A DSLR lets you transform a mundane subject into something visually appealing, but it doesn’t matter if it’s not immediate and with a powerful, personal subject.

There seems to be a need for making higher quality cameras more immediate.

The notion of an Android powered camera with LTE would have been laughable a few years ago, but now it seems to potentially satisfy a real need if well executed. An SD card that reliably and seamlessly transfers to an iPhone instantly, would be perfect as well, but this might take Apple’s cooperation to work well.

Apple? Canon? Nikon? Help please.