Our correspondent from across the pond, Julian Jackson, has been thinking about mobile phone photography. Serendipitous in view of the upcoming Panel session on all things Social Media at Visual Connections Chicago!
Mobile photography has taken off. This year Shutterstock has had a 40% increase in submissions of images taken with phones or tablets. iPhonography – for want of a better word – has been around for a while, but as cameras on devices got better it has become a part of the photographic industry. Probably the impetus came from two areas – instant images from phones for the news, and the advertising industry’s latching on to the connotations of immediacy and “reality” which came from the less-polished quality of phone images.
Things have moved on. Many “proper” photographers have ditched their DSLRs in favour of a phone. Alan Capel, Head of Content at Alamy saw “A couple of years ago we decided we’d be made if we didn’t take advantage of the fantastic pictures that had been taken on phones – cool creative work and interesting reportage where someone was at the right place at the right time.” Alamy created their Stockimo App two years ago to facilitate this – users can upload their images directly to Alamy from their phone which makes it a lot easier – previously the shots would have to be transferred to a computer to be uploaded.
The content is not niche. Keren Sachs, Director of Content at Shutterstock says that the images she is seeing now are across the board from all different types of images. Those are not just shot on Apple products but all kinds of mobile platform. Shutterstock launched their Android App in December 2013, which made it very easy for mobile photographers to keyword and upload their content from their mobile phone. Keren says, “Now the options are open for anyone who owns a phone to become a photographer. We are seeing more people adding their content to our site. We take any images that pass our quality tests. Advertisers are using these images more and more because they like the look and feel. We don’t categorize the imagery as mobile or not mobile because the lines are so blurred.”
The iPhone photography world would probably not have taken off so quickly without Instagram. Since its launch in 2010 the “Twitter for Photos”, has grown 400 million active monthly users. It pioneered easy uploading for photos, and is a social market leader with celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez posting their images on the site. As magazines decline, the need for high res images has been overtaken by the immediacy of smaller, more adaptable content.
Alamy’s Stockimo images are on the site alongside conventional camera images. About 50% of submitted images are rejected for various reasons, usually technical flaws. Alan Capel says that they are selling very well, and not at reduced prices. Buyers don’t think they are an inferior product, and the smaller file sizes are not a handicap for the sort of media these images are used for.
Putting “stockimo” in the Alamy search engine will pull up purely mobile content.
Other agencies have taken a different approach, for example Arcangel’s Smart Collection is carefully curated and edited mobile imagery, which has a deliberately arty feel, aiming at a bohemian audience.
The exponential growth of the sector, and its sales, shows that there is definitely a future for mobile imagery. Keren Sachs says, “It is changing the way people are producing content and allowing more people to become photographers. The content has to be very strong to stand out in a market like that.”