Mobile photography no longer seeks realism, it seeks to impress (and we love it)
Photography’s greatest ambition for many decades was to portray scenes as faithfully as possible. Details, shadows, blurs that sought to imitate the natural optical effect. At some point it got creative in some areas, but the later years of mobile photography (or should we say ‘computational photography?) this got out of hand.
Photography has come to want to impress. Or ourselves, or those who will see them in our feed from Instagram. Even manufacturers try to shock potential buyers with those photos taken to the extreme. as part of your marketing. Mobile phones already turn night into day, saturate landscapes and create a sweetened version of our face so that for a moment we forget that our face is also imperfect and has wrinkles, moles, pimples or a texture that is definitely not that of Nicole Kidman.
The mode Night Sight of the Google Pixel was one of the great symptoms of a change in trend that was already coming from afar. It was not even the first way to come up with a similar proposal, but it was the most impressive and one that set the course in the industry.
Artificial Intelligence did not come so that our photos portray more accurately and clearly what our eye sees, but to impress with eye-catching results. A nighttime urban landscape at night should look sharp and clear to be true to reality, not have a light gray sky and an atmosphere that emulates that of seven in the afternoon on a cloudy day. Of course, what has triumphed has been the second, not the first, terrain of the traditional cameras.
Anna Martí, the editor of Engadget which has published hundreds of mobile phone reviews, points out an interesting aspect: “This phenomenon has been on the rise for years, although now it is especially appreciated in the mid-range. There the buyer is not looking for the best camera, but something that gives them very colorful and cheaper. They are products with cameras focused on taking photos that will be published on social networks, so the manufacturers have gone for quite saturated photos, more than realistic. “
This is not necessarily bad, it just happens. What’s more: it is reasonable that people who do not want to spend too much money on a terminal do not ask for faithful recreation of a sensor that cannot come close to it due to its budget ceiling. Some examples of mobiles whose reviews of this house commented on their excessive saturation (the most elementary trick to make them more striking): Honor 8X, Huawei Mate 20, P20 Pro, Galaxy S20…
Living in a minority builds personality, and this is well known by photographers who continue to shoot with their traditional cameras, which are already sold for less than 1 for every 100 smartphones marketed. And the gap continues to grow. Simply put, the vast majority of people settle for shooting with their smartphone … and its often unrealistic results.
I insist: this is not bad per se. The arrival of better sensors, software improvements and Artificial Intelligence to mobile phones allows us to obtain barbarous results for certain types of photography and in a device that fits in our pocket. The problem, for those who consider it as such, is that we are getting used to seeing exaggeratedly blue skies, trees that seem illuminated by spotlights or nights turned into luminous sunsets. The purpose of photography is not always to capture reality, but sometimes there is no alternative to the necessarily stunning results. Although the market does not seem to be looking for alternatives. Rather, he is delighted with it.
This can be taken much further if we talk about beauty mode in selfies, but that’s another issue.