Reinventing Photography: Images Are the New Words

Well the photography revolution started with digital photography. Wait, with the iPhone and subsequent smartphones. Wait! With the Internet’s democratization of access to information and anyone’s ability to produce and share content. Or wait: with images’ increasing ability to “communicate.” Writes Snap in its IPO documents:

“In the way that the flashing cursor became the starting point for most products on desktop computers, we believe that the camera screen will be the starting point for most products on smartphones.”

Snapchat means that approach that has changed the way we communicate with imagery. Cameras augment the way we talk. Like a person’s handwriting in early days, highlighting a person’s character. Images are the new handwriting to express a context, what’s happening, feelings.

Snapchat takes it many more steps forward with its Delete by Default. Images are not to be stored. They’re for communicating. There is no baggage. It’s a constant change and going forward.

It started with Apple, which — as an attack on traditional camera makers — chose to buck tradition by drastically simplifying the photographic experience. Apple changed everything. They made it a single tap to get the photo you want — even though, in the background, they’re doing literally one hundred billion operations to make that photo look as good as it possibly can.

The simplicity of the iPhone camera app, writes TIME‘s Olivier Laurent, was a game changer at a time when being a serious photographer typically meant mastering wonky settings like ISO, aperture and shutter speed, not to mention the dozens of other features available on traditional cameras.

It’s no longer text. The image is a primary form of communication today. To share our lives.

As a result, that camera-first approach is changing the function of the photograph itself. It’s not just the historical record of a past event, but it can also be the starting point of communication. “It might not just be the photo itself that’s interesting, but it’s also the context around it,” says Robby Stein, Instagram’s product lead for its Snapchat-like Stories feature. “Whom you’re with. What the weather is. How you’re feeling.”

This literally embodies the “an image says more than a thousand words.” And that’s what makes an image great: to suggest so much more than what’s seen with the eyes. Same with writing. Trying to explain everything makes a text boring. Use half the amount of words and trust the reader will fill in the gaps. That’s what makes a story interesting and come alive.

Snapchat was the first mainstream app to popularize this new format for the photograph. Users can add location tags, mood stickers and filters, as well as other contextualizing information like temperature, time and speed, to photographs and videos. Rival apps have since aped those features.

Before, everyone thought of photography as a way to save memories. Today, photos are for communicating. Images are used for talking.

The best camera is no longer the one that’s with you. The best one is the one that connects.

As smartphones continue to improve beyond their own hardware limitations and through new software updates and APIs, there is no sign this “connected camera” trend will stop.

If you’re interested to learn more about connected photography, watch Snap’s 35-minute roadshow video.

via TIME