Chicago Sun-Times fires its photographers; smartphone pics may supplement freelancers

I capture photos all the time with my smartphone, but for serious photography nothing beats a DSLR. Still, there's a lot more to good photojournalism than the physical camera.

Chicago Sun-Times fires photographers, smartphone pics may supplement freelancers
Image: Nokia

We have all seen the decline in newspaper and print media as our world changes to one where information is consumed online.

Yesterday, the Chicago Sun-Times laid off its photo staff. On Twitter, the wife of one of those fired stated that reporters would be using their smartphone cameras, likely to supplement photos and videos from freelancers.

The official statement from the Chicago Sun-Times, quoted below, doesn't specifically state that reporters will be using their phones. We don't have all the details of what was said in the firing process so I won't make assumptions that all future photos will come from smartphones.

I use my smartphones for photos all the time and they have gotten better over the years. However, a smartphone cannot come close to comparing with a DSLR when it comes to capturing details, clarity, low light shots, and scenes from any distance. People want thin, pocketable phones and smartphone cameras are good primarily for social networks and online sharing.

The real concern people have with the broad firings is that many of these professional photographers have connections and access throughout the city that a freelance photographer may not provide. The Chicago Tribune posted an article in response to the firings that details many reasons why such a broad sweep doesn't make much sense. As that article states, reporters and photographers take quite different approaches to covering a story; therefore, having reporters take photos is not going to give you the same quality story.

The Chicago Sun-Times statement:

The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news. We have made great progress in meeting this demand and are focused on bolstering our reporting capabilities with video and other multimedia elements. The Chicago Sun-Times continues to evolve with our digitally savvy customers, and as a result, we have had to restructure the way we manage multimedia, including photography, across the network.

I agree that people are looking for more video content and in that regard smartphones are doing well at capturing high-definition action, arguably better than capturing still images. A device like the Nokia Lumia 920 or 928 with optical image stabilization really can capture great video, but not at any real distance from the photographer.

We are moving fast to an online media society, but beyond the camera I think it is important to still have people specially trained and experienced in photography along with us to help capture and tell the full story.