Yesterday Mashable ran an interesting story about how iPhone will soon become the top camera for images uploaded onto Flickr. Previously that spot belonged to the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT, which is basically the DSL-R for beginners.
With each production cycle, mobile phone cameras are getting more sophisticated. Meanwhile it’s incredibly easy to upload a just-taken photo from your sophisticated camera phone onto the web. I recently upgraded my BlackBerry to the 8900, which has a 3.2MP auto-focus camera. Not a lot of megapixels, but the autofocus is what makes it a great camera phone. Taking a photo and uploading it to TwitPic takes less than a minute. The quality of the photos are pretty good, too.
The proliferation of iPhones, BlackBerrys and other camera phone brands has meant more people are photographing the things they do and putting them up on the web. For small and mid-size papers, getting art for a story could be as easy as doing a TwitPic search by keyword and see what pops up. If a user-taken photo of an event pops up, you could contact the author, ask for permission and post it. At worst, they’d ask for a small fee, which when paid would still be a money saver compared to sending a photojournalist to an event.
The same could be said for videos. If a video of an event is uploaded to YouTube or any of the other video hosting sites, a news organisation could contact the person who shot it and ask permission to use it.
As the line between reporter and reader becomes further blurred, technological advances and the will of the people may mean that photojournalists are primarily employed by news organisations who feel they can both print the photos and sell the originals for a nice profit.
If the public is providing printable photos either for free or at a fraction of the cost of employing a photojournalist, that won’t be a terribly difficult decision for any executive editor to make.