That multi-purpose smartphone camera

A multi-purpose smartphone camera has added convenience to my life as well as pleasure and community and creative play. You too?

Before I bought my first iPhone, I asked my friend Miraz why I needed one. She pondered a minute. Then she said, “All I can say is that it will change the way you live your life.” That turned out to be true for me (and probably for you).

Let’s consider the built-in camera. I used to have a tiny digital camera—pointless, because I rarely took it with me and even then forgot to use it. By contrast, my phone is usually within arm’s reach, because ever since 4 September 2020 I’ve treated it as my paramount tool for communication and security. (That was the date of the first devastating earthquake in Christchurch, where most of my whanau live.) It’s always within reach and fully charged, even when I’m sleeping. Well, nearly always.

So I’ve always got a multi-purpose smartphone camera at my fingertips. One that can instantly share photos or airdrop them to my computer where I use them in multiple ways.

Last week’s photos: useful, meaningful, or fun

Here’s a sample of recent photos on my multipurpose iPhone and my reasons for taking them.

Cat looking at a bunch of lillypilly berries in a vase
Photo to satisfy curiosity. Facebook Friends identified this unfamiliar plant as Syzgium smithii, aka lillypilly or monkey apple.
Photo of dark clouds over dark sea and shoreline, lit by a dramatic sunburst
Arty photo of dramatic landscape, for my aesthetic satisfaction only.
Three happy women outdoors in woolly hats. Faces pixellated.
Happy memories: photos of friends and family are just for us, not for sharing
View through raindrops of a small settlement in the rain
Photo of holiday destination in the rain, for sharing.
Photo of a windowsill with wet stain on fresh plaster
Practical photo for tradies. This wet stain on new plaster dried before the plasterer could see the real thing.
Photo of a section of a very old lattice fence with renmants of blue paint peeling off.
Daft photos of strange objects. Not sure why I keep taking these but I love them…
Back view of NetComm router
Back of my router, taken sight unseen, by reaching behind it. I need these details to reset my printer’s wifi.
Photo of a small pillbox beside a lemon, twice life size. Tiny text is readable.
Photo as magnifying device. I can’t decipher the tiny print in real life but with a high definition photo, no problem!
Scanned poem Write it on your heart by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Write it on your heart/that every day is the best day in the year. He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day"who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety. Finish every day and be done with it./ You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in. /Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;/ begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit/ to be cumbered with your old nonsense./ This new day is too dear,/with its hopes and invitations,/ to waste a moment on the yesterdas.
Scannable, an app for iPhones, uses the camera to scan documents fast and well. The office scanner is in your pocket now.

So yes, my iPhone camera is a multi purpose tool. Pre-smartphone era, photos acted as a visual memory of holidays and people and places. Now they’re all that, plus a research tool, communication tool, utilitarian record, magnifying tool, shopping aid and scanner. It’s not only for creative purposes or social sharing or memories, but for practical, mundane convenience. It’s for work and play, for my social life and my private creative practice.

PS Smartphone camera as crime detector

Another use: sometimes I whip out my phone to snap a dangerous driver. Or someone sneaking around next door who may be a carpenter or roofer or painter or an AirBnB guest … or a burglar! And I fantasise that if someone attacked me I would not only scratch them (for the DNA of course) and kick their shins but would somehow take their photo. A phone camera can be a crime deterrent too. Not that I’ve ever sent a photo to the police. But you never know. Some of us still dream of being Nancy Drew.

I’m very sure you are also using your smartphone camera in ingenious ways. Please do share!

23 thoughts on “That multi-purpose smartphone camera

  1. cedar51 says:

    I’ve just bought a new phone not Apple but it’s has many more capabilities than my old one, lots of extras that I’m still at loss to work with them, Enter the techy who assisted with purchase, the list of “help me” getting longer and he’s agreed to assist again, even though he’s an Apple user.
    But then again, today grappling with our whanau f/b page – finally found the right page to do something technical…

    Computer and mobile phones are rapidly changing and it’s hard to keep abreast with aspects when you are Just Not Tech Minded…

  2. Sadje says:

    Your friend was absolutely right, it does changes your life, making it more convenient.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes, she really understands the impact of this technology. It’s quite an adventure getting to know a new phone, isn’t it?

      1. Sadje says:

        Absolutely so. And take a while to fully master it’s features.

  3. It’s useful for taking photos of recipes in magazines at the library. And who needs to take notes from the whiteboard anymore? Take a photo!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Spot on!

  4. alison41 says:

    Burning question is: What did Ursula think of the lillypilly?

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      She disdain it. Tasteless!

  5. Cathy Cade says:

    I certainly use it more than my digital camera, which I always leave at home. Trouble is, by the time I’ve entered my PIN and found the camera icon, the moment has often passed (especially if it’s a doggy moment).
    The digital option certainly beats the old Brownie though, when you took your film into the chemist and two weeks later paid for a collection of prints of your thumb.
    And – even better – you can delete the ones you don’t like.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I think we all have those too-late episodes. That’s half the fun I think. I’d like to see more of your photos on your blog!

      1. Cathy Cade says:

        Apart from the fields and the dogs – and the pond… I haven’t taken many lately. Certainly not since lockdown. Maybe if I ever get on top of the weeds…

      2. Rachel McAlpine says:

        Garden weeds are photogenic too…

    2. With most android phones you can immediately access the camera by double clicking the power button. Saves missing photo opportunities!

      1. Rachel McAlpine says:

        iPhones have similar options. Cathy, just Google “Quick access to iphone camera” and you will grab that photo-op every time.

      2. Cathy Cade says:

        I didn’t know that – I’ll have to give it a try.

  6. I use my phone’s camera in conjunction with a bank app to deposit checks. I can’t remember the last time I went to a physical bank!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Oh yes, that’s a boon.

  7. I was late coming on board but it’s like carrying a computer with you. Banking — check deposit is my latest find. Brilliant! My camera isn’t too great. My next camera will be a little better.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Just in time for banks to stop accepting checks, as is happening in New Zealand 🥺 Have fun with your new camera.

  8. Miraz says:

    You have a much better memory than me, Rachel! 😀 Yesterday Apple announced improvements in iOS 15 that will allow you to take those whiteboard photos and have the writing converted to text. Smartphones have changed the lives of billions of people.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Who could forget your Cassandra-like words of wisdom! You have always been three steps ahead of the crowd. And the changes continue. Yesterday I realised that I can answer texts on my apple watch: I scratch a word with my finger and apple converts it to text. Seemingly impossible yet it just happens.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    FaceTime is an excellent use of the phone. I also love being able to quickly snap a photo. I also use it for directions when we are lost and to message ahead to the people waiting for us that we are lost.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes, I love that facility. Hate FB but I cannot resist.

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