Everyone has that photo: The first time they realized their phone's camera was more than just a toy.
For me, it came not long after the release of the original iPhone in 2007. Laura, my then-girlfriend-now-wife, and I stayed up to buy "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" on release day before we started off on a journey to New Jersey from DC.
We were doing the typical road trip thing, singing along to the radio, when I held up my phone and snapped a photo of Laura driving along, all smiles and having fun. By today's standards, the lighting is off, it's a little blurry and generally lower-quality than I'd like.
But it captures the emotion of that moment perfectly.
That weekend I began taking more candids. Of us walking around town. Of the sunset. Of her triumphant moment finishing the book (759 pages in the US edition!).
Sure, cameras had been on phones for years before Apple's came along, but they were typically an afterthought. The photos were hard to share or load onto a computer. The iPhone, with its always-there internet connection and easy email, was a revelation.
But more important, the iPhone put a usable camera in my pocket at any time, which meant I could capture small, intimate, everyday moments of life in a way that most of us rarely had.
Fast-forward 10 years and I've followed along with every iPhone upgrade. I'm not kidding. Every year. (This time, I'm buying the 256GB version of the iPhone X, with enough space to hold more than 80,000 photos.)
At first, it was because I'm a techie and I like to buy new gadgets, just as other people buy new clothes each season.
But now that I have a toddler, I look at the photos I take as more than mere memories. They're time capsules that he'll one day share with his children -- and I like to think even their children after that.
When you think about it that way, paying a whopping $1,149 for a high-end phone is a no-brainer.
My life in photos
I've been a photo geek as long as I can remember. My father, a shutterbug in his own right, encouraged me to experiment with kid-friendly cameras like the Kodak Star 110. A defining feature was its cartridge film, which was easy to load and encased in plastic, meaning I could be a rambunctious kid and still take photos.
Over the years, I had friends who happily lugged their bulky SLRs around the city and took them with them on vacations. But I was more interested in what I would do with small cameras. I wanted to learn how to take the best photos I could without the pain of a weighty camera.
Then came the iPhone. I've been using it nonstop over the past decade for everything from sending photos live from a press conference during my internship at KCBS Radio to taking shots while hiking on my honeymoon in Hawaii to writing stories, shooting video and snapping pictures when I joined The Wall Street Journal.
The iPhone changed the way I capture memories. It's also changed the way I do my job.
A few years ago, my wife and I were cleaning out my parents' stuff when we stumbled across a box filled with photos. They were all haphazard and there wasn't any writing on their backs to tell us who was who and when they were taken.
These were photos I'd never seen before.
There were a few snaps of my mother, who died nearly four years ago. I was thrilled to find pictures of her as a young girl, then as teenager and young adult. But there weren't many.
Most of that box was filled with photos of my younger brother and me from birthday parties and trick-or-treating on Halloween while dressed in Star Trek uniforms. (Red. Command officer.)
Still, I didn't want my future grandchildren to find a box like that and wonder why there wasn't more to document my son's life.
Over the past year and a half, I've indulged in my love of photography, both for fun and to capture little bits of our lives to share with him when he's older. All told, I've taken more than 3,000 photos of him -- and those are just the ones I keep. I toss a bunch as I go.
I've also begun using accessories, like the Moment attachable lenses, which help create fuller and more artistic photos.
The good news is all this effort with the iPhone's camera has helped me take photos that are so good I rarely feel I'd have gotten much better with an expensive Nikon, Canon or Sony camera.
Hopefully, one day, my grandchildren will agree.
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