What Happens After You Press the Shutter Button?

shutter button magic of smartphones

In the second episode from our smartphone series, we wanted to see if a BIG megapixel number was essential to a great smartphone camera. As you know, it turned out that size matters as much as numbers. To take a memorable shot, though, a quality sensor isn’t enough. Today, we’ll see what happens after we press the shutter button and why that process takes our photography to the next level. 

If most of us have access to a decent smartphone camera, why haven’t we won an IPPA (iPhone Photography Award) or MPA (Mobile Photography Award) already? If it’s just a question of light, sensors and megapixels, we should all exhibit our photos in public, right? Except we don’t, because more often than not, after pressing the shutter button, we find that our images lack the emotion we felt at first sight. Why does that happen and how can you save your photo from the recycle bin?


First, let’s talk about why we press that shutter button in the first place. Studies have shown that we remember about 80% of what we see. But what about the 20% left? Most of us, unconsciously, grab the camera to make sure we recall all the special moments that make our lives. Those images represent a reflection of our emotions and beliefs.

How do we know which moment is camera-worthy? The cerebral cortex tells us. Thirty percent of our cortex is responsible with image processing, while only 3% handles auditory stimuli. Essentially, our eyes capture the light (the crystalline lens focuses the rays while the retina captures them like a camera sensor) but the brain decodes it. The cortex makes sense of what we see and gives us the impulse to press the shutter button.

Only after processing what that information is, the brain can give us the order to take a picture with a camera. Eyes aren’t enough. Similarly, lenses, megapixels, sensors… as good as they are, they only capture a picture. They’re not the reason why we save it in our camera roll or post it on Social Media or even print it to frame it later. No, it’s the possibility of building upon that RAW information that stops us from deleting it.


Smartphone manufacturers are so convinced that the user needs more megapixels that they have forgotten what photography is all about. After using the camera for a while, most consumers won’t be able to differentiate between 20MP and 40MP. They just want to capture a feeling – simply, automatically even. This need has been pushing the industry to end the megapixel war. Sensors and megapixels still count but the time has come to start searching for the “cortex”.

This “cortex” comes into sight in the image processing stage which occurs after the shutter button noise and not only saves, but elevates photos. You’ll recognize it as a mix of computer vision and computational photography that gives our emotions the ideal form. 

How does it work exactly? What magic can it enable? Find out in our next chapter.

This article is written as part of an editorial series presented by FotoNation. 

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