"I think it's much more difficult now for any particular image to rise to the surface," Lowe said, "because we are so inundated with visual imagery nowadays. ... You are getting the image so quickly, and it's being followed up by so many more images afterward."
Before the Internet, media outlets had limited space and had to be more selective with photographs. The scarcity of photos usually gave people more time to absorb the images and put them into proper perspective.
But with much more space online, the standards have lowered, said Carol Squiers, curator at the International Center of Photography.
Now, it's not uncommon to see blurry cell phone pictures and poor amateur photographs published. And most cell phone photos still have a long way to go if they're to going to be considered anything near iconic.
"Right now, it's pretty hit or miss," Squiers said. "It's pretty haphazard and it's very much focused on the personal. 'Selfies,' I'm sure, far outweigh any other pictures that anybody takes.
"But it's a process. We're all undergoing learning experiments with the digital, even though it's been around for so long."
Squiers cited the recent Boston Marathon bombings as an example when most amateurs and their cell phones fell short of delivering high-quality images. Many photos were taken on the run and came out blurry or crooked.
"It's very easy to take a picture; it is not very easy to take a good picture," Squiers said. "And it is even harder to take a picture that lasts through time."