Friday Foto Talk: Photography Today – The Great (and not so great)   11 comments

Rocky Butte (Portland) and its photogenic lampposts.

Rocky Butte (Portland) and its photogenic lampposts.

I’ll be doing a series of short posts on what I like and don’t like about the current state of photography.  It won’t be every Friday; boy would that be a mistake!   But occasionally I’ll let my opinions fly, starting today with how easy it is to get started in photography.

Desert indian paintbrush in bloom, Utah.

Desert indian paintbrush in bloom, Utah.

LIKES:  Today we have digital, and that has made a big difference in the ease of getting into photography.  Although I don’t think that digital camera gear is especially cheap, I do agree the price points at which you can enter are always expanding.  Especially when the plentiful amount of used gear is considered, there is room for most anyone with some spare money to start shooting.

  • DSLR (and now mirrorless) cameras, while they may not be much easier to operate than film SLRs, are much easier to use to get good exposure & focus and to control contrast and other basics of a good image.


  • I love not worrying about how much film I have, and the experimentation that fosters.  I don’t know what I’d do if I had to limit the number of shots I take.  I like choosing to limit them from time to time, but I don’t want to be forced to.


  • The ability to control the process from capture to finish (without building a darkroom and exposing yourself to chemicals) is a great advance.  If we had to do all our own post-processing, this development might represent a “tyranny of choice”, but there are plenty of options for shipping out your images for outside post-processing.

Weather in the Columbia River Gorge.

Spirit Falls, Washington.

Spirit Falls, Washington.

DISLIKES:  This increased ease of entry has led to many many relatively new photographers.  While this isn’t at all bad by itself, it does lead to quite a few unfortunate byproducts:

  • My number one dislike is the illusion that to produce images of professional quality (whatever that means), all you need to do is follow a formula, one that begins with buying the latest and greatest gear.  Yes the increased ease of use inherent in digital photography means you can advance quite rapidly.  But I strongly believe it remains extremely difficult to become a great photographer.  That’s because it’s about much more than gear, technical knowledge, or even technique.
Two snapping turtles appear to canoodle in a Florida canal.

Two snapping turtles appear to canoodle in a Florida canal.


  • An increase in the number of ‘teachers’ of photography is probably contributing to my prime dislike above.  I was a teacher (of science) for a number of years, and while I do not think one needs to go to school to become a good teacher, I do think there are far too many teaching photography who don’t bother to learn a bit about how to teach.  Rather they are simply doing it because of demand and the fact it is one of the few ways to make money doing travel, nature and landscape photography.


  • I also cringe at some of the things these self-described experts pass along.  Just one example:  too many don’t seem to realize photography is an art form and needs to be practiced as such.  It’s not simply a way to create images that are similar to theirs, those that get a lot of likes and ‘wows’ online.


Bella the Magnificent!


  •  While I like the fact that easy entry has put a camera in the hands of those who may have never tried, and who happen to have great natural talent, it unfortunately allows many others to participate in the boom.  For instance, I don’t think all the gear heads and people more interested in slick post-processing should be calling themselves serious photographers.  Now before you think me a snob, I think there is plenty of room for the casual and the serious, the amateur and the pro.  But there does seem to be dilution going on among those who call themselves artists.


  • The strange combination among us humans of competitiveness and the desire to belong (and thus follow others), means that popular photography has become a game of follow the leader (who is getting all the ‘likes’).  If you’ve read this blog a bit, you know how I feel about copying and following what is popular on the web.  I know it is just us being us, but it squelches genuine artistic impulse.


  • For pros, the flood of new photographers has meant an erosion in the dollar value of their photography.  This is a minor dislike for me, but I certainly don’t like being asked to give away my work to those who can afford it, or having to cut prices just because a bunch of photographers (who don’t need it for income) have inexplicably allowed their images to be used for pennies on the dollar.

Okay, now it sounds like I’m ranting, so I’ll stop.  Otherwise you all might think I’m just an old curmudgeon!  Have a great weekend!

Dusk on the Columbia River.




11 responses to “Friday Foto Talk: Photography Today – The Great (and not so great)

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  1. You seem to cover most of the complaints true photographers have. I can only add that thanks to modern camera engineering the base technical quality level is way higher than before. However the best photographers will always be those that can get new interesting subjects or radically new takes on existing ones. Among those, the ones that can market themselves well will become, as always, the “famous” ones.

    • Agreed! There are a few famous photogs. who’ve had a good marketing team working on their behalves post-mortem. But the modern “famous” ones are all great at social media marketing. But quality is quality no matter the era you work in.

  2. I’d think the “true” artists set themselves apart with their unique eye of detail, angle, color, form and their inspired interpretation of a theme, the way it hasn’t been “done” before, or the way it is typically taught. Different people are drawn to different things. But maybe I would think differently if I relied on photography for income?

    • I agree one must make concessions if relying on it for income, but I see people going into it with a replication mindset, and that bothers me. After all, amateurs (I consider myself one) have the luxury of practicing it as a real art. That’s the main thing that bothers me actually, the messed up teaching of photography to those who should be carrying on the best tradition of it, not being indoctrinated to support the marketing-crazy boom that’s going on.

  3. Lots of people like to follow and follow the likes. I guess that’s one of the reasons I read your blog – you’re not likely to do it. A little curmudgeon is good for the soul sometimes.

  4. It really seems you would like all of us new to the hobby to just disappear. I may be new to DSLR photography but I have owned cameras since I was 12 years old. And I don’t want to be a pro or even do “professional quality ” photos. But as a retiree, after raising 5 children and having been a military wife for20 years, it’s my turn to learn and take better quality photos. Hopefully you don’t really want us to go away, many of us are just discovering a new or old hobby to pursue.

    • I’m sorry that’s what you took from it, that people should go away. Definitely not what I meant. I’m mostly just advocating for artistic honesty. Actually I’ve also been disappointed that not enough people have taken me to task as you just did. Guess I need to be more controversial, haha! Thanks for your comment.

  5. I appreciate your thoughtful observations and insight. Despite the fancy gear and post processing doctoring their is a quality that sets an artist apart from those who simply snap pictures. Your work is an excellent example of what an insightful and hard working artist can create. Your work is beautiful and thank you for sharing your knowledge and inspiring us with your images. Best wishes.

  6. Whats right is that everyone is out having fun taking pictures and doing edits to their own taste. Whats wrong is not enough people are having that fun, lets get the whole world having some fun…click…click.

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