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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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!