Appreciation of Professional Quality Photography

August 02, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

I recently upgraded my cell phone. My old phone developed lots of glitches and overheating issues, so it became time for change. My new Phone is a Samsung Galaxy S7. Here are the specs. The phone packs 32GB of internal storage that can be expanded up to 200GB via a micro-SD card. As far as the cameras are concerned, the Samsung Galaxy S7 packs a 12-megapixel primary camera on the rear and a 5-megapixel front shooter for selfies. Pretty amazing right? This gadget fits nicely in my pocket, it's a phone, calendar, contact list, web browser, and does lots of other neat stuff. It also has replaced the handheld snapshot camera. Cell phones and their cameras are everywhere, and almost no event that transpires goes unphotographed. The day of the film snapshot camera is gone. How has this passing of film to digital effected us?

 

With film, we were limited to 24/36 exposures per roll. Also limiting our shot selection was the cost of development, and the trip to our nearby film lab. A benefit of film was that we held in our hands paper prints of the event we photographed, and saved them in various ways for later viewing. With digital photography the only thing that limits our shot count is our ability to save the files. On average, our personal shot count has risen dramatically. My guess is that the number of prints that get printed and saved is a much lower percentage than that of film. Also I suspect that the way people save digital files varies greatly and leaves many digital captures at risk of loss. The ease of making a photo with today's cell phones encourages photo making, at the cost of understanding what it takes for a camera to make a photograph. The obvious response is "who cares?".  Most people are interested in the image, not the tech stuff that made it.   My observation of personal photography, (family snapshot photos), is that there is a tendency today to photograph an event, rather than live the event. The proliferation of casual photo making has had a numbing effect of sorts, a lessening of appreciation of professional quality work. There are also advantages to working digital that are undeniable. We are limited only by our imagination as to how to use our images. Post processing has become easier, and the result is that the quality of our work has improved dramatically. We are able to share our work widely anywhere there are internet connections, we can produce hardcover book albums that are coffee table quality, and tell stories in new and innovative ways.

 

As with any advancement in technology there are benefits as well as trade offs. Digital capture and printmaking have made photography an everyday event. We photograph ourselves doing all sorts of everyday activities, including the meals we eat. We also document life events extensively. What we've lost I believe is the appreciation of professional quality photography. It is common to hear remarks about work being "Photo shopped", even when that is not the case. The photographic skill that was developed with years of training gets diminished, it was the software or that expensive DSLR right? I don't hear much talk about what paintbrush was used to make an oil painting. The tendency is to be reluctant to purchase a well done image. Ironically, we are exposed to and use photographs more than ever, and at the same time devalue it. In the early 1960's the age of the fully manual camera came to an end. It was common before that for photographers to use cameras that did not have light meters. Focusing skills were important, as well as knowledge of light and shutter speed. Tripods were a must for any serious photograph due to slow ASA (ISO) film speed. When ISO speeds increased without image degradation, the camera left the tripod for the most part. The style of work changed to a more casual and organic type composition. Working digitally has also changed photography for the good as well as to its detriment. This transformation is ongoing and increasing in speed. My hope is that somewhere along the way well made professional quality images are valued for their significance as art.


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