Photography is a growing passion for many people. In the advent of digital photography, with auto focus and mega pixel rate reaching the millions, it is becoming increasingly difficult to take a bad photograph. This has lead to camera wielding maniacs at every opportunity and numerous websites and online communities that store billions of images that the picture taking precious dump on there every day. Where has the love gone?
I consider myself a photographer, in a true sense. I'm all geeked up over it, I know my apertures and F stops, the types of film speeds needed for certain shoots, I know the meaning of the word manual. I own various lenses and have a range of cameras that use film, yes, the celluloid reels that capture a hardcopy image of the world around us. I have a medium format camera and an old Kodak Brownie. I still get to take a picture and have no idea how it actually looks until I pick up the images after processing. What a feeling that is, the anticipation of the most beautiful shot that has ever been taken mixed with the fear that the roll came out blank and that those one-off moments are lost forever.
These are all things the digital age of photography is missing. Sure it is great that the camera has become an accessible tool for the masses, but it is lacking a quality, a passion and sincerity. It is becoming the fast food joint of art. Maybe this is what the painters said about photography when it first came out, they did claim that it would be the death of painting. Has digital become the death of film? I know I should be less cynical about the pixel rate revolution, but it seems that photographers that have learned their trade, have made the camera a tool for their art, have mastered the process of producing a perfect picture; it seems to me that these people have had the lens cap well and truly placed on their lenses and have literally been pushed out of the picture. Pardon the pun.
Because there is no such thing as a bad picture, the really talented ones are becoming hard to spot. A great picture nowadays is more based on the quality of the camera and the interestingness of the subject, discounting the skill involved in producing a valid picture with traditional methods. Digital photography however, does come with its own set of skills and this has the potential to become a type of photography in itself and allow traditional photography the room to breathe again.
In the digital arena, playing and experimenting with the settings, as one would with a manual camera, uses the tool to stretch it to its limits. The type of distortions and burnouts differ greatly from film, and the post production of the images is a new type of development process. Rather than being in a darkroom and playing around with development and exposure times, using the likes of Photoshop programmes mean cropping, straightening, saturation, contrast are easily achieved tasks. Full on manipulation and doctoring is just as easy and a competent user is able to adjust an image and tweak it into perfection. Being able to take control of images is a wonderful skill and should be embraced by those that practice in the digital arena to produce posters and books that advertising agencies would envy. The skill is out there, and the application, the digital era has a destination.
Shaun Parker is a leading photography expert with many years of experience in the photographic industry. Find out more about photo book and other photographic processes at Cewe Photoworld