Monday, October 3, 2011

On Becoming a Better Photographer - PART 1

I recently wrote on our facebook page an anecdote about an “ultimate quality” camera system based on a 6x9cm view camera body with a 50+ megapixel back on a micro-adjustable precision ball head using state of the art large format digital lenses optimized for medium-format sensors that set the photographer back about the cost of a new top of the line Lexus Hybrid. This photographer is well known in the photo community, he’s a famous online blogger and always in search of the technical best. His images are technically superb. They also tend to be boring, lacking in meaning and devoid of emotional content. In other words they’re “perfect” but “sterile.” I am not sure I understand the value in spending in the high five digits to achieve this kind of perfection for one’s own photographs - professional or otherwise. Certainly, in this economic climate, it’s a poor investment decision with little prospect of any kind of reasonable payoff.

On the other hand, I have seen and printed a wide variety of technologically unsophisticated images from Holga and Diana toy cameras (less than $25.00 on EBay) and from some point and shoot digital cameras and iPhones that were full of meaning, life and important content. For my own personal work content trumps technical quality (assuming at least a minimum professional quality baseline) whenever a trade off is necessary (and isn’t it always?).

Please understand that I am NOT talking about the reproduction and printing work I do for others, a case in which our use of a $200k scanner; state of the art printing equipment, inks and papers; and other forms of digital image capture and reproduction are a necessity. I am never cavalier about client quality. I AM talking about the images people make for their own art, art for sale and most forms of commercial photography. In these realms, it is important to note that most images never exceed some output average between 5x7 and 40x60 inches in print size - and in these sizes quality is achievable at relatively modest cost.
To be continued in Part 2

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