How technology and business strategies have influenced the subtle art of photography
Don’t we all come across jaw dropping pictures on the Internet every day? Those awe inducing images have enticed millions into the world of photography. Now social media is inundated with photographers who claim to teach photography to people. Most of the time, their sole skill lies in handling different cameras and camera equipment and that is what most of their sessions are all about.
Pictures are stories that photographers narrate to the world from their travels and observations. Most amateur photographers are being made oblivious to this fact by diverting their attention to camera and camera equipment. Technological advancements have ensured that cameras and associated equipment are filled with dazzling array of advanced features that empowers anyone to take sharp and bright images. What people overlook is the simple fact that photography is also an art and another form of painting. My grandfather was an excellent oil and canvas painter but he was predominantly a portrait painter and the ones of nature he painted was by looking at available pictures. He was neither someone who used to go out to nature to create his paintings nor did he travel around, come back with images in his mind and paint them. Photography is painting in real time and it takes observation prowess, focus, concentration, patience and perseverance to take those photos that mesmerizes us.
Technological advances have made cameras so sophisticated that using them in all their default settings is enough to get many of those dazzling images. Contrast this with the photo I saw of an owl in flight at night taken with a roll film camera and flash of the past. The technological features inside present day cameras help us to pretty much point and shoot at anything we want. This had narrowed down our vision to only the subject of the picture and we no longer care about the background, angle of light and other aspects other than in portrait photography because of the features of the camera and advanced software available to fix issues with the photos.
When I was looking to buy a camera 3 years back, what I understood was that it all comes down to the purpose of taking photos. In order to print pictures, greater amount of information of the subject and it’s surroundings have to be captured in the photo and stored as pixels otherwise the available pixels would spread out on the paper and hinder it’s quality. For this purpose photos have to be taken in the RAW format which can be done only in DSLR cameras. Software available to edit photos in RAW format have advanced features which enable fine tuning of the light, color and other features of the photos. But, if printing is not the primary objective of photography, DSLR cameras are not an essential requirement. In Adobe Acrobat software, there are two options to print a document: Online and Standard printing. If the objective of making a document is to keep it on the computer only, there is no need to increase its number of pixels and thereby increase its size. The same rule applies to pictures as well.
Then how do manufacturers of cameras and camera equipment manage to sell their high-end products? Its through the creation of a popular perception with smart business strategy that unravels right under our noses. Be it for any purpose, the sharpest and brightest images get noticed the most and to shoot them what we are being made to believe is that the best cameras and equipment are required. Even more cunning is in how only the sharpest and brightest images win photography competitions. This has permeated into our conscience so deep that the moment we decide to take up photography, we automatically start searching for the best piece of camera and lens even if we have to buy them on heavy loans.
Manufacturers have different categories of cameras and equipment and photography competitions have different categories such as portrait, wildlife, etc but these competitions do not have categories based on different types of cameras and equipment. This forces photographers who aspire to participate in competitions to buy the premium equipment. I have an entry model DSLR with lens of reasonable zoom. None of the pictures I take will ever win a competition because the pictures I take are competing with pictures taken with the best equipment and not with pictures taken with equipment comparable to mine.
An argument could be made that the best competitions such as the ones run by National Geographic would print the competition winning photos in their magazines. We are in the digital age and there is so much clamor going on over deforestation and discouraging us from printing to save trees. Even when we take the case of events, we upload the photos to the internet and send the links to most of our contacts. The photos can be seen on any device from computer to phone. Then what is the need for the photos to be printed? Then there are photography exhibitions which require photos to be printed and framed. Why not just show the pictures on digital screens which can be hung on or attached to walls? Technology has made this possible as well.
Buying cameras and equipment should essentially come down to the area of photography we choose to become experts in and what we want to show to the world. I am primarily a nature and wildlife photographer and specifically in wildlife photography I have no interest in taking portrait images of animals since they are already available in more than plenty on the internet. Moreover the real beauty of wild animals can be seen only when they are in action. The biggest available lenses are good for mainly portrait photos because of the amount of zoom they can provide and is too heavy to be used for hand held photography. Attaching a pod to the camera means missing out on much of the most important action including birds in flight especially up in the sky unless the ones using them are experts and thorough professionals who spend their entire time in photography and have chosen photography as their occupation. I have read about lenses that offer zoom from a very low to high level and stability would likely become a problem at both levels.
I have come across people who have bought the high end cameras and associated equipment and who try to take photos of everything they come across. Photography, like painting is a subtle art. No one creates cartoons with oil and canvas. We need to find our niche first before we make a full length dive into it. I dabbled with a point-and-shoot camera for more than 2 years till I was convinced that I can take better pictures than what I was taking with the camera. That is when I bought the camera I use now. Someone had seen the pictures I had taken with my point-and-shoot camera and told me not to buy an entry level model DSLR. I have never been a big bang model guy and I always prefer taking it slow, learning and going ahead. My camera and zoom lens are still giving me excellent pictures and the flexibility to shoot what I want to but some times, I feel that a better lens would have been helpful. A lens with a bigger zoom is still some distance away.