Approaching Photography from the Technical Side


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Approaching Photography from the Technical Side

19 Mar 2021 3:34PM   Views : 497 Unique : 336

Photography is a creative activity but there are technical aspects that are important too. Does getting inolved from a technical angle put the creative side at a disadvantage?

I got interested in photography through admiring pictures. I was also interested in science and my choice of school subjects and university education reflected that. Science was interesting. As a small child I'd seen the moon landings on TV, Skylab had been launched (and come back to earth), many space probes had been launched and when I was doing A Levels the Space Shuttle programme was beginning.

I was after my first 'proper' camera. I looked in magazines at articles and adverts. Technical specifications and 'technical advice' were everywhere. I was buying a machine and going to use it so that all seemed reasonable. The talk amongst peers was more about the technical prowess of a camera or lens we all wanted to have 'the gear'. One-upmanship would have something to do with it. Think teenage years. The thinking was (and I guess always is with many people taking up the hobby) that a picture taken on a 'good' camera is better than one taken on a 'cheaper' camera. Perhaps a sharper lens may yield a sharper image if your technique is up to it. The same person moving from an EOS 1100D to an EOS 5DS won't suddenly start taking any better shots.


There were articles on the creative side but they didn't, unfortunately, register as 'important'. It seems crazy to think that way now though I'm sure many reading this will have felt that way at some point especially those who consider technology as a be all and end all. Of course, adverts always showed (and still do) enticing pictures so it made you think 'a zoom will get me good action pictures' or 'program mode will let me take better pictures than I can with a manual only camera'. Always on the tack that some technical aspect will be the answer to your photographic prayers. Only to be disappointed when going to the local park the wildlife images still have a small subject in the frame and the action shots still look non-league rather than Premiership (or Division One as it was then, that reminds me, Wolverhampton Wanderers had just bought Andy Gray for a record one million pounds and beaten Nottingham Forest in the League Cup final which cost Jimmy Greaves from Central TV Sport a case of Champagne!).

I subscribed to the You and Your Camera part-work magazine. I read it from cover to cover to absorb as much knowledge as I could. I subscribed to Club Canon and received their magazine (which later morphed into EOS Magazine which I still take). By then I was starting to take more notice of what and how I was taking pictures. It was a gradual process with a few 'lightbulb moments' thrown in. I'd be more aware of potential distractions at the edge of the frame, I'd be looking for foreground interest, thinking about the most appropriate aperture to use. The theory was starting to be put into practice. A brief venture to a photography club reinforced the 'gear' side of things though interestingly one guy who I got on well with said his photography went downhill after 'upgrading' from a Canon T70 to a T90. There's a lesson there.


How different it is today, if you want it to be. There are websites and online communities that relish the technical, you'll not escape that. For improving your photography, and by that I mean creating great results or realising your vision, learning and understanding light (first and foremost, as that's what the 'photo' part of photography means) and composition is what matters most. That's where the Critique Gallery on ephotozine is a great resource. If only something like that had been around 40 years ago.

Understanding the technical issues is important so you can make the most of a situation to record your vision. Is the shutter speed or aperture more important, is that ultra wideangle lens really creating a good image or are you just impressed by how much it crams into the frame? And if things don't work out you can fathom out why. So there is a balance to be had. Being purely technical can result in boring, uninteresting and average images, thinking fancy and expensive gear will get you results. Equally, artistic vision may well not be realised if basic technical concepts are not understood in order to get there.


So to answer that question I posed at the beginning, it is if you let it.

All text and images Keith Rowley 2021

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whatriveristhis Avatar
20 Mar 2021 12:07AM
I agree with you Keith that ideally there should be a balance, and I suppose that's true of pretty much everything. Certainly, the better your equipment and the greater your technical ability, the more creative choices will be available to you, but that's worth nothing without the vision that will enable you to take advantage of it.
I firmly believe that a cheap compact on full 'Auto' in the hands of someone with creative flair will always produce a more satisfying and enduring result than a 5DS wielded by a technical wizard with no imagination. I go back to that famous quote from Ansel Adams... "The most important part of any camera is the twelve inches behind the viewfinder."
Or to put it another way it's not what you've got ( either equipment or technique )... it's what you do with it.

dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
22 Mar 2021 3:53PM
Sorry I'm a bit late seeing your reply Alan, nicely put.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
28 Apr 2021 8:27PM
Some people derive a lot of pleasure from the techie side, pursued to the Nth degree, which is harmless enough. I am often annoyed by the people who maintain they are above the technical side - they are artistes...

As Alan says, a balance is good, for most of us.
dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
28 Apr 2021 8:57PM
Quite so John, and I'm one who seems to be able to soak up the technical stuff without a problem. Doesn't help with creative block though.

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