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Moving the boundaries, changing the rules


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Moving the boundaries, changing the rules

26 Aug 2021 9:20AM   Views : 636 Unique : 355


I have a photographic friend who laments that he can take all the pictures he needs to take with his mobile phone, and that everyone can be a photographer these days. I agree with the first part of this but not with a second: and the first part is entirely good. Who wouldn’t be glad that families snapshots work better than they used to?

But getting a sharp and well exposed picture of the family on the beach doesn’t make you a photographer. You can’t control depth of field and so on with a mobile in the same way that you can with a real camera. There are still skills that you can learn and which help you to take better and more interesting pictures.


And perhaps the thing that we find it hard to come to grips with is that photography has moved on: moved on in the sense that we need to exercise new and different skills, to use new technologies, and explore different possibilities in order to make creative pictures.

For instance, we can use focus stacking to explore tiny objects and share the beauty of them with people who for one reason or another can’t or won’t see the originals. We can use slow shutter speeds to remove transient parts of the scene and show off the bones of a place like Trafalgar Square. I’m sure there are plenty of other examples but a blog is a few quick thoughts not a deeply researched academic exploration.

Over to you: you may want to disagree, or you may want to give more examples of the way that photography lets us explore and celebrate the world beyond the scope of an iPhone.


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
26 Aug 2021 9:32AM
Record-keeping matters... As weird lenses leave no EXIF traces (reminiscent of Leonard Cohen's song about True Love), I'm actually not sure what I shot this one with... But maybe it doesn't matter so much...

PaulCox Avatar
26 Aug 2021 10:32AM
Does it really matter, as long as the result is pleasing to you. Paul.
mistere Avatar
mistere Plus
10 36 8 England
26 Aug 2021 10:48AM
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.” or as Einstein may or may not have said,
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.".
I think that's the problem with calling the 'Rules' rules. Guidelines would be better. Chef's create recipes, architects design buildings,
designers design clothes etc. It's the ones that do something a bit different, a little left field or 'outside the box', that change things.
Using new technology or repurposing old technology, if it works it works, if it doesn't, try something else. There will always be those who
throw their hands up in horror and those that welcome a new and innovative way of doing things.
I'm not suggesting that all rules should be ignored, the ones that are 'Law' for example, stick to those ones if you can. And don't swap
the brown wire with the blue wire, stuff will go bang if you do that SmileSmile
Minty805 Avatar
Minty805 Plus
7 55 11 United Kingdom
26 Aug 2021 11:05AM
It's an interesting point of view, and I must admit that the technology in phones these days has helped me take some night scenes that would have been more difficult with a regular camera. So from that perspective, they can only be a good thing, particularly if it encourages many more people to think creatively.
But that's the point. The argument doesn't seem to take into account the difference between a record shot and something more considered, artistic even. Yes, the technology will do many things, but the oft-quoted remark by Ansel Adams, that the most important component of any camera is the twelve inches behind it, will always hold true. No amount of technology will change that and not everyone has the creative vision, or indeed the interest, to make anything beyond a record shot. And that's absolutely fine, if that's all they want and need - but if we value the craft we strive at, it's a difference always to be remembered.
BobinAus Avatar
BobinAus Plus
8 5 14 Australia
26 Aug 2021 11:16AM
I never take a picture with my mobile phone. Were it not for covid check-in apps, I wouldn't even know how to use its camera. But I welcome this new wave of 'democratization' of photography because in the long run it will probably reinvigorate the 'serious' hobby and the art form of photography. The fleeting nature of attention and extreme faddishness fostered by social media concerns me much more than 'automated' picture taking (and picture creating) technology.

saltireblue Avatar
saltireblue Plus
13 14.5k 88 Norway
26 Aug 2021 11:30AM
Did the established photographic world collectively respond negatively when the first digital cameras were touted. The bastions of the darkroom suddenly under attack from an unknown and strange new enemy? Did aficionados of dslr's react in horror at the disappearance of their beloved mirrors?
The in-phone camera is just the latest in a long range of changes, progress, innovation, etc. Like all previous changes, you either decide to ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist, or will die a natural death, or you accept the challenge, and at very least try it, before deciding if it is something that can be of use to you personally.

There are some images in the ePz galleries taken with phone cameras that are better than a lot of the ones taken with more 'traditional' equipment.
At the end of the day, it is a mere tool and it is the imagination and skill of the photographer to get the best out of the tool that is decisive.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
26 Aug 2021 12:16PM
Lots of true things said above...

My point was that it's fine for record picture-making to be made easier. Lots more happy people, and nothing wrong with that. And... For us to claim to be 'photographers' now means more than just getting it sharp, decently framed and properly exposed. The basics are very easy now, and if we want to be special, we should prove it by doing things that the casual, one-hand snappers can't.

That could be a superbly-toned silver print from a large format negative, or some sort of digitally-assisted magic. Those twelve inches behind the camera add the vision, and can inspire, startle and enlighten. Let's do it!

Now I'm off to test the function of a £13 Zenith E at the local canal...
JuBarney Avatar
JuBarney Plus
12 36 7 United Kingdom
26 Aug 2021 5:44PM
A beautiful portrait at the top John
dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
26 Aug 2021 9:03PM
I don't have a problem with emerging technologies and phones per se. Indeed, I've had far more votes on some of my phone images here than some 'proper camera' images. It's all about the image. What i a big turn off is the smartphone user who thinks they take good pictures because their phone cost £xxxx.

Let's go back a while.
That pesky fox Talbot coming along with a new fangled negative-positie process when Daguerrotypes were perfectly ok.
George Eastman coming up with a roll of celluloid when glass plates did a good job.
And as for Oscar Barnack, well that miniature format will never catch on...
whatriveristhis Avatar
30 Aug 2021 10:57AM

Quote: Those twelve inches behind the camera add the vision, and can inspire, startle and enlighten.

So you wouldn't put that first?
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
30 Aug 2021 8:51PM
Creatively, those twelve inches come first. But as anyone can now get the technicalities right, what a 'proper photographer' does is get techie stuff right, but with vision, to inspire, startle and enlighten.

No insult to creativity was intended!
Fenfotos Avatar
Fenfotos 7 36 3 United Kingdom
1 Sep 2021 7:23PM
I think you are quite right what you said at the beginning, we need to learn new skills to make our images stand out against the crowd. Until recently getting a well exposed sharp image was an accomplishment (and in my case anything with a straight horizon nothing short of a miracle). Technology has changed that, and the emphasis for enthusiasts needs to move away from the how, towards the what and particularly the why. I remember reading when I first took up photography, that this particular guru's first question was always why are you showing me this? Far too little is said about what the image is saying, and far too much on the technicalities and the technicalities of the composition. I look at it this way, Microsoft Word has given me the ability to produce a correctly spelt, grammatically correct, and legible email. It certainly does not make me a novelist!
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
3 Sep 2021 5:37PM
When I was still doing my dayjob, I tended to say that an internal auditor who couldn't do the job with a pad of paper, a fountain pen and a ruler couldn't do the job: it was a risk back then that doing clever stuff with computers drew people away from looking at the system they were supposed to be working on, and they could lose a sense of perspective.

Still true, I think: and you are absolutely right that we need to understand what we are trying to say - even if it is as simple and important as 'I saw this today, and it is beautiful.'

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