Something’s been bugging me.
It’s simple really, but whilst I know I shouldn’t let a simple statement annoy me, the fact that the majority of people have this same point of view just gets on my nerves in a way I can’t really describe.
Just a few weeks ago someone made a comment along the lines of
“What’s so hard about photography? All you do is push a button.”
I do realize that the person who made this comment has very little respect for photography. This isn’t what bothers me. People can follow their passions and loathe the dreary things in their life, even if their views completely oppose mine, and I wont raise a question. What bugs me is that this person was implying that photography involves very little talent, effort or skill.
To the millions of people globally who believe that photography is easy, I ask one simple question. Why can’t you do it?
My photography world and its development has been a real journey (all 5 years of it). When I started out, I’ll admit that I couldn’t do it. All I had was a 2 megapixel Kodak camera with 8 megabytes of memory, and the only things I ever took photos of were my dog, family outings, holidays, cars and random objects around the house. Clearly I wasn’t going to get any extravagant photos out of these beginner-cliché scenes, especially with a substandard camera and basic knowledge. Sure enough I didn’t. They were all small, poorly composed, blurry, noisy and ugly. But at this point I had no idea, so it didn’t faze me in the slightest. I loved taking photos and took it incredibly seriously. I saved up all my money to buy a memory card (64mb. It cost me $64) and would fill it up so quickly and so often just by playing around with angles and taking the same photo over and over again until I got something I was pleased with. I’d then chuck the photos on the computer and put everyone in my family through torture by going through them again and again. I built up a collection of well over 1000, all of them rubbish.
At this point, whilst I didn’t have a great deal of talent or skill, I had an obsession with photography and it was this genuine interest that propelled my mind and ability forward.
The person that asked me “What’s so hard about photography?” is still at (or even before) this initial stage, purely because they don’t have the respect or interest in photography to help develop their skills. As a result, all of the photos they take will be done with no skill, talent and no developed eye. They’ll be crap, and this is what’s giving them the twisted view they have on serious photographers.
I have a way of defining the difference between photo takers like this and people who care about photography. It all comes down to the simple terms you use. When unpacked, photography means art. It may only be defined as capturing a picture using a camera, but a picture is then further described as a painting or drawing, which is of course art. Photographers take photographs. It’s as simple as that. I believe though that to be a photographer, your skill level doesn’t mean a thing. All you need to do is take the time to craft your photo. Even if it’s not particularly good, it’s still your artful expression of a scene.
The people with no respect for photography though take snapshots. They just snap away carelessly and thus receive a careless result.
I took a fairly hefty jump on this photography journey. Three years ago I decided my little Kodak camera wasn’t getting me anywhere. My interest in the subject had caused me to look further into the world of photography and as a result I discovered there was an incredible range of potential that I eagerly wanted to explore. The Fujifilm S9500 was my answer. My endless research found this to be incredibly versatile, very well priced and most important of all, highly manipulative. It catered perfectly for my new greed for knowledge, so I saved up, bought it, and a new chapter began.
Simply by fiddling with this camera I learnt an enormous deal about photography. By looking through my entire collection of 11,000 photos you can plot a clear timeline of development. You can begin to see when I began to understand the power of composition. You’ll find my love of night photography and the hundreds of trial and error shots I took as I began to understand the fine relations between aperture, shutter speed, ISO and anything else that affects exposure. Put simply, this timeline perfectly defines the difference between photography and snapshits.
However, photography is not done with the camera, similarly to how a painting is not created by a paintbrush. Photography comes down to the artist. This camera was simply my tool to explore and express my photography. Anyone with a camera I believe can be a photographer, provided they show this interest in the subject and take time to create photos. Sure, their work may not be valued as highly by themselves or by others, but the time and effort taken to capture something that looks good to them proves their interest and classifies themselves as photographers.
There have been countless times where my ambitious photo shoots have turned out to be rubbish. That’s why, of all the 11,000 photos I’ve taken with my S9500, there are only 100 of them I’m willing to share with you.
As a bit of research/inspiration for writing this I looked back on my old PC at all the photos I took with my big camera. Annoyingly I can’t find any of the ones from my first Kodak. I found a few different genres where I had distinct ‘before and after’ shots of my journey and development.
The Beginner Shots:
Her name’s Penny. She’s a Golden Retriever, about 13 years old.
Initially these photos were cliché and boring. They held no real character, little eye for composition, and as a result there was nothing special about them. The 2008 shot though is and probably always will be one of my favorite photos, mainly because it’s captured the character of Penny and it really tells a story. I call this one ‘Innocence’ for obvious reasons. It took me 40 tries (with many deletions) to get this photo right, each one baring slight differences.
I call this 2008 image ‘Coast Guard’.
These two photos really show my technical advancements for many aspects of photography. Not only is there a change in composition and a stronger implementation of the ‘Rule of Thirds’, but my aperture was being changed with a lot more meaning, along with other settings in regards to exposure and colour, all to create a photo that was subtly different in many ways. These slight changes all added up to a photo which is a lot better overall.
The Landscape Shots:
Paynesville is a playground for landscape photography.
Whilst it’s evident that the composition of these two photos are the same and that they are of the same scene, the colors and overall feel of the two photos are dramatically different. This mimics the huge increase my understanding for photography had. The ‘Before’ shot was still thought out carefully and I still took about 20 shots before I got this one, but the only settings I really changed were the ones affecting exposure. In the After shot though, everything was different. Specifically though, you can see just how I used white balance and other settings to capture a whole different aura of the scene. Very little editing of this photo was done. The beautiful colours were caused by bushfires in the region that sent a thick layer of smoke right across the sky. I saw the potential to create something beautiful and did all I could to capture it.
These are just a few of the photos that speak of my development. They are far from my best. In my eyes, my New Zealand Collection contains some of the most beautiful work I have created to date. It was hard though to put these photos into the ‘before and after’ comparisons because they’re unique to all other photos I have taken
What I’m trying to emphasize here is that photography really is a journey of rights and wrongs. This extract from Michael Mistretta’s article on the Myth of Talent I find really summarizes the value of the journey of acquisition of this creativity.
Maybe creativity is like anything else. Maybe it can be learned. Not packaged into a neat little curriculum and taught in schools, but learned through experience, mistakes, and determination. Maybe a good eye can be developed, a good ear, honed, and the writer’s touch, perfected.
Maybe my value is determination, persistence, passion, a stubborn refusal to say “I quit”.
And maybe, just maybe, that’s more valuable than Talent.
This is completely true in my eyes, and it’s this determination, this passion and above all, the initial interest in the subject that drives your quest for perfection. Clearly, this is something sluggers of photography don’t have.
So what exactly is so hard about photography? Well, I can tell you from experience that every time you push that little button on your camera, years of pain, frustration, care, craftsmanship, knowledge and passion are expressed by whatever goes through your lens.
Unless you’re someone who still thinks it’s easy, in which case you’re an arse.