It took me a while, but today feels like it is time for a short Sunday rant. My motive for writing this short rant is a long twitter conversation my pal Jorge Ledesma and I had. It was ignited by a tweet were he marveled a video by Ming Thein. The conversation went on for hours and I guess we still disagree. In essence it comes down to the importance of technique and understanding versus reasoning and feeling.
I’ve wrote about this before, but in my opinion there is just way too much emphasizes on the “with what” and “how to” in photography. Just check the popular Digital Photography School to proof my point. Tips and tutorials, cameras and equipment, post production. Yet, how to discover beauty or at least interestingness? How to convey your intentions to the viewers? Never a why or what reason?
You see, understanding how and why a photograph works doesn’t come from maximizing the potential of your camera sensor. Nor does inspiration come from Photoshop. Even to a beginner I suggest to just get out and make photographs. Learn techniques on the fly, but don’t spent too much time searching the internet, fora, or magazines. Don’t worry about others making rubbish with their crappy Instagram filters or Lightroom presets, but worry and enjoy your own endeavors and discoveries in photography. Find what works for you and move on to the next level. Photography is full of endless possibilities.
Most of us are amateur photographers, me included. There is a reason why it means “lover of” in French or “Lover” in Latin. Lets keep it that way. Rant over!
Photograph by Wouter Brandsma
Most amateur photographers want to become better photographers, right? I saw a thread at Rangefinderforum.com that actually might interest those who think that better photography is related to a new camera or that some magic wonder might eventually happen. The OP in his thread mentions he wants to become a better photographer, but is also too lazy to drag a SLR. That digital point & shoot cameras don’t offer him the tools and results he wants. That analogue is a lot of work(?), but he also would like to have a Leica to find out what all the fuzz is about. Seriously? He or she really doesn’t know it in my opinion.
Come on. Photography is not about buying the latest cameras. Is not about having a Leica or a compact camera to keep it in your pocket. Or a ridiculously priced Leica point & shoot camera. Photography is about getting out there and take as many photographs you want. When you want to become a better photographer or become better in a particular discipline of photography, you get out there and practice. Practice a lot. And the good thing about practicing is that you actually don’t need the latest camera, you can do it with any camera.
Rather learn how to see compositions. Make your photographs more interesting. Try to envision virtual shapes in your photographs like triangles or spirals (or whatever) that will help the viewer unconsciously to guide their eyes through your photographs. See the effects of using open spaces. Some try to teach you things like rule of thirds and so, but I think it is still better to get out and practice. Make the pictures you want and try to understand after that why some work and some don’t. Happy practicing!
All photographs by Wouter Brandsma
How come so many photographers are so obsessed with the newest camera, the latest feature? Why does it matter what camera was used for a photograph? If Bresson used a Leica do you seriously believe you take the same photographs when you have a Leica? It seems we are all infected based on common preconceptions. Newer is better, Canon versus Nikon, Foveon versus Bayer, more pixels are better, SLR cameras for nature photography, rangefinders for street photography, compact cameras for family snaps. Who created these boxes and why do feel we need to restrict ourselves to these boxes?
Newer is better
Is newer always better? From a technological point of view it might be so, but does that also improves your photography? Likely not. Lets be realistic. Every time you bought a more recent car did you become a better driver? I don’t think so. Again my suggestion is to stick to your current camera. Your camera is fine. When you want to improve your photography, you should improve your photography taking. Take more pictures, get yourself a book (still cheaper than a new camera), and learn from others.
Canon versus Nikon or Foveon versus Bayer
I personally find these discussions so silly. A real male thing I guess.
More pixels are better
For large prints or where fine details do matter it probably does, but most view photographs on a screens with lower pixel counts. And when people print it is likely still A4 size or smaller. And than you don’t need more than 20 megapixels. Your older 6 or 8 megapixel camera is fine. In fact, I still prefer the overall feel of my older Olympus C4000z with only 4 megapixels. Thankfully there is still a good portion of photographers who do love their Leica Digilux 2 which was announced in 2003.
SLR cameras for nature photography
Maybe from a size and price point of view. Getting a true tele lens for a medium format camera cost you a lot of money. But why shouldn’t a SLR camera not be used for street photography? Because it is more obtrusive or noisy? But did that bother Helen Levitt with her Nikon for instance? It all probably depends more on how you act as a photographer on the street. When you want to be inconspicuous and hide your camera you might likely have a hard time with your SLR. Also when you lug around with a tele lens on the street you will be noticed. But I think that when you walk around with a normal to wide lens on your SLR and you don’t hide your presence as being a photographer, you will do just fine.
Rangefinders for street photography
Some of the greatest street photographers used Leica M cameras, because they were smaller and quieter. But Leica didn’t invent the rangefinder system for the street, but just because they wanted to design a smaller and quieter camera. But nowadays you might wonder whether serious compact cameras are even better suited for that job. These cameras are even smaller and quieter than rangefinder cameras. More and more photogs do consider this idea.
Compact cameras for family snaps
Are all compact cameras point and shoot cameras? Of course not. Some are really serious cameras and because of its obvious limitations, like much smaller sensors, you need to be much more careful too with exposing. And not all compact cameras can be used in a similar way. With snapping we also think of less deliberate photography. But some of these compact cameras are awful snap cameras, so you need to be focused and working very deliberately. Think of the Sigma DP1 or DP2 for instance or the soon the released Leica X1.
Maybe it is better to think outside the common boxes. Be happy with what you do. Your Nikon D70 or Olympus C5050z is still an adequate camera. Think more of what you want to photograph than with what gear you want to photograph.
Should creativity be restricted by boundaries? Of course not.
All photographs by Wouter Brandsma