I’m a photographer. By that I mean I take photographs, like this one below:
It’s one of my favourite recent photos, though I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because it’s in focus, quite well composed, I think the colours work well together (they’re all quite pastelly) and there’s an animal in it that didn’t flee by the time I had my camera ready. Also it was 4th July.
I tend not to think of myself as a photographer, though. I’m more a person who takes photos.
In my mind, there are three types of photographers:
- Casual snappers like me, for whom photography is a way to capture an image.
- Professionals and experts, for whom the act and art and technicality of photography is itself an interest and hobby. These people take really good photos.
- The pretenders. People who buy really expensive camera equipment and then take super-closeup photos with it.
It’s a bit like the audio world: there are people who just like to listen to music, there are people who can enjoy the music but also appreciate and enjoy the technical construction and execution of a piece, and then there are the people who spend hundreds of pounds on gold plated leads. I’m stretching that analogy quite far, but I hope you get the gist.
Expert photographers, or photographers, take some wonderful photos. Having complete control and understanding of a complex camera requires a lot of skill. You’ve got to think about lenses, apertures, exposures, focal lengths, white balances, shutter speeds, lighting, flashes, position and composition – to name only those aspects of which I am at least aware. And then there’s the whole skill of knowing what to take a photo of, which is a probably a lot harder to learn than any of the technical aspects.
Fergus Gill is such a photographer. He’s one of my brother’s friends, and he’s won a ton of awards for his photography. Check out his website and admire some of his incredible photos. His passion for photography is clear, as is his skill. How can you not respect and admire someone like that?
I take photos for two main reasons: to capture something of the moment that I think looks cool, and to capture memories ((Sometimes I take photos to use as illustrations, as in my post about strawberries.)). I take almost all of my photos on a Fujifilm A860. It cost £50 and I bought it online from Tesco Direct – it’s pretty basic, with few manual controls. But despite the limitations, when I decide to take a photo, I try to take the best photo that I can. Occasionally, I even go somewhere specifically to take photos to see what my camera is – and I am – capable of. I’d bet that Murray thinks of his photography in the same way.
The pretenders piss me off. I don’t have any specific examples, but the internet is awash with them. You know when you’ve seen a pretender’s photo: you reflexively roll your eyes and tut. They’re the people who think that buying better equipment is what makes you a better photographer. They’ll typically take photographs on their fancy SLRs that are indistinguishable from point-and-shoot photos (such as mine). They’re like the people who buy a Ferrari just to do to the weekly shop at Tesco. If you see a photo and think ‘pretentious’, it’ll probably be taken by one of these pretenders. They give photography and photographers a bad name.
Perhaps one day I’ll decide that photography is something that I want to seriously pursue. It’s true that the more photos I take, the more I come to understand about photography, and the more I’d like to see what I could do with better and more controllable equipment. But for now I’m happy with what I’ve got, and anyway, I don’t have the money for a better camera.
I’ll be posting more photos on my blog ((Chances that I will actually increase the frequency of my posting on this blog? 25%.)) as I upload good ones to my Flickr account. There’s usually a story behind each photo, and I want to get better at telling stories. And I want to show off my photos.
I am a guy who takes photos, and while I respect that standard digital cameras are getting better and better at just taking good photos I love my SLR too much to switch.
My main reasons for loving it, it turns on absurdly fast so there’s none of this hitting on and waiting for it to get ready before I take a photo and the bumblebee has flown off, manual control of the zoom is a bit quicker, and I guess there’s a bit of guy my equipment is better than yours thrown in there too.
But you’re right, I am not a photographer by any means. I take a lot of photos and statistics say that some of them must be good, by accident. My skill, then, is being able to pick the good ones to show on Flickr, rather than at composing photography.
Of course, an SLR is always preferable to a point-and-shoot if you would actually use its features; I’d have bought one years ago if I had the money to buy one. The 3 main things I’d want is a fast startup, manual control of shutter speeds, and a much larger sensor good for low-light photography.
And I know you didn’t take it this way, but just to be clear – I wasn’t being disparaging of you and your photography skills. We both try to take good photos but we’re far from experts. And that’s perfectly aiiight.
Perhaps I am not the average, but most of the time (as in real life, every day type photos) when I take photos I do not really care for the quality or aesthetic effect. I take them as memory joggers; things to remind me of people or experiences I have had the pleasure of being with and being a part of. This is going to sound contradictory to how I normally am, but sometimes a lack of detail and clarity in a photo gives it more emotional effect.
I guess what I am trying to say is that it does not really matter how good your photograph is, up to a certain point, it is what you take pictures of that matter. At least that is what I am thinking at the moment.
Yes, ultimately the subject is what’s most important in almost all of my photos too. But I think it is worth learning a little bit about how to take a better photo: when to use the flash, what to include in the frame, making sure that your main subject is properly exposed and focused.. etc. Once you’re familiar with your camera and getting a good shot, this mostly happens unconsciously and takes no extra time. It’s not a lot of work, and in my opinion there’s a significant difference between a well shot photo (focus and lighting particularly important) and a carelessly shot one which still manages to contain all of the same details.
Actually trying to convey something through the way that a photo is shot though… that’s beyond my interest and skills right now. Your sentence about a lack of clarity leading to more emotion, that’s the sort of thing I mean. But if you’re trying to capture a memory, as opposed to being artistic, why not try to capture it as clearly as possible?
On another note, unless I feel it has other particularly special redeeming qualites, I will delete any photo that’s out of focus. Maybe I’m getting a bit snobby.
I used to be similar, but recently I have just found myself not really caring for the quality, as long as it is not terrible; there is a threshold on what I accept, it is just a pretty low threshold.
As for deleting slightly out of focus images, I used to be the same, but recently I just find myself keeping everything. I am taking a lot more photographs these days.
I guess I just want different things from a photograph; I want the photograph to be a catalyst, not the focus. While a perfectly shot image may be nice, it is not mandatory. The quality of a photograph is far less important than what the photograph depicts, be it an object, person or narrative.
It might be similar to how I do not really like photographs that have been posed for; perfectly framed and captured images seem disconnected from reality in a similar way. Perhaps I am just being a bit anti-snobby.