Friday, September 16, 2005

Photographer's technological obsessions

I'll probably sound like a voice from the wilderness with this one. Yesterday I read a detailed review about the new Canon EOS 5D, full frame digital SLR. It sounds great and slots in nicely just below the top professional Canon digital SLRs. Hooray!

Now here's the thought that once again struck me. Why are so many photographers continually chasing after the best and latest equipment? Do people really fall for the myth that they will make better images with more advanced equipment? Are the pictures that Ansel Adams, Cartier Bresson, Brassai, Matthew Brady, Francis Frith, or any of the other greats any less interesting, emotive, powerful or less brilliant because they used the technology available during their time? What's the difference between a beautiful image made on a glass plate, a 35mm piece of film or the latest CMOS chip?

Yet so many photographers spend so much time, effort and money pursuing technology. As far as I can see all that technology does is increase convenience and speed up the process from taking the picture to seeing the printed image. Both aspects have got nothing to do with making better images. That lies in the 'heart' and vision of the photographer.

A good image taken a hundred years ago on primitive equipment, by today's standards, remains a good image. I can understand that for a sports photographer a camera that shoots 5fps is going to give them the edge on someone using an 8x10 view camera. And still there are some wonderful sports portraits taken using large format (but perhaps not at the height of the action). So for different tasks new technology can be helpful.

Ultimately what really counts is the photographers ability to see, visualise the result and then capture the image.

I also find it quite amusing that so many photographers spend a fortune on the latest cameras and lenses capable of achieving the sharpest images and then they spend hours in photoshop blurring, manipulating colours and otherwise messing around with images until they look like they were taken with a toy camera and film that was 15 years out of date. Of course the people that usually resort to such drastic measures are the photographers who're trying desperately to get something out of an image which is truly awful in the first place.

So the moral of the story. Stop worrying about having the latest cameras and lenses. Start concentrating on producing superb and meaningful images, whether you're using a disposable camera with film or a Hasselblad H1 with the latest digital back.

I'd love to hear your opinion. Click on my name below to email me or the link below to leave a comment.

Paul Indigo
Post a Comment