In case you've been living in a cave, social media has changed the world. I went to a wedding this weekend. I took pictures, for fun, as I usually do at events. There was zero pressure to take specific shots, which is what I prefer. I shoot what I like or find interesting, and usually weddings and the parties afterwards provide for some interesting photo opportunities. I also take lots of pictures of friends because why not?! One of those people, not the bride or groom, happens to be from Albania. Yes, Albania. I admit, I had to look it up when i first met her so many years ago.
I posted my photos on Facebook, just fun photos of dancing and a few group shots, etc...nothing fancy, and I tagged my friend and her family as I normally would. The next day (today) I had 50 notifications on Facebook saying people with names I can barely pronounce have liked or commented on my photos...in Albania! Now, I know the people are liking the content of the photos...a good picture of a friend of family members that they haven't seen in a long time; they aren't liking the carefully crafted lighting or composition of the shots. And i will be first to admit there was no careful crafting of light or composition going on at all. And fun photos of parties, at least in my mind, are supposed to be just that-fun and unplanned and casual.
As i said in one of my previous posts, I don't make too much money from photography (don't get me wrong, it would be nice!)...it is a passion, not a career for me. But when people more than halfway across the world appreciate the things you've captured and see things through your eyes, well, it makes me smile.
I have learned something after so many years of taking pictures. I don't think I really understood it until recently, however. For me, taking pictures is an exercise in patience and perseverance. For every ten pictures I take I find one or two that I'm happy with. I have come to really enjoy the process from taking sometimes hundreds of shots to sorting and tweaking them afterwards. I would love to earn a living with my photography but it is ultimately the process from which I get the most pleasure.
I never really thought about getting a formal education in photography. Honestly that would probably dramatically improve how i understand the camera as a tool, and give me more tools to take better shots...but on the other hand, learning on my own is also a lot of the fun.
There are no professional photographers. That is what Melissa Mayer said not too long ago, now that everyone has an iphone with a camera with them at all times. Was it insulting? Definitely. Was it taken out of context? Probably. Are people already forgetting about it? I think so (not me, clearly, which is ironic because i'm not a professional photographer). Between that and Instagram taking pictures and adding filters has become a way of life. I think everyone who takes pictures in the modern times probably has used one filter or another at one point. I certainly have.
90% of my photos aren't shot with my phone, or Instagram for that matter (I'm not a member). My goto cameras are the Sony a55 and more recently the Sony RX-100 AKA The pocket rocket. Most Sony cameras these days come with more built in filters than you can imagine. And when I say filters I don't mean Circular Polarizer or Neutral Density (though that would be nice)...I'm talking about what people consider filters today...Posterize, Color Filter, High Intensity, Sketch, etc. And to be honest, I don't use any of them too often, however I am happy with the results of the pictures (and I hope you are too!).
When people see I shoot with Sony instead of Canon or Nikon I get a lot of eye rolls. Sure I lust after the Canon 5D MkIII just like every other red-blooded photography enthusiast, but that is a little ways down the road. So why Sony? Why not join the cult of Canon or Nikon, and in the process have access to years of used equipment available to me on Craigslist . As it turns out, there is just as many used accessories and lenses available on Craigslist or Amazon for Sony as there are for Canon or Nikon, so I'm not really losing too much there. The reason, I tell people, is because I like it. And as I've said before, the camera is a tool, and if you are happy with what you can accomplish with the tools you have, then that is the most important thing, in my humble opinion. It's a preference, pure and simple.
Back to the filters...is the filter another tool in the arsenal, or is it a shortcut to get a look you're going for? Oddly, none of the cameras that I've used that have come with built in filters that i'm interested in using regularly, or that would save me time or money. For example a neutral density filter, or a circular polarizer (which reduces glare and lets you see a little further beneath the water). Maybe there is a way to do it digitally, but as far as I know if you want something like that, you either have to do it on the computer, or use an actual physical filter...Ultimately, I feel that filters are a another tool in the arsenal, like another color of paint, or a different type of canvas.
They aren't my first choice. That's why i bought a high quality camera to fit in my pocket as a compliment to my DSLR rig. But then again, the best camera is the one you have with you. And unlike some people I know, I don't go around 24/7 with a camera, or rather a non-phone camera. My phone, however, is always with me. Thankfully technology these days has allowed me to take pictures that I'm happy with and mobile photo editors let me tweak things on the run. I have to say it's extremely convenient when you are at a stop light and are suddenly inspired...which has happened to me more than a few times.
Does the fact that the picture was taken with a camera phone make it any less of a picture? Does it make the content any less influential or relevant? I tend not to think so. Not many people care about what brand of wrench the mechanic uses on your car, or the type of keyboard this blog was written on. Then, on the other hand, you have brand loyalty. I've seen other photographer almost come to blows over what was better, Canon or Nikon...leaving out Sony, or Olympus, or Panasonic...all of whom make great quality cameras...the same way people argue passionately about using a PC vs Mac. At the end of the day, it is preference, and I'm willing to bet that most people, myself included, would have trouble looking at a picture and saying that it was taken on a Canon or a Nikon or a Sony.
Photography wasn't something that came to me naturally. I received a camera for my 8th grade graduation, a Pentax K1000, which I still have. I didn't understand the concept of aperture, or ISO, depth of field, to even composition. Looking back through my old film pictures I have a lot of pictures of trees and plants, or sides of mountains or cliffs, stuff with real breathtaking potential, but composed in a way that I don't think anyone would be too thrilled with. But we all have to start somewhere, right? My mom is a picture taking fanatic so maybe it's in my blood?
Fast forward to 2002 and I got my first digital camera. A Minolta D'Image Xt. A little square point and shoot with a weird zoom lens that didn't extend out. I still have that one too, though it's sitting in a drawer now. One or two of the pictures on my site were actually taken with that camera. It was with that camera that i began to understand what was what, and what i liked to take pictures of. No one ever asked me to take pictures, I just did. Pictures of parties, little things in the garden, weird self portraits and of friends...And that's when the world started opening up to me, the things I could do, the perspectives I could get by changing one thing or another...like a painter using different paints or materials...except it was all packaged into one neat little gadget.