Man Versus Machine

I hope I didn’t come across as arrogant in yesterday’s post about how much difference a good piece of equipment can make. That wasn’t my intention. But further reflection set me thinking that, in these days where consumers expect instant gratification from their purchases, I think it’s sad that some people spend an awful lot of money on the best camera and are then disappointed with the pictures they take with it.

People seem far less willing to learn the art and craft of photography in order to get the best results. Of course I’m generalising here, but there has been a gradual decline in membership of photographic clubs throughout the country, even with the huge rise in the number of people buying cameras. I’m a B Panel Judge for the East Anglian Federation, part of the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain. I visit clubs around north London and south east Essex to judge competitions regularly, and their committees are constantly striving to attract new members. Somehow only a trickle seem to be coming through the doors.

A few clubs (and the number is decreasing) have actively shunned the Digital Revolution; it won’t be long before they go under. Some have allowed digital but to be judged in a separate category (and I think, why segregate? It’s the end result that counts and matters to me as a judge, not the technology used to produce it).

Some argue that digital is “easier” than traditional “wet” processes. Usually those who haven’t tried it, I find. And as a judge, I’ve seen just as many badly-done digital prints (if not more) than traditional. In fact, I’d argue that it’s actually easier to make a bad digital print than a bad darkroom one – far less effort is required. Plus, you don’t end up smelling of chemicals or emerging from the darkroom like a confused mole! As ever, the skill is in the execution of what you’re doing, not how.

The vast majority of the clubs I visit have embraced digital photography wholeheartedly (without prejudice to those still using film). So much so that at a few, I don’t see any darkroom prints any more. I can tell, if I look hard enough (and it would require an even lenghtier post for me to explain how). I’ve seen some really stunning inkjet prints, not just from a technical perspective, but from an artistic one. Again, it’s all about who’s behind the camera more than the name badge on the front.

Our equipment can and should be used to facilitate the expression of our artistic talents, and not as a points-scoring exercise to see who’s got the best kit. (Again, I usually find those misguided enough to indulge in this kind of behaviour are invariably those who can’t take a decent picture for toffee).

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2 Responses to Man Versus Machine

  1. gugon says:

    You know, I’m not a professional photographer by any means but I’ve always taken a certain pride in photographs I’ve taken – family, vacations that sort of thing. I am always very conscious of lighting and framing and composition.

    But the funny thing is, once I bought my first digital camera – in a way, I stopped caring as much. With film, there is a certain risk factor: once you take the shot, you are committed and you are buying that picture. But with digital – you don’t like it you can just delete it.

    For me, the result is a cheapening of my photography. I don’t put as much effort into it – I don’t pay as much attention to the shots. And for some reason, I never really feel that urge to go grab my camera any more.

    I can understand a certain backlash to digital photography. It’s somehow less real – and you can never be sure if the picture you are looking at is true or manipulated.

  2. Caz Mockett says:

    That’s really interesting – you think you’re getting lazy with your photography by using digital. Never thought about it like that before, but I can see what you mean.

    I’m not sure I’m getting lazy as such, but perhaps taking more risks with the type of pictures I attempt – low light, unusual composition – merely for the fact that I can bin them if they turn out to be rubbish. I hope I’m still learning when to bother and when not to!

    It’s true that I would never have attempted any of my rugby photography if I’d still been using film – far too much wastage (particularly when you first try it!) So digital has certainly opened up other avenues of photography for me.