Monday, May 14, 2012

Professional Photography and Digital

A portrait client said something funny to me a few weeks ago. She said that she was surprised that there were still professional photographers around since we now have digital.

I am still trying to figure out what assumptions she had that would cause her to say that. After all, professionals were the first to adopt digital photography in the mid-nineties. Would she suggest that since there are now Walgreen’s on every corner we don’t need doctors, or that there is no need for architects or contractors now that we have Home Depot and Lowes?

I think she was assuming that photography is mainly a technical pursuit and that a photographer is mainly a technician. If that were true the biggest challenge to professional photography would have been the original Kodak and roll film introduced in 1888. The Kodak ushered in the idea of the casual snap-shooter and also the photo-finishing industry. All of a sudden, anybody could make photographs.

But it also was the beginning of a new visually literate culture and the golden age of magazines and photo-journalism. 

Film improved over the next century until it was about as good as it was going to get and a totally new approach was needed. Digital photography came along at just the right time. The continually improving quality has benefited both amateur and pros alike.

Professional photographers don’t just have better equipment or know a little bit more about technique; they bring a well-trained eye and usually years of experience. Buying an expensive camera doesn’t mean that you will be able to make photographs as good as a person who has taken their natural gift and developed it through study and years of practice, to the point where they can make pictures that convey feeling and emotion or move people to change the world.

I have spent most of my waking hours for the past fifty years trying to make better pictures. I don’t consider better cameras in the hands of casual snap-shooters a threat.