The lack of knowledge in new photographers

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Lee Shively, May 24, 2007.

  1. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    This may not be the proper place to post this and it is kind of a rant so....

    I've been thinking of buying a DSLR (please don't send hate mail, I do have a method to my madness) so I've been reading a lot of digital photography forums. Coming from photographyland and not from computerland, it's a challenge to understand a lot of what I've been reading, however, I am muddling through. The only solid thing I have discovered is the appalling level of photographic knowledge out there.

    I realize we all were ignorant when we started messing around with photography. I accept my own computer ignorance as a big limitation now as I investigate digiland. But some of the things I read are plumb scary! On one thread concerning shooting RAW vs JPG (see, I'm learnin' this stuff--I can talk digital now!), almost all the posters came across as believing it is less desirable to produce a finished photograph in the camera alone. They promote shooting RAW so they can use the computer to manipulate the image. It's as if actually making a photograph is not enough--it has to be Photoshopped into existence or it's somehow unhip.

    There's also an abysmal lack of basic equipment knowledge--everything is automatic from exposure to focus to steadying the camera. Skill is unnecessary because we have software to fix all that! God forbid any of the auto modes stops working because no one understands manual processes anymore. When I recently tried to assist someone having a problem on one of their cameras (even digital cameras have some functions and features in common with film cameras I have discovered), I quickly realized this person with the $3000 camera and bagful of high tech glass had no idea what I was talking about. I think it means people have too much money these days--except me, of course.

    I could go on--I could, I might. A photographic future in which knowledge and skill mean less than the hardware and software you use looks real damn bleak. Does this concern anyone other than me or am I just an anachronistic old fart with a bad attitude?
     
  2. schroeg

    schroeg Member

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    Today I was sitting in Union Square in San Francisco and a fellow was giving an outdoor class to a group of youngsters armed with digital cameras. He said: "All the great photographers would go out and shoot 400 or 500 images and then come back and be happy with 3 or 4 of them." I almost had to say something but held myself. With that bit of questionable wisdom he unleased his charges out into the city snapping away at everything in sight, not seeing, not engaging the subject, until their collective memory cards were exhausted.

    I give you the future.

    And thank God for APUG!

    George
     
  3. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    I think the raw issue is related to all the problems the cameras really have but the ads don't mention. It's a way to get around them. OTOH a lot of us shoot negative film and then enlarge it.

    I don't think you've got a bad attitude I just don't think much has changed. How many of those mint MF cameras that are now selling for peanuts got bought for show? Same thing with the high end 35mm cameras.
     
  4. Kino

    Kino Member

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    Old Fart? Bad additutde? Probably; me too! :wink:

    Just think of it this way; those guys make us SHINE

    :smile:
     
  5. dslater

    dslater Member

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    There are a couple of reasons for this. First, there is a significant amount of post-processing that goes into producing an image from the raw CCD output. For example, the individual red green and blue pixels need to be interpolated to produce a full color image. Also, because of the anti-moire filter over the CCD, almost all digital images will need some sharpening applied to them. Software like photoshop is usually much better at doing this than the in camera algorithms. Second, the RAW image is like a digital negative - just as you manipulate the image during printing a negative to get the best possible print, the image captured by a digital camera will most likely need some manipulation to produce the very best final image. With a RAW image file, you have all the data the sensor captured when the image was taken. However, since JPG uses lossy compression, the JPG image you get out of the camera has already lost some information - think fine detail here. If you then edit that JPG image and save as another JPG, you lose even more information.

    Hope you enjoy your new camera.

    Dan
     
  6. rkmiec

    rkmiec Member

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    i agree with dslater.raw is what most pros use as it gives you the most info.and it requires more post processing.most pro cameras can shoot raw.i do not use those cameras but i try to stay on top of things.also i bet most pros do shoot hundreds of images when shooting digital and then weed it down to a few select images.same as over and under compensation.i used to own a nikon f5 and could shoot like 12 shots with a single push of the button and use the best one.we live in a i want it now world and digital has created alot more here it is now photographers and lessened the number of artists.not saying there arent digital artists out there that will spend countless hours creating a unique image.take in all the info eve if it sounds like garbage there may be something useful there.
     
  7. david b

    david b Member

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    Trying talking with photo students about famous photographers. It's a joke. I had an advanced photo student ask me if rodinal was a film developer.
     
  8. Rob Skeoch

    Rob Skeoch Advertiser Advertiser

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    I work as a photo editor at a magazine and also work shifts at a daily paper.
    There was a day when photographers mastered their craft and rose to be professionals.
    Very few people are mastering digital. Most just save it in Photoshop.
    -Rob
     
  9. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    Amen to that...

    It is sad but true unfortunately...
     
  10. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    I am an old fart and want to know why this diatribe concerning the D--- camera usage is allowed to continue here.
     
  11. eric

    eric Member

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    [Everyone in unison] Hello Lee!

    Rant away baby, rant away.

    I need to get a digi-gizmo as well for my secondary and tertiary job and I need to ask the resident digital guy at work (I work with computers) what to look for. I have no clue besides "can my old Nikon ai's work with it".
    For the price of getting one, I can get a: Shen-Hao 4x5 or decent used 8x10 or Hassy SWC (bargain grade) or a fotoman pano. And these cameras will probably hold their value a lot longer.
     
  12. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    On the flip side, photo.net has decided that darkroom printing is sufficiently arcane as to remove their B+W darkroom forum from the drop-down list of forums on their home page. (The forum is still there but now you have to go dig for it.) Sic transit gloria mundi.

    Sanders
     
  13. dslater

    dslater Member

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    The least expensive Nikon digital SLR that will meter with AI lenses is the D200. You may be able to use them on other Nikon digital SLR's like the D80 and D70, but the meter will be disabled. A D40 won't work as it only works with G-type (no aperture ring) Nikkors.
     
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  15. DaveOttawa

    DaveOttawa Member

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    What's a DSLR?:rolleyes:
     
  16. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    Well, I suppose I am too.

    But the point is that this problem is not limited to photography. Young folks coming into my profession no longer take the time to learn the basics. They prevailing attitude appears to be that since everything is now in the computer, all that one needs to know is how to drive a PC (or a Mac). And I suspect that description applies to a lot more professions than just mine.

    A few years ago, we bought a new washing machine. It didn't work. Called the repair dude - his solution was to order a replacement drive train (motor and transmission) and a replacement control panel. In other words, rather than trying to understand what was wrong with it, his solution was simply to replace everything except the outside box.

    That might be the right solution in terms of economics, but I grew up with a fundamental curiosity about how things worked, and that led me to want to take things apart, fix things, etc. And that probably why I am still a fan of traditional, analog photography. Can you imagine a life without curiosity?

    Dreadful :sad:
     
  17. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I don't know that this is necessarily a digital phenomenon.

    I think that ever since automatic exposure cameras came into the mainstream there has been a large percentage of people who take pictures but don't really have a desire to understand how things work.

    Even before automatic exposure cameras, there were a vast number of people who were happiest with fixed focus cameras that worked best in average lighting conditions.

    There has also always been a significant number of picture takers who buy the newest, most expensive offering, and then set it to "Auto", and expect it to work without thought or judgement from the operator.

    I bet there are a fair number of people here who know at least one person with a high end film SLR that is never taken off "Program Auto" and autofocus, because the owner doesn't really know how to use the camera otherwise.

    While we are certainly not immune from the effects of GAS here on APUG, most of the people here have more of an attachment to the process and the results than the gadgetry we use.

    I think the biggest change brought in by the "digital revolution" is that digital cameras have a different "cool" factor than film cameras have had for a while. People who used to be happy with an instamatic or pocket camera, now want something fancier, because the immediate gratification of that digital screen provides a new form of entertainment.

    It is the novelty of the digital cameras, and their appeal to those who love the latest in gadgetry that motivate many of the new digital "photographers".

    All the technological doodads do is increase the percentage of pictures that come out reasonably well even if the operator doesn't have much knowledge. Accordingly they are important to the large number of people who seek them out.

    Some of those people may be blessed with good photographic judgment and taste. It is hoped that they are able to move past the fascination with gadgetry.

    Matt
     
  18. christom

    christom Member

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    I don't know who but someone said recently; "Isn't it amazing how photography has advanced without improving!"

    How true, I'll keep the film cameras.
     
  19. darinwc

    darinwc Subscriber

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    Digital is just a different process. instead of fiddling with combinations of fixers and developers, you fiddle with color-space and gamut. Instead of printing with fine-grain developer or lith for extra grain, you use photoshop filters.

    With digital you get more immediate feedback and things like color balance, contrast, saturation, etc are easier to work with and doesnt cost you paper and chemestry to experiment with adding an extra 1% red. However there are steep learning curves to get everything color matched and get consistantly good output.

    People who do not take the time to learn the art of photography will still take the same drab snapshots. But i think more people in general are learning about photography and some of those newcomers are still interested in learning darkroom techniques. be patient with them because they will keep our film supply flowing =]
     
  20. jmdavis

    jmdavis Member

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    Well if all equals Winogrand the teacher is right. But it doesn't.

    On the other hand I think part of the value of digital can be the practice of seeing. It is possible that repetition can help lead to knowledge. The experimentation can help the student learn what is and is not good. The other possibility is that the repetition leads to nothing but more repetition. In that case, the effort may have been wasted.
     
  21. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    Aye yes -- charming rant, actually. (As the one who started the 130+ post thread on the "death of scientific curiosity," I better be careful here. :D )

    I think there are three elements:

    1) Lust for instant results - instant being more important than results
    2) Lack of curiosity about how things work -- "where's the pushbutton?"
    3) Low expectations in general (related to #1)

    Re: #3, I once had someone fawning all over me about a stack of vacation shots -- "wonderful pictures -- so clear -- and such good color -- what kind of camera do you have?" In truth they were little more than snapshots -- although I tend to be pretty attentive to composition -- taken with a Canon Elph Jr -- yes folks, an all automatic APS camera. But I do always get my color films processed at places that do pro quality work. And indeed, that little camera does a damn nice job within its limitations. But I've seen people passing around stuff they got processed at the corner supermarket that I would have tossed 90% of just for cruddy printing -- but they were happy. What can you do. (My own mother used to be one of the offenders!)

    I often wonder what will happen if some global cataclysm leaves us isolated -- could we get back to the level of manufacturing and practical maufacturing engineering that we used to have in time to avoid grinding to a complete and irrecoverable halt? (Rhetorical)

    Rave on!

    DaveT
     
  22. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    The advantage of the d____l revolution is that after making a huge investment of money each exposure is practically free, especially if the images are not printed. Therefore, unlike film, the user has an urge to take lots of images. And wonder of wonder if the finger twitches enough times eventually a good image will appear! It reminds me of watching 6 or 7 year olds play soccer - the ball ends up near one goal or the other and with all the kicking going on, at some point, the ball will score a goal, maybe by the wrong team, but a goal will be scored!

    And the crowd roars,"Digisnaps rule!"

    Steve
     
  23. phaedrus

    phaedrus Member

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    Lee,

    I don't worry too much about the points you raise. The real difficulties, the real work starts once you've mastered the technical craft. A proportion, however small, of the adepts of digital photography will get to that transition, the same can be said of users of traditional silver halide based photography.
     
  24. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    This is true.
    There are added benefits to everything having a camera attached and the presumed increase in d-photos being made. People will shoot more; they will learn to appreciate how hard it is to take a good picture and may appreciate good photography more than past generations; people will become better composers of pictures if not better photographers.

    This last bit is important and valuable (at least I think it is). At the end of the day the composition is one of the intellectually tough parts of image creation, with the other important bit being content. The combination of the two is what makes an ordinary image a piece of art. As most people take more pictures they will as a matter of course try to improve and with that improvement greater sensitivity and appreciation for the power of images and image making -- they will become art enthusiasts.

    One dreams.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 25, 2007
  25. jleavesl

    jleavesl Member

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    I guess I might be considered one of the younger ones (27), but I grew up with a Canon FTb. I have several friends who remain dedicated to film. I also have friends who look at my old F1n and my F5 and wonder why the hell I have such a 'clunky hunk of s__t when Digital will do the same thing"?

    Normally after clubbing them with my F1n they come around or at least agree to appease me.

    I bought a D100 about a year and a half ago, thinking that it would be easier than paying for processing. I can't stand the thing for any kind of artistic work and it has subsequently been relegated to work functions. I can get some decent images out of it, but it requires so much work in Photoshop that I just can't justify it. I did some pictures of my girlfriend last week for her application to a website... I did it all on the F5 and loaded some Ultra Color 400 (ISO'd at 320). Infinitely better results than anything the D100 ever considered going.

    Program functions dropped the bar years ago. You could just set it to Auto and fire off mindlessly without worrying about F-stop or depth of field. Growing up with an all manual camera I can utilize those functions much more effectively. If I want a shorter depth of field, I can set the Aperature Priority Mode accordingly... If I need an action shot, I can set the shutter priority mode accordingly. For landscapes at night, I can eyeball it in all manual. Most people can't access the full potential of their equipment due to limited knowledge of the mechanics. That doesn't bother me much. As long as I can still use my equipment to its full capabilities.
     
  26. zenrhino

    zenrhino Member

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    Is it just the rise of digit@l that has caused this decline in the overall quality of photos and photographers?

    I'm not sure that the ability to cheaply take lots of shots is anything new:

    [The new technology has] "created an army of photographers who run rampant over the globe, photographing objects of all sorts, sizes and shapes, under almost every condition, without ever pausing to ask themselves, is this or that artistic? …They spy a view, it seems to please, the camera is focused, the shot taken! There is no pause, why should there be? For art may err but nature cannot miss, says the poet, and they listen to the dictum. To them, composition, light, shade, form and texture are so many catch phrases…"
    And what is this evil technology in the quote (that I probably found here on APUG)?

    Dry plates. :D

    [E. E. Cohen, "Bad Form in Photography," in The International Annual of Anthony's Photographic Bulletin. New York and London: E. and H. T. Anthony, 1893, p. 18.]

    Maybe we can look at the overall contemporary photographic culture to find an answer. The post-modern attitude of "Hey, who's to say what is and isn't a good photo? It's all relative." paired with the rise of the snapshot aesthetic seems to have a pretty big influence.

    Personally, my choice to move away from digit*l has nothing to do with dogma and everything to do with results. I have a D70 that I like well enough and the Nikkor 50mm f1.8 is nice and sharp. But if I put an 11x14 print made with the D70 up against the same size print shot with either the Bronica GS-1 6x7 or even my Rolleicord III, the digital shot just looks horrid. Digital vs 35mm? With my gear (Spotmatic & SMC Takumar glass or even Nikon n90s & nikkor 50mm f1.8) it's an even match. If you've got a Leica, you'll do better than digit*l, I would think. I'm hoping that the results from my 9x12cm are just stunning, too.

    Personally when the time came to choose "upgrade DSLR body or not," I chose to put my money into a Jobo CPE-2 and a membership at my local darkroom.

    Then again, I don't have any photo editors or art buyers or bridezillas demanding all digital output start to finish.