My interest in photography probably started with my junior high art teacher. He was an avid photographer and a neighbor. I used to look through his images and we would discuss some of the technique involved but very superficial.
It wasn’t to long after I got out of school that I purchased a waterproof Minolta so that it could go on the lake, hikes, rivers and just about everywhere I was spending time. I took a good share of photos but that was before digital and processing color and making prints could become rather expensive and after a while I lost interest in taking photos.
But I was still interested in photography as art. I continued to look at a wide variety of photographers and genres.
My job at the newspaper I look at a lot of photos everyday. Good, Bad and surprising a lot of absolutely ugly photos. As photography has migrated away from film to digital files more people than ever are taking photos.
I include myself in that group. The digital camera has really made it possible for me to explore my interest again.
This democratization of photography has had mixed results in the quality of photos I see on a daily basis. For the most part I think people are under the misconception that you point the camera at your subject, press the shutter and low and behold Photoshop will make it look like Annie Leibovitz took the photo.
I would like to teach a post processing class sometime. I think if people understood how much better photos appear and reproduce when you get it right in the camera first they would take the extra time to compose their shots first.
The first thing you should do is editing photos. This is going thru the photos and tossing the bad ones. Everyone has them the photos where either the light wasn’t right or shutter speed too slow. It is nothing to be ashamed of, just don’t reproduce them. In the days of film it was the same way. Sometimes you would shoot a roll of 36 and only get a couple of keepers.
I have seen and know photographers that do very little editing and will publish large numbers of photos straight out of the camera. They may cull the extremely out of focus, over exposed or under exposed but will accept poorly composed photos. It is a rare photo of someone’s back side that is worth keeping. This is especially true in sports photography. Most action shots that show no faces should be culled. Perhaps you remember that fantastic bicycle kick that scored but if the only photo you got was of the line judge’s backside the ball in the air and the feet of the player, cull it.
Backgrounds are another area that gets overlooked a lot. Busy backgrounds are too distracting for the subject to standout from. That is why you see sports photos with the aperture wide open with a shallow depth of field. The busy background becomes a multicolor blur from which your subject will stand out.
Editing photos is just that editing which photos to keep and which to discard. Photo editing is where Photoshop or other software comes into play. This process can take as little or as much time and energy you want to put into it but again rarely is there a file that doesn’t require some touch up.
In the days of film often the developer would make adjustments in the dark room either to the film itself or to the print. Dodging and burning was one way to adjust a photo. You could also crop, enlarge, mask. These are all available in Photoshop and just as much an art form as analog prints were. But Photoshop is not the miracle that people think it is. Sure CSI can blow up a photo from a cell phone to read the phone number on a business card photographed in the dark from 100 yards away. Typically if a photo is out of focus there are a couple of things that can be done to help but most will leave artifacts that makes it worse and the more editing you do in photoshop the less it is a photograph and it becomes an illustration.
All the photos on this website are mine. I decided from the beggining that I was only going to use photos that I have taken. I also know that some of my work may break some of these rules that I have written about. I understand that knowing the rules and techniques are important to learn but sometimes these rules can be broken and can lead to some excellant work but shooting a couple hundred photos at the wrong aperture and shutter speed and then trying to pass it off as Holga lomography is lame.
Just as owning a scalpel doesn’t make one a surgeon, owning a camera doesn’t make you a photographer. This entry has become something of a rant, but it feels a little better to get this off my chest.