The truth about photography, that photographers don’t want you to know. Part 1: It’s Easy.

That’s right you read that correctly, it’s easy. Why do I say this, especially when I am a photographer, and why don’t other photographers want you to know this.

Well let’s start with a little history. Photography, as many my age will remember, mid 20’s obviously, was once the realm of film and chemicals, disposable cameras and viewfinders that didn’t line up with the lens, the anticipation of the return of a processed film to discover the ever present finger blurring a corner of every image. In short it was a practice, ritual or hobby that required extensive commitment to trial and error to get even a few well composed images with little to no potential for the average user to crop, correct, or review.

That was the way, to paraphrase the Mandalorian, it was pretty much universally from photography’s modern inception in 1839 for the next 120+ years.

Why then do we still carry that perception into then digital age?

Well that is most easily answered by the title of this essay, ‘photographers don’t want you to know’.

Today photography is easy, and has been for around 20 years. Essentially the same tools and features that were introduced back in the late 20th century and early 21st century are ever present through to the highest end equipment of the modern day. The electronic viewfinder with through the lens framing so you don’t miss align the shot, real time exposure so what you see is what you get, large screens for reviewing after pressing the shutter, auto exposure modes to dial in the ‘look’ of a certain type of photograph, endless storage ability at zero recurring cost, battery life to last all day the list goes on. All these ‘mod-cons’ remove the extensive trial and error of learning a medium that was once so reliant on being able to visualise the unseen.

So why then do we have different levels of equipment and the need for a professional photographer?

The answer to that question is both simple and controversial. Camera manufacturers need to sell cameras and professional photographers need to sell their service.

It may seem obtuse when considered that way but we now live in a digital media world. This means that the majority of photography is viewed on a tiny screen in our hands with a resolution of little more than 0.5 megapixels, each image fleeting by rapidly in an ever struggling attempt to capture our attention for those few seconds.

To put what I am saying about technology into some context the high quality prints of the most considered of coffee table books do need a much higher level of printing quality than a mobile screen, 24mp and above in some cases, the wall print which is intended to be viewed up close and personal can benefit from even using cameras in the 150mp range but outside of those niche requirements a 6 metre by 4 metre billboard only requires roughly 6mp much less than todays phone cameras.

And in regards to contracting a professional photographer, simple economy of scales mean that to continuously produce vernacular product, lifestyle and ‘throwaway’ shots makes little to no financial sense when a phone camera, some practice and decent lighting/editing skills will suffice.

So what is the point of this short essay if not to basically talk myself out of any work available?

My point is that there is a time and a place for equipment and professionalism. When the brief is to create something unique, individual and long-lasting you are essentially investing into your brand, it’s visual style and representation. The professional is there to research, discover and advise on the right approach and to provide an image product that will work across many different formats and mediums.

What the photographer does by mystifying their services and making the process obtuse and abstract is to both elevate their position to that of a magical creator whilst simultaneously trying to relieve the clients of resources that may well be much more effectively used in areas they have no experience or confidence in providing.

Photography is easy, but navigating the the complexities of creating a unique identity that not only works for you, your target audience and able to be used through all the different channels you use, is hard.


Thanks for reading, I hope you found something useful in the essay, if you enjoyed this you may enjoy my podcast in which I talk about the complexities of representation. You may also like my photography which you can find at harleybainbridge.com

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