Food for thought – What is your photography all about?

A guest post by Prentis Drew

Old family photo

In a previous post: Jack Hollingsworth: “iPhone photography is as good as a DSLR” there were a number of responses that ran the gamut from, “I don’t think so,” to, “Best camera ever,” and many opinions in between.  I commented that this is a symptom of the ever accelerating offerings from the camera manufacturers to entice you to buy the next best piece of equipment.  A subset of this is the ever evolving capabilities of phone cameras as they are introduced.  All well and good and it feeds the passions of the gear heads that just like cool stuff.  But it strikes me that there are deeper issues at play here.  These cameras are only tools.  What about photography itself?  That can easily get lost in the fray.

Ask yourself, what are you going to do with all those photos?  What is your true purpose of all that effort and expense?

It might be preserving family memories is the main objective, which encompasses what I believe is the bulk of those that take photographs, (not necessarily to be confused with photographers).  But this digital age presents a problem.  Managing digital files over long periods of time is not straightforward.  Consider this print of a family photograph taken early in the last century (that I reproduced with my digital camera).  Will similar photographs taken today continue to be viewed 100 years from now?  Do you back up and update digital formats of your files over time?  Do you make hard copy prints of important family portraits and memorable events?  Will those prints last?  Much has been written on this subject and it is certainly something to consider.

If the goal is to create meaningful, artistic and stunning images there is a key thing to consider.  How are they to be viewed?  I did a little math.  The iPhone 5 has a very advanced screen that is 640 X 1136.  Pretty good, huh?  Well that comes out to be 727K pixels, not even a megapixel.  You also have to have wonderful eyesight to utilize that level of detail on such a small screen.  I have a wonderful 23 inch LCD monitor, color calibrated for viewing and editing my photographs.  It has a resolution of 1920 X 1080 or just a little over 2 megapixels.  So what are we doing with those tens of megapixels in our fancy cameras if we never render the photographs in a format that uses them?  In slide film days we would project the images on screens that took one end of the living room to set up.  That certainly used the image density of the film.  I hired a pro to take my daughter’s wedding.  He used high end digital cameras and produced poster sized prints that are very sharp and detailed.  But who among us does that?

If there is a message in these ramblings, consider what the end result of your photography is going to be as you select equipment and utilize/preserve your images.  For most of us it needn’t be a D4 or EOS-1.  The job of making great photographs falls back to the skill and eye of the photographer.  Depending on how you are going to use the photos it can even be an iPhone.

So match your gear with your photographic goals, keep learning, keep shooting, and take care to preserve those good shots for posterity.

~ ~ ~

Well said, Prentis, I couldn’t agree more.  And thanks for sharing your perspective with us.

If other readers would like to write a guest post for 2 Guys Photo, please email Rey or I directly.  We’d love to hear your thoughts and share them with the world!

And thanks for visiting 2 Guys Photo!

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About Ed Spadoni

www.2GuysPhoto.com "Thoughts and opinions, resources and experiences… for emerging photographers everywhere."
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6 Responses to Food for thought – What is your photography all about?

  1. Rodney says:

    Great post Prentis. I guess I am relying on Picasa to store my files forever. I can print off the site if I want. But maybe I should think of an alternative? My photography is just a hobby to share my travels with my friends and family who don’t get to travel.

  2. Prentis says:

    Rodney, Thanks for your comment. I use Smugmug for part of my archiving along with an automatic daily backup hard drive and a periodic dump of my photo files on a portable hard drive stored in a fireproof safe. I also have a portfolio of my favorites in 5X7 and 8X10 prints. I have yet to shoot something that I feel worthy of a painting size metallic print for the living room wall but hope springs eternal.

    It is a hobby for me too and I mostly enjoy it for the thrill of the hunt for that definitive shot. But there are some people photos in the collection too that probably would be interesting to see after a few generations have passed. That is where is gets interesting. Will there be a Picasa or Smugmug 100 years from now? Will someone in 2113 even know what a JPEG is? Digital photography is but in its infancy. The plot thickens.

  3. Rodney says:

    I can only imagine what will be available in 100 years! Hope I can come back to see.

  4. Clanmother says:

    I am in the middle of scanning my father’s photo from 1920’s onward. It is a daunting task. I am also transferring video from VHS to digital. This post mirrored my thoughts – what will happen if I will need to transfer everything to a different format a few years from now. Excellent discussion – thank you.

  5. Prentis says:

    Clanmother,
    Here is a hint. It’s the people photos that deserve the most effort for preservation, right? Also over time there might be some shots that show a snapshot in history like cars, fashion and architecture. But unless you’re dad was Ansel Adams those landscape photos soon lose their value.

    I have a similar long term task dealing with my father-in-law’s mountain of prints and negatives from about the same era. It was quickly winnowed to a manageable level by ditching all those sunset shots, if you understand what I mean.

    • Ed Spadoni says:

      Last year, I helped our parents organize and digitize about 2,000 slides that Dad had taken over four decades. It was a big task but from a preservation standpoint, plus an opportunity to revisit our family’s history, it was well worth it.

      But Prentis is right, 90% of the photos were of people: us, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and old friends, most of whom are long gone. Those are the images we cherish the most. Last time I checked, Niagara Falls still looks the same as it did in 1967.

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