There’s something quite special about looking at a photo that you can get lost in, whether it’s a vibrant sunset over a picturesque landscape, framed and captured to enjoy over and over again, to that perfectly timed sports action shot, freezing a single moment normally reserved for meetings between friends who try to paint the image through words into the minds of others. These photos were once the sole domain of the professional photographer, who spent each and every day honing their craft, using expensive equipment not available to the general public. To be called a photographer was badge of honour, it showed your skill and speciality to a field not accessible to many.
However as time goes on, change inevitably occurs. Technology develops rapidly, shrinking the size of cameras down from mammoth beasts to ultra portable (and in cases pocket sized). The development on from film to digital files has revolutionised the entire world of photography. Once upon a time a photographer had a finite amount of resource at his disposable to get the right shot. Each picture needed to painstakingly set up, as often you only had 1 chance to get the image right. Even if you got this right then the photos had to be chemically developed, at a cost of both resources and time. Digital media has changed all of this, from the amateur level all the way up. I spent a bit of time with a professional wildlife photographer at a wolf sanctuary learning how to photograph wild animals. He told me he would often shoot in excess of 6000 images in the hope of walking away with 4/5 worth really keeping and using. The only thing this requires is a lot of time and patience to go through each of them, and decide which of the many taken of the same moment are just right. All of this goes further with the ever increasing quality of cameras built into smartphones. Entire short films are now shot, edited and released all from the palm of the hand. It’s turned everyone with a phone who happens to be in the right place at the right time into a seasoned pro.
While all of this sounds like a rant at the way the industry has changed, I can honestly say I welcome it, it’s enabled photographers like myself to have a chance to explore our passion. This ever-changing industry is spilling out into other domains and with each advancement in technology, more of the world becomes accessible to all. News footage which once either required a professional photographer stationed near by can now be covered by a passer by with their phone, getting the images out to the wider public rapidly as the story breaks. It means life’s special moments, those special firsts, the cherished memories can now be captured without the high cost and intrusion of privacy.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for the professional photographer. There’s still no substitute for someone who spends time to set up that special image. A phone’s camera will never replace an expensive professional grade camera and range of lenses for its image quality. And ultimately it will never be able to replace experience, those little mistakes which lead to a greater understanding of what to do, and more importantly what not to. Within every shoot a good photographer will learn a little more, both about their craft and their equipment. It’s been 4 years since I took up amateur photography, and it was only the other day I learned about some little features in my camera which abled me to up the quality of my images. There’s also the work after the picture has been taken. Spending time to go through each image and digitally alter them if needed. Straightening up a shot from it’s wonky angle. Tweaking colours to make sure whoever looks at the image can truly get lost in the art of it.
I think it’s safe to say the profession of a photographer isn’t what it used to be. Anyone can call themselves one, and in reality that may well be the case. But to spot a true artist just see how much time they put into their craft. You only need to cast an eye over there work, and quality will always speak for itself.