Thursday, July 18, 2013

On the Skinning of Cats

In any walk of life, probably, but certainly in photography, we find that people boil tasks down to a recipe whenever possible.

This leads to a syndrome in which a certain recipe is presented as the one true way to accomplish some goal. Lighting, post-processing, and so on, are subject to this. You have to use a such and such device, and put it here. You have to use a something or other layer. The photography industry exacerbates this by providing for every problem an object you can buy that is intended to solve that problem. People who purchase that object now have the recipe for solving that problem, and will cheerfully tell all comers that the way, the one true way, to solve that problem is with that widget. Buy it now!

There are two problems with this.

In the first place sometimes people aren't even really looking for the solution to a very specific problem. They just want some ideas for a similar effect, sometimes achievable with what they have on hand. They don't want to get to Bangor, they just want to know what are some interesting places they can go to in Maine on this bicycle they already own. Your specific instructions, involving buying a certain model of Mercedes-Benz automobile and a GPS, for getting to Bangor, are not very helpful.

In the second place, there is often a plethora of ways to solve the specific problem at hand. Even if I do actually want to get to Bangor, I probably don't need your Mercedes-Benz. A bus might get me there, too. Or it might get me to a place that's enough like Bangor not to matter.

There is more than one way to skin a cat. And, sometimes, people don't even want to skin the cat at all.

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