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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Grumpy Notes from Here and There

Over on PetaPixel we find a complaint that it's hard to make a living teaching photography, with, to the author's credit, some ideas about what to do about it. The elephant in the room here is that photography is easy, now. Those motivated, interested, students that are a joy to teach are motivated enough to figure out almost all this stuff on their own, or by spending a few bucks on a craftsy course, as needed.

The main impediment to new photographers is old photographers with their stupid advice. I am watching a tragic conversation unfold in which a guy wants to shoot product for his eBay store in which some doofuses on the internet are trying to teach him how to use strobes. He was using continuous light (totally appropriate, a 100x easier), but switched to some sort of strobed light. Probably because some old photographer suggested it.

Ming Thein has a hilarious post in which he reveals to the world the shocking news that image stabilization technology is not perfect, and also makes some fascinating`accusations that I have not read elsewhere (IS components will wear and the image quality will degrade over time, and IS components may not lock in the right position when IS is turned off). It strikes me as almost certainly an apologia for Hasselblad. Whether written at their behest, or whether it's his own idea, I cannot guess, but I note that either is possible.

Also, he doesn't know anything about control systems. Sample rate and shutter speed? What?

Finally, Mike J over on ToP has this interesting post about little details. The obsession with little details is a fascinating study in the world of photography. You can generally sell your obsession with little details as simply being a super-awesome professional photographer, and sometimes it's even true. More commonly, though, it's about avoiding the big questions. If you fuss endlessly over tiny details, then you never have to worry about whether the picture is any good, if the project is any good, if your work is any good. Photography, being endlessly fiddly but ultimately pretty easy, lends itself especially well to this sort of thing.

You can't do this with ballet, because nobody is going to fail to notice that your feet are all over the place while you're fussing with finger positions. You can't do it with sculpture, or drawing, or architecture. It's actually pretty hard to get to a half-decent looking result at all so your obsession with chisel-work, line weight, or mullions, isn't going to distract people from the ugly lump you've made. As a camera user, though, once you figure out how to focus the damn thing, your rotten flower picture looks pretty much like a flower. You can start rattling on about tonal placement, light modifiers, or microcontrast, or something, and there's a chance people won't notice that you suck.


  1. "... isn't going to distract people from the ugly lump you've made" - Love that sentence, and only wish I had read it 40 years ago. But it's never to late, isn't it?

  2. Enjoyed the whining from photo instructors. I figured that out about 10 years back. Here's the thing. Teaching how to develop and print fine black and white photos chews up about 2 semesters. What do we teach those little bastards, now? I decided to teach them how to see, which is what it's all about. Yeah, it's a lot tougher than teaching how to mix D-76.

  3. Ouch, that really hurt what u said about micro contrast. It's what I'm trying to capture. But then I'm an amateur, so I don't know what I'm talking about