Friday, August 13, 2010

All Sorts of Photographers

The digital age has had a huge affect on amateur photography. Remember the shoe box your granny would pull out from the back of the closet? Remember all the black and white photos of the cousins on your uncle's side? If you were lucky enough to have had a fore bearer with an interest in cameras and photography, perhaps your relatives were photo-documented in focus. Perhaps they were even "good" photos. But often the only photos considered worth passing down were the ones taken by the professional photographer, who would have captured the staged images of the "important" life events: bride and groom, the graduate, the family portrait.

Now almost everyone has a digital camera and since the cost of film and developing is no object, we take thousands of photos each. And we take photos of everything: the really good Ruben sandwich we had for lunch, the cat sleeping, the layout of the furniture in the living room, ... I like the idea of having our daily lives documented, not just the big milestones along the way, not just when we are wearing expensive clothes and have our hair parted straight. I don't know that my distant descendant will ever want to look at my digital photo collection, though.

I've had my current camera for three years and i tripped the 10,000 image mark last month. I'm not saying i'm a great photographer, but that kind of practice has to show somehow. I have to hope it does. Pre-digital, not many people could have afforded that much film and developing.

I know a few teenaged girls that take an awful lot of self portrait photos for their FaceBook pages. And they have gotten REALLY good at taking wonderful photographs of themselves. I've tried it. I can't do it. But in their cases, practice has led to perfection.

I think that taking a good photograph is all about observation of the subject and then capturing the subject in such a way that you are communicating something fundamental about the subject to the viewer. When you have a certain amount of experience in taking photographs, you start making creative choices that influence the outcome. Even if you are just looking at your photos and observing that "this one sucks, but this one's ok", you're being artistically discerning, sort of. If you want to look good for your FaceBook shot, you learn from experience about harsh vs. filtered light, 3/4 angle vs. nostril shot, big toothy grin vs. Mona Lisa smile, loud stripes shirt vs. a solid color, stuff in the background vs. simple backdrop.

Considering all the young people snapping photos with digital cameras and cell phones these days, and all the YouTube videographers, I theorize that there are more inadvertent artists amongst us than ever before. Something positive about Generation Y!

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