Heavy Post Production – Is it Photography or Art?

People who spend more time using Photoshop than they do using a camera should call themselves artists rather than photographers.
Photography is about taking photos. It’s not so much about producing photos. Producing photos is more about art. Artists might not agree. Artists tend to use materials to produce work by hand. This is usually pigment plus a medium to put pigment on.
Images that were once photographs and then have been manipulated to a marked degree with Photoshop cross the line into manipulated art. They have the hand of the artist on them, if not in an analogue way, at least in a digital way.
The line between photography and art isn’t a fixed one but there is definitely a line. This line will vary according to a person’s personal taste. At either end of the spectrum though most people would agree about the difference between photography and art.
Both are valid creative processes and should be respected as such.

An Experiment with Film

My brother gave me some old film he had left over from his hobby photography days. It was in his Olympus OM-1. The camera and film had been in a tin shed for about seven years so it was subjected to high temperatures in the summer and frosts in the winter. The film was about the same number of years past the expiry date. I decided to take the camera with the film in it on a plane flight, so it was subjected to security x-rays at check-in. Because of these factors I was very curious about the resulting photos.

The film was processed at a typical lab and I couldn’t wait to see if any photos turned out. To my amazement the photos were all reasonably OK. I was pleasantly surprised. Sure there was a bit of grain but not a significant amount. This shows the durability of film and the magnificent talent of the people at Kodak.

Kodak MAX 400 film was:
-X-rayed
-Kept in a tin shed for seven years
-Was seven years past the expiry date

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Vertical Scrolling vs Horizontal Scrolling

Vertical scrolling was with us from the beginning of web browsing. We have been doing this for well over a decade. It was a little bit difficult at first using a mouse but we got used to that and got very proficient at it.

Horizontal scrolling arrived a few years ago with some heavy use of JavaScript. My first instinct is still to try scrolling first when I see a full page image. If that doesn’t work I try horizontal scrolling second.

When you consider the hand movements necessary to scroll vertically and horizontally on, say, an iPad, you can see it’s much more efficient to scroll vertically. You can rest your hand on the side of the iPad and just use a small movement of your finger to scroll. If the site needs you to scroll horizontally, you need to lift your hand off the edge of the iPad and do a large, sweeping movement to scroll horizontally.

With vertically scrolling you need no script added to the page as this scrolling is a natural feature of all browsers.

With horizontal scrolling you need to add a heavy overload of JavaScript and often people have it turned off so they won’t be able to scroll your page anyway. Another problem with horizontal scrolling is that often it is very slow or not working at all so people leave those websites in impatient frustration.

So what do you think is better for your website, vertical or horizontal scrolling?

Working Photographers

As a counterpoint to the previous post, I went to a wedding yesterday where the chief photographer was a woman and the assistant was a man. She was quietly and pleasantly efficient, fading into the background, but there for the important photos. She worked untiringly for the whole eight hours. The guests with their DSLRs and big glass didn’t get as good shots as she did. As always it’s the photographer that counts.

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Women Photographers throughout Time

I have been wondering why there haven’t been many (famous) women photographers in the past, or even, for that matter, today. I was listening to the “On Taking Pictures“ podcast this week and heard Bill Wadman say that women photographers have been pushed down over the years. They have had to push hard to move up the scale. (Please forgive me Bill, if I mis-understood your idea.) That’s an interesting concept, somewhat akin to the concept of the “glass ceiling”, but much more evocative.

I have been wondering if we are just less creative in the artistic sense, just as there have been fewer prominent women artists throughout history also. Is our creativity repressed, suppressed or sublimated in motherly duties? Women are generally time-poor and energy-poor as they have many hours of duties in their off-work “free” time that are necessary for households to function. They still have much less disposable income and tend to be level-headed and spend money on domestic items first before “luxury” items such as cameras.

Another barrier to participation in photography for women, in particular, and men, in general, was the high cost of cameras, equipment and film (including processing). Recently the reduction in price and higher availability of good digital cameras has lowered the barrier for women, although high-end equipment is still heavy and bulky to carry.

Phone cameras have made photographic talent more visible in some way, although the numbers of photographers has soared in volume at the same time. This makes it difficult for all photographers to be seen in amongst the multitude of their peers.

Rules

Young photographers are breaking all the rules of photography – and getting away with it. Some examples: over-exposed photos, breaking rules of composition by putting the main focal point way to the side of the photo, taking photos of shoes, very blurred photos, weird colour combinations, skewed photos to name just a few. These are all done (intentionally or not) in the name of creativity. Because photographers of the past have assiduously avoided all of these things for the past multiple decades of photography, the latest photos are regarded as something new and different! OK, so I like quite a lot of these photos, but I envy the ability to free oneself to experiment in this way.

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Flat is Fashionable

We have added gradients to websites. Just because we could, after so many years of trying to do this by various methods.

Then we added drop shadows to images in various shapes, just because we could. Once again after much trial and error.

Now we are going back to flat! But in a new and different look, much more stylish. I hear that Jony Ive is doing that for the iPhone. It must be the human collective mind working again, or some such.

Polaroid isn’t Going to Fade Away

The Polaroid 600 Light Management System camera has been sitting in the cupboard for many years. Polaroid stopped making film for it some years ago but I kept the camera for sentimental reasons. Some years ago, in a fit of an attempted minimalism cleanup, I threw out my Polaroid B&W camera along with a slide projector and a Super 8 projector thinking they would never be useful again. How wrong I was!

Back to the Polaroid 600. For a few years now, a company based in Holland called “The Impossible Project” has been producing experimental integral film for this camera. I was so excited to hear that but decided the cost was too high on my limited budget. Recently I decided to forget about the budget and get some film. I can do without a few chai lattes in order to take some instant photos. Digital cameras have spoiled us in some way, in that we want instant viewing of all photos taken. Delayed gratification, necessary while waiting for film to be developed and printed, is not something that we are very good at currently.

Fist of all, I tried the PX 600 Silver Shade B&W film. I wasn’t sure the camera would still work after all that time. I was pleasantly surprised when the first photo came out. The chemicals didn’t spread over all the photo but there it was, an instant photo. The subsequent photos all turned out correctly. Because the photos were taken in the summer which had a few days of 40 degrees centigrade I found that the colour of the photos has changed from silvery grey to sepia. I love the soft, misty effect of the photos, but I also like the sepia effect.

Advice to Photographers about their Websites

Never, ever use Flash. If you have it, get rid of it. Otherwise you will lose some of your audience. Like it or not, a good percentage of people will try to look at your photos on a devices that don’t have a Flash viewer and turn away from your website in frustration. No, they don’t want to download Flash, as a message asks them to. Most of those same devices won’t install it anyway.

Photography is about still images. Don’t be fooled into thinking a “flash Flash website” will “please” your audience. It will just turn them away. Leave Flash to be used where it is meant to be used for animation and movement of all kinds. Stick with your genre and don’t mingle and mix!

Photography by FotoMarg

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