Thursday, November 5, 2009

Are you a photographer or a photo taker?

“Anyone can take a photo but not everyone can be a photographer.” No, this is not my personal mantra, but it is a quote I’ve heard several times over the past few weeks. Specifically, two of my photography instructors have repeated it many times in class. Yes, I still take classes. It’s called CPE – Continuing Photography Education. In this digital age, most people don’t feel they need any particular photographic skill to shoot a GOOD photo. And they are right. While the combination of having a digital camera and (name your preferred photo enhancing software here) produces many good images, it takes a lot more knowledge to produce a GREAT image and be a photographer.

In our society, most people who own some form of a digital camera fancy themselves a “photographer” (especially if their digital camera costs more than their neighbor’s digital camera), which is quite different from “someone who likes to take photos”. My good friends Merriam and Webster define photographer as follows:

Photographer: one who practices photography; especially, one who makes a business of taking photographs.

Thus, leading to the definition of photography:

Photography: the art or process of producing images on a sensitive surface (as film or a CCD chip – they had to add this last part when digital cameras arrived on the scene).

Sadly, the true art of photography is dying. I recently wrote an artist statement for a series of images. I needed a “peer review” of the statement and chose someone in one of my classes. In said statement, I mentioned how awesome it was to watch an image appear in a tray of liquid…it was magical. She asked me to clarify this as she had no idea what I was talking about. I explained it was part of the manual darkroom process…watching the image “appear” on the fiber paper while sitting in a tray of developer. This process was totally foreign to her…she has never been in a darkroom. What a tragedy. The darkroom is a very magical place indeed… epicenter of photographic creativity.

If you consider yourself a photographer, as opposed to a photo taker, use the checklist below to ascertain which category you fall into:

What is the definition of aperture?
What is the f-stop scale?
What f-stop should be used on really sunny days?
How do aperture and shutter speed work together? How do they work independently?
What does ISO mean?
If the ISO of my camera is set at 100, what lighting is going to be best for these photos?
If the ISO of my camera is set at 800, what lighting is going to be best for these photos?
What is a grayscale?
What is the Divine Proportion?
What is the Golden Mean or Golden Ratio?
What is dodging and burning?
What is exposure?
How does the Fibonacci Number System relate to photography?
What is the Rule of Thirds and how does that apply to my photos?

Are these questions a hard-fast rule to determine what category you fall into? Definitely not. It’s just some information to gauge yourself to see where you are and where you might want to go. If you’ve never been in a darkroom…..find one…..go there. It definitely offers a more magical experience that anything you will see at Disneyworld….and it doesn’t cost as much! Photography, as opposed to taking photos, will take on a whole new life for you.

I'm just sayin',


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