While Camera Equipment Changes The Results Are Still The Same
When Daguerre started creating permanent light drawings and Fox Talbot developed what we are now familiar with as the silver halide negative technique making reproducing numerous copies of the same image without degradation pictures so much easier could they have foreseen the way we take photographs today? It was only a few years ago that we were still using essentially the same equipment that they were using, notwithstanding Eastman’s developments in the field of colour photography. Light hit a surface and created a latent image that could be recovered by dissolving the unexposed areas creating a negative image. You’d send the film off or process it in your own darkroom, if you could afford one, and in the end you had a set of negs and a set of prints.
Photo courtesy of Courtneycarmody
Today most of that process is obsolete. You don’t have to wait for your pictures to come back from the developers and the student photographer will never again feel the thrill of creation as their first image slowly appears, as if my magic, on the blank face of a piece of paper, rocked back and forth in a bath of developer. Instead you can put them straight on Facebook from the camera on your phone and today Facebook hosts 4% of all the photographs ever taken. That’s great for sharing your pictures, especially when you consider the sociopolitical aspects of photography. It’s always been used to bring home the truth of the world around us from the first time cameras were taken to the battlefield in the Crimean War by Roger Fenton to Facebook and Twitter’s ability let those caught up in the Arab Spring revolution instantly send news and film to the rest of us watching. Now only existing as bits of electronic data the rules surrounding producing good images remain the same.
The Rules Will Never Change And Neither Will Breaking Them
The rules surrounding what makes a good picture have hardly changed since the invention of perspective painting during the renaissance when Brunelleschi introduced the idea that things were bigger because they were nearer, not necessarily more important. Reading books about art and composition will tell you how to light a picture, how to compose it, the rules about thirds, diagonals and triangles. If you stick to these rules you will always take good photos and paint good pictures. However, it’s only when you break these rules that you start making great photos and pictures.
That’s not the same as not knowing the rules to begin with. No knowledge of composition means that your photos are going to be a sloppy mess unless you get lucky. Having an eye for a picture means being able to see when something is right even if it doesn’t keep within the rules. Ansel Adams would have given up if he tried to stick rigidly to the rule that the horizon should be one or two thirds of the way up the image, and do you think Man Ray would be anything more than an interesting photographer if he hadn’t decided to turn the light on while his prints were in the developer? Technically that’s not breaking a rule, that’s just doing it wrong to great effect.
Instantly Losing Part Of The Process
This means that although the equipment still looks familiar, a lens and a body, the technique and ability based upon experience and practical know how all remain the same, the method of capture, storage and retrieval have all changed so fundamentally that those skills will soon be lost forever to all but a dedicated few. To see what people are still doing with old large format cameras and hand tinting see Ellen Rogers work. Breaking the rules against double exposure, composition and picture quality her dreamlike, almost mythical images are grainy, dirty, water marked and technically rather poor. And it’s through this poverty that her pictures achieve individuality and uniquely poetic beauty, which is almost impossible to imitate.
So, it doesn’t matter if you’re using a clunky old compact or the latest DSLR with facial recognition and anti-shake, taking great pictures still comes down to the same thing: Know the rules and how and when to break them.
Amy Fry is a former financial adviser and a dedicated mother who chose to stay at home to look after her child with special needs. She has recently developed a real passion for photography, and she enjoys writing reviews about different photo equipment. If you need information about any photo equipment visit http://www.whichonehowmuch.co.uk/photography.