Saturday, July 19, 2014

Has digital imaging heralded a downturn in photographic quality?

Today an article stated that somebody had taken 80,000 pictures with their digital camera over a period of ten years. That works out at 22 photographs a day. This claim is something that seems incredibly far fetched. Indeed, more than just far fetched, it sounds like an addiction problem that needs medical intervention.

Just how many of those 80,000 photographs were actually worth taking? A few years ago I was asked to photograph a wedding. I believe I took 500 images over the process of that wedding which was rather a lot considering the wedding. The typical wedding album contains maybe two dozen photographs. Bigger albums tend to bore viewers as people don't have a great attention span. Think back to the days when people groaned about being roped in to view slideshows of somebody's holiday with the inevitable "now just to the left of here was this really nifty..." which begged the question - where was the photo of it?

People take far too many photos today. Not just too many but too many utterly banal images. Just as an example, here's a totally banal image that means nothing to anybody who's viewing it now. It's the bottom of a shower that needs finishing. On its own - totally banal. Of no real interest to anybody bar the people involved in construction.
Is this the depth to which photography has sunk? People take this type of picture every day and publish them online and in their photo albums.

Back in the days when everybody used film, fewer cameras were sold, fewer photographs were taken and photography was of a higher quality. Everybody thought about the picture they were about to take rather than taking it anyway and seeing if it was worth taking, later. People would take 36 photographs on a roll of film. People would take one or maybe two rolls of film when they were on holiday and would come back with 72 really good photographs. These days, people go on holiday and might as well video the entire holiday with Google Glass and edit later. Seriously, 80,000 pictures in 10 years or 8,000 pictures in a year!

I have been taking digital images for about 10 years. Aside from two or three times when people paid me to take pictures in which case I did take several hundred each time, I have not taken more than a very few thousand. The counter on my Canon XT which is now 7 years old stands at about 5,000 images. I normally don't take that many photos. I certainly take more than I did in my film days and acknowledge that sometimes I take several mediocre photos because I'm too lazy to make sure I get one really great photo.

One of the dafter things about digital imaging is that people believe every image can be fixed after exposure. They can't be fixed - they can be cosmetically modified but that is all. A bad photograph will be a bad photograph whatever. There's a lunatic fringe that believes that by cropping a poorly executed photograph will produce a good result. It does not - it produces exactly a cropped, poorly executed photograph. A lot of the people that come out with nonsense like that need to pick up a real camera and to use slide film. Then perhaps they might learn to compose before pressing the button. I do swear that if people could keep the shutter going 24x7 at 20 frames a second, they would and would then choose their images later in a marathon editing session that would last months.

People are not working smarter - they're working harder. Instead of composing and taking the picture, they're photographing everything and then spending days on their computer trying to fix problems caused by lack of photographic skill.
This photograph is uncropped - it was taken with the subject balanced. Notice how the subject fills the frame and the photograph reads from right to left.  There's perspective, contrast and color. Everything is nicely centered with the Landrover nicely on a third.  This photograph needs no cropping because it has been well photographed.
This photograph by contrast is clearly off-center. The lover of cropping would want to crop the right hand side of the image yet this would do nothing to correct the incorrect perspective or the unevenness of the railings.  

Digital has certainly facilitated people's acceptance of poorer quality images. It has also heralded the over-edited image which at some point ceases to be a photograph and becomes digital art. Digital imaging has certainly heralded a downturn in photographic quality.

No comments:

Post a Comment