Rant time. When you have a big audience, you get to hear everything from everybody. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not. Increasingly, the noise is all about process and I must admit, it’s disheartening to me. It’s disheartening because I know it’s a waste of time. We’ve seen it all and heard it all before. It’s time to think about the photos and forget the rest of it.
I can’t remember where I saw this quote, “Products and People Over Process and Dogma,” but I like it. I really like it. I think it describes the thinking that photographers need if they want to become really good at photography. Concentrate on the end product (the picture) and the people it impacts. Who will see your photos? What stories will they tell? What memories will they protect? This is the stuff that matters.
Unfortunately, the photography world (especially the online version of it) seems to be wired to go the opposite direction lately.
You can check into just about any photography forum and find flame wars over when you should/should not use Adobe RGB or SRGB; HDR or no HDR; Photoshop or Nikon v. Canon or no Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture, etc. (NOTE: This is reason number 3,282 why I stay out of these forums.)
Regardless of the controversy, (this month’s flavor is whether or not it’s okay to photograph animal models) it’s all backwards.
If you really want to make compelling photographs that stand the test of time, concentrate on the image, not the process.
THE IMAGE IS THE ONLY THING THAT COUNTS!
Yes I yelled it. It needs to be yelled. The concentration on minutia by pedants who want to prove they’re smarter than the next guy (even if they have never made a decent photo) is working against the result we should all be chasing – i.e., great images.
When I critique photos for competition, I’ll often receive entries from photographers who will include a long, passionate statement declaring “No Photoshop or digital manipulation of any kind was done to this photograph.”
I don’t care.
I really don’t. At the end of the day, all I want to do is look at great photographs. This isn’t a contest to see who can make it the hardest to get a great shot. The result is what matters. I don’t really care if you use Photoshop or iPhoto or Aperture or Lightroom or none of the above or all of the above. I don’t care if you used or did not use filters, actions or special effects. I don’t care if you shot digital or film or if you manipulated the image. I don’t care if you used HDR or tonemapping or didn’t. Unless you’re a photo journalist and I’m looking at your images in the “New York Times,” I don’t care if you posed people, cloned out distractions, changed colors or anything else.
All I care about is the picture! If it’s good I like it. If it’s not I don’t and the process that you went through to get it, isn’t relevant to me at all – period. Here’s why:
200 years from now when everyone reading this is dead and gone, the hope is that the images will live on. There will be no correlation between the process and the image at that time since the tools, techniques and construct of future photography will have no resemblance whatsoever to what we do today. Only the images themselves will live on. If they are made with an open heart and tell a true story in an organic fashion and they are made by passionate photographers who practice and care about their craft, and if these images connect with the viewer, or cause an emotional reaction or cause the viewer to stop, look, think or react – only then will the images matter. Whether or not they were made using this process or that technique will not matter. It won’t even make sense.
It may impress the folks at the camera club that you did or didn’t do this or that to get your image. But almost nobody else cares. If you take a walk outside – you know where regular people live who are NOT obsessed with making photos the way we are, they don’t care either. They just want to see a great picture. That’s it. That’s all.
When I sell my photographs as illustrations or art, no buyer has ever asked me what the process was. No art buyer has ever asked “What f-stop did you use,” or “Is that the high-pass filter sharpening trick?” All they care about is filling a hole in their art budget. The pictures will live on long past me and you. The stories of which software program I did or didn’t use or which technique I did or didn’t use will not.
If you want to really advance your photographic skills, don’t get caught up in Mac v. PC, or Nikon v. Canon, or posed weddings versus non-posed weddings or any of this other garbage. Don’t get caught up in workflow or process as if that will somehow make you a great photographer. Just go out and get caught up in enjoying great images.