Q&A

Required Reading

In another new, hope to be moderately consistent, series of posts I will suggest photography centric books/zines or articles online to read or experience. Sometimes I will do the pull quote thing and use them as a base of discussion, other times I will simply post as a recommended read. This will be as often as I have time to dig and look for things that catch my eye.

I remember first discovering photographer Zack Arias through his OneLight video on using simple flash lighting. While I never kept very close tabs on his other work online, I recently realized I had seen him referenced a number of times recently by other photographers, mainly while researching FujiFilms recent digital camera offerings. I discovered he had been running a pretty fantastic and candid Q&A tumblr and released a curated book of entries within that blog.

The book, Photography Q&A: Real Questions, Real Answers, is what I am recommending today, it’s a surprisingly well rounded book about many of the little, more specific details of working as a photographer. In it he discusses things often overlooked by many classes, books, and workshops. In many of the questions he used the book as an excuse to expand on his original answers to give even more insight based on years of experience and trial and error. There is also quite a bit of additional content added in between sections. He discusses everything from advice for specific shooting scenarios to help with handling different kinds of clients.

His approach to answering questions are often quite blunt and straightforward which I admire. He speaks from his honest opinion unlike many photo books most of which read like a camera manual. Not that either approach is more or less valid for different needs but I do appreciate the level of honesty and humility he offers in his writing. The writing style is akin to sitting down across from him with a drink and having a conversation about photography where there is no need to be polite or hold back.

Here is an excerpt I am in total agreement with from a question about recourses for models to learn how to model, originally posted here and expanded up on in the book. He is speaking here about a camera as a lifeless object, a mere tool of which we forge and capture pieces of time and of the irrelevance of how easy modern cameras make it to take nice looking photos:

“They will never take a picture. Buy all the cameras in the world. They will never see… Nikon doesn’t give you vision. Canon doesn’t give you vision. That new flash you want won’t make you see. It won’t direct your subjects. It won’t do shit for you. You point it where it needs to be pointed. You control what sort of light enters it and how much light enters it. You direct your subject in that light you have decided to work in. You are in charge. You, and you alone. If you think for one second that the camera is doing something for you, then you have your brain turned off and you’re being stupid. Stop it. Take control. Do it all. No matter what crazy-ass thing they make these cameras do next, they will never, ever, ever see the world. That is your job” -Zack Arias

There is a printed version of the book as well as a Kindle version which I read on my iPad to see his example images in color. Of all the photo books I have read through over the years this is easily one of the more refreshing reads I have come across within the genera and I can easily recommend any photographer who feels they still have something to learn within this industry pick this up and digest a question and answer or two each day. You can read more about it and order it over on Zack’s site here.

Five D

Five D Mark

I am happy to share some news with everyone today, I bought myself a new camera! Well, a few years ago actually… seven to be exact, and I thought you guys may be interested in a review. I get the usual “what gear do you use?” questions on a regular basis, reason being that we all enjoy finding out the tricks of other photographers hard earned trade. Its only natural once you get into any craft in which you start to unintentionally become a connoisseur. I feel like I have answered this a number of times in different posts here on 50ft such as this post about my gear in general, but there is one camera that has transformed me as a photographer and rarely gets as much credit as I feel its due. That camera, of course, is the Canon 5D.

First, an abridged history lesson. The 5D was the camera that convinced professional photographers that digital photography was here to stay. The 5D Mark II was the camera that convinced thousands of amateurs and lost young minds with creative aspirations that they too could shoot like a pro. Then Nikon started to finally catch up, followed soon thereafter by Olympus inventing a new breed of smaller yet fully functioning mirror-less digital bodies with interchangeable lenses. Fuji took the idea a step further following Leicas lead and made a few digital cameras aimed at the film lovers. Then of course we have our current top of the heap mid-range DSLR’s such as the 5D Mark III which I will admit is a beautiful camera that is worth every penny should you need such capabilities as it offers.

At any rate, this much is known to most of you. My personal history with cameras played out a bit differently though and it’s something I have touched on before. After happily shooting with my 20D for a while I was lured to the 5D early in its life because of its big beautiful “full frame”sensor. One shot and I was hooked, there was no turning back. This combined with my foray into shooting and editing RAW files and an investment in one great lens locked me in.

When the 5D II came along I had a moment of, ooohhhh… but it was short lived as I started to realize there was nothing I needed from the upgrade, I was not a videographer by any means and the results from the 5D II’s sensor never impressed me all that much. So I stuck with my original 5D and happily went along shooting, buying up older film cameras instead of needlessly upgrading my digital kit. In todays marketplace I feel the original 5D is one of the most overlooked options out there for photographers just starting out or ones shooting on cropped sensor bodies that want to give full frame a go. I regularly see these available today for an average price of $600USD in camera shops and on ebay. Nice ones even.

Here is my short review, they are built like tanks, take beautifully vivid images, and utilize a lens mount with plenty of great options that shows no sign of reaching the end of its life. Now, lets break that down.

During the course of my years spent with this camera I have put it through an almost unfair amount of torture. While I do have camera bags to transport my gear it is almost always outside of the bag on my shoulder, ready to use. Because of this it has collided with its fare share of doorways, cement floors, mud puddles, you name it. There is a chunk of metal missing from the grip near the battery door from a particularly bad fall which had me worried at first but it just kept on shooting. Outside of a few much needed sensor cleanings it takes the same great photos that it always has.

The photos from this camera have always ben distinct and highly natural to me. Part of my love for the sensor in this camera is the fact that the images don’t have that unusual overly pristine digital look to them. Don’t read into that the wrong way, I get nice crisp images, they just hold true to an aesthetic that I love. One that closer mimics the feelings I get while shooting film than most digital cameras give me. Even the noise has grown on me over the years. The full frame sensor gives my lens room to breathe and reach its full potential.

There are technical limits to the sensor of course, such as a moderate 12.8MP image size but 12.8MP is plenty for just about anyone these days unless you rely on unusually large prints on a regular basis. The prints I have produced from these files have been wonderful. There was a time I printed a few images on a large format fabric printer at roughly 4’x5′ (1.2×1.5 meter) and while they were not flawless you would be surprised at how presentable they were.

My only gripe would be, as with most digital cameras still to this day, highlights can easily accidentally get blown out leaving you checking your histograms regularly while out shooting. Walking that line just before this occurs and getting well controlled exposures can get a little tiresome at times. In my experience getting an exposure that works sometimes involves exposing a little lower than I may want to in order to avoid this yet if this involves a higher ISO I am left with a bit more noise than I care for in my shadows as I bring up my levels in post work. While the dynamic range is not as strong some of what technology has brought us recently I have never had too much trouble working with images unless they are dark shots or shooting higher than 800ISO (which is my personal limit with this camera).

“But John, there is no video capability”, at which point you simply need to imagine the a blank stare I am giving you until you come to your senses. This is a still photo camera. There is no shame in that, just be honest with your needs.

Ah, and the lenses. While L glass certainly has its luster and an investment in a good lens will easily outlast the value of your camera, there are plenty of great options out there such as their great 40mm f/2.8 pancake or the underrated 85mm f/1.8 that has always had to live in the shadow of its f/1.2 brother. Then there is the option of buying a cheap lens adaptor and shooting with some vintage glass, something I discussed a while back here on 50ft.

So don’t be so quick to judge this still highly relevant gem of a camera just because it has two older brothers all doped up with marketing and street cred sheen. The original 5D is well worth a look if your in the market for a modest full frame DSLR. I realize most of those reading this now are so locked into one way of thinking that buying an eight year old digital camera seems crazy and to you guys, just keep on keeping on.

Another point I wanted to get across in writing this must be fairly obvious. Gear lust is imaginary, irrelevant, and can lead you down a path of misunderstanding and misplaced reasoning as you develop as a photographer. Lets turn it into a dying trend. I have shot happily and successfully with one camera and a select few lenses all these years only keeping my lust for anything new contained with a few old film cameras along the way. It is vital to understand the difference between wanting a new piece of gear and needing it.

I say this out of experience. I get the bug just like anyone else. There is something to be said about the refreshing feeling of shooting with a new camera but in the end one solid piece of gear will take you a lot further if you allow yourself to fully adapt to it. Just be sure to pick something that complements your ambition and needs and you will be set. It’s also important to realize when enough is enough and having the latest and greatest hanging around your neck will only bring that emotional satisfaction for a short while before the next great new thing rolls into view.

That said, looking ahead, whats that on my horizon? Something new to me, yes, but more on that when the time comes.

(the photo above was shot with my hasselblad a long while back, couldn’t find a nice high res copy is all, see the un-cropped image here on flickr)

Expectation

The Curse Of Expectation

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it fall, does it still make a sound? If the tree is a photo posted to Flickr, apparently the answer is a resounding no, not at all. At least on some accounts.

In my long history with Flickr, even in its heyday of rich, thoughtful activity, reactions to photos I posted on the service have always been hit or miss. Some of my personal favorites from my early days of sharing photography proudly online were all but ignored.

“But how could this be?”, I would think to myself, “this photo is my favorite!”. It’s a commonly misplaced emotion among photographers and has been for ages. Many who post images on photo sharing services fall into this trap which has recently been compounded by the cursory double taps and brief comments that we are used to seeing on Instagram. In my experience and belief, the feedback I expect on a photo posted to Instagram versus an image I post to Flickr is entirely different.

Instagram is built for casual, mass consumption and sharing mostly lifestyle photos. The reactions to these shots of day to day life and “look what I’m doing now” moments are decidedly more quick, friendly, ah ha! sorts of moments. Those using it to share more serious work simply have to come to terms that its a mixed bag of educated reactions within the service (same goes for using Tumblr as a means to share photographic work).

Flickr and other similar services, on the other hand, were built for and perused by a community of fellow photographers, both pro and amateur, and is not as much of a hangout for casual users. While there is still some of the same casual favoriting that happens on Instagram, you can expect your audience to be at least a bit more critical of what they are seeing simply because they are also photographers and in some subtle way, your competition.

If the end goal of posting an image online is to get a pat on the back then I’m not sure how long photography as it stands today can survive before the novelty wears thin and those wishing to get more serious about the craft get frustrated and quit before they have a chance find their voice. Well, outside of copycats that piggyback on passing trends.

I have always seen lack of interest in a photograph as a telling indication that there is perhaps something I had overlooked in my assumption that all of my fans would fall head over heels for this or that image. I have lived through my fair share of disappointment after getting little to no fan fare for an image I really loved. Figuring out what kinds of images drew the most attention did not come without seemingly endless frustration and second guessing. Letting the reaction of the general public define your journey as a photographer is a long and arduous path to take as a hopeful explorer.

If you do choose to start making informed reactions or decisions based on feedback left through social media sites there are three dynamics you have to gauge the reaction of image with, on Flickr or otherwise; The amount of views the image gets, which can be distorted if you post a blind link from twitter or another service you are well established on, the amount of favorites or likes an image gets, and last and usually most sensitively read into, the amount of comments an image receives.

When checking how many views an image receives you can see how much general interest there is for your photo based on the people that you have given access to see it. If you post an image on Flickr without posting it to any community groups or linking to the photo through other social services then you are gauging these views based purely on those that follow you as a contact on Flickr or those who may have your feed plugged into their RSS reader. If you get a lot of views based on this metric alone then you have the right to assume that the image was at least good enough to peak someones curiosity and take the time to click through to see it in higher detail.

If you share a link to your photo on another service such as Twitter then this metric gets distorted because you have to take into account the amount of fans/followers that are clicking a link simply to see what is hiding behind it which then brings us to favorites. It’s one of the most tricky things to gauge because of the expectations we all hold for images we personally are very fond of. Don’t let yourself fall victim to the hollow victory of a high number of favorites.

If someone sees your image on Instagram they most likely saw it from within the App, are already a member, and can easily praise you with a quick double tap. With Flickr there is maybe less of a chance that those who found you through a social media link are also members of the service and if you are not a member then you have no favorite button to press (though 500px does have a clever “starter” account and the additional metric of “vote”).

Never underestimate the power of a personal fan of yours liking an image just because you’re the one that took it or, alternatively, users like myself who reserve favorite buttons for images that left an honest impact on them. Sometimes I wonder if I am too stingy with a like button but all is fair in a world where a ‘like’ is sometimes worth about as much as gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe.

Last but obviously not least we have comments which are a slippery slope. There are the single word commenters, the personal story commenters, the brown nosing commenters, the modest commenters… While it’s easy to fall into feeling disappointed in not getting comments on a photo or post I feel it’s the least important gauge to judging how much people enjoyed an image. Most willing to take time to comment are those with something to gain by doing so. Seems a depressing way to look at it but it’s true in many cases. It’s all too easy to feel burdened by a page capable of receiving comments that remains empty. Another symptom of being conditioned to a world of instant satisfaction.

Is this overanalyzing the subject? Maybe to some of you. Most of these observations came about over years of using various social communities as well as personal sites to learn what readers react the most too and why. Not only based on my own work but in seeing what works for others as well.

Digging deeper

From that knowledge I have also noticed other details about what kind of photos are better received than others. Most notably, it’s absolutely vital to understand who your target audience is. Images of family are not as often enjoyed by a wide audience, especially a younger one. Only those who feel close to your point of view or have families of their own tend to react to this type of imagery.

There are micro communities of photographers among any sharing service and having an understanding of your personal style and knowing where it fits within these communities is key to finding an audience that is more likely to enjoy the work you produce. Finding a few active groups on Flickr and participating within them can go a long way to sharing your work with an audience interested in a more specific idea or approach. Also worth considering, which is the trickiest one to say out loud I think, is the fact that amateur photography is highly competitive to be a part of these days. When I first started to take my photography more seriously I stumbled through years worth of trial and error.

Unlike many photographers online, I have chosen to leave nearly all of my old work up for anyone to see. Looking back at early Flickr posts or browsing through my original twistedsun site you can see a clear evolution within my style. In the early days before the weight of social media I felt a lot more at ease experimenting in public. It took seemingly forever to get to the point where I could gauge reactions without taking silence so negatively and eventually know what images would be appreciated even before posting them.

I can not stress how important it is not to let the pressure of posting a photo only to have no one pay it any attention stop you from enjoying what you do. You can jump from service to service all you want but the only thing that will change the reactions you get is your own personal development and reputation as a photographer which, like anything, takes time and patience. Heres a little secret, the grass is more or less the same shade of green no matter where you go.

If it’s honest critiques you are looking for, posting to social sharing sites is the last place you should expect much of any fulfilling feedback. I have seen some groups or blogs online attempt public critiques asking for open, honest criticism of submitted photos but I find this to be an anxious filled path to walk. In my opinion, it is important to get critiques from people you are familiar with and trust, not anonymous users of the internet that may or may nor be just as lost as you are. Many well established photographers online may be too busy to field many emails asking for advice but I think you would be surprised how many will take the time to help out someone with real questions beyond, “do you like this photo? Why doesn’t anyone like it but me?”.

This write up, for those of you who may not be savvy to his writing, was written as a response to a post written by Shawn Blanc about his feelings on sharing photos online, specifically his waining faith in posting his favorite photos to Flickr versus his images posted to Instagram. His story is similar to many I have heard from photographers trying to find a satisfying outlet for their growing ambitions. Positive feedback is important and of course it’s natural to want to find a place where you can soak up as much as possible but on the other side of the coin we discover that a community will only give as much as you put into it.

I admire his feeling toward using printed photos and books as a means to look back on images and feel a sense of accomplishment or pride even if only with friends and family. I love having monthly printed books full of my Yesterday Was Only photographs, it’s like having a magazine of my own life delivered to my door. There is nothing wrong with taking great photos of family, friends, and life simply to have and to cherish on your own terms.

The only real disagreement I have with Shawn’s article, is the closing statement: “At the end of the day, Flickr is the only place I’ve got to put my best photographic work. But it doesn’t feel like the right place. As much as I love the service, it’s just not cutting it. And I suspect I’m not alone.”

I feel the last line is especially misleading, not only for some of his followers who would read into this as a reasonable argument to jump ship, but for the fact that after a write up about his dissatisfaction with Flickr because his personal expectations he disses the service as a whole by tossing his arm around anyone else with similar disappointments and more or less says, “what do ya’ say guys, lets go to another club, this place doesn’t get me”, as if the cool kid others will follow out simply because of the reputation that precedes him. I fully realize this was not his intent in writing this but it certainly felt that way.

As I mentioned a few miles back where I started off today, even when Flickr was the poster boy of photo sharing online there were countless accounts, including my own at times, that felt like ghost towns. It’s the nature of expectation and the process of breaking into a new scene. Those jumping around from service to service or posting their DSLR shots to Instagram in a last ditch effort should stop to consider the amount of time it takes to develop a reputation among the now tens of thousands of other photographers also vying for the same clicks and remember that our own tunnel vision and personal connection with our own work greatly effects our overall expectations when posting online.

I mean zero disrespect to shawn here, keeping in mind Shawn’s deep curiosity for many connoisseur centric activities. I think the way he feels is completely normal considering the time, energy, and excitement he has put into his latest hobby and as he stated in his write up, I’m sure he is in fact very much not alone. He is the most straightforward and humble voice in the tech community today and his entrance into the world of photography has been a joy to follow along with, especially because of his open book approach.

So the next time you wonder why there is not a pile of new notifications waiting for you like Christmas morning after sharing a few new photographs online, don’t fret, press on and keep shooting! One of the biggest steps in growing as a photographer is learning how to take criticism. Only those with the patience to fight through times of self doubt or frustration will discover their voice behind the lens of a camera, it’s as simple as that.

Instavid

Instavidigramification

With todays Instagram+video announcement I thought I would take a minute to share what I have been thinking about the new generation of photo sharing services on mobile devices. My feelings on Instagram in general have been heavily mixed for quite some time now, I have written about mobile photography in the past and so I don’t feel the need to get into that aspect of it right now. What I am interested in though is the direction Instagram is going. After their acquisition by Facebook everyone cried out in worry that things would change but any sudden shift in the network would have shaken way more people off of the instalove tree. Continuing along a slowly evolving path makes much more sense in the long run.

As far as this new race to become “the instagram of video” is concerned, I think that its roots were bit messy to begin with. As gifs suddenly became the trendy new thing a few apps tried to come up with instant gif sharing but none of them ever stuck because the charm of gifs people were sharing were the cultural references and viral trendiness of the video snippets, not home made photos turned into moving ones.

Vine came along and tried something different mixing up the idea of a repeating video snippet and the familiarity of a square frame but it has failed to catch on widely because like any new social network, we need a compelling reason to bother joining another service. Browsing through Vine it seems as though the only thing it is good for is amateur comedy. Trying to cram creativity into these snippets is a stretch and I feel will be a quickly passing fad.

The way I see it, Video apps were created only to claim victory over a market that doesn’t really fix any problems or have a willing audience to begin with. It’s like trying to bring back the Twinkie, snack cake bakeries thought that the public wanted it because there was so much talk about how much people would miss them but when they start to come back onto he market, no one really cares. So many have tried to make compelling video apps for mobile devices yet no one seems to have realized that the simplicity of a single photo, (or once frame), is so much more charming, quick, and fun to make than a full video. Remember the moving photos in Harry Potter? Not quite that easy in reality I’m afraid.

Perhaps most interesting to me at least is that Flickr, long thought to be accidental losers in the race to mobile photo sharing dominance for not jumping on the train soon enough, was in fact the first to offer a short video clip functionality among photo sharing. It was intended to be for those random videos most people accidentally shot on their digital point and shoot cameras but thats just the thing, no one really cared about those accidents enough to make Flickr video anything special. Photographers reacted in the exact same way those using instagram heavily are reacting to the change now, with a skeptical, almost angry mindset. Today, Flickr video is all but dead for most users.

Instagram has some obvious advantages in its mobility and the fact that its name is now more or less a verb that may as well be in the dictionary (aka. crazy popularity). But in this shift away from its original charming, simplistic self, the service is shaking the tree again and while many of its purist “iPhone only 4life” users will simply ignore it, I think that a number of people will eventually tire of its new split personality timeline.

This is where VSCO has such an amazing opportunity with its upcoming Grid service. While it is all well and good that they are acting modest in saying they are not trying to compete with Instagram, its fairly obvious that  they are. Of course they have to say that, Instagram is what willed their existence into life to begin with. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you. That said, they are perfectly aligned to become highly popular among serious mobile photographers if they play their cards right. In making a simple, elegant service that avoids playing into typical social network traps it could find a lot of love waiting for it when they finally open their doors.

So while I still find making photos with my iPhone more of a hobby and sometimes a distraction I still enjoy following along and having fun with it and am interested in seeing where we go from here. I’m sure you will see a number of videos pop up on my Instagram feed when I feel a video could be fun to add and I fear my already mostly neglected Vine feed will start to look more and more barren as time passes. Let the 1:1 video wars begin.

Pro

The Professional Amateur Hobbyist

One of the most commonly abused words in photography is the word professional. I’m not so sure anyone knows what it means anymore as the lines between professional and amateur have grown increasingly tangled. Some photographers who have been shooting long enough to be technically proficient seem to be afraid of calling themselves amateurs or hobbyists out of fear that they won’t be taken seriously. I remember reading a long while back that a good way to look at the the term is simply to only consider yourself a professional photographer if you are currently making a sustainable living from your camera alone which is no small task.

This way of viewing the concept of being a professional leaves out the amount of skill one possesses, which of course leads to the source of the confusion. Someone such as myself, for example, has lived with a camera in front of my face for somewhere around 15 years but I don’t make a sustainable income only from the images I shoot. I certainly know my way around a camera and consider myself to be a very experienced photographer at this point but do I call myself a professional? No.

What do I call myself? I call myself a photographer. Simple as that. I realize this doesn’t count for much these days but I feel honest in saying it. Aside from instilling trust into a potential client I simply don’t see the need nor the boost in ego associated with the word. Many of us seem to start making up titles for ourselves to try to describe what sort of skill level we possess. My recent favorite was Marco Arment recently calling himself a Pro-Hobbyist, I can only assume as a means to say he has been shooting long enough to be confused by what he should call himself like the rest of us, or more likely, just trying to establish that his musings on a Leica M9 were from the standpoint of someone who know his way around a camera but its just a nonsense made up term all the same.

No matter the choice we make when we share with someone that we are photographers, there is always an awkward dance after being asked or telling someone because is often greeted with the followup question of “what kind of photos do you shoot”. I have witnessed first hand many times a photographer awkwardly stumble through the answer to this question. “Oh? me? I shoot life, love, the moment, portraits maybe? I don’t know, I do weddings too sometimes though”, and so on and so forth.

I can tell you this much about myself, over the years I have been paid many times for shooting photos and just as many times for selling rights to some I had already created. While I have never made the jump to try to live off of photography alone, I have made my own slow moving timeline revolving around 50ft as a means to monazite my shooting habits in the future rather than take on the full time profession of being a commercial photographer. Of course that’s just me.

Is calling yourself a professional a right you earn after getting paid for a few sessions? Or is it something you earn by having an extensive skill set and a fully certified education on the subject? If so then at what point is it okay to add the term to your business card? Where is the line drawn and who decides when good enough is good enough? Has amateur, in fact, become the new professional? The word has become so diluted by many simply proclaiming themselves Pros that there is no longer a level of distinction to be make.

I’m reminded of something comedian Louis CK touched on for a bit in his stand up special, Hilarious. He discussed the way people use words such as ‘amazing’ or ‘genius’ as a means to describe something usually seen as average in most circumstances leaving no better word to use when you do need to describe something truly amazing. Casual use has diluted the meaning of some words into something far less substantial. The word professional in conjunction with photographer has entered this slippery slope. (You can see it here, start at 1:30 and be aware, he has a foul mouth at times)

While considering the implications of calling yourself a professional I can’t help but also bring up the gear we use and the apparent divide between those who are professionals and those who are simply hobbyists. The way I see it, there are a lot of professionals using what many would see as a hobbyists set up and there are also a lot of hobbyists who have way too much gear for their own good.

I understand being competitive and wanting the latest gear to show that you are a hip, modern photographer but when it comes to the heart of the matter, your camera and gear does not define you as a professional. Some photo sessions do require a more elaborate setup. It’s just that I think some photographers may feel that the comforts of the newest technology are a needed commodity. While this does often come down to client needs, many have come to rely on the creature comforts of an auto focus system that thinks for you or enough pixels to crop a usable photo out of 40% of an image. It’s important to remember that these bells and whistles and others like them were developed not only to make photography easier and more robust, but also to sell new cameras. Progress for the sake of progress. The biggest problem here are those who are using new technology as a shortcut to a decent photograph which is not a trait I see honest professionals use. A fun video series released by DigitalRev on Youtube highlight this in a series where they give established professionals cheap or toy cameras to capture the best images they can manage to get from them.

When I think of the word professional I think of those who have established themselves as masters of their chosen gear, no matter how simple or complex, and are able to capture photos to exacting standards using either a full studio set up, a fully natural light scenario, or a combination of the two. They are able to walk into any scene or situation and come out with something usable. Being creative is all well and good but means nothing if you are not proficient with your gear.

We have all seen event photographers running around with slings and two big 1D’s with different lenses dangling by their side and most people see this and think, woah, he must be a pro. Only I know from experience that this is not always the case. On multiple occasions in my life as an audio engineer and the A/V industry, I see companies buy fancy set ups for employees that may or may not actually be all that proficient with them. I have seen the results of these little photo sessions with amazing gear that look like they were snapshots from camera phones. Just because you see what you assume is a pro running around an event, doesn’t mean they are one. Then again, on the flip side of this, perhaps they do make their living from it, no matter their skill set or ability to capture what most of us would call a “good” photograph. Does this make them a Pro, or just a lucky so and so that was given a camera and told to run with it.

Most of you know by now that personally I have a decidedly minimal approach to gear and post processing. Any time I start to look at new cameras I often come to the conclusion that I am perfectly happy with what I have.

At the moment I don’t need faster AF or more pixels and I often wonder how many photographers really need any of the features newer bodies offer over older ones. Something new to this argument is video, the feature they tossed on a DSLR just because they could. No one knew they wanted it till it was there and now many think they need it.

I love video too, but I don’t need a swiss army knife camera that tries to please both videographers and still photographers. The only reason they became popular among film makers were because of their size and lower cost but now we have these cameras with split personalities and every review of a new camera takes away points if it won’t shoot video well.

I want a camera that can make great photographs without getting in my way. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, any camera can be capable of making great photos if you have enough of an understanding of its strengths and weaknesses and being clever enough to work around them creatively. A cameras age or modern trendiness is irrelevant in the face of the end result. I shoot portrait sessions with a 15 year old Hasselblad which uses a lens built in 1977. Now, at the risk of contradicting what I just said, I do have plans to upgrade my camera body for a few reasons,  details of which can wait for another day. I wanted to mention it because I am not against upgrading cameras, I am simply using myself as an example to illustrate that it is important to consider our needs when choosing gear.

There is one more factor I wanted to pull into the conversation today and that is one I don’t often hear debated because I am not so sure many modern, younger photographers really know much about it and that is the difference between fine art photography and commercial photography. My brother and I are always waxing poetic about the differences in approach. I see a lot of less experienced digital shooters sort of stuck in limbo between wanting to call their work art and wanting to make money from it but without an understanding or education in the history of the medium as an art form.

I remember years ago when I discovered this for the first time. I am among those who never had a full four (or more) years of study in university about photography, only three years of darkroom and studio lessons in a high school commercial photography course. My style grew from this point based on an approach born from learning photography from a commercial perspective.

A turning point occurred when I took my portfolio to a fine art photography conference in Nashville years ago and had it reviewed by a fine art photographer. I remember sitting there anxiously while he glanced through the book of photos. The first question he asked me was blunt and stuck with me through the years, “what are you doing here? You know this conference focuses on fine art right?”. The conversation drifted toward us talking about the difference between fine art and commercial photography, and how my photos were wonderful for what they were but had no place among the fine art world.

My initial reaction was typical and ego fueled, what is he talking about? My photos aren’t just advertising goods, right? But as the conference went on and I listened to talks from many different fine art photographers and the creative approach and deeper meaning and stories behind their photos I was struck with a realization that I still had a lot to learn.

At the time I wanted to think I was well on my way to calling myself a professional but I had not yet considered the two distinct paths one could take as a photographer and the amount of skill and years of work it took to honestly get to that point of comfort.

This ultimately lead to me splitting my photographic output into two different worlds and still to this day I shoot this way. On one hand I have my more commercial work, shots which contain ample negative space and well considered compositions, as though part of the process of shooting was designing an image that would work well as a desktop or advertisement. These images are typically shot digitally and come very quickly and naturally to me at this point. Then I also capture images wanting to tell more of a story and often contains less focus on usable negative space but is composed in a way that could help speak to a story into the image. I usually use film cameras for these shots because I feel the aesthetic adds to the sentiment I am making with them. I have also heard these kind of shots being called “storytelling compositions”.

Now, to tie this back into the subject at hand, even if my time becomes fully devoted to photography and it is my primary source of income in the future I still would not feel comfortable calling myself a professional anything. The way my photographic life has evolved I feel more comfortable paving my own way through. At the moment the only thing I have against me to reach my goals is time. So what can my life as a photographer show us about the widely misrepresented concept? I still firmly believe after exploring the idea more, that I don’t really care for the professional designation. It doesn’t feel like me, it doesn’t feel honest. I don’t have it in me to put any undue expectations into my abilities based on my title.

It is clearly up to you what you want to call yourself but I believe being honest is the best approach. There is no official certification to call yourself a professional photographer, but there is a level of trust that goes along with calling yourself one. A certain trace of dignity lines this space and it is important to represent the professional community with pride.

My point in writing today is simply this, if you plan to start pushing yourself as a professional be ready to stand behind that statement. Don’t understate or even more importantly, don’t overstate your abilities. As for the value of your work, you must seriously consider the prices you choose to charge for your services. When deciding this please consider the impact your choice has on the photography market as a whole and on your future work. A big part of growing your client base is networking through previous clients, therefore, if you get a reputation for being cheap, that very well may stick with you over time. It is my belief that the best way to become qualified to charge professional rates it’s through years of training and hard work. Use your friends and family as much as possible in this time, not as clients but as subject matter. Build a strong portfolio first and give yourself time to discover your voice behind the lens. You will often read that photography is about patience and this trait also comes into play when giving yourself time to grow.

Confidence grows with time and practice, you wouldn’t try to cut down a tree with a butter knife so why would you try to shoot professionally before maturing as a photographer? I only say this from my own experience. Early on I tripped on my ego and found myself broke and lost for years because of it. The misstep taught me a humbling lesson and is why I mention this now. I don’t mean to sound as preachy as I do here. This is not the only blueprint to success in the photography buisness. I write these sorts of things only to evoke conversation and spark thoughts.

Prior to the digital photography revolution and the era of seemingly unlimited attempts at capturing the photo you are trying to take, photographers used to learn from apprenticeships and shadowing professionals before taking on their own solo paid work. These days the way many seem to think you do it is to start by charging less because your not worth as much. I don’t mind admitting to being guilty of this a few times myself. The only problem with this is that it lowers overall industry standards, at least in some specialties. Speaking of which, I realized that I also have more trust in a photographer who knows his or her specialty and introduces themselves as such. Rather than the blanket “Pro Photographer” phrase if I hear someone call themselves a commercial photographer, architectural  photographer, portrait photographer, fine art photographer, etc. It shows me that they have confidence in their specialty and in turn their level of professionalism. Nine times out of ten when a company feels the need to add the word “professional” to their product name, it is far from it, just something to keep in mind. Do you buy the hammer with the words “professional hammer” stamped onto the side, or do you buy the one made by a company you know and trust from their years of making hammers and having a good reputation for building great tools?

This whole conversation is potentially endless with the amount of variables and circumstance to consider. I’m not sure why I bring up such endless topics to discuss here on 50ft.

At any rate, if you are among those who simply love to shoot for the sake of shooting and do it for the love of exploring the world through a few sculpted pieces of glass without the need to justify that simple joy then by all means carry on. I respect this viewpoint because it takes confidence and humbleness.

It’s good to remember that we are more than a title. We are curators of life, the moment savers. We make time capsules and hold in our hands the responsibility to represent life at its best and its worst for those who wish to remember. Fleeting, hollow victories of a web page full of likes come and go unceremoniously but timeless images do not. They live on. So despite your viewpoint on whether or not you deserve to call yourself a Pro anything, keep in mind that sometimes the love of the art is more than enough.

Canon

Technically Speaking

To be honest, I have never really found myself trying to be the most technically savvy photographer in the world. I know my way around a camera and know how to dial in settings for any given scene within a few seconds but I am okay admitting that my knowledge falls a bit flat in the face of a true studio lighting set up. I find comfort in using a few simple tools and cameras to the best of their ability without reaching too deep into a bag of tricks either in lighting or in post editing work.

My skill has emerged from fifteen or so years behind different cameras and learning what works and what doesn’t. After all this time I realize the best way to get better as a photographer is simply to pay attention. My style has shown itself to me over time through trying different approaches. During this process I have never tried to replicate photos I have seen other photographers take. In fact, I don’t often find a lot of inspiration in other photographic work. I have a huge respect for other photographers who forge a fresh, original path for their work and appreciate others work constantly while browsing online or in books and magazines, yet I find other art far more inspiring. The emotional connection I pull from a good film or book often leaves me with a creative fire burning. Even collections of graphic design or illustrators and comic book authors who create artwork without binds to the tangible, physical world leave me wondering what I could potentially accomplish within my own approach.

When I browse 500px, for instance, I loose interest quickly because all it seems anyone ever posts there are photos made specifically to show off something. Sometimes it’s just to show off their skill in post processing. Sometimes in how good their gear is, sometimes its how sexy they can make a woman look, or how patient they can be waiting for whatever animal to appear. I skim through the popular photos there and rarely find any with much of a soul or purpose other than to look good or show off.

I am all for mastering your gear and knowing it well. Technical prowess and a well trained eye are valuable assets as a photographer, but I just don’t really have the same amount of patience while viewing photographs as I once did. Not after so many years of following the art and seeing so many styles emulated and copied over and over as if reading a recipe and thinking you can make it better with just a dash of extra spice. I’m speaking of the sort of image you look at, admire for a moment, click the like button as though patting the creator on the back, then forget about forever.

Don’t go thinking that I am all out trashing a photo with a solid technical achievement, I have immense respect for the time and patience involved in some of these photographs, I simply have trouble connecting to them on an emotional level.

Now, if you give me a photo that has a soul, I feel that it is obvious. I touch on this all the time, that an images composition and approach to the subject speaks volumes about the person behind the camera and their true motivations. Are they selling themselves or are they sharing themselves? Great photographs should be like holding up a mirror to the photographer behind the camera.

I feel there is a deeply carved line here in the photography world. It separates many passionate shooters from those who are in it to make an easy buck or show off. I am not claiming to be on either side of this line. In fact, I feel its important to be able to balance your skill and learn to appreciate as many different approaches as possible. I have learned that there is no right or wrong here, the only thing that matters is that we, as your audience, are able to see you in the photographs you take. To have a firm understanding of these finer differences in approach takes years of trial and error and constant vigilance. If you feel you are not learning from each photograph you create then you are doing something wrong.

sunny

Respect

I was thinking a bit about my motivation for loving photography as much as I do and I had the realization that photography is very much part of me now. Not necessarily part of who I am, as in I always have a camera with me so its part of my life, it’s grown beyond that. After all these years of shooting I feel the act of making photographs has somehow grafted onto my emotional core as a means to communicate things that words and memories alone can not always dictate well enough.

Some look at photography as a technical achievement, and it is. It is fully dependent on technology and it’s easy to get mixed up in thinking that technology and technique is all there is to it, but of course this is far from the truth.

Captivating images come from beyond a mechanical knowledge of how to make a great image. Photo hobbyist geeks can wax poetic about the finer points of lens design or the importance of sensor sizes, but creating something beautiful with a camera involves much more than the technology created to capture it which pales in the light of the emotional connotations of the process. The creation of a timeless photograph comes from somewhere deeper than the part of your brain that simply remembers how something works. It’s not like rebuilding an engine, programing an alarm clock, or filling out paperwork.

Capturing beautiful images involves making a connection between your emotions and your technical knowledge of the craft and, like everything in life, you must find a balance in this space in order to truly appreciate photography and use it to its full potential. For me at least, the emotional side of photography all boils down to respect. I feel understanding this is vital to becoming a better photographer. In having a respect for the subject I am able to find an emotional connection to what I am shooting. When I can later look at an image and feel the emotion I felt while shooting it I feel I am off to a good start. When I share an image with others and they seem to share that same level of respect for the subject, then I feel I have accomplished something great.

Many people these days, aided by the comforts and cheap victories that post processing and digital manipulation can give, seem to think that photography is an easy profession to get into and on the surface, maybe it is. But calling yourself a photographer should contain a certain pride that shows through in your work. I feel it’s one of the secrets of becoming a great photographer. The respect you have for your subject shows within your composition and approach. It shows through your choice of medium and how you choose to present it. Weather you see it or not, your emotional connection to the subject and motivation shows through plain as day in your work. Every snapshot you take as a photographer should be like writing a page in a diary then publishing your secrets for others to see.

This is why some months may go by where I won’t shoot much of anything at all. Because my emotional state is not focused on my photographic work and I am too distracted to focus and give respect to the things I feel I want to shoot. It’s a natural ebb and flow and sometimes I think it’s important to give my creative side a break.

At any rate, this is just one of those things people don’t often discuss on message boards or in how to books and articles. We can worry about what filter presets we may or may not have or what gear we may or may not own all day long but without inspiration, respect, and an honest curiosity for what we shoot, the results will always feel mechanical, dull, and uninspired.

I realize I have touched on the subject a few times in the past as well and will most likely continue to explore it in the future. It’s hard to ignore when you start looking closer into the motivations behind what and why we shoot. So the next time you are out there with your camera take a moment to consider what drew you to capture what it is you found and if nothing at all comes to mind it would be wise to ask yourself why that is.

you.jpg

Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?

In the first of what I hope could have the potential to be a nice series of posts I would like to take questions asked of me through email and answer them publicly here on 50ft. Sometimes I am asked things that I feel could benefit others and figured now is as good of time as any to give it a shot. In the future I hope to continue to answer questions like this so others can benefit from any advice given as well. The question asked is as follows:

Hi John, Would it be possible for you to list the settings you used to take your fantastic images? I’m a medium grade photographer and I always enjoy learning how experts achieve their effects. Example: AV mode, 100 ISO, F16, 1/500

I have long been asked about the technical side of my photography and aside from the occasional private answer through emails I have stayed pretty reserved about it over the years. Not particularly because I have any grand secrets I am hiding, quite the opposite in fact. I like to keep things as simple as I can manage in the process of shooting. This and the web seems so crowded when it comes to people offering photography advice, I simply choose to distance myself from that kind of gimmicky writing here on 50ft. As I glance through photography sites from day to day all I ever see are endless tips and tricks or collections of photographs within posts eager to show off that they found the coolest new photographer on the scene.  You have to admit this gets tiresome. Books are still the best place for good technical information about shooting and maybe in the future I will gather a few recommendations. In light of the question asked of me today I thought I could touch on the basics of how I shoot for those of you who may be curious.

When it comes to making photographs, personally, I like to rely as little as possible on post editing work. If I look through images on my camera while out shooting and catch myself thinking, “oh I’ll just brighten that up later” or anything to that effect then I know I am getting lazy and take a moment rethink my approach. In the age of digital shooting laziness has taken a stronghold on photography as a whole. The fact remains that the core principles of photography have not changed since the film days. To get the best possible photograph of a scene you need the best possible negative to work with. Nothing is more essential than getting a good exposure. The ratio of time spent out shooting versus time spent in front of a computer editing should always leave you out in the field more than at home or in the office messing about with post work and the key to achieving this is getting good at making great photographs within the camera.

I feel as though the best place to start is by mentioning the love I have for prime lenses. Combine this with an intimate knowledge of my current digital camera of choice, the original Canon 5D and you now know the secret of my digital photographic work. After a brief interlude using a 24mm f/1.4L and 50mm f/1.2L I am back to using a 35mm 1.4L because it offers me a great balance of being wide enough without being wide to the point of distortion and offers a satisfying range of focus before hitting infinity. This allows me to get in tight enough on a subject for many to mistake the shot for a macro but also wide enough to shoot larger subjects or portraits while still maintaining the simplified look of a shallow depth of field. It is currently the one and only lens I use on my 5D. I would much rather have a film body tucked into the extra space in my camera bag rather than another heavy lens I don’t really need.

I wanted to start off with that because lens choice is a valuable ingredient in defining the look of an image. This combined with the performance of the sensor or type of film inside the camera sets the stage for how images will render. Prime lenses give me that characteristic shallow depth of field, vignetting, and contrast that you find so often in my images. I typically work within a range of f/1.4-2.8 while using aperture priority and usually have a finger on the EV compensation scale to compensate for the light or composition at hand.

As I have mentioned in the past, using the ISO expansion on the 5D I commonly shoot at ISO 50 (heh, the irony just hit me) to shoot with wide apertures in brighter/daylight conditions. This was once done much more often back when ISO 50 or 25 were the average film speeds being used in cameras. This is part of the reason many vintage family photos have a nice vivid softness to the color and focus. White balance is also important to keep an eye on and you will find my camera often set to a custom WB which rests at an overly warm temperature, something I have been starting to tire of and play with again lately. I also shoot using the center focal point exclusively when using auto focus and always shoot RAW images.

As for post work, once I narrow down key images I sometimes make adjustments that usually don’t take more than a couple of minutes to administer. I have no default settings that I use, no presets or filter packs of any kind. I have been using Photoshop and computers to edit images for somewhere around 15 years now and have experimented endlessly with the amount of post work it takes to make images look their best only to come full circle and end up looking to the basics to achieve the best results. There isn’t much of a secret formula here.

The most I typically do to an image is some basic work with curves, which can be your best friend when editing an image. My most common adjustment involves a gentle dip or anchor placed in the shadows and a sometimes healthy boost in the brighter side of the image, this brings forth a nice contrast of which I have total control over unlike the crude adjustments offered in the default contrast slider. At times, color specific adjustments go a long way to even out a strange white balance as well but with any adjustments you make, a little goes a long way and its important not to overdo it. Other edits may include a touch of sharpening at times, or if I am feeling adventurous I will add a color tint to the shadows of an image in Aperture to give it that slightly washed out look rather than having deep blacks in an image.

Presets are fun but form bad habits in shooting and there is never one preset that works for all images. Each instance is unique and should be treated as such.

So there you have it, like a good healthy meal made from basic, fresh ingredients you can achieve wonderful photographic results with basic editing if you find the right balance of lens and camera for your style and pair this with good exposures.

Perhaps in the future I will go into further detail with more specifics but this represents my overall approach to digital shooting both for 50ft and in general. It has been refined quite a bit over the years and continues to evolve as my taste evolve but this is about as close a look into the details of my process as I have ever given in the past so hopefully there was something of interest in here for you guys wondering.

mobile

Of Mobile Photography

Throughout history, the fine art community has had a reluctance to accept photography as a proper form of artistic expression. With time artists using the medium began to slowly explore its implications as a means to express themselves artistically despite criticism. Cameras eventually started to emerge that were more consumer friendly and opened the world of photography up to a much wider user base.

In the past 30 years or so, the industry has rapidly evolved. Moving from some of the early mass produced point and shoot film cameras all the way to the current tiny lensed digital cameras attached to our mobile phones. With the dawn of this seemingly backwards step, philosophies regarding the validity of certain branches of the photographic community are being called to question once again. Many photographers with ties to its history in pop culture are attempting to make sense of a new breed of casually curious photographers who are using their mobile phone cameras as a means to create their art.

I keep a peripheral eye on trends in the photography world as do many photographers and one area that I have been subliminally collecting thoughts on is the “best camera is the one you have with you” movement. A key element to the growing popularity of this way of thinking is the evolution of the mobile phone camera. It has seen a reluctant sort of adaptation through the years as mobile phone manufacturers started trying to cram larger lenses and sensors awkwardly onto the back of phones with limited success.

That is, until Apple shows up one day with the iPhone. While the first couple of models came paired with limited photographic capability, the dawn of the App store and a few brilliant minds discovered that mobile phone photographs could be disguised as decent photos with a few post processing tricks. Suddenly the tiny cameras on the back of iPhones became capable of moderately admirable photographs.

If memory serves me correctly, an app called Camera Bag was the first to gain traction within the app store. Of course with any new trend competitors started to crawl out of the woodwork and soon the more conceptual Hipstamatic app was born. With time we started to see attempts at other, less gimmicky sorts of mobile apps which allowed us to edit basic aspects of an image and slowly but surely the photography section of the app store filled up with countless applications to edit and share your mobile photos. Then along comes our buddy Instagram which somehow stepped into the spotlight at a tipping point with just the right combination of features and the rest is history still in the making.

It’s amazing that things have evolved so quickly that the concept of making a mobile image look stylized in a nostalgic or old looking way has folded back in on itself in the form of the clever InstaCRT app project. The idea is that you upload your image to a remote computer which projects the image onto an old CRT monitor at which point a DSLR takes a photo of said monitor and transmits the effected image back to you. While it is a fragile concept mechanically, it does make for an interesting addition to my theory that trends in digital photography can only continue to dwell on the past for so long before the cleverness of it implodes. Here are a couple of examples run through the process:

crt.jpg

I heard an interesting discussion on a podcast about motion pictures in which they talked about how audiences are hesitating to embrace higher frame rate in films because it looks fake or a bit TOO real. The same goes for current model high resolution digital still photography as well. This all comes back to this generations visual expectations and comfort zones.

The psychology of it is fascinating and seems to have a lot to do with a reluctance to evolve technically in connection with certain, often subliminal, aesthetic criteria. Pop culture and the last century of its evolution is constantly speeding up to the point where new approaches to certain recorded mediums are not as easily accepted in all cases.

Generational gaps in technological advancement are starting to overlap. It is a delicate balance for content creators to either push forward and risk being ridiculed for too drastic a change or, alternatively, dwell too much on the past. This is why many are finding comfort in the middle ground with things such as digital filters to make the clean looking images from their digital cameras look older as a means to compensate for the change. Adding digital noise to an image is a keen example of this. It is a transitional gimmick used by many photographers (and film makers) as the gaps between generations of content creators close in on each other at an ever increasing pace.

At any rate, I feel it is safe to say at this point that mobile phone photography has quickly become THE way average consumers without the need to own a more elaborate camera make photographs. With or without filters and post effects.

What interests me in all of this is the philosophy that many photographers have taken to heart when it comes to mobile photography. When I first started reading articles and books written about the idea of mobile phone photography being a viable alternative to carrying around a fully capable camera I could not help but think that it was a movement based around laziness. Why on earth was it so difficult to have a moderately capable camera around if you consider yourself to be a semi-pro photographer? Even opportunistic hobbyists shooting more casually should have more sense than that, right? I of course realized almost immediately that I was being a bit harsh on the concept overall.

Once I let the idea sink in I started to see the appeal. I remember being hard on the Lomo guys when they were gaining praise because I didn’t think there was really any skill involved in shooting with silly toy cameras, you just point and click. It took a while but I warmed up to the idea after playing with one and giving the idea and philosophy more of a chance. This and I started to discover a handful of photographers making truly compelling imagery with the wide variety of handicapped cameras on the market.

Using the iPhone as a camera settled into my mind in the same way. During a trip to India I had my first taste of how handy it could be as my second, quick to grab, snapshot camera because I chose to focus on film photography during that trip and having a little pocketable camera with seemingly unlimited space was a nice addition to my travels.

Where I would once mock the idea of anyone taking it seriously for photography I remembered that we all have different goals and different goals require different tools. It is very much my opinion that a good photograph is entirely the photographers doing and not simply their choice of camera. Even a simplified toy camera can be exploited and used in ways that make striking imagery so why not a little cell phone?

As I have always stated here in the past, every camera has its strengths and its weaknesses and it is the photographers job to utilize his tool of choice to best take advantage of its strengths to create imagery he or she can be proud of. I will tell you one thing though, you won’t ever see professionals start running around with only their cell phone in tow. Well, outside of a few odd photojournalists trying to prove a point of some kind (which I still can’t honestly see as much more than a publicity stunt).

So, all that said, whatever camera you choose to use is fine by me. The thing to consider above all in this argument is what your end goal is with your photography. What are your plans for your images in the future? Are you satisfied simply with the experience of shooting itself? Are you satisfied with the fleeting, twitter like praise of Instagram? Maybe a simple small book of photos or a small print from time to time is all you want or need from your photographs and if that is the case, maybe mobile phone photography is perfect for you.

For many of us however, this is simply not enough. My iPhone provides me with a simple, quick camera and post tools allow me to have a bit of fun with the images afterward. Sometimes a few striking images are produced in the process but as for my end goals are concerned it is mostly a dead end outside of sharing casually online or having a memento of a moment captured. I am not able to make printed enlargements with any reliable fidelity. I most certainly am not able to make a desktop image from them, nor sell them commercially outside of the gimmick of it being taken with an iPhone but that idea has already sort of lost its appeal.

When I see a photo opportunity that I have any real emotional connection to I pull out my 5D if I have it with me or, more often, a film camera like a Canonet or Olympus XA which I always have nearby. Simple, quick, and much more viable for later use. Carrying a ‘real’ camera with me is not exactly a burden by any means. Not if my passion and goals remain in their current state.

I realize there are countless variables in this discussion and I have already cut out a number of paragraphs to keep this from wandering too far off track. I simply wanted to take some time to recognize things as they stand today because we must also consider the fact that we were saying almost exactly the same things about digital photography in general not all that long ago when it started to appear more prevalently on the market. Though the evolution was much slower then, the end result is clearly heading in the same direction with wide spread adoption and constantly improved results year over year. What with cameras focusing after the fact and mobile phones gaining momentum on dedicated digi cams, the times sure are changing, and fast.

I envision a not so distant future where mobile phones  completely cannibalize the standard point and shoot market and in the process end up altering the term ‘traditional’ to include any stand alone camera not attached to your mobile device. What this would mean for manufacturers is anyones guess but I would assume they would end up catering more and more specifically to the professional and amateur photographers markets rather than the broad scope of average consumers. Products such as the micro four-thirds cameras and Fuji’s x100 or xpro1 are clear indications of such a change. It will be interesting to see if the bloated structure of some of the companies in the game will be able to readjust to the new way of the world. We have already seen one casualty from a failure of understanding of this evolution which ironically enough is Kodak, one of the pioneers of modern photography.

So despite any naysayers or misguided attempts at saying otherwise we may as well get used to the fact that the art form of photography will continue to constantly evolve. In this new world where every third person you see on the street seems to call themselves a photographer and cameras are as much a part of our lives as food and shelter, it will be interesting to see how the skill and traditional mindsets of many of us who have been in the game for a while will be forced to evolve with it.

In the end, it’s up to you how to react. As I have mentioned before, I always encourage others to look beyond the knee jerk instinct to follow along with what may be the easiest way of doing something. The world of photography is not always about keeping up, it’s about standing out, and we do this by sharing life from a new perspective. Combine this knowledge with goals you set for yourself in terms of how you plan to publish images in the future and deciding what kind camera you need to accomplish your goals will become much easier.

To whom it may concern,

IMAGES FOUND WITHIN FIFTYFOOTSHADOWS.NET ARE ©JOHN CAREY AND MAY NOT BE USED FOR ANY COMMERCIAL USE WITHOUT PERMISSION. 

DO:

• Enjoy the images! It’s a labor of love, thanks for your support!
• Share fiftyfootshadows.net with friends.
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If you help me out with these I will be able to keep doing what I love to do. Thanks again, really, for your support and understanding. -J

——

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These rules also apply for any artwork or imagery submitted and shown within this site which was created by an artist aside from myself. Any images submitted and shared as wallpapers are the property of the artist who created them and in the same manner as my images, you are asked to receive permission before using them in any way aside from their intended use. Any use of these images outside of for your own personal use as a desktop wallpaper image is prohibited without permission from the author of the image. Commercial licensing is available upon request. Please write with any inquiries.

When sharing images via your personal blogs I kindly ask that you link back directly to either the post the image was taken from or the base of the website at www.fiftyfootshadows.net and give a credit to www.fiftyfootshadows.net. Do not re-post full resolution desktop images anywhere without permission. If you would like to use an image for your blog background or something of the sort simply write to ask first. Support the artwork you admire! Also, it is greatly appreciated if you do NOT link directly to the zip files. This is more or less the same as re-posting them as it circumvents the tiny bit of support I ask of you which is to simply link back to the original post for others to enjoy the site.

It’s not fair to artists if you do not credit their work and link back to the original content creator. It is theft plain and simple and blogs that attempt to somehow be mysterious by not giving credit to the creators are simply hurting the artistic community as a whole. If you love it so much then please, support it! The artistic community on the Internet is based on trust. Without trust then what do we have? are you going to be one of the responsible users out there or will you be among the bottom feeders, stealing content and passing it off as your own to make a quick buck in ad sales.

Use your best judgement and we will get along just fine.

Thank you for your understanding and support!

John Carey (curator, owner)

fiftyfootshadows.net

fiftyfootshadows@gmail.com