It has never been easier to make bad pictures

I went skiing this year for the first time in about 15 years. On my first run of the day I was shocked at how quickly it came back to me. I was never a great skier but here I was carving turns, staying in control, having fun. Wow, I thought…I’m pretty good. No, the new parabolic skis are pretty good. Even though I hadn’t been on the slopes for several years, ski makers had been hard at work improving their designs….making it easier for mediocre skiers to look good. This is not  limited to skis; bicycles, golf clubs and most things with a bio-mechanical interface have been steadily improving.

Cameras have been one of the biggest benefactors of techno-transformation. Pretty much anyone under the age of 30 can pick up a Nikon digital SLR, figure out how to operate it and begin producing technically perfect RAW files in a matter of minutes. Three decades ago the learning curve would have been a little steeper (especially if you throw in darkroom skills). Mastering technical skills such as follow focus required extreme levels of hand-eye coordination. ( I confess, I never learned how to do it.) A good digital SLR will do that for you now.

Today’s technology makes it  easy to slip into the illusion that you’re producing great photographic work. This is partly due to benchmarking the technical aspects our work with the great photographers of the last century. What once required a dedication to practice is now easy.  The rising technology tide has lifted all boats making technically perfect photographs possible for a larger and larger number of people.  Our cameras focus faster, require less light and will even tag the file with GPS coordinates. 

The good news is that technology  continues to free us from tedium allowing us to concentrate on story-telling. Whenever I start to amaze myself I offer this friendly reminder.  Although technique plays a supporting role, content continues to be photography’s real star.

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~ by keithphilpott on May 13, 2009.

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