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I was asked recently what I thought of the current state of Photography. I responded with a question of my own…In what terms? “Oh you know…imaging and all the do it yourself stuff out there…”
I reminded my questioner that Photography has always been a “do it yourself process” from the very beginning the do it yourself guys usually brought out the best in the medium and challenged everyone else to catch up. I asked them what they thought was so wrong with that? The response set me back a bit but here it is…”Well with everyone able to adjust and manipulate the images and with the software getting so good…pretty soon guys like you are going to have very little to do.”
Wow, just like that…25 plus years of Photography, Darkroom, Digital and Teaching reduced to “very little to do…” I guess I was annoyed at first but then I took it as a challenge that I wanted to assure myself that someone who understood “taking a picture” really did not understand all the other parts that made up getting that image polished enough for someone to put down hard earned money for it.
Now I’m not an expert on all of the things that are possible…no one is and I would venture to guess that being in the middle of the United States gives me a very narrow view of the whole argument. That being said the challenge was put down so here it is…
I think that the “State of Photography” is at its heart the same as it was when I first started. There was a hardware war…Nikon vs. Minolta vs Hasselblad vs. Canon vs Bronica etc., there was a chemistry war…CibaChrome vs. Kodak vs. Ilford, there was even a lighting war…Sinar vs Norman etc. Through all of that it always came down to the person using the tools. You could take the best equipment, the best lighting, and the best chemistry (in your opinion) and using a mediocre process and technique you could still make really bad images.
So, what’s so different today? Well nothing really, you have a whole bunch more people being able to take images with better quality equipment and processing them on faster and faster computers, but really how many monkeys does it take to reproduce the entire works of Ansel Adams? I think quite a few thousand might not even get the first image off the drawing board.
If we listen to the “camera people” everyone is already way past that level of skill and you need only point your lens at something and Poof! Instant processed masterpiece. Or should we listen to the computer people? No matter the exposure, no matter the focus we can help you process your way out of the problem and with a few more mouse clicks…Poof! You have created an instantly reprocessed masterpiece.
Personally, I have a different viewpoint. I choose education. It is the hardest thing in my opinion, to admit that you do not know what the heck you are doing when you pick up a camera or grab the mouse and start clicking. It is nearly impossible to face the truth of the matter, that I need more information in order to make better choices and create better images. That asking questions makes me stronger and more agile, more able to compete for the dollars that are getting harder and harder to pull out of the photography business. So where do I find my education? There are schools, there are websites and groups, there are even YouTube videos…but it is more than just looking, reading and listening. I have to put these ideas to the test. I have to go out and shoot photographs and take them somewhere that I can see but might not always be able to achieve. It is in these successes and failings that I learn something new and interesting.
So there it is…My answer to the “State of Photography” question is that education and a personal quest for knowledge is where photographers need to go for more income. It is a course we all need to be on to get better at our art and our craft, one we will need to survive this race to the bottom that has been created by the big companies that want to make quality imaging automatic and accessible. It’s never automatic and for most it might be accessible but only after learning how.
An interesting thing has happened to me this week and I think it is the start of a new adventure.
On Thursday evening I received a phone call from an old friend with an offer I could just not turn down. He was going to Give me a Epson Stylus 3800 Pro Printer and a bunch of Photo paper ranging form 8X10 up to 17X22 inches.
A little back story here…
Bruce is an old friend who is functionally color blind and I taught him how to use Curvemeister to do color correction for the rest of the world not just himself. In his long and satisfying career as a semi Pro photographer he took thousands of images and I guess I was pretty influential in his color correction. Bruce would print at home and this was his printer. Over the last 2 years he has used it less and less to the point where he decided to get rid of it. Rather than send it to Craig’s list hell he called me and asked if I was interested. I said yes.
I have moved this very large printer into my computer room and I have begun working on getting it back into printing shape. It has a few minor issues and needs some TLC and a few new ink cartridges. So, I invite you along on this new journey and I will be cross posting to the Curvemeister Forum as I figure out how to make this printer work and use it to create prints…I hope…
The Curvemeister road show begins!
(And by that I mean, this is my first blog post on the new site.)
OK folks, it finally happened. After holding out and grumping about monthly subscriptions for what seems like ages, der Curvemeister, moi, jumped onto the Creative Cloud band-wagon. There were several reasons for this:
- The main one was that 10 bucks a month was just too tempting. Heck, I spend 3 times that going to a movie, including 3D, popcorn, etc. Photoshop is, and has been, an extremely productive tool. Greg pointed out, with inimitable wisdom and persuasion, that I can always go back to stand-alone Photoshop CS5 if Adobe pushes the button and raises the price too much.
- The second main reason was that I need to support customers who have made the move. The word is that 64 bit Curvemeister installs just fine on CC 2014, but it is necessary to manually select the target plugin folder.
- Another main reason was the availability of 3D functionality. Frankly, who has not found 2 dimensions too restrictive? I know I have.
- Finally, there is Light Room. I’ve been limping along on Bridge for years, and Light Room is just so much whizzier and cooler, and I LIKE whizzy and cool. Plus I can directly interpret my Panasonic’s raw files, and actually see some of my grand canyon and other American SW photos.
OK, so, being allergic to monthly charges, I paid my $120+, installed Adobe’s CC app (very cool, BTW, to have the apps and SDK’s all in one spot [oh, but what happened to the Plugin SDK, Adobe <gripe gripe.]) Then I downloaded Photoshop – what better time to go and watch Netflix than during a gigantic download, LOL, and fired the puppy up. CRASH CITY. Now what???!!!$%^&*?? Adobe suggests its a video driver problem. They should know, so I go to the Acer site, and it says the video driver on my 4 month old system is up to date. Groan. The driver I have is ancient – older than my computer by a year or so. Nice going Acer. Intel has a newer driver, just a month or so older than my computer. YAY Intel!!! I download it, and it says no, the computer manufacturer has somehow blocked Intel from installing the new driver.
So, I’m stuck. The new features are tantalizing, but I can’t stand to use the program at all until I have smooth zoom, etc, the same as my CS5 had. So, I amuse myself for a while by playing with Lightroom, and try to ignore the fact that Photoshop crashes unless it ignores video acceleration – gag.
Regarding Photoshop, I stew for a while, and then the voice of Hermione, or someone from Harry Potter, whispers “Intel force display driver install”. At least, it must have been Hermione, or some other Harry Potter character, because up comes a web page full of skulls and such, with instructions on exactly how to force the new drivers to install. Basically, you unzip the files Intel sends you, and select the driver .inf file in just the right way, with the right amount of whatever eye of dragon seasoning, and BAMMO!
Like a stone falling down a well, the new driver installed perfectly, splashed, and Photoshop worked perfectly. No reboot required. Other programs, such as Youtube, etc, seem to run smoother too. Sweet. So now, I am cavorting around in the new Creative Cloud Photoshop, and will report more on this later. So far, it is a lot like the old Photoshop – surprisingly so, since my previous PS was two versions back at CS5. More on this in a future article. Soon. Really.
Mike Russell, at The Curvemeister Institute
PS – just to anticipate, do I think you should jump on the Photoshop deal and get Photoshop and Lightroom for $10 a month? Sure, I could say maybe, or it depends on your wants and needs, etc. But, being me, I will just say SURE, ABSOLUTELY! I mean, what are you holding out for, $5 a month?? – Mike R