Thursday, March 11, 2010

This Isn't Photography

There are a lot of things we do in our pursuit of the craft/hobby/art of photography, which often distract from the real job of DOING photography. For example:

- talking about photography
- reading about photography (except for my books of course)
- playing with cameras
- running tests
- checking out the local camera store
- trying new papers
- checking out online reviews/anecdotes/stories
- writing about photography (oops)
- thinking that we should be photographing, except that (here add your own excuse - weather, time, money...)

Gee, when you add it all up, that's a lot of time NOT photographing - what would happen if we spent an equal amount of time photographing - just think how good we'd get, how many marvelous images we'd make.



ET Culling said...

I agree but only to a point. There has to be a balance, of course. At my age (74) and being retired I live in that world and every aspect that you've mentioned is important.... my books especially ... yes, yours!! I love to work on my website and write tutorials etc. Luckily I have the time to delve into all your points!

George Barr said...

Yes: I don't regret the time spent working on books, or for that matter the time reading about interesting new cameras - I just have to remind myself that it doesn't count to "hours in the saddle" in terms of being a good and productive photographer.


Rajan P. Parrikar said...

Regrettably this happens in other creative fields, too. These are exciting times, but with the multitude of choices have come a multitude of distractions. Professors, for instance, have to do administrative duties, participate in useless staff meetings, write proposals for funding, schmooze at conferences and so on - knowing full well that this time could have been put to better use.

Alexandre Buisse said...

I'm not sure I agree with you, George, unless you reduce photography to the single act of depressing the shutter. Take for instance post-processing images: I think this should be considered photography, as it is working toward (hopefully) better images. But then, what about walking around without a camera, scouting location and lighting for another trip? And what about reading your book, which gets me thinking and gives me some new ideas to explore in my images? Or even, god forbid, reading a lens review which tells me that it will give the best result when used in some setting?

I define "photography" as doing something which, ultimately, will result in me producing better images. Most of what you speak of in your post is simply less direct (and much less efficient) than walking around with a camera and actually taking pictures.

Markus Spring said...

Or the way "the duck" sees it:

We photographers, many of as sporting a kind of a geek's attitude, are certainly prone to get distracted from what we name as our goal. Still, many of us do develop...

Jim Coffee said...

Had you titled your post "This isn't pushing the shutter button" I would agree with your thoughts.

Photography is far more than the instant of capturing the image.

Photography could be as much as every essential act in a passionate photographers life.

G Dan Mitchell said...

I don't think that spending 100% of our time just photographing - if by "photographing" you mean using the camera - would necessarily be a good thing. Some of the stuff you listed (trying papers, writing about photography, etc. ) is part of the process of being a photographer. The moments of great creative work we might aspire to are only going to be a small part of all of that.

Having said that, I think I agree with the point you probably had in mind - that all too many people are more interested in the peripheral stuff than in actually making photography: shopping for gear, arguing about which lens/brand/etc is the "best," and so forth. All of which can be distractions from actual photography.

Luis Sanchez said...

I am not sure I agree with you. Let me explain. Every week I go and I take a bunch of photos. I bring them home and I place them into a folder to age them as we age wine. They are my children. They stay in my heart in waiting. One day a week, a month, or years later, when I feel that I am ready, I digitally process a specific photo. I feel that this is right for me. Is this waiting not part of the adventure? I believe that it is.

Don and Sher said...

I agree also to a point, and also with some of the comments here.

Chuck Kimmerle said...

I'm with George on this one. Most of us have major life commitments (jobs, family, etc) that must take priority over our photography, so when we get precious free time, we can either read or talk about photography, or just go out an shoot.

There is plenty of time for the photo related pursuits we all love - books, talking, blogging, shopping - when it's raining, dark, etc.

I don't think George is saying we must spend every free minute with a camera, but rather that thinking or talking about photography doesn't actually get us any pictures.

George Barr said...

The point I wanted to make is that preparation and thinking and discussing and fiddling and testing and drooling are all fine in their way and can be very enjoyable but do not take the place of looking at great photographs and going out and making photographs - and sometimes we forget this and find that we spend much much more time on all of the other stuff.

I was suggesting that each of us might want to do an inventory, and if we find that we are doing 99% of the other and only 1% of the photographing, it might just be holding us back.


Tom Dills said...

George -

I'd suggest that the photographic process would include more than just taking the photographs. Assuming that the final result is something other than a bunch of pixels on a hard drive, the process has to include everything from walking out the door to editing, processing and (for me) printing or (for others) outputting to the web. I agree that a lot of the activities you mention are too often distracting when done for the wrong reasons, but feel that some of them can be an important part of the process:

- Talking and reading about photography - essential for inspiration and defining one's personal approach.
- Playing with cameras, running tests, checking out the local camera store - I'll give you these. Shoot with what you've got.
- Trying new papers - an essential part of the process of expression if it results in the "right" paper for your vision for an image, providing it's not done solely for testing's sake.
- Checking out online reviews/anecdotes/stories - important to distinquish between entertainment, information or inspiration.
- Writing about photography - I've found this can be beneficial in terms of focusing my thoughts and emotions around a subject.
- Thinking that we should be photographing - agreed, no excuses!

cal said...

I have been as much of a tech-geek as anyone I know... and while that does help to improve the final image, George has an awesome point. I made a decision a couple months ago, I like to make good images. That is why I do all this other stuff, that is the price I pay to actually get out and make good images...

Markus said...


I also agree with many of the previous comment - and Tom Dills put it very nicely.
Creating or making an image and thus photography usually starts with seeing the object the very first time - with or without a camera on you. We come back with the camera when we think the light is right. Working the scene, taking the image and then going to the darkroom with it. Which might be wet or digital for that matter. That work also might include trying different papers. Photography ends when the print is in your hands. (Maybe it does not, but that is a different matter...).
Reading books about photographing is also part of educating yourself, as is the writing part, may it be a blog or a book.
Drooling over new equipment and testing like crazy? well, I give you that. But hey, there are those people that LIKE it and they help us to QUICLY find what we need... :)


Priyanka said...

I agree! But does this mean that I shouldn't be reading your blog :)