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Author Topic: Least informed comment ever on digital photography?  (Read 7556 times)
Chris Pollock
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« on: October 16, 2009, 05:26:20 PM »
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I often read Bob Park's What's New column at http://www.bobpark.org. I also read his book Voodoo Science, which I liked. He's a physicist, obviously a smart guy, and most of his commentary is well informed and interesting.

However, in his October 9, 2009 column he showed what can happen when you offer an opinion on a subject you know little about. Writing about the award of the Nobel Prize to the inventors of the CCD, he included the following comment:

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In effect, Boyle and Smith ended the profession of photography; an eight-year-old child can pull out a personal cell phone, point it, and capture an image superior to anything professional photographers can do with armloads of paraphernalia and hours in the darkroom.

Just about every assertion in this sentence is wrong. Is there anyone here who would defend it?
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2009, 05:46:18 PM »
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Sure.  An 8 yo can do that.  They probably won't.  F8 and be there.
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bill t.
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« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2009, 08:37:56 PM »
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Same way as the word processor ended the writing profession.  Mamma don't take my Snopaque away!
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k bennett
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« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2009, 08:12:24 AM »
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I'll defend it, to some extent -- the original quote didn't say they destroyed photography, only that they ended the PROFESSION of photography. That is wholly true in several areas of professional photography, partly true in others, and not true at all in a lucky few. When art buyers at major ad agencies look at Flickr when they need photos for an ad, when a major newsmagazine pays $30 for a cover and the photographer is thrilled, when it seems like half the photojournalists I know have been laid off and newspapers and magazines are folding left and right, and everything is "crowdsourced," there is some truth to the idea that advances in digital technology are making professional photographers redundant.

Yes, there are all kinds of problems with using "nonprofessional" photos -- but as long as the client doesn't give a rat's arse, and only wants the lowest price, they'll continue to be used.
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Chris Pollock
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« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2009, 05:19:23 PM »
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Quote from: k bennett
I'll defend it, to some extent -- the original quote didn't say they destroyed photography, only that they ended the PROFESSION of photography. That is wholly true in several areas of professional photography, partly true in others, and not true at all in a lucky few. When art buyers at major ad agencies look at Flickr when they need photos for an ad, when a major newsmagazine pays $30 for a cover and the photographer is thrilled, when it seems like half the photojournalists I know have been laid off and newspapers and magazines are folding left and right, and everything is "crowdsourced," there is some truth to the idea that advances in digital technology are making professional photographers redundant.

Yes, there are all kinds of problems with using "nonprofessional" photos -- but as long as the client doesn't give a rat's arse, and only wants the lowest price, they'll continue to be used.
Yes, but how many people are doing serious photography with cell phone cameras? Do you think it's fair to say that an eight year old with a cell phone camera can produce better photographs than a professional with a high end DSLR, medium format digital back, or large format film camera? Do you agree with the implication that digital sensors somehow make the skill of the photographer irrelevant?
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k bennett
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« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2009, 07:29:51 PM »
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Quote from: Chris Pollock
Yes, but how many people are doing serious photography with cell phone cameras? Do you think it's fair to say that an eight year old with a cell phone camera can produce better photographs than a professional with a high end DSLR, medium format digital back, or large format film camera? Do you agree with the implication that digital sensors somehow make the skill of the photographer irrelevant?


You miss my point. The cell phone and the eight year old are simply hyperbole.

It doesn't matter how many people are doing serious photography with cell phone cameras. The original quote wasn't talking about serious photography -- it was talking about making money from photography, a.k.a. photography as a profession. These are very different things.  If clients are happy buying pictures from a cell phone camera, and paying $30 to use them, or getting them free from Flickr, it doesn't really matter how "serious" the photographer is, it just becomes that much more difficult to make a living.

In economic terms, digital imaging has removed some major barriers to entry from the photography market. One no longer needs to know how to expose transparency film. One no longer needs to convince a major stock agency to take you on as a photographer (which required a solid portfolio and shooting skills.) Shooting with a p+s camera and uploading to a public web site is enough (though it helps if you mark your photos with the Creative Commons license.) In many cases, the skill of the photographer is irrelevant -- if an art director needs a basic photo of the Taj Mahal, why in the world would they pay a professional fee for it??

As I said above, this is true for some segments of the industry, partly true for others, and not true at all for a lucky few. For example, how many professional, highly skilled and experienced wedding photographers are happy with the current condition of the market? What about magazine photographers? Stock photographers? Some of the problems with the photo industry are caused by other economic issues (the furniture photo market in North Carolina, for example, has been hurt by the loss of manufacturing to overseas plants, and the stock photo business has changed dramatically as it consolidated into a few very large companies.) Some are self-inflicted. But many of the changes in the photo industry are a result of the move to high quality digital imaging.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2009, 07:30:43 PM by k bennett » Logged

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Chris Pollock
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« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2009, 08:24:09 PM »
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Quote from: k bennett
You miss my point. The cell phone and the eight year old are simply hyperbole.
You have tried to redefine the original quote to mean something sensible, and then launched into a largely irrelevant discussion of the state of the photography business. Let's take another look at what Bob Park actually wrote:

Quote
an eight-year-old child can pull out a personal cell phone, point it, and capture an image superior to anything professional photographers can do with armloads of paraphernalia and hours in the darkroom.
This is the important part of the quote. I don't disagree that digital photography has made it harder for a lot of professionals to get business, but that has little to do with what the original commentary was saying. Park clearly stated that a cell phone camera in the hands of an eight-year-old who isn't even trying can produce photographs that are superior (not good enough, but superior) to anything (not just mediocre work, but anything) that a professional photographer with professional equipment can do. Do you think this is a reasonable statement?
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2009, 10:29:43 PM »
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I have to admit admit I am very amused that Dr. Park thinks professional photographers still spend "hours in the darkroom."  

Paul
« Last Edit: October 17, 2009, 11:31:53 PM by PaulS » Logged

Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2009, 05:48:04 AM »
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Having multiple degrees in one field does not necessarily qualify one to comment intelligently about other fields. Mr. Park's comments are an excellent example of this principle. The more egregious flaws in the quote are:

1. Cell phone cameras are OK for what they are, but have yet to seriously challenge 35mm film regarding image quality. Perhaps the old disc film format, but not any film format professional photographers ever used on a regular basis.

2. Photographers have switched to digital for the most part. The technological advances of digital have greatly expanded the boundaries of what can be done with a camera, allowing photographs to be captured under previously impossible conditions, with greater resolution, dynamic range, and color fidelity than ever before. This is far from a Bad Thing, despite the effect technology has had on the industry of photography.

3. Much of what distinguishes a professional photographer from an amateur button-pusher has little to do with the image capture device itself. Lighting, composition (including the selection of vantage point), focus selection, depth of field, and capturing the "decisive moment" (for moving subjects) are all critically important aspects of making a great photograph, and are independent of whether silicon or silver is used to capture the image. The probability of an 8-year-old with a cell phone accidentally capturing something that eclipses the most determined efforts of a creative and intelligent professional photographer who still chooses to use film is absurdly remote--it would require the assistance of an Infinite Improbability Drive to happen often enough to matter.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2009, 05:49:31 AM by Jonathan Wienke » Logged

EduPerez
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« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2009, 06:02:34 AM »
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Quote from: Jonathan Wienke
[...]
3. Much of what distinguishes a professional photographer from an amateur button-pusher has little to do with the image capture device itself. Lighting, composition (including the selection of vantage point), focus selection, depth of field, and capturing the "decisive moment" (for moving subjects) are all critically important aspects of making a great photograph, and are independent of whether silicon or silver is used to capture the image. The probability of an 8-year-old with a cell phone accidentally capturing something that eclipses the most determined efforts of a creative and intelligent professional photographer who still chooses to use film is absurdly remote--it would require the assistance of an Infinite Improbability Drive to happen often enough to matter.

Exactly! No matter how affordable (both economical and ergonomically) cameras become, no matter how many automatisms they can fit into a camera: a badly composed photo will always be a badly composed photo; this is the best argument against the "your camera takes good photos" argument, I think.
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Jeremy Payne
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« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2009, 08:18:30 AM »
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Quote from: k bennett
digital imaging has removed some major barriers to entry from the photography market.
If your competitive advantage over the 'hyperbolic' eight-year-old is that tenuous, you were in serious trouble without even considering disruptive impact of digital technology.
 
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RSL
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« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2009, 09:05:56 AM »
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Jonathan, Are you talking about "professional" photography or about art? There's a world of difference.
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k bennett
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« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2009, 09:15:03 AM »
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One more try, and I'm done.

The most important part of the original quote is this: "In effect, Boyle and Smith ended the profession of photography..."

All of you are still confusing "serious photography" with the "profession of photography." They are not necessarily (or always) the same. Don't take this as a personal attack on your photographic skills -- yes, all of you can out shoot an 8 year old with a cell phone. That's wonderful. But given the changes in the photo industry, having serious photographic skills doesn't always translate into making it as a professional photographer. (See examples above.)
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RSL
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« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2009, 10:47:08 AM »
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Anyone on here ever try doing a wedding with a cell phone?
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bill t.
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« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2009, 12:34:57 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
Anyone on here ever try doing a wedding with a cell phone?
I looked at some wedding pictures recently.  There was of course the predictable professional album.   But in a separate album there were hundreds of "crowdsourced" cell phone and P&S shots, and that was the couple's favorite album for the simple reason it was so much fun, mostly goofy pictures of people stuffing cake in their mouths and the like.  We barely looked a the dullsville pro album at all.

In the early 80's I covered some weddings with an SX-70, it was very trendy at the time.  Biggest problem was keeping the guests from stealing shots, literally!
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Dick Roadnight
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« Reply #15 on: October 18, 2009, 12:57:11 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
Anyone on here ever try doing a wedding with a cell phone?
The "pro" (£2k) photographer (chosen by my wife ) who took our wedding photos used a 6 Mpx (I think) 1st generation "pro" DSLR you could have picked up on eBay for a few hundred pounds... a modern cell phone might have been better. He did not have the skill to have done much better whatever camera he might have used... and he was an established pro with decades of experience.

¿...and people wonder why photography is a dying profession?
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Jim Pascoe
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« Reply #16 on: October 18, 2009, 02:13:29 PM »
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Quote from: Dick Roadnight
The "pro" (£2k) photographer (chosen by my wife ) who took our wedding photos used a 6 Mpx (I think) 1st generation "pro" DSLR you could have picked up on eBay for a few hundred pounds... a modern cell phone might have been better. He did not have the skill to have done much better whatever camera he might have used... and he was an established pro with decades of experience.

¿...and people wonder why photography is a dying profession?

If your pictures were poor quality I would suggest that is down to the skill (or lack of) of the photographer concerned.  I could quite easily shoot weddings with my 6mp Canon 10D from many years ago.  6mp is more than enough for most wedding albums.  I took my 10D to a wedding last year and used it for some of the shots just for old-times sake and was quite pleased with the results.  I realised that some of the limitations it had six years ago were down to the cheaper lens I used then, and the fact that I did shoot in jpeg back then and not RAW. Not defending your photographer, but just saying that it is risky to judge a photographer by their camera!  You could pick up an 'old' Canon 1DS for a few hundred pounds now, but it would still be good enough.

Jim
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Dick Roadnight
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« Reply #17 on: October 18, 2009, 02:35:23 PM »
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Quote from: Jim Pascoe
If your pictures were poor quality I would suggest that is down to the skill (or lack of) of the photographer concerned.  I could quite easily shoot weddings with my 6mp Canon 10D from many years ago.  6mp is more than enough for most wedding albums.  I took my 10D to a wedding last year and used it for some of the shots just for old-times sake and was quite pleased with the results.  I realised that some of the limitations it had six years ago were down to the cheaper lens I used then, and the fact that I did shoot in jpeg back then and not RAW. Not defending your photographer, but just saying that it is risky to judge a photographer by their camera!  You could pick up an 'old' Canon 1DS for a few hundred pounds now, but it would still be good enough.

Jim
When I do weddings with a H4D-60, the pictures will be good enough to print 2 feet by 3, frame and hang on a wall, and the group shots (stitched with a P3) will be good enough to produce a reasonable portrait of each of the 50 people in the shot... and this is the quality I think couples should be expecting if they pay real money for their wedding pictures.
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Jim Pascoe
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« Reply #18 on: October 19, 2009, 02:48:05 AM »
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Quote from: Dick Roadnight
When I do weddings with a H4D-60, the pictures will be good enough to print 2 feet by 3, frame and hang on a wall, and the group shots (stitched with a P3) will be good enough to produce a reasonable portrait of each of the 50 people in the shot... and this is the quality I think couples should be expecting if they pay real money for their wedding pictures.

Ah well, if we are talking about stitching, I could always stitch together a dozen pictures from the 10D and get poster sized wall print no problem!  Much lighter than the 'Blad as well. The only problem might be getting the whole wedding party to stand still while I make all the exposures.
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Dick Roadnight
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« Reply #19 on: October 19, 2009, 03:18:08 AM »
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Quote from: Jim Pascoe
Ah well, if we are talking about stitching, I could always stitch together a dozen pictures from the 10D and get poster sized wall print no problem!  Much lighter than the 'Blad as well. The only problem might be getting the whole wedding party to stand still while I make all the exposures.
I was thinking that, for a wedding party, two or three stitches would be ample with a 60 Mpx back ...does anyone do a motorised back for so you can take two or three pictures as fast as bracketing?
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