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There have always been debates in the field of photography and it is these competing points of view that have made it an exciting art form that has developed more rapidly than almost any other over the last century!
Some debates have raged for decades, while others are quite new and the result of emerging technological possibilities which are now afforded most photographers today but would have seemed impossible only a few years ago.
As with many of the debates that take place within the artistic community, the answers are always going to be quite subjective; however it is still great to think about the issues because it can help us to focus on our own work and even rethink the way we ourselves do things. I picked the 5 topics based on what my friends and I discuss the most in Philadelphia.
Top 5 Photography Debates of our times.
Flash vs Natural Light.
This is an interesting debate that centers around the idea that by only relying on natural sources of light you may not be able to capture the fullest details of your subject. This debate is particularly relevant in the field of portraiture, where the difference between flash photography and a comparable picture without a flash certainly shows huge differences between the two.
On the one hand, the ‘purist’ might argue that using a flash is artificial and ‘fake’, presenting an unrealistic version of reality. However, the one in favor of using a flash could point to the results, with clearly images and sharper definitions, and say that they were not trying to be ‘realistic’ but to create the most powerful photograph they could!
There’s no end in sight to this debate, however, most photographers would agree that this is quite a contextual debate, and again, most photographers are happy to work with both natural light and the flash. Using a flash makes the photographer less reliant on the natural lighting available, which might not always be great, and frees them up to capture images in otherwise impossible situations.
Do you need good equipment for good photos?
If you walk into an expensive photography store, and ask the person behind the counter, ‘Do I need a good camera to take good photos?’, you’ll probably get an answer in the affirmative!
This is a tough question though. Of course it’s undeniable that good equipment has higher specifications, can do things which bad equipment cannot and will give you more reliable results. That’s all true, but only when the equipment is being used by someone who really knows what they’re doing with it.
Photography does not require huge budgets to get great results. You can get great results using your mobile phones. Intuition, creativity and passion will take you 90% of the way to where you want to be, and this is especially true if you are just starting out on your journey as a photographer.
Is Post Production a Form of Cheating in Photography?
The post production possibilities that are available today would amaze a photographer from the 1950’s, and yet as we have become accustomed to them some people have also developed a form of nostalgic rejection of these techniques.
It’s fair to say the post production software, filters and the methods that are easily accessible today are a far sight from the old dark room techniques that were available in the past; and that post production work can really change the entire nature of a photograph to the point where the photograph itself can almost become a secondary consideration.
However, to look at this issue from a more charitable, and probably fair point of view, post production has come so far that it can almost be seen as an entirely new art form in its own right that coexists in a symbiotic relationship with photography rather than directly competes with it! Most viewers of photography are easily able to tell if a lot of post production work has gone into an image and so it’s hard to call it ‘cheating’, although it isn’t pure photography either!
There is a danger that photographers can become overly dependent on the post production side of things and their actual photography suffers as a result, but when used sparingly and in the correct context it’s a fantastic addition to the tool kit of any photographer.
Do you need technical knowledge about photography to click good photos?
Technical knowledge, skills and experience are definitely a major advantage for any photographer, and when you are using high quality, state of the art equipment it’s a must. However, photographers who are starting out should never let this hold them back from pursuing their dreams of becoming a photographer.
A lot of the technical skills will come with time, patience and dedication to the craft, although you can fast track the process by taking a course, on or off line, or by seeking out a mentorship or apprenticeship program.
With modern technology you can take an amazing photograph with your camera phone or a relatively inexpensive digital camera. The camera phone will take care of the settings and let you concentrate on the image alone. So just follow your inspirations and always be willing to try new things and you’ll be taking great photos in no time!
That said, there is always room to learn more, and picking up some serious technical skills in photography will always stand you in good stead, especially if you want to go professional when the competition will be steep!
Manual vs Automatic Settings – which is best?
As with many of the lasting debates, there are good points on both sides. For quick, off the cuff opportunistic photographs using an automatic setting will stop you missing the moment, like a bird sitting perfectly on a statue in just the right poise! Now if you’d had to carefully focus and adjust all the camera’s settings the bird would have been long gone by the time you were ready! So the automatic setting has its practical purposes.
However, from a more artistic photo shoot, you will probably want to use the manual settings, so you have more control over the shutter speed, aperture and the brightness of the image. Photography ‘purists’ swear by the manual setting, and some would never consider using their camera in automatic!
For all photographers though, it’s definitely a good idea to get comfortable with the manual settings on your camera. Not only will it improve your overall photography but experimenting with the different settings, or even taking a course to learn, will open up whole new ways of seeing and understanding what you can really achieve with your camera.
So how do you decide what is best for you?
It’s usually good to be flexible and certainly willing to try new things. Keeping up with the various debates that go on in the photography industry is always a good idea because you can learn a lot from other people’s perspectives.
Keeping an open mind and experimenting with as many styles, techniques and theories as possible will expand your repertoire of skills and will, on occasion, give you sudden flashes of insight that may lead on to unexpected avenues of exploration within your own photography.
Which works best for you? Do you shoot mostly in the manual or automatic mode?