With the recent snow, I noticed something that I had been thinking about for some time. Pictures are being taken left and right these days by everyone. I was taking pics of the snowstorm at lunch Friday and this couple came out of the restaurant I had just left and both pulled out cameras and started taking pictures too. The guy had a camera phone (I think it was an iPhone) and the lady pulled out a small digital camera. It seems everyone has a camera these days.
As a photo hobbyist, I tend to take a lot of pictures (some may say too many) and I appreciate others pictures as well. I have a very nice Nikon D-80 with which I do my serious photography. I also use a Canon Powershot A40 and I even shoot film on a Canon EOS Rebel G. I even have a vintage Canon AE-1 Program that I shoot as well. In case you can’t tell, I like Canon. I got the Nikon because it uses SD instead of CF memory (and because my wife wanted a Nikon).
Even though I shoot film occasionally, I do not get prints when I get the film developed. I opt for the photo CD and print the pics I want on my photo printer at home. It’s cheaper and gives me more control and less prints to file away (and trust me, there is little more annoying that boxes of pictures that have never been indexed or put into albums gathering dust in a cabinet or closet somewhere). I still have several old prints to scan so they will be available and indexed in digital format. Every image I have shot is now digital. It makes things easier.
With the advent of digital photography several things happened. One, you no longer have to worry about the expense of developing all of your pictures. You can pick and choose which ones you really want to have printed and discard the rest. Two: you no longer have to worry about running out of film—at least not in the traditional sense. In the old days—and younguns you may not understand this—you only had between 12 and 36 exposures (old-time term for picture on film) per roll of film. If you ran out of film, you stopped taking pictures, so you really had to pick and choose your shots and take great pains to make sure it was right. Worse still was that you couldn’t know if it was a good picture until the film got developed—which back in the day could take a week or more, so you took pains to make sure the lighting was right and it was in focus. Three: pictures look a lot better now with the improved optics and resolution. Four: the price of the equipment plummeted so anyone can get a camera.
Photographers used to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on cameras, lenses, flashes, tripods, meters, lighting equipment etc to take their pictures. Those who wanted to take snapshots of their vacations still paid a pretty penny for the camera and the film and the processing. Only the “good” shots got taken and most people only had one camera. Then Polaroid made instant photography and more people got cameras, but they were still relatively expensive. Even the cheap plastic 110 film camera couldn’t become “must-have” technology, despite a huge marketing campaign. Film and processing were still price hurdles most people didn’t want to make.
But with Digital, well, now we’re talking. Since the price of electronics fell into the basement, a digital camera can be had for as little as five bucks. Even a 10-year-old can get his hands on five bucks—and they do, trust me. They only thing you need besides the camera is a computer with which to view and/or print the pics—and you don’t really even need that. Most printers now can print straight off the memory card or even right off the camera itself. So, cameras are dirt cheap, memory is dirt cheap and prints are cheap. Now—the camera is must-have technology.
I credit the cell phone for it really. When cell phone started featuring cameras, many people at first thought “why do I need a camera on my phone?” But they quickly started using it. Even though the picture quality was terrible (even worse that the pictures those old plastic 110 film cameras took) people took pics. With today’s phones, the image quality is better than even the average hobbyist might have taken back in the day with a nice camera. Couple that with the price of dedicated digital cameras and it is even more accessible. Camera phones have come a long way since Sprint introduced it back in 2000, but a dedicated camera still has better optics and better image resolution.
Kids all seem to have either a camera-phone or a digital camera with them at school. Social networking sites are loaded with pictures kids take with their phones. The internet is crammed full of pictures. In fact, there are too many pictures. Since there is no more issues with developing and printing costs, people just snap away. With the availability of cheap huge-capacity memory, no one ever seems to run out of space. Some people use SD memory like a film package. They take the pictures until the card is full, then the file the card away and buy a new one.
The sad part is that since there is no real expense to take a picture now, people take photo after photo after photo. Sometimes, they don’t even try to figure out the lighting, they just snap away until they get one that they like—and then they don’t delete the bad ones. They just post all of them. Have you ever seen some of these Facebook albums? I know they are your friends. Heck, they’re my friends too; but some of them are loaded with hundreds of pictures of the same blurry or washed out or dark thing. Come on, people. Pick the good ones and delete the rest.
But do continue clicking away. Photography is capturing a bit of history that—someday—you will want to look at again. Just be careful what you shoot. Some things no one wants to see.