Photography – anyone can do it, right?

WARNING:  This post contains language which may be construed as self-pitying or possibly downright whiny.  If you choose to read on, remember – You Were Warned!

If I had the space (and extra cash), I would be one of those photographers who works not only in digital but who spends countless hours in a darkroom to create prints that look as close to perfect as I can get them.

This is partly because I love working in darkrooms, but also because when you develop your prints in a darkroom, it is harder for people to dismiss the work that went in to getting the shot.    Even though taking the shot and developing the shot are two entirely different things, people seem to give more credence to photography as an art form when the prints come from a darkroom.    The is especially true since the onset of reasonably priced digital SLRs and the plethora of cheap editing software.  Digital photography has become something people seem to think anyone can do well.   (And ok, it IS easier to accidentally get a good shot, what with all the auto functions on SLR’s, but that doesn’t make you a good photographer.)

I work hard at this photographic hobby of mine, sometimes spending several hours to get the one photo I will post as part of the ongoing “photo of the day” project my friend Karen and I started way back in March of this year.   I’ve done a National Geographic Photo Walk and learned various techniques to use when shooting at night from 4 of their amazing photographers, and since then I try never to use any of the auto settings on my Canon.  I’m not the best photographer in New York – maybe not even the best in my building (it’s a big building) but my goal is to always improve the composition and story of my photos.

This is why it is beyond frustrating when someone looks at a photo like the one below, which took several hundred frames to capture exactly the way I wanted, and have them say “That must be a really good camera!”

Well, yes, it is a decent digital SLR but it wouldn’t get this shot all by itself!  If the camera was on Auto it would try to use the flash, and if you simply turned off the flash you would have no control over the shutter speed, aperture, etc.

Photography is the only art form, I think, which suffers from this prejudice.  Painting and drawing don’t because there is no way to accidentally create an amazing portrait or painting.   Dance doesn’t because you can’t buy pointe shoes or a leotard that will do most of the work for you.  Music?  Well maybe a little, what with auto-tune and such, but if you want to perform live, you’d better know what you are doing.

I could go on, but you get the picture.  (Pun intended.)

My conclusion?  People aren’t going to change.  Photography can’t be about the recognition (especially on social media), and luckily I love doing it enough that it isn’t.  My goal is to eventually show my photos professionally, whether in a gallery, magazine or even a website, but until then?  When someone sees a photo I took and tells me I must have a good camera, I’ll just smile and say, “Yes, yes I do.”

About Amy

Amy Milstein was born and raised on a farm in Indiana, but after 20+ years considers herself a full-fledged New Yorker. She is married with two kids, who do not go to school but are instead life learners. This means they learn by living in the world (real life ) instead of hearing about it and simulating it in a classroom. With her family, Amy loves to travel, read, watch movies, write, sew, knit - the list is endless.
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