Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lessons learned from a point-and-shoot camera

Ever since I knew they existed, I have wanted a Digital SLR camera. I just have. Nothing against compact point-and-shoot cameras, but they just don't give me the control that I want when taking pictures or shooting video.

I am a third generation amateur photographer. My grandfather shot black and white film and developed it himself late at night for the want of a dark room. My father bridged the gap to color film, and finally to digital. My interests (which are primarily in video) rely heavily on that foundation of photography for training in light, exposure, and composition.

About a year ago my wife and I went shopping to get a camera for me to shoot videos with, knowing our budget wouldn't permit a DSLR I found what I thought was a suitable replacement. While I was able to shoot video and make a few short films, it didn't give me nearly the control I was looking for. I wanted to stylize my video, but the camera wouldn't allow me to do so. It was then that I came to a startling realization.

I wanted a camera that would let me take "bad" pictures.

This took me back for a moment, but I soon realized that camera companies want every shot to look good so that they will sell more cameras. They are more interested in making a profit than they are educating the general public how to use aperture and focal length. While this lets more people take good pictures, it does limit the agency of the photographer to make important stylized choices.

Blurry doesn't always mean bad. Some of the best pictures I have ever seen have the majority of the picture out of focus. In videography controlling depth of field is paramount to a professional look. Maybe I do want to underexpose a shot for a more gothic look, or overexpose it for a more heavenly one. This doesn't mean that every shot I take will be "perfect," but it does mean that the ones I get right will be fantastic rather than just good!

I am not saying that point-and-shoot cameras are bad, in fact if you read the manual over and over a dozen times and fiddle with the settings enough you can still achieve similar results. However I am adamant that in order to take fantastic pictures, you need a camera that gives you enough control (or agency) that you can also take really "bad" pictures. I would even go so far as to tout the mantra that in this instance "Good" really is the enemy of "Great."

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