All Tech and Little Talent

Photography is a creative medium and a highly reputable art, but recently it has gone the way of most creative or professional endeavors. Everybody is doing it!

iPad image with Snapseed Center Focus

Kinda like what blogging did to the field of writing. Everybody can write so… everybody becomes a writer. Has blogging devalued professional writing as a whole? Has the sheer volume of posts taken the profession down a notch? Or is it complementary to the field in general? Technology has turned so many professions inside out.

Photo by iPad with Snapseed Tune Image, Details and Center Focus filters.

Even a craft as highly skilled as architecture has weekend warriors using SketchUp designing everything 3-D – even drawing up new homes that would never be structurally sound or weather tight.

Photo by iPad with Snapseed Frame filter – does it help?

The web creates ‘experts’ in every field now a days. Be your own attorney with all the apps to download free legal forms. And you can be your own CPA with a click of the mouse in tax preparation apps. Feeling sick?  Diagnose your own ailments and doctor yourself back to health. Interior Design, well everyone does design these days with no experience or education.

Original iPhone image

Snapseed Grunge Filter with Tilt Shift filter – better? Not even close.

It seems that we are at a point where the volume of photos that proliferate the web are trivializing images somewhat. Viewers speed by the majority of them, so the people posting them try to make them stand out and be different with apps like Instagram.

This simple service is being hard hit in the media lately. Most of the criticism is leveled at amateur photographers and how easy it is to post filtered images to the web.

By this I mean the special effects filters used on photographs, filters that were actually based on classical photographic effects that took a lot of time and skill to produce. Most of this criticism is by professional photographers, too.

Is it a concern for professionals today, the ones with the experience and years of educational study? The examples I gave above require advanced degrees and/or licenses to practice. Being a professional photographer does not, yet does take years of hard work. Digital cameras and web access are in the hands of everyone, especially those with smart phones. The result of this is…

People are taking surprisingly good photographs with their phones now a days. The image quality of these devices has improved substantially over the years, but that is not really where the problem is unfolding. The device may be better, but not necessarily the person operating it. So this opens the door to software that will do all that for you with one click.

Original DSLR image

Snapseed Drama Normal Filter – better?  Not really.

Facebook now has purchased Instagram, and I now see Google has acquired Nik Software. Nik is the maker of Snapseed, an editing app for the iPhone, iPad and PC used by approximately 9 million consumers.

The consumer applications producing these special effects filters are not necessarily making the images better though.

Original DSLR

Snapseed Frame Filter – better? Not really.

Instagram and Snapseed filters are dumbing down creativity. No imagination or skill on the part of the photographer is required, just an instant click and send. They don’t encourage betterment of ability either. In many cases, they are used on cheesy images or on decent images made to look cheesy.

Has it come to showing off talent and puffing up abilities that do not exist with the help of these effects filters?

Photos can be made better by sharpening, better exposure, and more saturated color. They can add depth of field that was not in the photo. What used to take years of experience learning very complex applications and camera know how, is replaced by a flurry of applications doing it for the photographer.

Original iPhone image

Snapseed Vintage Filter, Ella – I especially do not like this look.

So does this make the person a good photographer? If all one does is push a button and out pops a better photo, well that seems like photography is taking a step backwards, not forwards.

One can argue that it is the final photo that matters, not how one gets there. That is the long-standing argument on Photoshop. Many books are being sold helping people make better iPhone images. And as technology expands, so does who it reaches.

But, since most Instagram users are just sharing their lives with others through photos, they are not looking to be professional photographers or create great art.

Many years from now the current technology will not exist, but the images it was used on will. I am guessing no one will be asking how the images were produced.

You can also argue that photography has opened up to a greater number of people, and that is good for the craft. Instagram allows beginners to experience what many in the field have been using for a very long time and I think this is exactly where there problem originates. I think it is about feeling double-crossed. Like the amateurs are getting something that they did not do the work to learn.

Photography is fun, more immediate, less costly, and very accessible, unlike many years prior.

Without the education and long time experience, it is unlikely amateurs can actually equal the depth of quality and imagery of the pros. But the apps keep getting more sophisticated…

I have Snapseed on my Laptop, iPhone and iPad. I looked at the app yesterday for the first time. I figured since it was made by Nik, a professional app I use as a plugin for Photoshop and Lightroom, that it would be a great thing for those quick photos on the phone.

Below, the dahlia was taken by my iPhone in a shaded location. iPhones are not good in low light either. Enter Snapseed and we have a brighter image with soft focus in a cropped image. All one click effects. Not as good as I could take with the DSLR, but not too shabby.

Photo by iPhone with Snapseed

I do believe though that photography should be about more than simply trying to take as many photos as one can in five minutes or less. That is what I think this new phenomenon encourages. Why am I concerned when I don’t use Instagram or Snapseed?

I am trialling a new app on my Mac called Perfectly Clear, that performs 12 corrections in one click. It is an editing program similar to many of the others on the market. But why is it different? It seems even more sophisticated in effect than Snapseed, but is exceedingly simple in execution just like Snapseed.

I can only speculate what ramifications this will have for applications like Photoshop. It is a Photoshop and Lightroom plugin, but they also have the iPad and iPhone versions for the masses. Time will tell how this all plays out. It is just too simple to click a button and be done. If these apps keep improving, no telling who produces an image.

So, what comes from this discussion? I don’t really know, but I am betting a lot of long time photographers and photo editors are none too happy with the direction of photography. Do the photographers taking issue have a point?

Update: Yes they do… Listen to them discussing it.

I just want to add a podcast where professional photographers are discussing the very points in this post and comment section. In the first part of the podcast, the discussion is on using Photoshop Elements. The second part of the podcast, the discussion is with a wedding photographer talking about how the advent of digital has impacted his profession – “the explosion of photographers that broke into the wedding scene and the vast gyrations of pricing.” He goes into the reasons that I discussed where “everybody is a photographer.” Here it is from a professional’s point of view. If you think all these new clickers are not affecting the pros, think again. See how he is differentiating himself and how he is reaching those clients.

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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49 Responses to All Tech and Little Talent

  1. Interesting assessments, I agree with your not liking the fixes. I don’t have an iPhone, nor a Smartphone of any kind. My photo editing is done with Picasa….it is ok, works for me. One of these days I might splurge and get Photoshop, but it won’t be for a while. I am striving to make my photography better — and like Photoshop, one of these days I hope to take a class in photography.

    • Photoshop is fun to learn, but it takes many years to be proficient. I have been using it since 1990. Unless you are going to really get into the application, you might be better with Photoshop Elements. Too many people pay for the full program and don’t use more than what they find in these simpler apps.

      • Gardengirl says:

        Ok, I am replying to my own comment. It sounded a little harsh. There are some absolutely beautiful amateur photos out there, but just because the technology is available we shouldn’t think that we can all do professional grade work.

  2. Brian Comeau says:

    It certainly is an interesting topic of discussion. I’ll admit it that I struggle with the concept of digital even though I use it, because at one time photography was an art form for a select few, like music or painting, but now everyone is a photographer… Maybe I’m just jealous (or bitter – LOL) because it seems much easier today. When I bought my first camera it was all manual. I set the focus, aperture and shutter speed. I would shoot 24 – 100 exposures, call it a day and hope one turned out. Today we can shoot 500-600 images in a few hours and get lucky with 100’s of keepers post process. However all this being said I still tend to believe garbage in garbage out. But this too is quickly changing because old “rules” don’t necessarily apply anymore. What is sharp, what is good composition, or good color? It’s more subjective than ever before.

    This is progress and digital has benefited me so who am I to complain. I guess it is just the computer age we live in… not even the architect’s job is safe. 🙂

    • I was tossed on writing this post. I am like you in that I started long before digital, so I have these biases to what photography is all about. The same with Photoshop. I use it to almost its full potential and I feel cheated that these new apps came out. They do ALL the work for the person and the person does not even have an inkling where all the effects originated, some even in the darkroom. The work and talent to get those images was to be admired. And with editing, the apps now do 12 fixes at once. I was very upset about Nik being bought. I use that software and really think making Snapseed was like selling out the professional plugin.

  3. I know what you mean…they sort of “dumb down on creativity.” Also I think that it has suppressed the long standing value of virtues of patience and sensitivity that really surrounds the efforts of creating art. This is why we should be critical thinkers when presented with technology options.

    • Well, when a photographer only has a couple of buttons to click and does not know the reasoning behind doing it, there is no creativity. I believe these apps take out all the beauty of learning photography. It is headed that way with the cameras too. Like Brian said, I too have benefited from digital but would never trade in 30 years of learning with my camera.

  4. sharon says:

    Ok it is a big discussion.. but it’s not the technology that’s bad it’s the way it’s used..I use photoshop to help me get the fantastic pictures of my trip .I don’t have the time on a blitz tour to wait for great conditions,or lighting….I have to keep on the move I don’t have time for setups…and also my husband takes pictures of me and I need to “fix ” the poor quality. My photography teacher says every picture can be improved because a camera it not the human eye..Don’t resent those that dont have the skills…they deserve great pictures too..but lets face it..amateurs cannot get the money shots because they don’t take the time to wait in the heat or cold or know how to setup.Also a professional photographer for a newspaper told me it’s about the way you look at the object and the story you tell…the unusual angles that non-artists dont see..he said it wasn’t about the settings. Yes ,you can do so many artist things with photoshop but there one thing I hate about it…and that you can tell what’s real on the internet anymore!…Just my opinion

    • It is the technology that is the problem. It encourages laziness in the art of photography when it is so readily available. When I got Perfectly Clear, I was astounded what it could do. I have to look it up to be sure, but the camera ‘sees’ I think 5 – 7 stops of dynamic range where the eye sees approximately 24 stops. There is no comparison to good lighting. I can create it in Photoshop easily, but don’t for reasons that it just seems wrong. I don’t resent amateurs. I consider myself one. Great pictures only come with experience, not by the lack there of. As for story, that is very complicated. A typical amateur is not likely to create or capture the mood needed for story. Composites must be what you are questioning as real. A number of news photographers have been fired over creating an image, like composting and editing an image, so it is not only on the web.

      • sharon says:

        the only thing I can say is that my husband has taken pictures all his life but no matter how much experience he has, he is not a good or even adequate.photo taker.He doesn’t have a eye for composition… and I do..but i have trouble with my settings….it’s not laziness just that Im not technical!…i am an amateur…yes I have taken class..but even though i cannot be a great photographer I like to be able to improve my pics…I paint so I believe alls fair when you want to create. .and amateurs are helped by the technology and now when i look at my pictures from years ago…I can make them good enough to preserve the good memories instead of just seeing it as an awful photo…What I resent are the photos out there that are not real ..like composites that the “inventor” has contrived to present as real…ie flowers that dont exist…..I think that is wrong..

        • “What I resent are the photos out there that are not real ..like composites that the “inventor” has contrived to present as real…ie flowers that dont exist…..I think that is wrong..”

          I have to say I agree with you on this point. I watched a you tube video on a company based in CA that gets a ton of work by creating images from scratch. They literally start with a blank slate and build an entire scene. From Chairs to people to rooms etc.. I think their work is pretty amazing but it is disheartening to know that this could be the way of the future. Why would a company pay a model and a photographer when they can just hire a digital artist and get everything right from the start.. Before cameras we had drawings, paintings etc.. Imagine what will happen over the course of the next 20-30 years or so.

          • MD, I knew this issue would be one of your concerns. I am not sure of the video you watched, but I saw one on Kelby Training where the photographer was doing shoots for the biggest named sports companies. How he did his composites was to studio photograph the athlete against a white background in proper lighting. Then without the model, go to a location at the right time of day for that shoot. Come back and on the computer, make the composite with all the bells and whistles. This saved money on shipping all the lighting, the models, makeup artists, staff etc. that did not have to go to the site. It was a bare minimum operation done less costly.

            The images are art no question. This is the Photoshop work I like to do too to be honest. My talent is in this area more so than the taking pictures. So I am all for composites and art. But I fully understand why pro photographers would find this a problem on many levels. I can do all the photo layering with textures too so these new apps are honing in on what I can do from scratch as an image editor and artist. As a fashion illustrator so many years ago, we drew all the ads by hand and created all the unique image textures, now it is all done on computer. Why, saves time and times change. I am so glad I changed professions, but never in a million years would I have believed that CADD applications would be made available that anyone could learn.

            • Yes it is probably a good thing that you changed professions when you did. Sadly my photoshop skills are not nearly on par with what Marcus can do. I primarily stick with lightroom for all of my photo editing needs. It may be quite possible that in the future Weddings and Family portraits will be venues where a pro photographer may be able to earn a decent income in the future.

              • It sounds like those commenting would hire a professional for those special occasions, no questions. You might try learning channels in Photoshop. It is for more experienced users, but what you can do with applying adjustment layers (like the standard curves and levels) to individual channels is amazing in the results. I do this on occasion, then change the mode to something like Luminosity. A bad image becomes remarkably worthy, and a good image is like those you see in magazines. Look into it, it will change how you do Photoshop. It takes time with the masking, but well worth the effort, especially doing the work you do. Dan Margulis is the photographer I learned from on Kelby Training in his training session on There are no Bad Originals, Pt 1 and 2 . You should look into a membership, http://kelbytraining.com. They have great classes on lighting and posing etc. for photographers like you.

  5. My spouse is an avid amateur photographer and has been for almost 40 years. As for me, I am pretty ignorant of photographic technique. However, I do think I can distinguish between an OK photograph and a really outstanding picture. The vast number of average photos does not prevent the outstanding photographs from grabbing my attention (this blog is an example of that). Perhaps technology will change that eventually, but we’re not there yet.

    • The technology is here it is just a little elementary in application at this point. The algorithms that produce these effects are the same ones in the pro applications for the most part, but they are combined to eliminate knowing what order and how many to apply them for the consumer. I have no doubt, that eventually, even the pros will rely on this type of filter because it saves TIME. Many are using applications like Perfectly Clear now, just a bit more advanced in onOne and Nik.

      If and when the applications become more mainstay in use, it will be hard to distinguish a pro’s work from that of an advanced amateur photographer like myself. I am so mixed on this development myself, especially Nik Software being sold. It seems likely this sale and association with Google will have many unexpected consequences for professionals and nonprofessionals alike.

  6. Jaime says:

    As a gardener, I’m glad for one thing. They cannot steal a march on me with technology as growing beautiful flowers is part mans idea on how to lay things out, and 90% of it is down to nature. However in your position as a photographer, I fully understand your concern.

    Sorry to say that it seems your training, experience and expertise seem to count for little in this age of push button art. You’re not alone and I’m sure many a musician that learnt his art over years and developed his skill feels similarly cheated.
    It’s the age we live in and I now take the attitude if you can’t beat them join them. I have known someone that claimed to be an enthusiastic photographer, however whenever she forwarded me her work, all I saw was orange skies and pink grass.
    She had photo shopped it into virtually looking like extra terrestrial scenes and I quietly questioned why she called herself a photographer, she should have described her art as a photo shopper.
    Buts that’s the world we live in and I carry on with growing my flowers knowing that they cannot improve on nature anyway. We have no choice but to let them be.

    • Very good points. What is funny is that I went out and shot the images in the post trying to take a bad shot. With the iPad and iPhone, you kinda get what you get. It is hard to compose an image. It focuses and sets the exposure so little is left up to the picture taker. I quickly snapped and quickly processed. All in the five minutes of which I was speaking. It makes you wonder if everything is not headed to one button technology. We live in a quick-paced society.

  7. Gardengirl says:

    My father-in-law is a professional photographer and has been for years. He hates digital photography, but is forced to use it because that is the way the world is heading. He had to close his photo studio because very few people want to pay professional photographer fees. Everyone is using their own digital cameras and software for senior pictures and family pictures. Personally, I don’t think any of the amateur portraits I’ve seen even compare to his. The lighting and special effects that he creates are amazing and his creativity for coming up with the new and unusual all contribute to the final result. I still pay him to take my kids’ school pictures and our family pictures. The final results are the art on my walls at home. I like digital photography, because it allows me to enhance my blog with photos without much effort, but as far as art goes, that should be left to the professionals. In a nutshell, the better the original picture, the better any enhancements will be. Most people don’t have the combination of creativity and professional know-how to create an amazing picture….no matter what kind of technology is out there.

    • It is funny in your comment above saying you were harsh in your reply. I was far worse in my original draft. I said something to the effect that amateurs would now think they possess these abilities and pass the results off as their own. But then realized, that is kinda inherent anyway. It is their art or photograph in the end. I too mentioned that people should leave the real photography to the professionals, but then took note how many amateurs made the jump and became even more famous than some with years of study and experience. I do think that art is so subjective and anyone creative has the ability to create, some good and some not so good, so there is going to be overlap in the end. I do feel bad for those making money from their craft. There is too much competition in all those consumer cameras out there.

  8. Julie Adolf says:

    A very interesting topic. I have several friends who are professional photographers and designers, and when I look at their sites, I’m always in awe. No amount of Instgramming or push-a-button editing can take an amateur’s photo and give it the same feel as a professional’s image. Professional photographers, in my opinion, have a different point-of-view than the rest of us (me.) They see things that I don’t and can take the tiniest detail and make it a focal point for the image’s story. They may be trained in all of the best editing techniques, but there’s still something innately different about how they see a subject. I will never be a professional photographer, just as my artist friends will not be professional writers. But, the beauty of blogging is that we can all work to advance our talents, share our images and words, and–hopefully–learn from one another.

    • You made a good point about learning from others. All artists do that, even if their work is introspective. One is always curious about how something was accomplished or executed. I would not go far to say that all professional photographers have the “different point-of-view than the rest of us” though. I see an awful lot of awful work out there for sale. Like I mentioned in the post, there is no “advanced degrees and/or licenses to practice” so that leaves a lot of pros hanging a shingle that maybe should have had some training before doing so. Anyone can be a professional like my one friend said. She noted all you have to do is sell one photograph. I never agreed on this point, but technically, she is right I guess.

  9. I enjoyed reading your post and all the comments. Another interesting debate! I admit that I am not very technologically savvy. I haven’t used any of the applications you discussed. I process my photos through Picasa and try to do limited editing, usually cropping and slight lighting adjustments. Sometimes it is fun to play around with the other features like the vignette but this program has pretty limited features. You make some very valid points about technology helping amateur photographers but when I look at the pros there is nothing that compares. They have cameras and lenses I can only dream of and you have to have skill and education to use those. I also think that some people have an “eye” for taking great shots. At the end of the day that is what makes a great photographer in my opinion.What is shot, how, angle, etc. Some people walk by things and never notice them. Others see things in a different way and can shoot a great photo. Does that make sense?

    • Yes Karin, very much sense. I used to think I could tell the difference, but am finding there are some pretty spectacular amateurs out there. And a few are lucky enough to go pro. But like I mentioned in another comment, it is hard to take a bad photo even when trying on these new devices. Add the filters and it takes on a bit of the mood and feel that was only a skill known to the pros. I am on the photography sites quite a bit and see so many iPhone images that are shockingly good. They use a combination of filters like I might use in Photoshop and end up with what looks like a well composed and lighted image. The big difference is, in Photoshop it takes me too long to do this for say a blog post, but with the new apps, it is literally seconds. I really can see photography headed in this direction for the mainstream. Right? Wrong? Well that is the million dollar question. It depends what side of the fence one is sitting.

  10. sweetbay103 says:

    I’m a little confused by this post since many of these apps don’t create a stellar image as shown here.

    I think it’s great that digital cameras have opened up photography to so many people. I’m not interested in photography per se but it’s enabled me to have a lot more flexibility in photographing my garden and showing it off a little. Now, if I want good pictures of my horses, especially action pictures, a professional can take pictures that are 100x better than mine.

    I’m glad you mentioned Photoshop Elements. Photoshop seems so complicated with all of the layers and different applications.

    • Actually the filters and cameras can produce great results, that is why I was questioning so much from every angle, yet not formulating a real answer myself. I tried to take a really bad image from the get go and found the devices too good generally, that is why I used three different cameras. The filters make the images more sharp, saturated, and better all round exposure, if the camera itself does not do it well in the first place. I found taking photos with my iPad, even in bright sun, were not too bad. I never used the phone or iPad before and was pretty surprised. And new digital cameras have all the modes which make for great images too without fiddling with all the settings I do on Manual. There is no substitute for knowing how to photograph, but my gosh is it getting close.

  11. skeeter says:

    I have been snapping pictures since I was a child. I am not a professional by any means but enjoy capturing moments in time. I just want clear and bright looking pictures for blog purposes. These new fangled digital cameras with a little touch up here and there, do the job for me. I snap many pictures for that one blog worthy shot. LOL Digital cameras allow instant gratification without time consuming film development. I do not have I-pods or phones or any of those type things but I enjoy the basic digital camera. I do see where professionals may not be happy with all the amateurs stealing their thunder of photography. I for one, would still hire a professional photographer for important family photos as I am just a picture taker and nothing more…

    • Most here in this blogging venue are the same as you Skeeter. There are no aspirations to do more than the type of image to put on a blog (even though I would hope some would try a little harder, no names here). But this goes back to the Is Blogging Dead? issue. Too much saturation and what make a blog or post stand out. Many are looking into that to try and be the standout, so in comes all these apps and filters that make mosaics, do selective focus, make funky frames, add annoying textures, etc. They are gimmicks for the most part and not all that appealing in my opinion.

      But recently, the apps have moved well beyond the gimmicks and are adding very usable features. This is where the overlap occurs and I only see it getting far more advanced really quickly. The real key is who purchased these companies making the apps, (FB and Google). The money behind them and the direction the big two are headed, is the main issue. The photo sharing aspect only makes photos multiply exponentially. The more ease and fun there is to taking the photos, the more that people want to share. That is both good and bad. Good for the photo taking masses, bad for the time to see the images that so many post. Also, the better the filters make the images, the happier the photo taker, but also, the photo takers ego starts to swell. This is where so many pros are taking issue. The newbies don’t deserve the credit and accolades according to those ranting on this subject. I have no answer for this one. I see both sides, even though I tend to lean towards the ones ranting.

      But there is another side to this that I noted in the post. The ease to take the images makes people less selective in what they take. They photograph absolutely everything and post absolutely everything. So you get a lot of crap on the web too.

  12. I make photos from 15 years but I like all these technologies and apps. It is so interesting and new! But I think for a good photo you must have “The Eye” at first, then technologies.

    • Victor, your photography is so stunning that you do not need any additional enhancement from filters and effects. I appreciate your liking the apps. I myself use all the professional ones. Like you said, you need the eye. Very true, but that can be learned with knowing basic composition and lots of practice.

      I always painted long before getting into photography and design of all kinds. You develop the ‘eye’ over time. Before photography and architecture, I never looked so closely at things, or found beauty in things others might not on casual observance. With architecture, you learn to appreciate some of the most mundane materials to express the heart of a building. What I mean is, like the bolts holding a building together. They can be brought out into the light of day, cast shadows and create pattern and design. The building cladding and facade can be reflective, can be textural, can be washed in light, making the design have life. How a building functions brings life too. These ordinary things become extra ordinary with great thought and execution.

  13. Jennifer says:

    Hi Donna, I opened this post this morning and have been thinking about it off and on ever since. I don’t think that writing, art and photography should be exclusive clubs. I think it is great that just about anyone can be a writer or a photographer.
    The cream always rises to the top. Photography at its best is an art. Not everyone takes it up to that level. Anyone can take a picture and there is a wide range of software and hardware tools available for editing. No matter how fancy or advanced, a tool is just a tool, a brush is just a brush. It is what you do with the tool that truly counts.

    • I am very glad you took your time to comment and chose to be thoughtful in what you chose to say. But I am not sure that anyone was saying that writing, art or photography should be an exclusive club, quite the opposite really. Blogging makes writing more available to all in a very public way. It gives a place to have discussions, opinions, forums, and advice. The question becomes, how is that affecting those making a living from writing in more conventional ways? How does it affect those that have the qualifications to actually write about their area of expertise when so many inexperienced are offering advice.

      I have seen twice now on blogs, where the authors were telling others how to solve complex erosion and drainage issues and both did not do what they were proposing correctly. In one case, they actually made their situation worse and will find that out pretty soon why. As an architect I know they both had it wrong, yet they were telling others how to do it. So, this is where the professional writers have it all over bloggers, but no one was saying that writing is only exclusive to the professionals. It should just be more carefully done. See this post. It is a little off the topic, but does discuss the issue of writing what is accurate. http://dogbehaviorscience.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/hunting-wolves-and-fractal-nonsense/

      It is the same question raised on photography where it seems to be creating more waves with those with the actual profession. It is the sheer volume of images to a point. Many of those producing images are now selling the photos that would have never even thought to enter the arena. Not that they shouldn’t, but it really seems that more are jumping into the profession, one very hard to make a good living. And in doing so, are not getting competitive fees. Many are watering down the fee scale by offing images and services too cheaply.

      I disagree on a tool being just a tool. Some tools actually make the final product better than others. It is not all the talents of the users, especially in this one click scenario where talent is not very necessary.

      Take Photoshop for instance. People who actually know how to use it can do far better than those just using say Picassa for instance. No contest. I did an example of this for this post and took it out of the post because not many could have done what I was showing. It was beyond most users of editing apps. I was not saying people should not use the editing apps available either. The problem is the apps are getting so good. They are NOT helping the photographers get better, they are falsely improving the images.

      Sure, everyone wants better photos, but by having apps making all the corrections, how does that help the inexperienced photographers? Is the argument then, why should they care if they get something substantially better in the end? That says a lot, kinda like getting something for nothing in a way. Well that is a hard one to answer and another post entirely. a post that would explore photos not being good or bad, but how they connect to the viewers regardless and in spite of if they are considered technically correct or vastly amateur. Ultimately, you don’t have to be a professional to have your photographs be important to you and in turn the audience you trying to reach. But that is a key point. Is it important?

  14. bethstetenfeld says:

    A very thought-provoking post, Donna. My profession (writing/editing) has definitely been turned upside-down. I am totally an amateur when it comes to photography, and that is why I say so on my blog. I think both good writing and good photography require a mix of several components–natural ability, years of practice, passion, and creativity–among others.

    • The most important is passion. With that most things can be attained. I just touched on professional writers in my reply to Jennifer. Maybe you can answer to the question of how blogging has affected your career. I am not a writer by any means, but it seems to me that the web and blogging has affected writing big time. Where do most get their news? Where do most go for answers? Newspapers and magazines subscriptions have floundered over the years. Many now have a web presence as a result. I know I don’t get a newspaper and get my news free online. I don’t get it from TV either.

  15. Love, love, love the flowers, especially the last one:)

  16. Deborah - d.mooncrab says:

    From a different angle, I think that the photography apps (you mentioned) are wonderful and beneficial for both, professionals and nonprofessionals, in that everybody can use it to their level of sophistication. They are like the great give-away gimmicks to the door of real photography.
    I.E. Photoshop application -with a professional edit, the end result can literally equal a creation of a whole other picture; but the nonprofessionals enjoy it for the options to touch up and erase a few flaws and apply filters to ‘transform’ their pictures. Instagram -embraces those with an interest to photography to engage the study of photography arts because they can ‘produce’ something so good. It sparks the interest to create -maybe I can..
    It would only takes a few researches online about photography to find out just how technically difficult photography is.

    I have the same thought is for blogging -not everyone write, but isn’t it good when people take the time to think about writing and improve upon their own writing? And share just what they experience? This activity exercises the mind and invigorate creativity.. I don’t think that Bloggers think they are writers. But because of the blogging, they are more incline to reading, from which they will have broaden their minds through a social dynamic that perhaps their everyday friends do not offer.

    All in all, I think people would appreciate and respect the work of the pros’ more because they know what it take to produce it. And they’ll know a good one when they see one because they’ve tried creating it with the help of technology. It’s like.. getting kids involve in the cooking process for them to like their food better. The kids would have to become mature and learn to cook, to cook.

    • Your first paragraph is oh so true in every respect. Your second paragraph also has an important point in that it encourages others to be pleased with their results, which creates more interest and desire.

      I have a harder time relating to blogging as writing because I never would consider myself a writer like you mentioned. But there are many that do try and write like the professionals. It is good to aspire to that level and I only wish I would pay more attention to sentence structure and grammatical errors; just the basics. Beyond that, there is spinning the narrative and having a definitive beginning, middle and end. Way more than I could devote myself. But I think I have the concerns with others dispensing advice on subjects they have no prior experience or education, like my example in a previous comment. The how-to information is similar to what you might read in a magazine, only it is wrong. Aspiring writers?

      But one point I do disagree, “All in all, I think people would appreciate and respect the work of the pros’ more because they know what it take to produce it.” The main point in the article is the users of this software have absolutely no clue “what it takes to produce it.” This then fosters no desire to additionally learn more about photography when the image is made better by methods and actions not their own. Most of those filters are based on traditional methods used in photography back in the film days. Not that they need to know this background, but it is important to know WHY and in what order you are using a filter, which makes a big difference. Editing images is a process. These new filters and effects take away the process. I never think people could understand “what it takes to produce it” when the process is reduced down and made so very simple.

      That said, I easily see and understand not many at all are caring about knowing, but experiencing. They want results, not the long process to get there. That is fine on making images sharper etc, but my argument is not with the users, but the software itself. It is getting too good and making people not want expand their horizons. And when they do expand and try new things, they gravitate to the effects that seem to ruin their work, like the grunge filter or those cheesy frames.

  17. Victor Ho says:

    Good ideas. More photos are on the web from iPhone than any other camera and digital has far surpassed film. There are a lot of images. But it’s still a jump from snap shot to photograph. And it’s a long way from hobby to profession. I’m glad that it remains a hobby and not my day job. No worries.

    • You too have noticed the proliferation of iPhone images. And many are darn good. I have read there are professional iPhone shooters, can you believe? I know there are those selling the images and writing books. There are a few advertising on the web. Photography really has changed from the days in the darkroom. Your statement of a long way from hobbyist to professional is the actual way it should be, but with so many selling now a days, it is just a short hop.

  18. You say: “So does this make the person a good photographer? If all one does is push a button and out pops a better photo, well that seems like photography is taking a step backwards, not forwards.”

    I disagree. In the days of film, there was a clear line between what an amateur could do with a 110 camera and what a professional could do with an SLR and his own darkroom. An amateur might shoot a whole roll of film, send it to the drugstore, and get back 24 underexposed shots. A professional had more ways to get a better photo, from choosing the settings on the camera to dodging and burning in the darkroom.

    Today an amateur is freed by technology. Even telephones can capture good images. An amateur can instantly look at an image and, if it’s badly lit, retake it from a different angle. The amateur has many tools now for processing the image to make it better that rival the tools that the professional uses. Their creativity can be unshackled.

    I don’t think professionals should feel threatened. Computers allowed anyone to create documents with beautiful fonts and graphics, but that doesn’t mean that amateurs are as good as professional designers. We still see flyers using seven typefaces and 12 pieces of clip art sprinkled haphazardly throughout. It doesn’t look professional, but it’s more legible than something they lettered by hand.

    Photography tools are better and available to more people. In general, the output will be better. Some photos are just snapshots, but they’ll be better snapshots. Other amateurs will be able to use the tools in a more creative way that may surprise and delight us.

    I see that as a very good thing indeed!

    • Mostly, your example of the 110 to the SLR is apples to oranges in that most hobbyists did not generally shoot Black & White, where as most darkrooms were processing Black & White. So the dodging and burning would not have occurred for the hobbyist in that regard. Maybe this is too general an example. I am not saying the pros should feel threatened, but they must be to some extent. There is a lot noise on this issue on the web and they would counter that a snapshot is still just a snapshot – and too many snapshots exist. But what these people ranting are really missing is the ‘why’ of taking those images. They are not taken for the art, but for fun. But I still feel that there is too much ease in the one button approach.

  19. Wow, you really hit on a hot issue.

    First the tech. No matter how clever the boys and girls at Sony (suppliers to iPhone and others) think they are, physics will always win out. A tiny 20-40 mm^2 sensor will never be able to compete with the vast 364 mm^2 landscape of a full frame SLR. As you’ve mentioned, these miniature sensors are start losing performance quickly when it starts getting a little dark.

    And while you are right that technology has made it easier, I find that for the most too many people don’t take advantage of the functions on their phones/compacts. I can’t be the only amateur who looked into the stands during the Olympic ceremonies and thought; “turn off the flash”

    And while the technology is good, it’s not perfect; I occasionally get that ‘uncanny valley’ effect when looking at pictures that have been poorly manipulated. The sheer volume of digital pictures just makes it likely that there will some good one among the bunch but taking good picture doesn’t make one a good photographer.

    One thing remains whether we are talking about photography, carpentry, or anything else. It takes time to get good at something and it takes someone to guide your path. No app can match a teacher/mentor and not app will ever make a dull subject interesting or turn shaky, blurry image with bad composition into a good shot.

    • You made some excellent points in your comment. Often people do not take advantage of the many functions that their cameras/phones offer. I may not use all the functions, but I am familiar with them. I think many get comfortable knowing the basics like the auto modes and fear making a change. That is what I noticed about people using Photoshop. Often the auto functions are used exclusively and that is pretty much it. The user should not even own the application if that is all they utilize since there are free programs that perform the same functions. That is why I suggested Photoshop Elements to one reader. It saves a lot of money and aggravation. The customer that the editing apps are marketing to are the ones that are unlikely to try anything more advanced than the one button fix.

      I too get annoyed with those using flash in crowed places. Most will luck out on that good photo now and then, like you mentioned in proportion to the number of images taken. I agree too that one needs “someone to guide your path.” It is too difficult to start without having a direction. Learning from your own mistakes only takes you so far.

  20. An interesting discussion but you know what I think about my abilities…I am an amateur who continues to perfect her eye…I have not used these apps and do little editing through iPhoto…very low tech with a point and shoot…one day I would like a DSLR to learn more about it…I admire the art being created by some very talented photographers.

    • I know many of my posts on photography/photo editing are not for all the readers of this blog, but I do have a varied readership and like to explore topics that many interest them also. The camera you have seems to be working well for you, so you may never need to change. There are many of the garden bloggers that do not need to upgrade or change how they are photographing since what they produce for their blogs is very adequate and some very well done.

      Even though I photographed flowers, this was not a garden post. I have been taking courses on advanced photography and photo editing for a long while now, and like to share what I have learned. They are my most popular posts too, way ahead of any garden posts, even those on famous gardens.

  21. I just want to add a podcast where professional photographers are discussing the very points in this post and comment section. In the first part of the podcast, the discussion is on using Photoshop Elements. The second part of the podcast, the discussion is with a wedding photographer talking about how the advent of digital has impacted his profession – the explosion of photographers that broke into the wedding scene and the vast gyration of pricing. He goes into the reasons that I discussed where everybody is a photographer. Here it is from a professional’s point of view. If you think all these new clickers are not affecting the pros, think again. See how he is differentiating himself and how he is reaching those clients. http://ec.libsyn.com/p/0/f/4/0f44a0ef6332483f/PF_10_5_12.mp3?d13a76d516d9dec20c3d276ce028ed5089ab1ce3dae902ea1d01cc8e32d3ce5551c1&c_id=5016787

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