by Sven Triloqvist
Sat Aug 19th, 2006 at 03:55:07 AM EST
This Time online article is mistitled. It should read "Some digital camera manufacturers fight for survival".
According to Time, the market is reaching saturation...
When digital cameras hit the mass market in 1997, consumers couldn't get enough of them. Within nine years, nearly 300 million digital cameras were sold, and half of all households in the U.S. and Japan owned one, as did 41% of all European households, making digital photography one of the fastest-adopted technologies of all time. Such dramatic change comes at a price: the icons of photography as we knew it tumbled. Polaroid went bust in 2001. Kodak stopped making film cameras in 2004.
It appears that after a decade of easy-to-sell rapid technological camera advancement, such as increasing picture resolution, there is not much more to promote except by going up into the more expensive DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) technology. (I'm on the lookout for a 2nd hand Nikon D70)
Once you go there, with interchangeable lenses, wide range of shutter speeds etc, you enter the realm of photography as opposed to simple point-and-click documentation - and that requires knowledge.
Technically, photography involves a subtle relationship between several interacting factors - the quality of light, depth of field as a function of the amount of light which passes through the lens, focus, focal length determining the frame for the composition, and shutter speed. These are the tools that the photographer can use to freeze time and space in a unique fashion.
The photographer is always concerned by narrative: in the moment of capturing a small part of an event's 360 degree space, a decision is required as to what part of that space tells the best story of that event.
Both technically and creatively, good photography requires an investment in learning that most people will never be interested in or have time for. The mastery of lighting, for instance, whether utilising available light or controlled lighting, is not something that can be acquired in a quick weekend course (though it will certainly improve your pictures).
And IMHO the most important factor of all is the photographer's relationship to the event. How do you get a feel for what is going on? What do you understand about the behaviour of the objects (including people) at the event. How do you put yourself in the right position in relationship to the event. What are you trying to communicate?
There are so many factors, that it is hard to think about them consciously all at the same time, and thus instinct, based on knowledge and experience, is always in play. Instinct follows the 2000 hours of experience and practice that are required to do anything well. It takes that long for the cerebellum to get wired up.
The point-and-clickers will always be around, and will need cameras to document their holidays and celebrations - to prove to others that their lives are fun and worthwhile, and packed with experiences. Few realise however, how much the taking of photographs tends to exclude them from the real experience. You have seen them everywhere - the tourists who need a picture of themselves as actors in a significant space (eg standing in front of the lions at Trafalgar Square), but do not actually experience or want to experience that moment in their rush to get to the next significant event or place.
The photographer is always an observer. Good photography requires, like the tourists, disassociation from the event space. Photography is an intellectual discipline of analysis and editing, combined with the technical skils needed to elevate a picture into a point of view. And, as anyone with experience of commercial or news photography knows, you still might end up with only one picture out of a hundred that tells the story.
For the amateur, there is no such editing. Every picture taken, except those that are total technical duds, is significant. Nothing is discarded.