Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The New Basics

In yesterday's post, "The Basics", I think what I was trying to say is that Digital Cameras have redefined what the basics of photography are. During most of the 20th Century film era, the basics were generally understood to be:


  • the ASA of the film (now called ISO)
  • the lens focal length
  • the lens aperture f-stop
  • the camera's shutter speed
  • depth of field and the focus of the lens

Before this era, from the beginning of photography in the 19th Century through to the invention of small cameras and roll film in the 1920's or so, the basics were something entirely different, and had a lot more to do with handling dangerous chemicals and explosive flash powder. I think that photography has now entered a 3rd mighty era - one totally defined by the camera having become a computer which has to interact with other computers in order to produce a visible photograph. When I say this, I am defining a computer as a digital device that has all of the following attributes - 1) A Microprocessor 2) Random Access Memory 3) Firmware / Software 4) Storage Memory 5) Input / Output channels and interfaces, and 6) User Interfaces. A Digital Camera has all of these things, so it is in fact a computer. The other computers it interacts with also have all 6 of these things. These "computers" are Printers (you can print directly from your camera, and a Printer in fact also has all 6 attributes), PC's / Laptops / Tablets (these are all obviously computers with the 6 attributes that allow you to display your picture files on a display screen, and manipulate your pictures beyond recognition if you want to), and Smartphones, (which are computers that contain cameras, both having all 6 attributes that allow you to upload your pictures through the airwaves to other computers that host Networking Services so the whole world can look at your pictures immediately and at the same time).

So, because "a camera ain't just a camera any more", doesn't it make sense that such a huge revolution in photography - a revolution even greater than that of the early 20th Century, would create an entirely new view of what "the basics" are?

I would like to propose that the Five Old Basics from the Spotmatic years are still important, but if I were to produce a 5 evening course on "The Basics of Digital Photography", these things would be a small part of "Evening #4", because there are now far more important things to talk about than this. In fact, I might structure my 5 evenings something like this:

  1. How to look for, and compose a good photograph, regardless of what camera you're using. This could in fact be the most difficult evening of the five
  2. How to make the most of your digital camera, regardless of how cheap or expensive it is, to make your pictures the best they can be. All digital cameras, regardless of how lowly, have great capabilities built in that Spotmatic photographers couldn't have imagined in their wildest dreams, and every digital camera owner should know about them.
  3. How to make your digital camera the heart of a network of computers that includes Printers, PC's/Laptops/Tablets and Social Networks. A photograph is not necessarily a paper object you can hold in your hand any more - there are many other ways it can now be "seen"
  4. The Spotmatic Basics - how knowing this stuff can help make you a better photographer but you really don't have to know this stuff- your camera already knows it and can probably do a better job than you can
  5. "Digital Chemistry" - a throwback to the 19th Century when Photography was truly best left to professional craftsmen, because it was essential to handle chemicals that were guaranteed to shorten your life. But the new digital chemistry is now done totally with computer software, and is only dangerous to the pictures you took in the first place. Evening #5 would teach the basics of how to do this right.
So there - I've just created a course outline that I can volunteer at my local Senior Citizen's College.

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