I have a question for you. Do you think photography is actually important? Does it even matter?
Now, given that you’re on a website that’s all about photography, I’m going to assume you are a photographer. So you probably enjoy photography. And a question like that seems to have an easy answer. But maybe things aren’t quite so black and white…
Photography Doesn’t Matter
People are always saying that the camera is just a tool, and what matters are the photos you create with it.
But maybe we can take that a step further.
What if photography itself is just a tool? And what actually matters is the message you’re communicating.
It’s not the composition that really matters – it’s the moment that it captures. It’s not the depth of field, but the feeling that we should pay the most attention to.
What if photography is nothing more than a medium for the message. And in that sense, all photographic considerations should take a back seat to pure communication, in whatever form that takes.
Now, let’s look at it from the other side…
Photography Does Matter
The “rules” of photography, like good composition, proper exposure, a well chosen depth of field – those are all designed to help you effectively convey your message. They are there to allow you translate the moment you experience into a two-dimensional image. In that sense, photography itself is very important. Without a good understanding of the technical stuff, you’ll never be able to make your viewer feel what you want them to feel.
We could go even further here. The act of photographing can bring more importance to a moment. By bringing a camera up to your eye, you give that moment more value. When you capture it with a press of the shutter, you are saying “This is worth remembering”. Photography can define what matters.
Why Even Ask?
Maybe you’re wondering what the point of even thinking about all this is. Well, I find that a lot of photographers (ourselves included) tend to get caught up with the photography side of things. We worry about gear and technique; about the rules and when to break them; and about great light and creative composition. And those are all important things! But maybe we don’t spend enough time worrying about the message and the feeling.
We’ve always been very concerned with the sharpness of our photos. We use all prime lenses because they produce crisp results. Soft images are quickly discarded when sorting.
And I think that it’s good to push yourself to create consistent, technically solid images!
But recently my opinion of the importance of sharpness has changed. And to reflect that I’ve coined a new term. It’s called “mom-sharp”. It came up when we were looking at some photos we took of our new son. I pointed out one I liked, and Rob lamented “Ugh, it’s not sharp though.” I replied “It’s sharp enough for me! It’s mom-sharp.”
It didn’t matter that it wasn’t perfectly in focus. I loved the photo because I loved the moment and the person it captured. The technical stuff didn’t matter nearly as much as the feeling.
What Do You Think?
There isn’t really any one answer to this question, and I suspect it will change from shoot to shoot and year to year, for every photographer. But what do YOU think? Should we spend more time meditating on the message? Or is the technical stuff so critical to communication that it needs to be a large part of our study? Does it all depend on the type of shoot? Does the answer change for a hobbyist compared to a professional?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!