Technical Stuff

Do visitors to my blog need to know what goes on to produce the image that I put on here?

Generally, I’ve avoided it. There’s deliberately not any file info on my images here apart from its actual file name normally (and I’m not even very good at organising that).

To me it’s just not that important, like the actual camera and lens combination, it’s not the deciding factor of why my image looks the way it does. Just one of them. The final image is there to see.

My camera lenses are important to me. Not what they are exactly, just what I can do with them. My 24 year old Minolta zoom has just got a significant new scratch on the front element and will probably need me to wade in to Ebay to see if I can find one without a scratch (and the fungus growing inside it) soon.

Possibly I could get a ‘better’ lens. One day. This one’s holding on for now though.

Since I was 18 years old, starting work behind a camera shop counter, photographic equipment was always a part of my life.

And the question “What gear do I need to do (insert image technique here)”

Supply answer… wait for it…

“Anything cheaper?” or, if richer (dream) customer “Is that the best one? I’ll have the best one.”

By the time I was 43, (the age I was when I finished with the trade) the products might have been vastly different but the questions were still the same.

A lot of the time it was actually ‘sell me the stuff that does this…’
Not ‘Is there something that lets me do this?’

Recently, I met someone who had seen some of my Instagram posts.

“Hi, I love your pictures… What do you use?”

First question. ‘What do you use?’ Not ‘I’m interested, how do you do it?’

I couldn’t actually remember the model name of my camera at that time. (This is not that unusual, I can’t remember my name at times…) But they told me they used a Canon 5D Mk11 with a 24-70L. Or something like that.

I just can’t get that excited about gear any more. I kind of shrug and say ‘That’s nice.” (Is it any more? I don’t know.)

So to me, including aperture, shutter speed and ISO is similarly not that important. Nor is the extended EXIF information that the camera is a Sony Alpha A6000, the lens a Minolta 24-105mm f3.5-4.5 and ‘the flash was not raised’. So I set my processing software to strip that out.

But this was at ISO 100, 0.4 sec. at f18 with a Marumi ND64 attached if you’re interested.

I’m not. It’s not a secret, I’m happy to discuss techniques and stuff but I’m just not bothered about gear and brands any more really.

If you have any thoughts on my attitude, I’ll be happy to engage here. I already know that some will argue that you need the EXIF info to be able to learn, but I’m not actually convinced about that either.

11 thoughts on “Technical Stuff”

  1. Bear, great topic for a post.

    Ultimately, no it doesn’t matter what gear you used, as long as a) it’s gear you enjoy using and b) it gives you results you’re happy with (even if they’re sometimes unpredictable).

    However…

    Some situations where some kind of technical detail might be helpful for the viewer.

    – Photographs that slow down time with a slow shutter speed. As a kid with zero photographic knowledge, I was in awe of images where waterfalls and raging rivers appeared as wispy clouds, and night streets were ablaze with graffiti like streams of red light made by passing cars. If I was a beginner now and had no idea how these types of images were made, it would be very helpful to see (or be told) that the shutter speed was four seconds or something, hence the slowing of time and stretching of light.

    – Photographs with shallow depth of field. Again I used to have no idea how this was done, bringing a subject into sharp focus in the foreground and having pretty lights and impressionistic painting like effects in the background. Large aperture and close focus is usually the secret formula, which a beginner might love to learn.

    – Photographs with a depth of field greater than the average pair of human eyes can see. Whether looking down a long street or a sweeping landscape, again it might be interesting and helpful to know that a small aperture and longer shutter speed was the key.

    – Photographs where a moving figure or object are frozen, with the background blurred to give the impression of movement. This perhaps could not be gained from pure EXIF as it would likely be due to panning at the speed of the moving subject. But again, this was a revelation to me when I learned how it was done, and likely would be to others who didn’t know.

    – Photographs made with a camera I have or was looking to get, that I very much liked the look of, but hadn’t been able to emulate myself. I guess I’m thinking of certain cameras where you can adjust colour, contrast, saturation, and perhaps some kind of film presets. It might be helpful to know what combination of settings gave a certain look, which I could use as a starting point for my own explorations. Especially if I was new to that camera.

    – Photographs that are proving a point by using a low spec and/or old camera and still getting impressive results, to show that cutting edge expensive tech is not necessary. I’ve been doing this quite a bit recently, as you know! I think it’s reassuring to a beginner (or even someone caught in the endless upgrade cycle) to see that their life and potential as a photographer is not inextricably bound with having the latest Sony AR7 XVI or Leica M12 or whatever the latest ones are…

    Just some thoughts.

    I relate about the Instagram question. I’ve had this a number of times before, not “well done, that’s a great photo you’ve created by the conscious decisions you made on what, where and how to make this picture”, but “what gear did you use?” !!

    Like

    1. Ah… rescued you from the spam folder Dan, you ended up in there for some reason.

      Great points but they are, as predicted, from the learning point of view.
      I would argue that all those questions have endless articles and how to’s which are out there, available now and always, 1.4 zillion Google results for a search, libraries full of books on the subject since the year 18 whatever, weekly and monthly magazines, any and all online tutors spouting the same stuff… etc…etc… I don’t think my lack of an EXIF is going to be missed too much.

      Like

      1. Thanks for rescuing me! 😀

        Yes absolutely if you have no intention of any kind of tutorial aspect to your blog – either directly or indirectly – then there’s no need to reveal anything about what camera/lens you use.

        I think we have to get to a higher level of photographic evolution to do this, one I’m not quite at yet!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. An interesting post. It is a akin to an artist being asked about his materials, I guess. Those are simply the tools, just as a Wacom tablet is one as well, but is capable of producing magnificent artwork. It is an uninteresting and dead end conversation imo.
    In this instagram world, insta being the operative word, our engage with the process and any rapport we might have with the artist is reduced to Likes and often-times comments that only try to outdo the artist along the same theme. (So that their comments will get Liked). It is disillusioning to say the least, but that is age speaking. We’re a dying breed, aren’t we.
    On the other hand I enjoy the exposure to fresh minds that exist amid all the dross, and I pull inspiration from them. Perhaps it is the same for you. It is very easy to become cynical but I am so done with that.
    Thx for inspiring me to write a bit, Bear, for what little sense it makes.

    Like

    1. I don’t know why some sort of technical knowledge, built up through experience, is expected to be passed on by those who learned it the long way to those who are starting out. I mean, I’m not averse to giving that help if asked but half the time it’s ‘can you help me short cut to where you are without me having to do as much work as you did’.
      Anyway, I’m no expert, I just take a picture or two now and then.
      Thanks for your mail and pictures of my pictures by the way Wilt, I hope they go down well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Trenchant comment Bear! Good night’s sleep? Yes, teach me the short cut method and skip the trial and error so that I can become an insta-expert. Sigh.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahhh… yep, that’ll do me too.

      The post was prompted by someone on a social media photo group explaining to me that I should be attaching this EXIF info if I wanted to be ‘a responsible photographer’. I only needed two words for her but this post was more thoughtful I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m with you Bear. I studied photography at college and worked in a photographic developing shop. Fellow students and customers could get very caught up with all the numbers and yes, you have to learn all that stuff, but it doesn’t necessarily make you a good photographer. Like any art, of course, it’s subjective. I always think the most important element of a camera is the human eye. A photo may be technically perfect, but if it doesn’t make me FEEL something, it doesn’t make a great photo, in my simplistic opinion 😉 One of the most famous rock photos, often voted amongst the best, is in fact a blurry shot (Paul Simonon of The Clash, smashing his guitar, used on the cover of London Calling), full of emotion and narrative. I suspect Pennie Smith who took the photo worked on instinct and gut, rather than by numbers, so knowing the tech detail wouldn’t enable anyone to recreate such an iconic (again, subjective) work. There’s plenty of information out there for folks. I wouldn’t expect a painter to list their paint and brush choices next to a painting. Many of my own favourite photos have been taken with a decent compact camera. No, I don’t know the model or lens range! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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