Having shot extensively with oue 645Z over the last few months, I’ve developed a new hypothesis: the format – i.e. the physical size of the recording medium – matters to the output, but not in the way that we’d expect. Naturally, we assume that the larger the sensor or film, the higher the image quality. Since so much of that is both subjective and perceptual and thus affects the final impact of the image, perhaps it’s important to understand exactly what’s going on.
I’ve chosen this image to illustrate the article because although it may have commercial value to say, an old folks’ home, I cannot even let them use it for free because I do not have a consent release from the subjects. Yet it’s fine to use it for editorial – e.g. this article – because there is no commercial value derived, and I’m not promoting, selling or associating with any product. By showing it in more places, I’m also ensuring that more people will automatically be able to attribute the work to me.
“Can I use your image for X? You’ll get credit as the photographer,” is probably something you’ve been asked more than once. How do you respond? How should you respond, from the point of view of something that works for both yourself and preservation of the industry as a whole? How do you ensure that your images are used in a way that you agree with, and with appropriate compensation? Read on. This article will be written mainly for the professional photographer trying to do two things: figure out the value of their images, and then protect it.
I’ve struggled a bit for a title to today’s essay. Through the course of my investigation into other forms of art – perhaps investigation is a bit too strong a word; meandering or exploration is probably closer – I’ve noticed that photography stands apart for two reasons: perception, and origin. They’re really one and the same if you dig a bit deeper, and this also applies to a lesser extent to its derivatives – film/ video, mixed media etc. I suspect I may open a can of worms with this piece, but I’m also hoping it’s going to provoke some interesting discussion below the line in the manner of some of the classic posts of old…
I believe it’s very important to have a sense of purpose as a photographer. If it’s not clear exactly why you’re photographing, or what the aim of your output is, you run the risk of not only making weak images, but not knowing they’re weak, or even worse, not being able to step up and move on. However, only you can decide exactly what that purpose or aim is; and in the past couple of years since starting this site, I’ve realized two things: firstly, you’re going to evolve, so don’t be afraid to say ‘my objective has changed'; secondly, you’re not going to satisfy everybody (and some of those people are bound to be extremely rude and vocal about it, but really have nothing more than hot air). The latter is easy to rationalise but difficult to accept if you care about your work.
I was discussing printmaking with one of the regulars readers of this site recently when a thought struck me: one of the biggest turning points for me personally was when I started shooting with an eventual printability objective for all of my images. This happened around early 2012, before which I’d felt I was stagnating creatively somewhat – perhaps partially due to day job commitments (this was before I turned to photography full time) and partially because well, I didn’t have an output objective.
Some months ago, I wrote about the idea of clarity in an image: the experience of being able to see through the picture and beyond the facsimile representation to the scene or subject in itself; it’s akin to breaking the fourth wall in cinema, but In the opposite direction. Ironically, the ability for a still photograph to do this is very much related to technology: we need the hardware and technical chops to be able to make it look as though the hardware is unimportant.
Over the course of the last few months, I’ve had a number of interesting conversations with quite a number of people involved in various areas of the photographic industry – from the corporate juggernauts that make the hardware, to the niche manufacturers, to professional photographers, to amateurs, clients/ image buyers and everything in-between. I suspect the nature of my work and involvement with the greater photographic community means that I have a little more insight into the big picture than most, and what I’m seeing honestly concerns me.
I admit to having a change of heart. Yes, I was rather lukewarm bout the initial announcement at Photokina; but I do also remember saying that this would be the camera for a lot of people: right size, right price, right spec. It has “enough” resolution; “enough” performance; and isn’t too large or intimidating. In fact, I’d venture to say that it blows way past sufficiency, but then again, the whole idea of sufficiency is relative anyway. In many ways, this purchase is both rationally driven and a form of recognisance on my part. Bottom line: am I happy? Very much so.
The idea of a photograph looking like a painting isn’t a ridiculous one. In fact, I personally find it quite appealing, and a very good solution for the times when you don’t have strong enough light to make something more dynamic. It’s certainly a style I’ve been exploring increasingly – beginning consciously with Havana – but what exactly makes a photograph ‘painterly’?