Photography and journalism share a similarity.  Both used to be respected and valued for their quality and integrity, and just this week, the New York Times said that on Facebook, they are treated as being equal to fake news sites, because they are both given the same credibility by the public.

20sun1-master768That is the same with photographers and the public when they hire photographers.

Photographers used to be very well respected. You’d hire a photographer for his/her knowledge on how to capture your family’s personality, your company’s specialty, or document a special event with the ability to tell that event’s story. It was not about gear, and so much more than pointing a camera. Or getting focus nailed. Photographers didn’t spray (shoot like crazy) and pray (hope they get something).  They worked with proficiency and efficiency.

Professional photographers are never about gear. Great photographers know their cameras and then get them out of the way to create meaningful images of the subjects they are hired to photograph.

Nowadays, there’s a perception that everyone’s a photographer. I disagree. Everyone has a camera. That doesn’t qualify everyone as a photographer. Everyone has a stove–that doesn’t make everyone a chef.

As a professional, often my competition is the person who got a camera for their last birthday, plays with their cameras on weekends, and the work that they do, no matter how mediocre it is, has become the accepted norm.

And it’s the desired product, since it’s cheap.

All their photos look alike–shot wide-open, toned via a computer preset with the popular look of the day. That’s the look that they’re all buying from the post-processing software gurus selling them all the same effect. That’s why they all look alike.  Have you seen wedding photographs lately?  Talk about cookie cutter.

Professional photographers know and see the difference. We know why it’s important to professionally print photos. We know that a professional photographer is much more than just a person with a camera.

We know lighting. We know how to pose to bring out your best features, to make you feel your best, so that we can best capture that personality on film.  We even know where and when to shoot, how to coordinate colors in clothing with backgrounds.  Photography is as much a psychological game as it is an mechanical one using a camera.

jkingTrue professional have never competed with the Sears and JCPenney portrait studios, who sold cheap, but were never in the photography business but rather the sales business.  I worked for them.  They gave me sales quotas I was expected to meet for print packages.  I quit within a week, and went to work for a daily newspaper.

Professionals were hired for their vision, their unique ability to use a camera to create in ways that go far beyond Photography 101.

But Photography 101 photographers are cheap. More and more of them hanging their shingle out every day, because they got a camera, and they are competing for the work that the seasoned pro used to get, and families and businesses are choosing the mediocre (and cheap) work.

That’s photography today! High quality and mediocre are both available, and people buy poor quality photos all day long.  It’s made mediocrity the norm.  I know people who say they work professionally with a phone camera.  It’s incredible.

If you are looking for quality photography locally, you have two choices:

  1. You can hire a pro, like myself, a commercial studio photographer, an award-winning, 30-year-professional photographer and experienced photojournalist who has photographed everyone from U.S. presidents and authors to rock stars and movie stars. Who has photographed for the U.S. Air National Guard, Whole Foods, WhiteWave/Silk, National Beer Wholesaler Association, American Cable Association, among others, and covered events from groundbreakings and grand openings to presidential campaigns and funerals of state officials and had his work published around the world in magazines and newspapers via the Associated Press. One who will photograph you with efficiency and give you the right number of quality photos for your needs.
  2. Or you can get a person with an automatic camera and the latest presets and will give you 1000 image files to do with as you will.

There is a difference.

twoshotbw812Who will you use for the most important subject, your family’s photographs? I am not just photographing for you, but for your children’s children. I’m creating historical documents, visual memories for future generations, legacy photographs professionally printed at a custom pro lab that will last for generations.

I don’t hand over the image files because I care that they are finished professionally and look their best.  After all, it’s my work.  Yet there are many people with cameras who will give you all the images after the shoot, saying, “Do what you want, print them at home, I don’t care.  I just like to shoot and walk away.”

bizports3Who will you hire for your business portraits and product shots?  Your customers see the difference when they see quality, even if they’re not sure why it’s better.  Quality is perceived through professional work, that’s why top companies use advertising agencies and art directors, because it ultimately affects the company’s bottom line

If you don’t see the difference between professional photography and amateurs with a camera, I can’t show you.  If you can’t feel the difference between driving a Mercedes and a Suzuki, I can’t help you.  If you think Denny’s tastes as good as a chef-prepared meal, I’ve got nothing for you.

But don’t believe you’re getting the best if you don’t hire a professional.  And likewise, don’t believe what you read on Facebook, because it really might not be real news at all, and those New York Times reporters are a lot more trustworthy, if only they could get readers to turn to them and stand out from the glut of mediocre ‘news’ sites.

The quality of photography and journalism has certainly been lowered by substandard photographers and fake journalists.  That’s the state of photography and journalism, circa 2016 A.D.

A friend and I go out every Wednesday when we’re both in town, and we call it culture night.  We look at what’s happening and try to do something we have never done before, or rarely do.

In the past, we’ve been to jazz clubs, comedy shows, we’ve played at open mics, we buskered in downtown Boulder with our accordion/ukelele duo, we’ve gone to auctions and we’re always up for new adventures.

We went to an arcade pub recently.  Hey, it something we don’t often do, so it counts.  I invited another friend along, too.  And brought my Leica M3 with 50mm Summcron DR.

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It’s a treat to have a regularly schedule night to find new things to do.  If you have a night and a friend, give it a try.  Bring your camera, too!

Not only do I enjoy walking this antique flea market when I visit my folks in PA, but I love photographing some of the people and getting into conversations about photography because of my Leica IIIf that I’m shooting with.

I carry that camera everywhere I go, because it’s small enough to fit in my front jeans pocket with the lens collapsed into the body.  (I take the case off.)
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And these are the wonderful photos it makes.  The camera is from the 1950s.  The lens from the 1930s! (Click the photograph to enlarge it.)

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Film looks like past tense.  It presents history.

Film is for images that matter to me. See the difference? First is film, second is digital. Same time, same place.

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Digital convenience, is it really the best thing to have happened to our MUSIC, our PHOTOGRAPHS, our WORDS? Our MOVIES, our NEWS, our POLITICS?

Mp3s have significantly lowered the quality of music we listen to (and we’ve grown to accept it for its convenience), digital cameras makes thousands of images that disappear in old hard drives or lost phones, email birthday greetings replace actual greeting cards, and when was the last time you wrote or received a hand-written letter?

When was the last time we listened to a whole album, in the order it was created, without skipping songs, the way the artist placed them on the record, reading along with the lyrics, sharing the music with a friend?

Even movies on a big screen are being replaced by views on a phone or tablet.

I’m a proponent of listening to vinyl on a real stereo and good speakers, creating photographs with a film camera and printing and framing actual photographs, and writing real letters and cards. Because all of the former ways to listen to music, make photographs, and write still exist.

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writing ipod     laptop-mobile

If digital has an effect of making us accept lower quality, I wonder if it has an effect of making our whole world matter less. Does it make things seem cheap, and worthless? Does it create apathy? So that convenience trumps quality? Cheap made-in-China junk is the choice over a quality build from an artisan. Third-world labor-made clothing is the norm. Quick and cheap, regardless of quality, is what we seem to want. (I even see it in the photography and video industry–quality is not what matters most.)

We’ll buy a new crappy patio set from Wal-Mart and it will look nice for a year, and fall apart by next year, so we’ll buy another one. That’s the model, instead of buying quality, we replace. We’re not rich, but we look like it this year, until it all falls apart.

Is that America? Is the dream just that? Not real, just appearances. In 1959, a Swiss photographer, Robert Frank, published a book called THE AMERICANS, and it depicted the Americans he photographed in his travels across the U.S. on a Guggenheim grant. People panned it when it came out–surely America wasn’t that ugly. The images in the book didn’t match the image people had for America. But they were us.

I went to the local gala event on Friday night and didn’t bring a phone, and it felt like a treat to be disconnected from it. Phones consume our every waking hour. Mine, too.

They interrupt the silence on a walk or hike, at movies and shows, and dinner conversations with friends. They’re in our way at events like concerts, weddings and fireworks shows by folks who feel the need to take something home, instead of experiencing it there. (Note: The bride and groom have a photographer there. Sit back and enjoy the event–be present!)

Are we missing the real thing because of the technology? When was the last time you were without your phone? What did that feel like?

Do you think this can continue, and are we better off with this electronic substitute for the things we used to be able to hold–records, photographs, letters?

Or does it cheapen things, even politics, so that we can end up with a game show host for a president?

While digital allows many conveniences and accesses, is it in some ways unhealthy for society? Does it allow for the instant spreading of misinformation, which can foster hatred or influence decisions, even important ones like in an election? Does instant news make us feel more unsafe, because we think the world is more dangerous with all the negative reports? Is it actually more unsafe? Or is the perception changed because of the onslaught of “news”?

Seems like something has to change. Not to say that nothing good has come from digital technology, but are there negatives as well? And please tell me we’re not going to still be crossing the street and almost getting hit because we’re looking down at our phones in 20 years.

Portrait of a neighbor, at 100 years old.  Leica M2, Summarit f1.5 Lens, Kodak Tri-X Film.  The Wise Photo Project

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Portrait of the Players.  Leica M2, 50mm f1.5 Summarit, Kodak Tri-X Film

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