View Your Camera and Computer as Part of One System

Once images are in the digital domain there is an infinite field of possibility open to you that can move your photography to new levels. It is time to stop thinking of your camera gear and computer gear as separate things.
Digital photography is as massive a paradigm shift in photography as the invention of photography was in the first place. The paradigm shift is one in the thinking of the photographer, and many of us haven’t yet caught up with this. Let me explain.
Let us create a hypothetical ‘normal’ photographer and a ‘new paradigm’ photographer for comparison.

The normal photographer shoots pretty much the same way they did with film, though they may shoot more. They have their camera gear and they have their computer gear. The computer gear replaces their old darkroom equipment and the trips off to drop off and pickup film and prints that they were not equipped to handle in their darkroom. Their thinking is inherently two-stage in nature. They go out and shoot with their gear, then later they get into their images on the computer. When they shoot they take some heed of what they may do on the computer, just as in their darkroom days they exposed so they could get a decent print without too much prestidigitation in the darkroom. A hangover from this thinking is an effort to handle as much with the camera as possible.

The new paradigm photographer has an inherently one-stage thinking. Everything is their photography and everything is their camera gear, even the computer. They think in terms of what is the best way, within their present means, to address a particular issue. They understand fully the effect of every decision on their workflow and structure things to get the maximum quality they can out of what they have, and have the most fun doing it. So they may have a workflow that uses the best camera and lenses they can afford and use appropriate software to reduce image noise, correct lens aberrations and achieve image modifications that allow them to do the photography they want to do in a way that suits them.

On the discussion lists too often you see photographers who are struggling with the camera gear they have and limiting what they shoot because of it. Yet computational photography, as it is becoming called, opens up so many possibilities. Rather than not doing night photography because they have a fairly noisy camera and cannot afford an update, a cheap software purchase may do the trick. Likewise a cheap lens with aberrations that make architectural photography difficult can be addressed with software. Panorama stitching does not need a special camera. Likewise using HDR techniques can extend a low dynamic range camera. Software can extend depth of field in macro work and even allow you to choose the focal point and depth of field after the shoot. And the list goes on.

Beyond technological solutions there are also solutions of perception. Not every image has to be sharp and perfect. Blur can be highly effective, a soft image can add atmosphere and burned out highlights and blocked shadows can be used in creative ways.

I sometimes think we like to be limited so we have something to complain about or have an excuse for not testing our creativity. Perhaps it is an avoidance mechanism so we do not have to risk failure. Whatever it is, it is worth blocking it away and taking the risk of changing your thinking. You just might like it.

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