Then and Now

As a photographer, what do I do now that I did not do when I was starting out? Or, to put it the other way round, what do I no longer do that I once did? Here are seven things off the top of my head accompanied by some random photographs that have no direct relation to the words but which happen to appeal to me today.

I don’t chimp. Partly, this is because as I get older and my reading vision declines I find it harder to see anything on those tiny screens, partly because I have more confidence in my ability to shape the picture the way I want, and partly because I have more confidence in the combination of my judgement and the camera’s technology to deliver a well exposed image. Mostly it’s because while I’m looking at my little screen the world is happening and I’m not paying attention and that’s how to miss great pictures. There’s time enough for chimping on the big screen once I get home.

I don’t look for approval. While I have never been overly obsessed with this, there was a time when I posted on social media and photo sharing sites hoping that people might see my pictures and say nice things about them or at least click a button to indicate their approval. Then I deleted everything, closed the photo sharing accounts and got off social media. Now I post my pictures on my blog and on one forum I’ve been posting to on and off for about ten years. This is because…

I don’t worry. If I like a picture it’s a good picture. If the rest of the world thinks it’s rubbish, the rest of the world is wrong! Of course affirmation is nice but maturing as a photographer means maturing in your ability to judge the worth of your own images. If the worth of your images is determined by the opinions of Facebook or Flickr users you will never develop the capacity to judge your own work. If the worth of your images is determined by technical considerations you are prioritizing what is secondary.

I’ve stopped looking for the ‘Lightroom killer’. Like many Lightroom users I have, from time to time, considered alternatives that might more perfectly meet my needs. I have discovered that many so called ‘Lightroom killers’ are laughably inadequate by comparison. Only Capture 1 is in the same league. Instead of looking for the perfect software, I’ve spent my time getting to grips with the full potential of Lightroom. One of the key things I have learned in the process (photography pun intended) is how to use that great potential with subtlety. Not every image needs to be bludgeoned to sterile perfection.

I’ve abandoned processing gimmicks. No HDR, no selective colour, no AI skies or photo-shopped moons. When I process now my goal is to end up with something that looks like what I saw, or imagined I saw. To paraphrase Dieter Rams, ‘good processing is as little processing as possible’.

I keep my gear small and simple. Thankfully I’ve never been overly afflicted with Gear Acquisition Syndrome, though in the past that didn’t stop me looking. Now, I don’t even look. I have a Fujifilm X-T2, a camera from 2016 which in digital years in practically vintage. I have two lenses for it – an 18-55mm zoom that came with my previous Fuji and a 35mm. The less I have, and the less I switch cameras and brands, the better I know my camera and lenses, the more familiar they become, the more they ‘disappear’ into the background and allow me to focus on the one thing that matters.

I print. Even the biggest, brightest, most hi-tech display on the planet can’t equal the pleasure of a print. This is partly because I have yet to see a display that matches the complexity and subtlety – that word again – of a good print, but mostly because the best display in the world can’t match the tactile joy of a print in your hands.

I’m sure there are many more but those are the ones that I’m conscious of and that come to mind when I try to think about the ways my approach to photography has changed.