Embracing the Traditional Artistry of Photography

In an era dominated by digital advancements, photographers, both veterans and novices, face a critical dilemma: the reliance on technology versus the essence of traditional photography skills. It challenges the core principles and techniques that define the art of photography. 

Coming to you from Craig Roberts of e6 Vlogs, this excellent video discusses the art of photography in a highly advanced digital age. The video begins with a nostalgic journey, where Roberts recounts starting photography with a manual film camera, the Pentax P30. This model was unique for its time, offering both manual and full program modes, allowing beginners to ease into the complex world of photography without being overwhelmed. His experience with the P30 serves as a metaphor for the broader shift in photography. As he progressed, he quickly moved to manual mode, finding that the hands-on experience demystified the technical aspects of photography. This narrative underscores an important lesson for photographers: there is immense value in engaging directly with the mechanics of photography, beyond the convenience of automated modes.

A critical point raised in the video is the question of whether modern cameras, with their myriad automated features, are diluting the essential skills of photography. The comparison to driving an automatic car versus a manual one parallels this concern in photography. Just as automatic cars simplify driving at the cost of certain driving skills, digital cameras, with features like autofocus, auto ISO, and sophisticated metering systems, might be making photographers overly dependent on technology. The video suggests that this reliance could be eroding the fundamental skills and artistry that define photography.

The call to action is clear: photographers should consider revisiting the roots of their craft. By engaging more with manual settings and understanding the intricacies of their equipment, photographers can rekindle their connection with the art form. The video encourages viewers to watch and reflect on their own practices, asking whether they have become too reliant on technology and what that means for the future of their artistry. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Roberts. 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Of course, when faced with the dilemma of "core principles and techniques that define the art of photography", the in-no-way-commercial answer is: the Pentax P30.

Maybe watch the video and you'll understand it's not an advertorial for a long since discontinued film camera.

Hmmm...wonder how he feels about "sky replacement".

It's great that the author attempts to reduce photography to what it is. Photography is a craft. Full stop. Creating a shot, a photo is a craft. Full stop. The person who does this is called a photographer and is primarily a craftsman. Full stop.
Everything else has nothing to do with photography these days. The individual development of digital data using digital programmes is digital art. The result is not a photo but a digital image, similar to a painted picture of a landscape, a portrait or ... . The photo may have been the basis - the result is digital art of individual design.
Most of the so-called photographers would probably hardly be able to create a respectable landscape or portrait with a slide or negative film, which would be created after a standardised development process.
Almost all digital images that we see today on all possible channels are not photographs but digital works of art. The AI hype shows this more clearly than ever before.

The photographer is the craftsman who knows how to create a shot. Sometimes he is also an artist who knows how to manipulate this shot to make it appealing.
The farmer is the craftsman who knows how to produce milk. The cheesemaker is the one who knows how to turn milk into cheese. Nobody would think of calling the cheesemaker a farmer. But anyone who creates a digitally processed image calls themselves a photographer? Brave new world ...

This isn't an either/or circumstance. Nowadays, photography is a continuum. The same arguments you make here can be applied to anything done in Photoshop after image collection. Who makes the decision about when a photograph morphs into a mixed media digital art piece? It's a personal decision that is generally neither right nor wrong. For my work, other than by crop, I will never remove an object that was in the frame nor add anything that wasn't there to begin with. Sky replacement is an abomination. But those are my opinions, and as such they're important only to me. Many prizewinning shots in photo contests look to me like they've been thoroughly dazzled up in Lightroom and/or Photoshop. Are they still photographs? Depends on the values of the individual shooter.

So when photographers of the past spent 5 or 6 hours in the dark room working on a single shot, that's somehow different? What comes out at the end is an interpretation of what the photographer saw and decided that even with all his/her expertise, it needed some extra work to make it right.

I have to disagree. We're still photographers but it has evolved just like darn near everything else we do. But, opinions are what they are.

As a photographer I create images, to me everything else is a means to an end, my camera is a tool and I feel totally justified in using whatever or not it takes to capture my image, the latter cinsideration also applies to my post process.

When I bought my first SLR in 1980, I chose the Canon A-1 for its shutter priority, aperture priority, and program mode; it also includes stopped down mode, and manual control. My Spiratone 400mm lens requires the aperture to be closed manually; for that lens, it needs the stopped mode for metering. When I took multiple frames to stich together for a panorama, I went full manual since I didn't want the exposure to change by varying the aperture or shutter.

When I bought my Canon 5D III, I turned off image review and set the white balance to daylight.