Is Photography Too Easy Now?

The capabilities of modern cameras have absolutely exploded in recent years, and a new camera can tackle just about anything you can throw at it. There is a downside to that, though. Has the modern digital camera made photography too easy? This interesting video essay discusses the issue and what we can do about it. 

Coming to you from aows, this insightful video essay discusses the idea that modern cameras have made photography too easy to a degree. Of course, this is not to say that it is easy to create professional-level photos; if anything, it is harder than ever to create images that stand out from the crowd. Rather, I think that there is a good argument here that if the base process itself is too easy, people can quickly lose interest due to boredom. It is almost as if the commitment-to-quality ratio has shifted. Whereas before, it might take 500 hours to become competent and another 1,000 to become outstanding, now, it might take 20 hours to become competent and another 1,500 to become noteworthy. And because of that relatively low barrier to entry that is followed rather quickly by a steep uphill climb, a lot of people lose interest. How do we keep it engaging then? Check out the video above for the full rundown. 

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winzehnt gates's picture

This question has been asked for more than 100 years.
It was asked when Kodak released the Brownie in 1900. It was asked again in the late 1920s after Leica had released the first 35mm film camera in 1925. Next was Kodak Instamatic, followed by half automated exposure and auto focus. The question was asked again when digital compact cameras came up and again when smartphone cameras matured.
Today with IBIS and eye auto focus, it's definitely easier to take a well exposed photo with the subject in focus.
But "too easy"?
That sounds to me, like lamenting that learning the craft part of photography is now so easy (or not even necessary) that it has become much more difficult to stand out as photographer.
I'm sorry, but I'd say "tough luck". A pro photographer today can't build his business on knowing the "craft" of photography. It needs an artistic vision and the understanding how priouce this art.
That means today, it needs more work and/or talent to become a successful photographer - but that's nothing new. This is a process that's in motion for more than 100 years. Higher automation of digital cameras is just the most recent step.
PS: As an afterthought. When photo cameras first came up, a group of painters in Paris abandoned the idea of painting exactly what they saw. What was the point, when a device could do it in an instant?
So, they reinvented painting and they became know as Impressionists.
Maybe it's time for pro photographers to ponder how they can reinvent their art?

Mike Ditz's picture

it happened before about 90 years ago. "Group f.64, loose association of California photographers who promoted a style of sharply detailed, purist photography. The group, formed in 1932, constituted a revolt against Pictorialism, the soft-focused, academic photography that was then prevalent among West Coast artists."

Stuart C's picture

People don't half whine about largely ridiculous features these days, if your camera isnt able to track a gnats bollock from 3/4 of a mile away then its an epic fail.... to me, much like DJing it seems all these features on this modern tech have just created a culture of needy geeks who spend more time crying about some latest tech fad than learning the craft. If I listened to half the negative crap I read about my camera, id have thrown it in the bin a long time ago.

So yeah it is easier to expose a shot, but still just as difficult to create one.

Sam Sims's picture

Sadly, there are far too many people on social media complaining about features, or lack of them in the latest cameras and seem to forget about the art of taking photos. This is not helped by all the endless gear reviews and pontification on things that don’t really matter - all just for clicks. I decided long ago that as my ideal camera would never be built to just make the most of the technology that is available and ignore the myriad of features I don’t need that come with the camera. I spend my time learning and trying to better my photography skills because, at the end of the day, no new technology will help you take better photos.

Stuart C's picture

Completely agree with this.. I read almost daily how my Fujifilm X-T2 cant auto focus on subjects, cant do effective burst shooting, has a sensor that produces rubbish images and artefacts, no battery life, poor EVF, rubbish dynamic range, rubbish ISO noise.... yet here i am enjoying using it for a wide variety of shooting situations.

Like you say its all driven by this ridiculous need for the latest and greatest, fuelled by Youtube clickbait.

Roger Cozine's picture

I don't think it's too easy. Sure, we have better and better cameras each year. We also have great software and artificial intelligence to overcome many of the shortcomings created by lack of photography skill. There's no denying that anyone can pick up a camera and take a picture. But not every picture is great. Most lack the basic fundamentals of what makes a great picture. Most people don't even know photography terms or how to completely work their camera. No matter how far technology comes, or what new gear we get... the basic need for photography skills and photography fundamentals never change.

Chris Rogers's picture

Eeeehhh depends on your perspective. On one hand yes because owning decent gear isn't out of the realm of possibility anymore. In fact it's really difficult to find and objectively bad camera these days.Yet on the other hand it's become a lot herder to make your self stand out from the ocean of photographers. So I guess it's easier than ever to get into photography but it's harder than ever to get noticed. Also though I don't think the difficulty of learning the core principles of photography has changed much at all. I think that part of photography is as difficult now as it was back 40-50 years ago. You still gotta learn it and you still gotta practice it.

Sam Sims's picture

Back in the day, before digital, owning a secondhand manual film camera was easy because they were very cheap and lenses were cheap too. The difference between then and now is you really had to know what you were doing because there was no automated technology (well, maybe some cameras had aperture priority or a light meter) making some of the decisions for you, at least not to the extent we have today. You couldn’t just shoot endless photos on a memory card because film had to be bought, it had a limited number of photos and then needed processing. It’s a bit too easy now to let the technology do a lot of the work for you without you actually understanding what it’s doing.

Chris Rogers's picture

"It’s a bit too easy now to let the technology do a lot of the work for you without you actually understanding what it’s doing."

Exactly! I let the tech run my photos for a long time when i started photography. i had some pretty decent gear too. I did get some pretty good photos but I was very inconsistent because I didn't actually know why those photos turned out as well as they did. like 90% of my shots were pure garbage. The other 10% of my photos that turned okay to pretty good were pure luck. I got kind of depressed because I couldn't figure out why my images were so inconsistent. Then I finally decided to quit being lazy and I started to actually study the principals of photography. Once I did that I went back and looked at my previous work and really started to under what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. I had some pretty decent gear but I sucked as a photographer until I studied the process. I love that I did because now I see everything around me way differently. Everywhere I look I'm looking at light and shadows. time of day and composition. It was relatively recently that I finally made these "revelations" so it kind of feels like I'm starting over lol. I still have a lot to learn though. Especially when it comes to directing people for portraits.

Sam Sims's picture

Having really missed the simplicity of manual film cameras and the complete lack of features, when I moved from DSLR to mirrorless, I at least decided I wanted to go back to manual lenses and simplify my approach. Although I own an A7III and an E mount Voigtlander lens, I ignore a lot of the modern tech like eye autofocus, bracketing, burst mode etc. and try to treat my camera like a manual camera with a few benefits from modern digital tech like the EVF and auto ISO. Improve your photography because no equipment will shortcut that for you.

Chris Rogers's picture

Nice! me too! I try to only stick with manual mode and adjust only ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed with out using any kind of support features my cameras have. If I want to use bracketing I'll just do it manually. The only time I use auto focus is when I'm doing a paid portrait shoot but if I'm experimenting with friends or just out shooting landscapes or real estate it's manual all the way. and no VR either! my hope is that i become so familiar with changing these setting based of the various situations that I'm in that when i show up on a shoot i can almost immediately dial in what i need so i can then focus on the subject and not have to fiddle around. i still have a long way to go though. I need to shoot more!

David Pavlich's picture

All things being equal, and I mean the shooter knows what he/she is doing, photography is certainly easier, especially the processing side. Before: you had to wait to see if your shots were keepers. Now: You don't have to wait. And, if you have a computer and have an understanding or processing software, you don't need to have a room with a red light and lotsa' chemicals. So yes, photography is easier today.

Again, all things being equal, today's gear makes getting that successful shot/shoot much easier than before. And, you have in many cases cameras that have 2 memory cards that help ensure that no shot is missed. Before, one hiccup, you get home, get the film developed and find that something went kaflooey.

David Purton's picture

Pointless again I fear. Were we blessed in film days when we didn't have to coat glass plates and exposures were in seconds? Equipment has always got easier..but its a bit like saying are you a better artist because brushes are better.

The camera is a dumb passive recording tool. The picture comes from the mind?