Have you noticed how life moves at an ever-increasing pace these days? Of course you have – it’s hard not to. The same is true with the world of photography, especially when it comes to the development of technology.
As we progress and evolve, a strange thing is happening – whilst embracing the ‘latest and greatest,’ photographers are also seemingly keen to take a step backwards, to return to the simple things. You need only look at the renewed popularity of old film cameras to see this.
Are we pining for a bygone era, as if the tech has now gone just a little too far, removing some of the raw pleasure out of our traditional craft? Maybe it’s simply because taking pictures with antiquated gear is seen to be cool, who knows…
Regardless, this is not necessarily a bad thing, in my opinion.
For example… Shooting film, thanks to a lack of image preview on the back of the camera, is a great way to hone your craft. Film costs money; guaranteeing you’ve got the shot through proper technique is a great way to ensure you don’t waste that money. Using a film camera is also good fun, especially if you go as far as developing your own film and making prints in a traditional darkroom.
But I digress; this post isn’t about taking pictures on old film cameras. The underlying message here is this:
SLOW. THINGS. DOWN.
I love using a tripod for this very reason. With the camera mounted in position, it gives me time to step away, to appreciate the scene in front of me, to think about how best I will capture it. Some scenarios, such as night photography, require this arrangement by necessity – but why not employ it on occasions where you might ordinarily hand-hold the camera?
Another bit of advice I often suggest to people who want to improve their photography is to take the time to look at the work of other photographers. We don’t do this enough.
One of my favourites is Eugène Atget, whose documentary pictures of the early 1900s I find greatly inspiring – both visually and for the very reason that the technology he had at his disposal was incredibly limited by today’s standards. Heavy, cumbersome equipment, long exposure times… it was all about crafting the light to suit the image he visualised in his mind’s eye.
Yes, I know it’s been said many times that great pictures are made by great, creative photographers, regardless of the kit they use. “It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer” etc etc. I’ve even talked about it myself, most notably in my lively podcast conversations with Hugh Graham.
But the thing that makes those photographers so talented is that they take their time. They take their time to get proficient and they don’t rush the picture-making process. By doing this, incredible photos naturally follow.
Everything is so immediate now and we are constantly encouraged to embrace this. But rules are made to be broken.
It’s time to slow things down, take stock and get thoughtful with your photography.