Diary of an Angsty Photographer

By on January 6, 2014
2014_G_Lim_FilmCamera

I knew the death of photography was only so far on the sunset-painted horizon when, for the first time, I saw a tourist take a picture with an iPad. Of course, this revelation was not recent; in fact, I’m sure most of you have already seen, or even worse, committed this sin.

Okay, maybe that’s a little intense to call it a “sin”. But I am pretty passionate about photography. I’m definitely no professional photographer but, as a relatively avid photojournalist of three years, an expanding collection of different lens and camera bodies (with a shrinking wallet to fit), and a National Geographic/ TIME magazine fangirl, I definitely respect the art. One of my photographer friends down at the University of South Alabama and I can argue for hours over the superior field of photography: nature or journalism. Personally, as a deadline-battered, ex-photo editor for a yearbook, I believe photojournalism is the better of the two but, that’s beside the point. I didn’t come here to bore you over the fine lines of photography, but rather, through a pet peeve of a photographer.

Easily 80% of Americans have cellphones, and I’m willing to bet at least 50% of those Americans have a stupidly-labelled “smartphone,” myself included. My memory is hazy from the early 2000′s, but I believe the Motorola RAZR was the first phone to have a decent camera. Remember when those were a thing? Everyone wanted a RAZR because 1) it was a flip phone and 2) had the convenience of a camera. Your lame yet bulletproof Nokia had no such luxuries. Around this time the digital camera was evolving quickly as a revolutionary: you could see your pictures before you printed them. Anyone who has never worked with film or a disposable camera fails to see the real value of this.

Those days, the digital camera didn’t really have to worry. Yet. However, in a rhythm I’m sure you are familiar with, the RAZR became outdated as a new model came out, with shinier packaging and more features. Then that became outdated. And the process repeated itself like some Darwinian cell phone Hunger Games until you had the Nokia Lumia, which features a camera with a whopping 41 megapixels.  This is impressive because it fogs my lens with the tears of ineptitude from my poor Nikon D5000, which is a DSLR camera with 12.9 megapixels. For those of you who aren’t camera savvy, a DSLR is a fancy way to say “big, black camera that weighs a lot”.

I’m not complaining about the crushing superiority of a phone to my camera. That’s not the point. Because I have a phone to be a phone, not a phone to be a camera. The point I’m trying to make is not in just the Nokia Lumia, but in the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy and other various smartphones: accessible and user-friendly cameras.

All photographers know the eternal curse of being a photographer is that you will never have a picture of yourself that you like 100%. The composition is wrong. The focus is wrong. The light exposure is wrong. A billion other things are wrong! Why can’t people take pictures like you?! But say you want a picture of yourself anyway, so you carefully hand off your big, black camera that weighs a lot to a bystander tourist. Then you reluctantly set shutter speed, ISO, aperture–EVERYTHING to Auto so there is no way he can mess this up. You will have this picture of you and St. Peter’s Basilica for Facebook! ….Unfortunately, this man is not as skilled as you: he doesn’t know where the shutter button is. Defeated and tired, you hand him your iPhone 5 and he snaps a picture of you with the church. After he hands the phone back to you, Photographically Incompetent Tourist Guy decides you’ve picked a good location/view. He takes a picture on his own smartphone, slaps an “artsy” filter on it, and posts it on Instagram with several hundred hashtags. He gets over 500 likes in minutes and makes the Popular page. Applause and explosions ensue.

The rise of Instagram (which is one of my favorite social media platforms of all time), among photo-sharing apps, and easy accessibility to a relatively strong camera have created a mindset that now everyone is a photographer. You’re a photographer! Your mom is a photographer! Your 9-year old sister who already has an iPhone for some strange reason is a photographer! But when it comes down to it, who is the professional? Why should we pay a wedding photographer over $1000 when we can get all the guests to take pictures on their phones?

Contrary to popular belief, the answer is not whoever has the most followers on Instagram. The pros know how to make both you and the building in night background appear in a picture. They can paint with flash. They can really capture the moment. They’ve been through the pain of trying to overcome poor light conditions. When you pay a photographer, you’re paying for all their equipment, which includes several different types of lens, flashes, filters, and bodies, but more importantly, their experience at making everything look not good, but better.

I’m not saying it’s bad everyone can try the art of picture-taking . I’m actually happy for it because I think everyone should give it a shot, but I wish this exposure to photography (double pun unintended) had created a deeper appreciation for the pros as people realize their ineptitude with the camera. Oh well, what technology giveth, technology taketh away. Just put down the iPad.

Taken with my iPhone for irony points.

 

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About Gerrie Lim

Like roughly 50% of everyone here at UAB, Gerrie Lim is a pre-med student. Unlike everyone here, she is a Communications Broadcasting major with a Theatre minor. On Saturday nights, you can usually find her watching the latest episode of Saturday Night Live, where she wants to work at one day. Gerrie Lim is currently a freshman at the time of quickly scribbling this little biography and enjoys writing autobiographies. She thinks it doesn't do her justice, and she thanks you for looking at whatever page you found it. Gerrie is currently a writer, photographer and, weirdly, a cartoonist for the UAB's Kaleidoscope. You can find her on Instagram at @chopstickgirl.
 
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