Photography’s Seven Deadly Sins

Maybe I should have titled this one Worthless Hot Button Photographic Debates. I must admit I got this idea from a Photofocus podcast when Scott Bourne and Scott Kelby were joking about controversial subjects and Bourne mentioned (as a joke, I think) that he and another photographer were writing a book about the seven deadly sins. I thought I would list my own ideas about what debates photographers are getting into (mostly online).

I call them worthless because some people spend so much time and energy on them and not one of these things will make you a better photographer.

Envy – Canon vs Nikon
This one is the king of all useless debates. I could take a Canon and a Nikon to a shoot and post random pictures from each camera and I guaranty not one person could look at the images and tell me which ones were shot with which camera. Each brand has strengths and weaknesses, but for still photography, there is no real difference in overall quality. The debate is merely about brand loyalty. Pick which one feels right for you and move on.

Wrath – HDR
This issue is so ridiculously subjective I almost don’t know where to start. Is HDR real photography? Duh, of course it is. The question is really “how much can I process this image before it is no longer considered photography?”. The answer is simple: as much as you want. How can people how bring their RAW files into Lightroom to adjust color temperature, exposure, split-toning, lens corrections, etc. draw some ambiguous line at combining multiple exposures? It’s a tool, for photographers who choose to use it, that allows them to express their vision. Anyone who knows about Ansel Adams knows that much of the magic of his work was the way he manipulated his negatives to get the print he wanted. There is no doubt in my mind that Adams would be all over HDR if he was alive and shooting today.

Gluttony – Sharpness
This is one of those for the ‘pixel-peepers’. Not every image needs to be tack-sharp every time. Most intermediate photographers are guilty of over-sharpening. I know I have done it. Flickr is full of ridiculously sharp images that start to look artificial. Most photographers using sharpening would be served by backing off a little. Sharpening effectively is an art in and of itself. Take a look at images of photographers you admire and practice different levels and techniques of sharpening.

Lust – Digital Noise
I am amazed at the expectations of some of today’s photographers. I’ve heard people complain about too much noise when shooting at 3200 ISO. Seriously? When I shot with film 2400 B&W film was the fastest film readily available and it had an extreme amount of grain. Many photographers shot with that film because of the grain. Now, ‘pixel-peepers’ want everything smooth and sharp instead of embracing the idiosyncrasies of the technology.

Sloth – Soft-proofing
The main problem in soft-proofing on your monitor for something to be printed is the fact that the monitor uses light in subtractive color and printing uses ink in additive color. The color you see from a monitor is projected light while the color from a print is reflected light. Soft-proofing is a simulation and even if you have invested in color calibration hardware and software, it is still a ballpark estimation.

Greed – Mega Pixels
In this case, size does matter. Not the size of your megapixel count but the size of your sensor. Unless you’re doing high-fashion photography for glossy magazines or something requiring an exceptional amount of detail, 15 to 20 megapixels is plenty. But sensor size is very important. The more megapixels you crowd into a small sensor, the lower the quality of those pixels. The more you spread out those pixels on a larger sensor means less digital noise and much better photos in low light conditions. A full-frame sensor at 21 megapixels is all I will ever need.

Pride – Professional vs Amateur
I’ve seen the term ‘real’ photographer thrown out there and I have no idea what that means. How do you tell a fake photographer from a real one? Is it the size of your lens? I’ve seen discussions about professional versus amateur like it means something as far as quality of work. It doesn’t. It just means that one chose to try to make a living with it while another chose to do it just for the love of it. I have a friend that, in many ways, is a better photographer than me. He has absolutely no ambitions to make any kind of money via photography, he just does it because he loves it. It’s in his blood. He will always be labeled an amateur but he is better than most professional photographers I know.

If you spend much time getting into any of these debates or obsessing over these issues, stop it. Pick up your camera and go out to do some photography. That will make you a better photographer. Obsessing about any of these issues will not.


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