Why do I take pictures?

I am not a professional photographer, I don’t aspire to be a professional photographer or indeed a recognised photographer of any sort. There are many people out there with years of experience and the talent to match that do a much better job than I could ever could. So why do I persevere with photography and what do I get from it?

I started photography to take pictures of my kids growing up as I remember the joy of looking through old photo albums so I wanted to try and take better pictures. I found that I enjoyed learning about photography and thus wanted to get more involved. Most of all I found that I enjoyed walking around with a camera and challenging myself.

With the film camera when I first started with 35mm and the marathon that is 36 exposures I used to be bitterly disappointed as I expected to have at least 30 or so useable half decent images. I must have thought that as I was taking more time, combined with the naive and arrogant attitude of “you know, it’s on film so it must be good” that 30 plus good (for me) images would be attainable.

It took me a while to settle down and realise what an idiot I was thinking this way and during this time I almost gave up. I’m happy now if I get one or two good images, as part of the process is practicing compositions, trying different speeds and apertures as well as learning how different films work.

Do I care if others enjoy my images, of course I do as we all like peer recognition but conversely do I care if nobody likes them, not really as it is something I do for my own enjoyment and the test is yes I would still do it if there was no social media.

There are so many steps to get to the final image; Choosing a film to try, going for a walk or fun day out to take pictures, the anticipation of the results that all combine to make my hobby what it is……something I enjoy doing and hopefully see progression with my image quality over time.

I also reconcile it this way, when I flick through my parents photo album, I’m not thinking about the focus, the composition or any other technical piece, I’m thinking of the time, the place and the memories it brings to me and it is the same with the images I take now, good or bad, it is recording memories and for me that alone is satisfaction enough.

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Get it right in the camera – What does this mean to me?

When I started my journey into learning photography and specifically film photography I felt conflicted in terms of editing  my photos.

On the one hand there were (and still are) many mediocre shots that could do with some editing yet on the other hand I really did not want to spend time sitting in front of a screen ‘improving’ shots when I could be out there taking pictures. I was much more relaxed about this with my digital photos, but when it came to film photos I really pressured myself that I had to get it right in the camera and there should be very little editing or even no editing.

I’m not sure why I put this pressure on myself, did I believe that film photographers did no editing, I think I did. I had never studied the master photographers and at that time when people talked about the decisive moment and the photographs taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson I truly thought that he pressed that shutter once, job done final image. I now know better. (lots already written about this so I won’t dwell)

And now that I am a bit more experienced has anything changed? I think it has. I still truly believe that you have to get it right in the camera but what this means to me has changed. Get it right in camera to me means the right composition with a good standard of metering/exposure. If you don’t have that right then no amount of editing is going to help – as the saying goes you can’t polish a turd

However once the negative has been exposed there are so many variables that it would be inaccurate to say it all took place in the camera. I don’t have a full analogue process (or full understanding of one) but my limited understanding is that how you develop the negative can impact the final look and then how you then crop, dodge & burn print etc in the darkroom can get the result you were looking for.

Post camera I have a very digital workflow, my negatives are lab developed and scanned and as such I don’t have control on the final look. That said there are a few labs now that you can work with to create your scanning preferences. I do own a good film scanner but lack of time and the dread of dust means I don’t use it right now.

So I’m going to stop giving myself a hard time in terms of editing. My aim is for the film I shoot to represent as much as possible the look it gives. I.e. Velvia 50 should have great saturated colours. I do still need to get it right in the camera by my definition but am much more relaxed about edits so long as they keep it true to the original scene and that it represents the film used. It is about having control over my own perceived style and look and not having this look dictated externally.

Now if only I could find some editing software I truly liked…..