Photo Prose

By Gary Rabenko

I may seem negative, critical, or too serious about photography and the condition of photographers these days. But in many ways, photographers have never had it so good. Yes, many are not happy. Others do not understand a variety of subtleties that lie below the surface, or they gloss over blatant issues they cannot control. But for now let us acknowledge the positives.

Unlike when I bit the bullet and went totally digital back in early 2001, today there is a huge infrastructure of software and services to solve every problem and assist the photographer from the first step to the last of project completion. The Internet and Google are always at the ready to solve our problems and point us in the right direction.

Photographers have virtual meetings with clients across town or across the globe. We can work remotely and still be at our desk computer. Great imagery can look even more incredible on large, high-definition screens. New TVs and monitors are coming out that double and even quadruple the high-definition resolution we are just starting to get used to in sizes as large as nine feet. That is 110 inches! High-definition video is known as 2K, for the nearly 2,000-pixel width of the image, compared with standard definition’s resolution of a mere 720 pixels. Emerging higher resolution 4K is already right around the corner.

Cameras are smaller, lighter, better, faster, and sharper, and they shoot motion–the new term for video–as well as still photos. Remote technology has made control of unmanned cameras easy and practical. Lighting gear is more sophisticated, lightweight, and less power-hungry than ever before. Portable lighting, which was an extremely unwieldy and bulky hassle, has in the last few years become a pleasure due to large lithium ion batteries and an abundance of high-tech reliable flash circuitry from more manufacturers than ever.

LED lighting has expanded into so many worlds, including both practical and creative photographic uses. These lifetime-lasting, nearly indestructible bulbs draw so little power that they can run on small battery systems which were impossible with traditional tungsten or halogen light bulbs.

Rechargeable batteries in common flashlight sizes have nearly doubled in capacity, with some having great performance even when not used for a long time. Rapid battery chargers are available that can charge some batteries in 15 or 20 minutes if you want to do so right at a photo shoot.

I often talk about lighting, which should be the heart and soul of every image. Photographers today can better control their lights, and have them exactly where, when, and how they want, due to amazing technology that adapts space-age science involving radio signals, light sensors, and even magnetic pulses.

For small products, photographers can buy lightweight light-box solutions instead of having to build heavier ones from scratch. And today’s developments include user-friendly camera cases, straps, and pods like never before!

Digital technology has exceeded film in image quality and detail. Images can be recorded in such low light that the eye might lose color perception, but with the right settings today’s cameras can produce a rich, vibrant, fully saturated brilliant color photograph or video.

Traditional photographic paper was only rated for 25 years, and that when stored in dark, dry conditions. Today’s inkjet pigment printers can produce vibrant, razor-sharp images right in your den with an archival quality rated up to 200 years!

The arduous work photographers needed to go through in printmaking, film processing, and film duplication is gone. Files can be duplicated in unlimited quantities, with identical image quality and beamed around the world instantaneously.

Cataloguing and keeping track of one’s image bank has never been easier with reliable software and storage solutions that are stable and cost-effective. Instead of lugging a collection of expensive 20-inch prints around, one can tailor a presentation from thousands of images on a tiny MicroSD card!

Gear has gotten smaller, lighter, cheaper, more reliable, and a lot more capable. For new photographers, information is as far or as near as their Internet connection. Smartphone apps can guide and instruct on everything from posing to lighting. Websites give startup photographers the wisdom, insights, and advice comparable to the business and marketing savvy of old-timers but tailored to our times.

Photography and video is more fun, and so much easier than ever before. A few advanced amateurs always produced more interesting and meaningful imagery than some routinely programmed professionals, and now their creativity can even express itself with the ubiquitous smartphone whether on vacation to a remote land, or just marveling over the everyday life on your end table.

Digital technology in addition informs us immediately that at the very minimum we have an image. From that high-tech display, we can also learn in what direction to adjust things to make that image better. This instantaneous feedback is akin to a proof that at best used to take hours and cost much. Perhaps nothing has more emboldened new camera-holders to try their hand than the instantaneous feedback they now get from the camera’s screen.

It is an exciting, amazing science-fiction type world of technology that has old pros marveling anew each month at the latest developments, while newcomers take it for granted–expecting exponential advancements regularly.

Cloud storage allows worldwide access to our images. Fast computers. Beautiful and lightweight portfolio presentation tools, a variety of backup storage options. Easy online learning. The fun of sharing images. Instant feedback. Wow! And on top of that, there is so much infrastructure to support “photographers” now, that anyone can claim the title and, with no employees or studio, produce work to please their clients.

So what could be bad? I will end this one article on a positive note. v

Gary Rabenko can be reached at Rabenko Photography & Video Artists is located at 1001 Broadway in Woodmere.

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