No filter

I have an ongoing ‘discussion’ with a family member who is not a fan of processing digital images. She prefers ‘pure’ images straight out of the camera. I get what she means but I also point out (the discussion takes the same direction every time) that the image on a phone or cheaper camera is almost always a jpeg. Which means that the raw image has already been processed. The difference is whether the camera makes the processing decisions or the person does.

There can be snobbery and inverse snobbery about processing images. Those who prefer minimal manipulation may be surprised to know that, even in the age of film, processing decisions were made. I remember seeing this when, I think it was, Magnum released contact sheets and annotated prints with instructions about visual effects.

However there can be snobbery too relating to how technical processing is perceived to be. For example, in an earlier blog I suggested the inclusion of filters in Instagram was essentially dumbing down. But in the immediately preceding post I lauded the provision of film effect Lightroom presets. Surely there is little difference between Instagram filters and Lightroom presets borrowed from others.

The return of Flickr?

In what seems to be good news for Flickr users, Smugmug are reported to have bought the venerable photo sharing platform.

A brief trawl through the internet reveals mixed fortunes in the story of this web institution. In recent years Flickr has been abandoned by some enthusiasts in favour of platforms like 500px or simply outshone by the rise of Instagram. But it’s still here and hopefully Flickr is about to see some new life.

I have used Flickr for a while but there have been seasons where I’ve focussed elsewhere. On a recent return to the iOS app, I found that finally the communities chat from groups is now easily viewed. The communities discussion is for me a top feature and previously was not viewable in the app. Another addition to the app is the ability to post an image in multiple groups simultaneously. I have no idea why this was not possible before.

Those user friendly changes were made while owned by Verizon and hopefully things will keep getting better. But what features would you want in a redeveloped Flickr?

Personally I’d prefer them not to continue to compete with Instagram. But that’s a huge challenge. How do you make a successful photo-sharing service without competing with other market leaders? I like Instagram but for me competing with them is a race to the bottom. A race to appeal by encouraging phone photography, filters, adverts and product placement.

The things I like about Flickr are also the most infuriating and least widely appealing. For example, I want to know about exif details; camera and settings etc. Flickr encourages such sharing. Instagram is not interested. They do not make such data public and may well remove them from the image.

This all probably makes Flickr more geeky and a little more elitist. Instagram, in contrast, has always been more encouraging, less critical and more vibrant. Yet, it is to Flickr not instagram I would turn for advice about photography. And it’s also usually Flickr I use to investigate a future holiday destination. Because on Flickr you’ll generally see fewer products and selfies and more actual landscapes.

I don’t envy Smugmug this challenge of making Flickr viable, appealing yet distinct and niche. But I do look forward to what they come up with.

Bad photography?

“…the vast majority (however, by no means all) of street photography making the rounds on social media and Flickr etc., is simply poor photography – it’s tired, boring, repetitive, visionless digital noise.”

(Michael Ernest Sweet, Street Photography Has no Clothes, Huffington Post, 28/07/15, article)

If you haven’t already read the above article then it’s well worth a read (although I suspect that many more will have read it than will ever see this blog).

As the article suggests, street photography does seem to be increasingly popular as an activity although perhaps not as art to be enjoyed by others. There is a real challenge for all involved in street photography to come up with something unique or meaningful.

Given the use of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ metaphor, I also suspect that the author may be more concerned about those who are lauded as popular street photographers rather than beginners or those seeking to improve.

However with regard to his comments on self editing, all of us, beginners included, need to think about how much we post online. It’s far too easy to share every image rather than the 1% of decent shots. But just because we can post doesn’t mean we should. And I’m certainly guilty in this regard.

So, how do we avoid shooting more and more banal street photography? And how do we make images that are meaningful?