Has photography gotten any better in the last 50 years?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by EricRose, Dec 19, 2015.

  1. EricRose

    EricRose Mu-43 Regular

    100
    Jul 2, 2014
    The upper 12
    Eric Rose
    Back in the 60's I started off with a 35mm Exakta and a Rolleiflex. Moved to Minolta then Nikon and Leica. Added Hasselblad to the mix and most recently Digi Nikon and m43 Panasonic. That's the equipment changes over time that many of use in one way or another have made. Some of you are new to the game and started with digi cameras. My real question is in your opinion on a whole, not just your photography, has photography really gotten any better since the 60's?
     
  2. DaveEP

    DaveEP Mu-43 Top Veteran

    684
    Sep 20, 2014
    York, UK
    Absolutely. Though naturally it depends on what you mean by photography.

    Advances in technology allows much more creative freedom than was available to the average photographer back when I started in the late 60s / early 70s.

    I can shoot in much darker situations and still get a usable image.

    I can shoot in much lighter situations with faster shutter speeds and get just the shot I want.

    We have the ability to capture shots that were previously just not possible, be that shallow DOF with newer glass, or fast shutter speeds to capture the precise moment, or better AF to capture shots that would have been much more difficult even just a few years ago.

    I realise most of this is all talking about gear, but yes, photography has gotten better because we can now capture images previously not possible. I can capture many more shots in a day than I shot all year back in the film days and with instant feedback people can learn from their mistakes much quicker and with almost zero cost.

    While I could get results that night in the dark room for B&W I had to send colour away fro processing, so it could be days or even weeks before I got those 24 / 36 frames back, and had to cross reference with notes to see where I could have improved.

    With all this technology comes the ability for people to be lazy, of course, using automatic modes, or spray and pray, but for those with genuine talent I thinks things have only improved.
     
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  3. Jonathan F/2

    Jonathan F/2 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 10, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    Technology has made photography much more accessible, but honestly I think pictures suck even more nowadays. My FB friends post the worst snap shots ever despite having high quality camera phones and the photographers who hype themselves the most on social media are falsely mistaken as decent photographers.
     
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  4. GBarrington

    GBarrington Mu-43 Veteran

    Photography? Yes.
    I wouldn't go back to the way we did photography in the 1960's if you paid me. Well, maybe if you paid me, but certainly not for free!​

    Photographers? not so much.
    The good ones die. And the young ones take time to learn. And now that photographic technology can crank out images in an extremely high volume at extremely low cost, I don't believe beginners are allowed to take the time to think about what they are doing, so I wonder if the 'spray and pray' methods that new technology encourages, are actually delaying the development of new generations of photographers.

    Then again, there has always been a high level of dreck in photography. Maybe I'm just talking about how deep the snow used to be.​
     
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  5. DaveEP

    DaveEP Mu-43 Top Veteran

    684
    Sep 20, 2014
    York, UK
    I'm going to go out on a limb here, but I think a lot of this is going to come down to what is photography, and why are photographs important?

    There are a number of photographers held in great esteem, through books, through pictures hanging in galleries and more. However, if one of us went back to the same location and took the same photograph today we would not be held in such high esteem. Why?

    Is it because we think the people who took that shot 60 years ago saw 'differently', or because we put modern photographers down because they have it easy with newer technology?

    Another explanation is that we're numb to those shots now because, for example, we've seen half dome photographed a thousand different ways so it would take something really extraordinary to make us sit up and take note, and only imaginative new locations draw our attention. But do we then dismiss the talent behind the shots because we assume much of it was achieved in post production?

    In some ways the early trailblazers had it much harder, because they had to master a craft that was not possible for the vast majority of others in that era, but in return they also had a much easier time of being thought of as great photographers because most people had never seen photographs of those locations before.

    But that brings me back to the question of what are photographs for? Is it art? Are photographs supposed to be thought of as replacements for paintings? Or are photographs important for other things too, such as everyday memories? Human biology means we remember only tiny fragments of what happens each day, yet photographs, the majority of which are 'snap shots', help us remember so much more, which transcends the artistic value of a given shot by triggering emotions in other ways.

    I would venture to suggest that the purpose of photography for the vast majority of people on our planet is the capturing of a moment, preserving of memories and being able to revisit the emotions we felt at the time. In this case the quality of the photograph from the perspective of art, or the definitions of light vs shadows, even the composition is quite irrelevant to a great extent. For these people, the best photographers are the ones who captures the moments, the memories and the emotions like never before.

    The majority of us can tell an asthetically great photo from a poor one, one that instantly draws us in, but for the most part the snap shots taken by others with whom we have no inherent memories or connection are, in plain language, very poor quality. However, some of those snap shots may turn out to be the most treasured photographs of all time to those 'in' the photograph, or perhaps those connected with them.

    So, respectfully, I think think we need to understand the difference between when a photo is taken for art and when it's taken for memories, but accept that both are equally valid. For 'art' we need to get everything 'just-right', but for memories this is far less important and in some cases does not matter at all.

    So has photography improved? Yes, I think it has, since so many more people are capturing memories that were previously forgotten.

    We can sit back in our arm chair and be all snobbish about it, judging everything purely by it's artistic quality, or perhaps we can take a look at the wider picture and realise that photography has moved on and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2015
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  6. Jonathan F/2

    Jonathan F/2 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 10, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    I don't mind all the filters and other special effects smartphone/tablet apps allow, but if someone is going to post a snapshot make it look good! If people want to preserve treasured moments, make that moment worthy of framing on your wall! I tell my wife very simple rules when I lend her my camera (she's totally not into photography)...no flash when it's bright, use a flash when it's dim. That's it!

    Makes a world of difference in making good snapshots!
     
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  7. DaveEP

    DaveEP Mu-43 Top Veteran

    684
    Sep 20, 2014
    York, UK
    If you're posting it on a photo site where you're trying to show photographs as images for people to appreciate then of course I agree. But that's not the only place / reason post photos to the web.

    Given that only a very tiny percentage of shots will ever be printed nowadays I really don't think most people are bothered if it could go on the wall or not. If you're sharing memories from a night out with people on Facebook I don't see why it has to be art good enough for the wall, it's all about perspective ;)
     
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  8. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Technology has improved as has been said above, but I do not necessarily believe that our ability "to see" as Ernst Haas often talked about, has changed much, if at all. So, we have more technology options, and that may allow more creativity for those that wish to use it, but I am not sure we are more creative.

    --Ken
     
  9. EricRose

    EricRose Mu-43 Regular

    100
    Jul 2, 2014
    The upper 12
    Eric Rose
    Interesting perspectives. Lets try and concentrate on those photographs that are made as "art" whatever that may be. Of course what is defined as "art" changes with the seasons it seems and always has. What was considered a news or documentary image in the 30's has now become art and or treasured by today's viewers for a myriad of reasons.
     
  10. Carbonman

    Carbonman Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2014
    Vancouver BC
    Graham
    I think composition has suffered greatly with autofocus systems. This is especially prevalent with photos taken with "real cameras" as opposed to cell phones. Many of us line up the focus point in the center of the viewfinder with the most interesting part of the scene instead of moving the focus point off-center or at least setting the focus and recomposing to make an interesting final image.
     
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  11. Tilman Paulin

    Tilman Paulin Mu-43 Veteran

    329
    Jun 10, 2013
    Dublin, Ireland
    I don't think photography has changed much at all.
    Except that there's more of it. More good stuff - and logically more bad stuff too. (The ratio between the two is debatable, but probably stayed at a similar level.)

    The bigger change in my view is how photography is displayed, viewed and valued. As with lots of other technologies, modern developments have made it more accessible to everyone. Which is great - but with the removal of technological hurdles of the process also comes a tendency to view it's results as more "trivial"...

    Ultimately great photos will always be about what's in front of the lens.
    What will keep changing is what we do with these photos (and with the not so great ones too :) )
     
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  12. DaveEP

    DaveEP Mu-43 Top Veteran

    684
    Sep 20, 2014
    York, UK
    Hmmm.... ok - well I guess that rules out every single image I ever took seeing as I don't recall taking a single image with the idea that it was art :) Have fun :)
     
  13. Vandy

    Vandy Mu-43 Regular

    53
    Nov 8, 2015
    VA
    Marc
    I would say there is a definite increase in users due to ease of use and availability of brands and models. With the increase comes use, and better beginning users because of technological advances. Lighting also has increased the abilities and ease of taking images. As well as the effectiveness pf post production. So, with my to cents: Better means . . . ease of use, more to make images better with, and better beginning ability.
     
  14. Vandy

    Vandy Mu-43 Regular

    53
    Nov 8, 2015
    VA
    Marc
    Art is perception. If one can appeal to others they inevitably will be more successful at their art. It is ultimately in the eyes of the person looking and touching art. I like natural images well done. Art to me is . . . 1. The ability to make these images, with a mechanical device, as close to the human visual perspective as possible. 2. Post processing images to look differently than normal is just perception of difference. Some are down to things that they don't see everyday, and some are drawn to the same old. I don't think in this sense (2) that photography has gotten any better. I think in the normal human eye (1) we do have the ability to artfully create a better image.
     
  15. GBarrington

    GBarrington Mu-43 Veteran

    That's interesting. With me, it never even occurred to me that I wasn't trying to produce art. I am always surprised when I hear people say they aren't trying for art. What I do isn't always good art, but the motivation and intent has always been there.

    I don't think we need to apologize for our artistic needs just because we are photographers. The need for art and self expression is universal.
     
  16. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Prior to social media and flickr, etc, all you ever saw was the best work from notable photographers. It had to be good to make it into a magazine or art show. There was nowhere you could go to see random dude's crappy snapshots. Now that is mainly what we see.
     
  17. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 Top Veteran

    767
    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    Stop calling me "random dude's". I have a name ya know.


    ;)
     
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  18. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    Things are better. We've got more options now than we had 50 years ago and having more options is always better in my view. It doesn't matter whether some of the options don't produce results as good as those the options we had 50 years ago did. That will change. 35mm film didn't produce particularly good results back when the first 35mm still camera was marketed by Leica but that changed. Zoom lenses weren't all that good when the first one was marketed but that changed. Digital photography wasn't all that good when it was introduced but that changed. But each of those changes and a lot more have been introduced and not been all that good at the start but ended up getting a hell of a lot better.

    More options is always more better in my view. It's good to have more options about what you can do in that and it's good to have more options about how you're going to do the things you do. Even if our new photographic options didn't let us do some new things that we couldn't do previously, and there's actually quite a few things we can now do that we couldn't do previously, we'd still have quite a few new ways of doing the same old things.

    Photography is definitely better on the technical side than it was and there are people around who are using those technical changes in really interesting ways and making some great images as well. Overall things have definitely got better over the last 50 years.
     
  19. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Steve
    Almost everyone caries a camera now. More of life on earth is captured everyday and most photos make their takers happy. If I look at some old snapshots from 50 years ago I appreciate the iPhone all the more.
     
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  20. fredlong

    fredlong Just this guy...

    Apr 18, 2011
    Massachusetts USA
    Fred
    No, it hasn't really gotten better in the last 150 yrs. just different.
    Fred
     
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