Dr. Ellen K. Rudolph Blog Size is Not Everything (Or is it?) – Dr. Ellen's Blog

Size is Not Everything (Or is it?)

Posted on February 5, 2012 By

thorney_devil*The Thorney Devil  Moloch horridus

Things are constantly changing in today’s digital domain, even as we speak; everything except for the fact that the most popular demand for images is still for 8×10 prints or smaller. That, and the fact that a very small percentage of shooters need their output to be at 24×30 inches or larger.

Capturing images in the greatest detail possible is a thrill that photographers probably never sufficiently appreciated in pre-digital days. Slides were just slides and, well, who gave them much thought?

Today, however, we are being prodded at every turn, even at the turn of every magazine page, to THINK PIXELS, and the bigger the pixels the better. But is this really true?

The fact is, even when it comes to brain size and intelligence – you know, the important stuff – bigger is not necessarily better. Ancient man went through periods of growth where brain mass increased and yet tool making techniques did not improve along with those spurts of cerebral development. Even our cleverness did not improve with an increase in the size of our brain.

There is a lesson in there somewhere.

Do not get too caught up in frenzied marketing ploys that push us to buy bigger cars, bigger houses, and now, bigger and bigger mexapixel DSLR’s. We are living in an era of BIGNESS…but why?

Even Hollywood is being impacted by the bigger-is-better hype,  this is despite the fact that some of the most profitable films have had medium-sized budgets, and some industry experts are now saying that “studios may reassess the trend toward big budget films.”

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Quality is far more important in digital imaging than the megapixel count is. Your 6-megapixel camera can produce astonishing results in prints up to 20×30 if you reduce camera shake and practice safe picture-taking skills.

With some notable exceptions, digital capture is far from the instantaneous CLICK of the shutter button that our trusty film cameras once afforded us. Many us are moving too quickly from CLICK to setup for a new image when, in fact, we should be much more aware of the current limitations of digital capture and act accordingly.

First, TAKE YOUR TIME! Compose, think, compose some more, think some more, take time to appreciate the surroundings you are in, and then click the shutter button.

  • Use flash to freeze the action if needed (I nearly always use flash).
  • Hold your breath when you click the shutter button.
  • Use mirror lockup.
  • Get the fastest lenses you can afford and stick with them (I shoot with all prime lenses).
  • Use a stable tripod with a quality, fluid head – and don’t buy cheap, flimsy brands

Yes, technology like image stabilization is important but there are timeless ways of achieving the same thing.

All of this was just as true in the day of Ansel Adams as it is today, despite emerging digital prerogatives.

Product Planning in the Digital Age

It used to be that a camera model would remain on the market for years after its introduction. That is not true today. There is an enormous strain on camera manufacturers to offer consumers ever greater perceived value as camera models fade in and out of megapixel fashion.

If one buys into every new trinket and toy, then they obviously perceive great value in keeping up with the Joneses (or they have a lot of spare cash).

PC Photo and Outdoor Photographer and almost every other photo magazine out there today is equipment-driven by advertisers who are bent on selling us their wares. Corporations not only do their best to one-up their competitors, they are also now in the business of actually telling us consumers what we want. [which is that they want us to keep up with the Joneses!]

Decide first what YOU want, what kind of equipment will best serve YOUR needs, then go for it instead of all the extraneous hype.

And while we are on that subject, buy the best equipment you can afford at the time; no settling for aftermarket lenses and camera bodies if you can help it.  Your equipment cache will thank you.

Other Dragons to be Slayed

Stock agencies like Corbis and Getty have put forth almost impossible standards to be met by photographers these days, some of them laughable; yet they have stoked the fears of photographers everywhere.

For example, there are four levels of evaluation for releases on every image accepted by these agencies. These concern model releases, property releases, visible trademarks/trade dress/product shots, and copyright protection. It boggles the mind. This is on top of compelling workflow duties that keep digital photographers increasingly tethered to their computers.

It is a relief to know, for example, that “model releases are no longer needed for shadows, body parts, blurry or silhouetted people or for people shown as part of a naturally occurring group.” [I am quoting from NGS here.]

That is such good news!

The large stock concerns are asking for more and more image information and they even have new legal language to protect (them, not us) against potential conflicts. And, get this: minors now have to have a separate release even if the parents have submitted adult releases.

The bad news in stock is that, in general, property release are now necessary anytime private property is a main focus of the image, i.e., a photo of someone’s private home or the outside of a commercial building, the inside of an office, etc.

The good news is that (for the time being, at least) skyline shots and street scenes do not need releases! But don’t hold your breath; that, too, may change.

Photographers are warned against photographing corporate logos as much as possible. The fact is, more and more images are being declined by the stock industry “if there are too many complicating factors involved in making that image acceptable for online licensing.” [NGS words again.]

These stock giants are positioned to request anything they want to from photographers, and photographers are expected to do  summersaults to try to meet these increasingly insane requirements.

Speaking of ‘bigger is better’

If you shoot for stock agencies, you also have to be able to produce huge digital files; not because those large files are needed for most stock-buying clients, only for those one-in-ten thousand stock requests that need photographic files the size of elephants. But still you have to have them.

Should these stock giants be allowed to arm lock us so, and frighten us into doing their inane bidding? Probably not but they are doing it anyway.

NOTE: Advertising is still the primary domain where releases are needed, unlike the far more pervasive editorial uses for your photography. So you needn’t be paranoid! In my opinion we all should be saying ‘no’ to stock mandates that will ultimately affect only a small fraction of our creative output.

There are other outlets for your images, go find them! You may be surprised at the opportunities you discover.

*Yorktown Onion