ARTICLE 2 – Limitations Of Equipment

Many, many, years ago when I became interested in photography, I started with an instamatic point and shoot camera that housed a cartridge of film that  was  accompanied by  flash cubes should the need for flash photography arise.  This camera produced prints or slides in  square format, and all that was required on behalf of the user was to aim it at the subject matter and depress the shutter release.  What could be easier?  No fussing with exposure, lenses or tripods.  This is many a beginner photographer’s dream.  I was satisfied with these images for a couple of years, until one day when viewing my prints which had recently been returned from the lab, I realized that the images presented to me did not accurately represent the subject matter I had photographed.  At this point, I started making a series of tests with my camera to determine if it was defective and not operating properly. A few rolls/cartridges of film later, the same problems occurred.  These included: improper colour balance and density of each image, over and underexposure, lack of sharpness, etc.  I then made a trip to  my local camera store presenting a question that many of my students to this day  ask  me, particularly during this digital state of photography which is: “why do these prints not look like the scene or   person at the time  I made the exposure?”  Does this sound familiar to you?

After conversing with the store clerk and unfortunately  obtaining indirect and rather vague  answers to my questions, I began reviewing several publications regarding  exposure, film, paper characteristics, various lenses and processing procedures.  Approximately six months went by and I realized at this point that my camera wasn’t defective  at all, but there were twofold  issues that presented themselves.  The first was, that I was asking too much from such a limited piece of  equipment and it no longer would represent my needs.  Secondly, there are excessive steps involved between creating the imagery and printing it. The additional steps I am referring to  involved the people who were responsible for processing the film and then making prints from it.  Having  worked  in a camera store that housed a processing lab, I can unfortunately  attest to inaccuracy in the automatic printing equipment; using chemistry past the expiration date, and somewhat limited knowledge on behalf of the technicians pertaining to manual override exposure controls during the print making process.  These comments obviously do not pertain to the  majority of  photographic outlets available, but the reader should make efforts to direct their films (if they are still utilizing film products),  to “qualified” processing labs with good reputations and accredited staff members.   Many novice photographers  viewing dissatisfied  photographs feel frustrated and tend to give up on  photography when their cameras do not perform as they expect them to.  However, if you have a good understanding of exactly what your camera is doing for you when you depress the shutter release, you can rest assured that even the novice will be well on his/her way to producing exceptional images with a limited amount of photographic equipment. Referring to the above mentioned point and shoot camera as indicated previously, it was capable of accepting colour negative and colour slide/transparency films. I had experimented with both mediums and often found greater levels of consistency pertaining to the usage of the slide material manufactured by Kodak titled “Kodachrome”. Undeniably, these comments are naturally “very dated” in comparison to today’s technologies however, current transparency film products manufactured in the year 2017 are unquestionably superb products, containing remarkable colour balance and contrast abilities.

In my opinion,  equipment can essentially  be broken down into two categories:

  1. levels of necessity, and
  2. levels of convenience.  The more time you invest behind a camera, the more sophisticated products you are  most likely going to  acquire in the future.  The reason behind this simply stated is that you,  as a photographer, are maturing in your methods particularly when referring to pre-visualization of your subject matter and consequently, developing your own style of picture making.  At this point, you may discover that you will no longer be satisfied with the limitations of your present equipment, and  be inclined  to upgrade your gear to produce  imagery which more accurately reflects what you see  in your mind’s eye prior to the release of the shutter.  On our next get-together, we will cover basic equipment that will deliver fine results at a moderate  price range, and I’ll also touch on the second-hand market.

With Good Wishes………

Jeff Ryan Photography/Ryan Studio, Ottawa, Ontario 2017.

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