Size is Not Everything!

Megapixels are all the rage today. Just be mindful of the fact that this is just a marketing ploy.

Everything is changing in the digital domain, even as we speak; except for the fact that the most popular demand for images is still for 8×10 prints or smaller. Very few of us shooters need our output to be at 24×30 inches or larger.

Capturing images in the greatest detail possible is a thrill that we photographers never sufficiently appreciated in pre-digital days. Slides were just slides and we really did not give them much thought.

The Thorney Devil- Moloch horridus

The Thorney Devil – Moloch horridus

Today, however, we are being prodded at every turn, even at the turn of every magazine page, to THINK PIXELS, and the bigger the better. But I always have to laugh because it seems to me to be just one more twist on that tired, old adage about bigger always being better. 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. Even our cleverness did not improve with an increase in the size of our brain.

There is a lesson in there somewhere.

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

Even Hollywood is being impacted by the bigger-is-better hype. RT Newsday, however, says 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 good, 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 used to afford us. Many us are moving too quickly from CLICK to setup for a new image when, in fact, we should be 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. Hold your breath when you click the shutter button. Use your mirror lockup. Get the slowest lenses you can afford and stick with them.

Yes, technology like image stabilization is important but there are timeless ways of achieving it. Get a good tripod and use it. Don’t buy cheap, flimsy models, go for carbon-fiber construction with magnesium heads.

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

Baby Koala and Mother - Phascolarctos cinereus

Baby Koala & Mother – Phascolarctos cinereus

Product Planning in the Digital Age

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

If you and I buy into every new trinket and toy, then we obviously perceive great value in keeping up with the Joneses. 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. They need us to keep up with the Joneses!

Don’t forget that. Decide first what YOU want, what kind of equipment will best serve YOUR needs, then go for it instead of all the ridiculous hype that is out there.

Some Other Dragons to be Slayed?

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

For example, now there are four levels of evaluation for releases on every image accepted by agencies like Corbis and Getty, and these apply to 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.]

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 – a photo of someone’s house 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, is likely to 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.]

The stock giants are positioned to request anything they want to from photographers, and photographers are doing summersaults and more to try to meet these increasingly insane requirements.

And speaking of ‘bigger is better’ – if you shoot for stock, 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 photos the size of elephants.

Isn’t there something wrong with this picture?

You bet! Should these stock giants be allowed to arm lock us so, and frighten us into doing their inane bidding? Probably not.

Advertising is still the primary domain where releases are needed, unlike the far more pervasive editorial uses for our photography. So we needn’t be so paranoid! We should be saying no to stock mandates that will ultimately affect only a small fraction of our output.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Art of Photography

Comments are closed.