Technical vs working knowledge

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by D-50, Nov 5, 2007.

  1. D-50
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    D-50 New Member

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    Just wondering what people feel about knowing the nuts and bolts of photography,i.e. what you would learn in a classroom vs just knowing how to take properly exposed and composed shots. I do not necesarily know exactly what is going on inside my camera when Im shooting but I know when a shot will need to be over or underexposed, furthermore I really do not understand the technicalities of metering although I understand the differing results I get when I change my metering mode on my camera. I realize I did not ask much of a question but any thoughts on this topic?
  2. Davec223
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    Davec223 New Member

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    I feel that to know the technical stuff helps you take better pictures i.e DOF shutter apperture and iso relationships, what metering to use etc etc. you can get by by not knowing and it will be a bit hit and miss with a lot of trial and error until you get the result you want, but do you really understand what you have done to get the result and could you repeat when you want a similar end result in different circumstances? this is where the tech stuff will help all of it fall into place so that you can get the results that you want with you being able to concentrate on what you are photographing rather than the camera.
  3. Alpha
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    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    Of course I have what some might call an elitist opinion on the matter.

    Great photographers have keen senses of technicality and creativity. Technical aspects can be learned. Not by all, but my most. Creativity...well you've either got it or you don't. If you learn all the technical stuff well and still have a lot of difficulty making good shots, you'll save yourself a lot of disappointment by giving up your dreams of being a great photographer. That doesn't mean you ought to quit altogether.

    I know it sounds harsh, but I personally know a few people who are technically phenomenal...more so that I might ever be. But after shooting literally for decades, they gave a good deal of it up. Now they see it as sort of a duty to impart all their technical knowledge to other people. I think it's really cool, actually. I'm not saying that they should have given it up, in a judgmental way. People can do what they like.
  4. Iron Flatline
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    Iron Flatline Guest

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    What I find the most impressive about "the old masters" is that the equipment they were using was so finnicky and unique that they had to be highly technically skilled and creative at the same time. A few of them built their own cameras, but all of them pretty much had to be able to fix them. If you're out in the field - and I mean way out - Spanish Civil War, Morocco in the 1950s, the Wyoming wilderness in the 1940s, Oklahoma in the 1930s... you couldn't just walk into a store and get some booger-clerk to honor your warranty. You had to fix it.

    And that's just making the exposure. What did AA say? "The negative is the score, the print is the performance." They had to do all the developing, heck they often had to build their own projector head.

    I am fascinated by the technology, and by the processes. It goes into a vast moist, fertile soil which feeds the little flowerbed of knowledge that I'm cultivating. I'm not sure I'll end up with a prize-winning rose, but at least I'll get a fat pumpkin out of it.
  5. The Phototron
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    The Phototron New Member

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    What you are concern with is two aspect of learning: knowing the principles and applying them (what you call working knowledge).

    You could grasp just a very vague idea of a principle, and still be able to make use of it (i.e. apply it by actually taking pictures). But not to the full extent, so you have to guess on aspects you do not understand, which means less control. However, even if you know the principles well, you still need to know where and when to apply them, because there are many principles. Your mind won't be able to process them all when you first try to take a picture. For example, you might be caught up in framing the picture that you forget to meter, or you remember that but forgot rules of third, etc. It is overwhelming for your mind to apply all that information at first. With experience, applying these principles will slowly become intuitive so you have more control over how your picture will look like, to a point that your visualization is the outcome.

    In your case you know darker picture means underexposed and lighter pictures mean overexposed. That is part of the technicality of metering. You have to know what is dark and what is light. Of course there's a lot you still don't know, where to meter, how to compensate, the relationship among aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Because of your very partial understanding of exposure, you compensate by guessing. Which works to an extent, but it's very inefficient. You are giving up control to probability by not fully knowing the technicalities.

    Edit: Creativity can be learned/engineered when science gains a complete understanding of the technicality behind the mind. So they can know what would appeal to it as fascinating and what repulsive. :>
  6. D-50
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    D-50 New Member

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    I agree with the idea technical knowledge never hurts but what i was getting at is the idea that not knowing exactly what is happening inside the camera does not necessarily hurt you, things like DOF, shutter speed, iso, framing, exposing, taking the angle of the light source into account, and metering are second nature to me, when I look through the viewfinder allthese things are already taken care of and I never stepped foot near a classroom. I can typically get the shot right the first time regardless of the circumbstanes, I do run into trouble when setting up lighting inside though and this is where technical knowledge probably comes in great. I try to read as much as I can about photography but I have found learning through doing is a great way to learn you just need to be concious of what you are doing and not just shooting without purpose..... I also agree with the statement technical knowledge does not make you a great photographer. You could tell me exactly how a camera works but still could not take a great picture if you do not have an eye for it.
  7. The Phototron
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    The Phototron New Member

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    Technical knowledge is not exclusive to classroom learning, books, or researchers. Through experience you can be aware of technical knowledges, you just won't be able to identify them in technical terms. For example as you take pictures, you notice patterns of combination of shutter speed and aperture and the lighting quality that get you a good picture. As you notice these patterns you create your own theories of how to use the camera. The only difference between your theory and ones taught in classrooms, is that your theory is less organized and less coherent.

    Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO are implications of what is going on inside the camera. So by understanding aperture, shutter speed, and ISO you know indirectly how the camera functions.

    To answer you question, technical knowledge is crucial, because it helps you predict how the camera settings will achieve your visualization. But you don't need to learn it directly, you can learn it by trial and error and know them in your own words, and you don't need to learn all of it. But it definitely won't hurt you to know more unless it distracts you from learning composition.
  8. Garbz
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    Garbz New Member

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    You need only enough technical know how to take the picture you want to take in your mind.

    I am somewhat against learning an art in a class. They seem to go beyond telling how to take a picture and start telling what the picture should look like. At least here anyway.
  9. skieur
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    skieur New Member

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    The elements of design in art or composition in photography have not changed in the last half century or more, so I think one needs to be slightly delusional to think that one can totally change or ignore composition and be either successful or artistic in photography.

    skieur
  10. JerryPH
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    JerryPH New Member

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    You can make make good pictures but not great pictures without creativity, but without any level of technical proficiency, no amount of creativity will be possible to express and no pictures of any acceptable level of quality will come out at all.

    This is very much a chicken or the egg situation, IMHO.
  11. abraxas
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    abraxas Active Member

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    If it's something you want to learn, you'll have to get an education one way or another. Which environment do you learn better in; structured and planned, or self initiated study?
  12. Jestev
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    Jestev New Member

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    I think that knowing the technical processes behind the final image is really important to the way I view photography as an art form. It enables me to know exactly what lens would work best in what situation, what this f-stop is going to do to DOF etc.

    Of course, there really is no replacement for experience in the field. You could know everything about how and why something works, but if you don't have experience and creativity it won't matter.
  13. (Ghastly) Krueger
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    (Ghastly) Krueger New Member

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    In most areas a technical knowledge is necessary as well as creativity. Whether you obtain that konwledge formally (books, classes, etc) or empirically it's up to circumstances and personallity.

    I am fascinated by the technical facts (like the chemistry behind the silver halide crystals when exposed to light, or how ans why light is bent in a lens) but have difficulty in transferring this into practical application. Htat's where practice and hands on experience comes into play.
  14. Flash Harry
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    Flash Harry New Member

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    Having been into photography for twenty years while trying to learn as much as I could through hard to understand books before deciding on photography as a career i decided enrolling on a pro photography course would be beneficial.

    What I learned during the course obviously doesn't make me take better shots but what it does do is enable me to understand the requirements of a shot, so rather than just hitting the shutter hoping for a decent capture, thinking beforehand what is needed enables me to get the image in the bag, so yes I do think technical knowledge as well as experience are a prerequisite for a career in this game.

    Working digitally has everyone and their mother thinking they are photographers, with film it was very different, no chimping meant you wouldn't know if you had an exposure at all so the techy side was pretty crucial to setting up a pro business, after all you couldn't charge a client for your services then return to tell him "sorry, but they didn't come out".:grumpy: H
  15. lordson
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    lordson New Member

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    experience is a really important part of it

    i've read hundreds of pages of stuff about photography but when i took my camera out for the first time, there were many hitches with exposure, camera shake, out of focus-ness and all that

    experience is important

    i once took a whole portrait photoshoot with my camera set on MF, and when i looked at the dozens of pictures later, needless to say they were all out of focused just because i forgot to flick the switch to AF. man i was livid. i'll never do that again thats for sure
  16. Flash Harry
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    Flash Harry New Member

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    There's a little circular light inside the viewfinder which comes on once the focus is correct, its at this point you should fully depress the shutter.
    There, told you the technical aspects of this game would come in handy.:lol::lmao::lol: Harry
  17. ksmattfish
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    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    I spend a lot of time viewing the photographs of the "masters". I'm fortunate enough to live near two art museums with some of the largest photography collections in the world: the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art and the Helen Spencer Museum of Art. The Hallmark photography collection is also here, and selections are shown regularly. One of the most fascinating things I've learned by viewing the actual prints is how lousy the technical skills of some of these famous photographers were. Pick any popular list of the top ten best photos of all time. It would be easy to spend all day picking apart the technical flaws. Yet even without technical perfection these photographers and their photographs created something greater than themselves that live on as important images throughout history, society, and the art world.

    A classic example is Diane Arbus. She's one of my favorite photographers, but after seeing several touring exhibits of her work, and the prints in the collections I mentioned above, it's obvious to me that her truly special talent was with her manner of interacting with her subjects. Her camera and darkroom technical skills appear to be no more accomplished than most photography students. In fact, I wouldn't be comfortable giving work of a similar technical quality to a photography instructor or my clients. Yet her body of work contains masterpieces, and photographs that people will wonder over many years from now (if the fixer doesn't eat them up, she apparently wasn't big on archival washing).

    I have a friend who's been photographing since she was a child. When I use terms like "aperture" and "stop" and "depth of field" and "18% gray" she doesn't understand what I'm talking about. She does almost all of her photography with old, mechanical cameras with no auto-features, and processes and prints much of her work in her own darkroom. Looking at her photographs it's obvious she has a very complete understanding of these concepts. She just doesn't have the technical vocabulary.

    Here's a quote from one of my favorite photographers. His work is very technically accomplished. When people say there is something special about silver gelatin prints that no other process can match, they are talking about prints like Harry Callahan's photographs. Of course 99% of the silver gelatin prints I've seen come no where close.

    "The mystery isn't in the technique, it's in each of us." -Harry Callahan

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