The Digital Journalist
If You're a Professional Photographer
January 2007

by James Colburn

If you're a professional photographer you really ought to have bookmarked in your Web browser of choice. A photographer and cartoonist named Aaron Johnson produces some pretty damn hilarious things on a regular, if not scheduled, basis.

Then again…

If you are a professional photographer you have probably spent many years trying to get things right. You've paid lots of money for expensive cameras and try to use only top-of-the-line lenses. Maybe you were a Leica fanatic until the pressure of the market forced you into the world of digital. Nobody's paying for film and processing anymore anyway…

Since making the switch to digital you may have changed or "traded up" three or four times already, going from a four- to a six-megapixels camera, then to an eight-megapixel one, and you may have recently gone through yet another money-losing round of camera swapping to finally get to something in the 12-megapixel range. Now you're happy. You have finally reached film quality.

If you're lucky you've been able to use the same lenses for some time, unless your camera-of-choice has a smaller than full-frame sensor. If that's the case you've had to buy yet another brace of lenses so that you can "go wide." Maybe your latest camera has a full-frame sensor and you've had to dump your small-sensor lenses in favor of a few really nice, really fast prime lenses. All this to keep on photography's cutting edge in terms of quality.

Then there's your computer equipment. Not for you the 6-year-old Power Mac with a megabyte of RAM, no sir. You have a dual processor machine with lots of RAM, a huge hard drive and a big screen. You shoot your files RAW to squeeze that last, extra bit of quality out of them and when it comes time to batch process 400 RAW files into the JPEGs that your client needs your little uber-machine speeds through those files like lightning.


Why the hell have you spent all that money and all that time making sure that the pictures that you present to the world are the tightest, sharpest, highest resolution images possible?

Beats me. The world doesn't care. The average consumer couldn't give a rat's ass about picture quality. I've just come back from (yet another) trip to Europe and I noticed something right away when I walked anywhere. Everyone is taking their pictures with a cell phone. A crappy little cell phone producing crappy little files that they send to their friends and relatives to say, "See? I was there!"

If it's not some crappy little phone it's some crappy little point-and-shoot camera the size of a matchbook that probably produces a crappy little file. Since they want to get the most pictures possible onto the 64Mb SD card that came with the camera they've set it to the lowest possible resolution and the highest possible JPEG compression. They tell all their friends that they "can get more than 300 pictures on the card" and don't care that each file is 4 inches x 6 inches x 72dpi because, after all, who wants a print bigger than that anyway? They're sure that the nice man at Wal-Mart can do something with Photoshop if they need something bigger.

Holding the camera steady? Forget about it.

You, as a professional, have four tripods and a couple of monopods to make sure that your camera and lens are as stable as possible but Mr. And Mrs. Average over there hold their crappy little cameras at arm's length in gale force wind because the eyesight's getting a little bad and the tiny little TV screen on the back of their crappy little camera is kind of hard to see and they don't even realize that there's a viewfinder on their crappy little camera that only shows half of the picture anyway so what good is that so they just hold the camera out there with one hand and use their other hand to shade the tiny little TV screen on the back of their crappy little camera and they don't notice that the thing jumps about three inches every time they press the shutter release and why the hell do those crappy little cameras produce that shutter sound anyway because it's only a recording of a REAL camera but it makes them feels good that their crappy little cameras sounds JUST LIKE the expensive one that that professional used at last month's wedding and didn't HE charge an arm and a leg for taking those pictures that THEY could have taken with their crappy little camera if only their niece had ASKED them to be the wedding photographer because what's the big deal now that everyone is shooting digital pictures and everything is done in Photoshop anyway so if your picture doesn't look THAT good you can always take one of the picture of the wife that you took at last month's wedding and 'Photoshop' her into one of the sharp pictures of the Eiffel Tower that you downloaded from a Web site that only charges 25 cents for a VERY nice picture….

Oh, never mind.

© James Colburn
Contributing Writer