Just pressing a button

in Editorial/Opinion by

I love photography. Photography is an art, one that I have been practicing since I was five. I began shooting with a 35mm camera. I did not get my first digital camera until I was 14. Moving from film to digital was a very interesting experience. Like a lot of people who have used a digital camera, I loved that I could see the photograph that I just took right away. No longer did I have to wait for my film to come back from being processed. I knew right away if I had a good photograph.

Now in the digital age anyone who buys a camera and sets it to auto thinks they are a photographer. All you have to do is press a button. This mindset did exist back in the days of film with Kodak’s slogan of “You Press the Button, We Do the Rest.”

That is what most people think photography is, you press a button and the camera does the rest. Then there is the idea that the more expensive the camera you buy, the better your press of the button will be.

I am by no means a master photographer. I am still in awe at photographs I see from some of my favorite photographers. There is so much that goes in to capturing a great photograph then most people think.

I keep saying photograph and not picture, and that is because of what my first photography professor taught me in my first photography class. He showed us a series of images. We were told to explain which images we liked and why. Among them were some Pulitzer Prize wining photographs as well as some images from a used car site. People cited reasons for why they liked certain images because of technical skill of course but mostly because of they emotion they felt, or that x-factor that they could not explain. That was the difference between a picture and a photograph. Anyone can take a picture; few can create a photograph.

Very few photographs have been created from just the press of the button. When I am out taking photographs, thousands of thoughts are going through my head about capturing that one photograph. Things such as always taking note of the direction of the main source of light, the quality of light, angle I am shooting, what I anticipate will happen, and so many more than I can list here. You have to consider all of that in the split second you have to take a photo before the opportunity is gone.

It can be hard to be a photographer. I have been in dangerous environments to capture a photograph–conditions such as freezing rain, almost being tackled by a rugby player, and rushing to a crime scene after hearing reports of shots fired and not knowing what the situation is.

Photography is so much more then pressing a button. Being able to create something that is compelling, stirring up powerful emotions, and telling a story from just one photograph that is technically composed is a powerful thing.

I have been out on assignment many times where people have seen my photographs and said that if they had a camera like mine, they could do the same thing I do. So I will hand them my camera, and tell them to prove it. Almost every time they will take a couple shots look at theirs then look back at mine again, then hand me my camera back without saying a word.

Being able to create a compelling photograph is no more the result of the camera than being able to make fine cuisine by a chief is the result of his oven.