Monday, September 8, 2008

Learning Curves

When my interest in photography began (about 30 years ago), I told a friend that I wanted to read as much as possible on the subject. He reappeared a few days later with the biggest single pile of photography magazines I had ever seen in one place (and to this day, still have yet to see - including any magazine store you care to mention). His uncle had been storing the magazines for several years, and his aunt had finally issued the "they go or I do" ultimatum. My friends' uncle was assured that they had gone to a good home.

I read those magazines from cover to cover, one by one, and then I read them again. What I found was that some articles used technical language that I didn't understand, so I had to find out the meaning of say: "depth of field" or "focal length" or "aperture" before I could fully understand the context in which it was being used. I did that, mainly, by reading through the magazine "problem pages", where photographers would write in and ask "what is the best focal length for portraits?", or "how do I keep the landscape sharp from front to back?" or "how do I tell my girlfriend that I'm Gay?" (wrong magazine, sorry!)

Later on, when I began a university teaching career, I came across the phrase "pre-requisite knowledge", which basically refers to the idea that in order to understand a certain subject, the student would have to study something else first.

From what I see on some photography forums, the importance of "pre-requisite knowledge" is lost on some beginning photographers - especially those working with the digital medium. They write things like:

"I see interpolation on my image, but I haven't increased the image size" (no, you don't - "interpolation" means increasing the image size, maybe you see "noise"?) and:

"When I convert a RAW image to 8-bit TIFF in Canon's Digital Photo Professional (software), it comes only to about 35MB. Photoshop (software) is only just as good. A 16-bit TIFF on the other hand is around 69MB." (Yes. First of all, one software package will produce the same size 8 bit image as another - why wouldn't it, it's the same image - and, secondly a 16 bit image file is about twice the size as an 8 bit one, so the overall size will be increased by that amount).

It strikes me that these questions would not have been asked if the photographers had read around a bit more. But, no they seem to want instant answers, and instant solutions. Good photography, whilst it may be digital, is certainly not achieved instantly.

Get on the learning curve - you never know, you might learn something!

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