Commentary # 7 ~ August 2007
Previous Commentaries
back to the main page

Learning to Appreciate the "Point and Shoot" Photographer

August 2007

- by Craig Wassel

In a previous commentary "A Photography Blog about Phototgraphy Blogs" (link), I noted how leaps forward in technology has lead to the ubiquity of digital cameras. It's not exactly going out on a limb to make that statement, but I read sales forecasts in PhotoTrade News (link) that definitely puts a ruler to it. Canon projects to sell 3 million DSLR's and 24 million point and shoots in 2007, and Nikon projects to sell 2.5 million DSLR's and 10 million point and shoots. Wow. That is a combined 5.5 million new Canon and Nikon DSLR's in the hands of consumers, and a combined 39.5 million new digital cameras just between these two brands.

Did I say "wow" already? That's right, I did . . .

Now - shooters of Olympus, Pentax, etc. - please don't send me hate mail. As I have said before, I have never met a camera I didn't like; I don't spend time coming up with performance specs to show one piece of gear is better than another. Just read "Only the Journey Matters" (link) if you are unsure where I stand on equipment opinions. Now that we have that out of the way . . . .

You would think that these projections would be viewed as good news. The photography industry is fairly healthy. I am sure camera manufacturers are happy, but when did strong sales forecasts ever make a company unhappy? So who are the unhappy people? It's actually many photographers who cringe over the thought of digital cameras being everywhere. Why? I think photographer and writer Ctein hit the nail squarely on the head, and drove it perfectly flush to the wood with one blow: many photographers are extremely insecure. You can read his full blog here (link). They fear not being taken seriously as artists, and fear that the masses armed with pocket sized digital cameras can now do and will now do exactly what they do - almost like the belief of some cultures that having your picture taken results in a stolen soul.

If you have any doubts Ctein drove that nail perfectly, consider (if you know one) or imagine (if you don't know one) one of the militant photographer types who dislikes the site of a point and shoot digital camera. Now imagine their attitude when they see an "amateur" with a shiny new DSLR. It drives them crazy, even turning dislike into hate.

Now I am going to be completely honest. Yes, it bothers me a little bit sometimes too, but only when I suspect someone has sold them on the idea that the better quality pictures their DSLR delivers will translate into better photographs. Too often, the buyer takes that new camera out of the box, sets it on full auto, and begins taking pictures but makes no photographs. Noteworthy photographers through the generations have explained the distinction between taking pictures and making photographs, and I am echoing that point as many others continue to do today. One of the best things that ever happened to me was not getting the fancy new automatic SLR I pined for when I was eleven. My late father wouldn't buy it for me, and it had nothing to do with cost. Instead, he bought a manual rangefinder for my first good camera. It was manual aperture, manual shutter speed, manual focus, manual metering. Manual everything. He simply told me, " . . . I'm not buying you an automatic as your first camera. You are going to learn depth of field, aperture, and all the fundementals . . . blah blah blah . . . ".

Another nail hit squarely on the head. I still have that "once hated" and "now loved" camera even though the aperture ring is presently broken. Sure, there are sentimental reasons to keep it, but I intend to get it fixed someday soon and continue to photograph with it.

All that said, though, I don't get bent completely out of shape when I see someone using a DSLR as an expensive point and shoot camera. Really. Some buy them because they are or have become serious about photography and want the convenience of digital and flexiblity of an SLR. But their prices have dropped so much that a far more common buyer has emerged: the picture taker who wants the immediate shutter response simple point and shoots cannot deliver. My father in law came very close to buying an entry level DSLR after he picked up my pro DSLR and gave it a try. He nearly dropped it, laughing in astonishment when he pressed the shutter release like he is used to doing on his point and shoot and the camera responded with 4 frames in one second. Why is that kind of response tempting him if he is not a professional? We gave him three grandkids. Say no more, right?

It goes beyond a live and let live attitude, though. I am truly and sincerely thankful for all those "point and shoot" picture takers. Why? Here is an analogy: A Corvette is a relatively expensive car (MSRP starts at $44,000), yet there are many people who drive them and it is not uncommon to see one. Stop to consider that Chevorlet makes many other models like the Cobalt that cost far less (MSRP starts at $14,000), and many more people buy those than buy the Corvette. Now, if Chevrolet only made Corvette's, how much do you think one would cost? Surely they would cost far more, and far fewer people who love them could afford them. Continuing the car analogy - try to find a Maserati that starts at $14,000. You won't. In fact, you won't find one for less than $100,000.

The same goes for cameras. You can buy a $199.00 Canon, Nikon, Olympus, etc, but you can't buy a Hasselblad for that price. The lack of "consumer" line of cameras isn't the only reason Hasselblads are expensive, but the fact is that other manufacturers who do have consumer lines can and do use those sales to help hold down the cost of their pro models. So I am thankful because I know very well that without all those point and shoot and entry level DSLR sales, my pro level equipment would be far more expensive than it already is. It might even be completely beyond my means.

As if that is not reason enough to to be thankful for them, look at how economically you can pick up film SLR's now. Even many pros who have decided to convert over to all digital and have parted with their old gear have created an availability of moderately priced pro film SLR's.

Whether you are a "picture taker" or a "photograph maker", appreciate each other and the journey.

The "photograph makers" are the teachers, but also can still learn that maybe the "picture takers" make more possible for them than they ever stopped to realize. I think their photographic souls are safe from being stolen, too.

"We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us."

~ Ralph Hattersley ~

To Subscribe to These Commentaries, Click Below:


Random Monochromes

" . . . I am thankful because I know very well that without all those point and shoot and entry level DSLR sales, my pro level equipment would be far more expensive than it already is. It might even be completely beyond my means . . . "

© All content Copyright 1978-2012 Craig Wassel Photography ©