Farewell, Photography

Update: I couldn’t stay away for long. That, and I conquered the sharpness gremlins plaguing my experience with the heavily used AF-S DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G VR.

Farewell, Photography

We had a good thing going for eight years or so, but it’s time now to bring it to a halt.

Back when I started, I had no dearth of time to give to myself and I had no one but myself to spend money on. It was meant to be all for fun, nothing serious.

Somewhere along the way, things became different. I still find some time but can’t give it to myself without some sense of guilt being felt or implied. I still have money but spending it on something that no one other than me values doesn’t seem to be sensible any more. The fun is still there but seriously, there’s too much disappointment to make it worthwhile.

Back when I started, digital cameras used to be rubbish. It took the right kind of knowledge and tools to make a picture look good. But if you had the right equipment and knowledge and tools, your photo could stand head and shoulders above the average in terms of IQ (Image Quality). That alone used to bring about a sense of achievement. Now though, you can’t achieve anything noticeable with just a good camera and a computer because digital cameras have matured. They all make stellar pictures compared to what the average camera captured in the previous decade.

Now that’s a really good thing for photography in general. It’s become more accessible to everyone and the general quality of photographs is increasing every year. Having access to a camera on the phones is also giving a lot of people a lot of practice. But herein lies a problem. Being a photography/camera buff today is like being an audiophile in the 80s – back then, good sets of

speakers used to be rare and very expensive. Now the average consumer-grade speakers can reproduce a pin drop to a thunderous explosion with equal clarity and there are credentials – THX, Dolby, what-have-you – to help recognise their capability. You don’t need to be an audiophile to find a good sounding set of speakers. Just get a middle-of-the-price-range set with some fancy stamps and 495 of 500 of your friends will approve of it.

Now you might be thinking, hang on a minute, that analogy is bunkum. An audiophile doesn’t create music, he just consumes it. A photographer on the other hand creates something. True, that, but only to an extent. There are two types of photographer. One who shoots what he sees, and the other who makes something worth seeing. I would be monumentally dishonest if I, for a moment, claim that I am a photographer of the latter type.

So, all said and done, my photographs are only as good as my equipment and what I shoot.

And that’s a big problem.

If I need my pictures to improve I’d either need to improve my equipment or I’d need to find something better to shoot. Now, I have two class-leading cameras (Sony RX100, Nikon D7100) so I am quite far down the curve of diminishing returns. Yes, my pictures would look better with a Nikon D800 and 16-35mm f/4 Nikkor or a Sony A7r with 24-70mm f/4 ZA or some such combination of full frame body with an exotic lens. But how many of my 500 friends be able to tell the difference? 5, I reckon.

So, let’s look at the other bit – what I shoot. Unfortunately for me, I don’t find anything that I shot in the last 6 years worth hanging on my walls. I’m just guessing here, but I think it’s because I’ve only shot common tourist locations in India. India is great, it’s beautiful and colourful and… for me, it’s all the usual stuff. People like photographs of stuff that’s different from the usual. I still find pictures that I clicked 7 years ago in California or 6 years ago in London to be better than anything else that came after that.

All in all, we’ve come to a point where I am thoroughly unimpressed with my photographs and I have no more willingness to throw the requisite time or money at it.

Not at this time.

And that’s not OK, because I can’t bear with myself doing a half-assed job of it, on and on and on.

So I must stop.

5 thoughts on “Farewell, Photography”

  1. You do echo something I have felt too.

    However, being able to get the best image quality need not be a goal. What you are able to produce as a photographer may be utter rubbish (not that it is; I for one admire what you do), or others might be getting better results, or the exclusivity may be gone…

    None of these is a reason to give up something you love as much as photography.

    Hang in there. We all go through the lean phases. Keep going. Keep clicking. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t buy any new gear (I sound silly now, having bought some two days back) if you don’t want to. But keep calm and carry on clicking. Do it to relax, not to compete (with yourself or others).

    I’ll end the “sermon” here, but do let me know if you want to chat about this sometime.

    1. Do it to relax, not to compete (with yourself or others).

      That’s the problem. I can’t take pictures without thinking what could/would have made them better. Even if I could, they would still not be the things or places I aspire to photograph.

      1. Then go find the things or places you aspire to photograph. It is frustrating, no doubt. Even when I had the things I wanted to photograph in front of me, most of the times it is my ability that hampers me from capturing the moment/ beauty. Looking back at my archives, I can clearly see the rare times when I was able to do that and it encourages me to keep going in search of that feeling.

        Also, I’ve noticed that what I like the most from my own work
        (for instance: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vipulmathur/sets/72157603814286862/ )
        doesn’t always match what is popular, or “interesting” to others. Usually, it is what the picture reminds me of/ makes me feel, that is interesting, not the content/ technical quality itself.

        It is good to think about what could have made the picture better, but
        not to a point that it paralyzes you into not clicking. Throw it away
        later if you have to.

        Shake it off! Keep clicking. It is okay it hit a boring low lull. But keep clicking.

  2. I went back and read this again. The other scope for improvement (apart from your equipment and what you shoot) is your shooting technique (for instance composition, lighting, etc.)

    Not that your technique is bad, but it is another area that you could work on apart from the ones you list, to achieve the results you want.

    1. I am aware of that as well, but it’s still something that requires time and effort that I don’t want to expend any more.

      To put it in another way, photography as a venture has now become ROI negative for me. I don’t get anything out of it, nor does anyone else.

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