Look around your local high street nowadays and the chances are you’ll see someone taking a photograph. Just fifteen or twenty years ago, taking pictures was a hobby and an expensive one at that. Nowadays we carry our own personal cameras around with us at all times, on tablets and smart phones, and we don’t have to worry about buying film roles but can produce images digitally at the click of a button.
This change has revolutionised photography around the world. Technology has made it more prevalent and more immediate. You can take a digital photo in Australia and send it your friends in the UK in just a matter of seconds. You can post on social media, have your own dedicated album on sites such as Flickr and send pics via text message.
No Longer an Elite Hobby
The days when your dad was the one who with the camera and only brought it out on special occasions have long gone. Photography has been democratised. It’s become second nature and we’re starting to get pretty good at it. There are still those who invest in proper digital SLRs and the price of these has come down dramatically in the last decade or so. But with camera phones now producing high quality images, you can also take great pictures without spending too many of your hard earned pennies.
More Pictures Than Ever
A survey following the royal wedding when Will and Kate got hitched a few years back, estimated that there would be some 327 million pictures taken relating to the event on digital cameras. If that’s not a staggering figure, then how about this: Last year we were uploading and sharing over 2 billion photos a day on Facebook. Hark back a hundred years or so and you were likely to get one family photo during a lifetime, if you could afford it.
Making the News
Photography has always been a big part of our daily news. Media sites are increasingly using photos from bystanders when big stories break. Gone are the days when a professional photographer had to be sent at great expense to a particular location when something news worthy happened. Immediate images are available and normal people are taking them. It’s changed the way our news is presented and means we get more information because, whatever is happening, people are eager to get out their smartphones.
A Permanent Record
There’s no doubt that photography has always been a powerful tool. Over the years it has provided us with some of the most enduring images that define our time. In the 50s it brought us screen icons such as Marilyn Munroe, the 60s were defined by popular music and the Beatles, the 70s by scenes of war and dislocation in Vietnam.
Without these images seared onto photographic paper our lives would undoubtedly be less rich. The fact that we have so much more nowadays hasn’t diluted that effect. There are still hugely influential images that reach out to us from web pages and television screens on a daily basis.
We’ll take photos of just about anything nowadays. People are not shy about getting their cameras out at the dinner table and taking pictures of restaurant food. A quick look at the crowd at any major sporting event will show various people posed with their smartphones taking a quick snap. On holiday, at a party, walking down the street, even in the bathroom, we’re never too far away from our camera.
While we’re perhaps not buying as many digital SLRs as we used to, many of us are also taking an interest in creating great photos rather than just hasty and blurred shots. We’re getting into proper framing and finding the right angle, experimenting more to make our images interesting. We don’t just want to take throwaway images anymore; we want something that impresses.
The Rise of the Selfie
One phenomenon that has exploded in recent years is the selfie. People taking pictures of themselves. From everyday folk to famous celebrities and politicians, it seems we’re all at it. The watershed came when the forward facing camera came onto the market and there’s been no let-up since.
Call it vanity or a bit of harmless fun, the chances are that the selfie is here to stay.
The End of the Professional Photographer?
Well not quite. Taking a good photo is more than just pointing your smartphone and clicking the button. As with many art forms, having a good eye and an understanding of how light and composition work makes the difference between an ordinary photo and one that stays in the memory for a long time.
What We Take Photos of
With a camera almost permanently in our pockets, it’s no wonder that we are taking more photos. But what are we actually taking pictures of? Well, you won’t be surprised to find that we mostly go for images or family and friends, particularly at a party or on a night out. We also like our cameras with us on holiday and landscapes are still pretty much a favourite and sunsets in particular top of the list. And most of us are still disappointed with the results of the images we take.
Learning to Take Better Photos
Whether you have a smartphone camera or something more professional like a bridge or DSLR, taking great pictures isn’t just about pointing and shooting. Teaching yourself to look at the world with a photographer’s eye is a skill well worth developing even if you have your camera on auto settings. It’s about picking the right moment when you take an image and framing it within the screen so that you get the most impact.
Enrolling on a good photography course is a great idea if you want to improve your technique and get some sound advice from the experts.
We’ve come a long way in the last decade or so and it will be interesting to see how photography develops in the future. No doubt the technology will get better and cheaper. And no doubt we’ll all still be taking snaps and producing stunning images for some time to come.