Photography has gone through many evolutionary stages from it’s earliest inception in the 1830s to todays current format. The staple photography format at this moment in time is of course digital photography. It has become increasingly easy for anybody to take a picture and share it with the world instantly. Some may argue this is a good thing others may not, but this is not the blog that will be discussing this. Instead this blog will discuss the merits and downfalls of the three types of photographic processes in the title. It will discuss which is the best, my own opinion of course, and as somebody who is relatively new to photography as an art my opinion will not be based on nostalgia. There are obviously other forms of photography and processing but they will be discussed at a later date.
The mission statement on Instagram’s own website claims that it is a ‘fast, beautiful and fun way to share photos with friends and family.’ And this is exactly what Instagram does. The simplicity of its use to take a photo with an iPhone or similar, apply a filter and post onto social network sites such as Facebook or Twitter is the major selling point of Instagram. The question is, does it do the art of photography justice? You can scroll through hundreds of photos that use the application and they all look the same: Teenager/ group of them plus sepia filter and you have the majority of what Instagram has delivered to the world. Not exactly an inspiring group of images.
There are, however, several people who have used Instagram to show of some good skills. Many of them found on this website this slide show also shows how the instant photo craze can bring some interesting results, not found from any other source. So do I think Instagram is a viable form of photographic art? Yes. But not enough. This is the simple answer. Millions of people us the program, only a very few use it to produce something others want to look at. Does it matter? No. Instagram is not meant as a form of art and purely as a way to show of photos quickly. The filter part is a bit of fun, not really a good way of achieving what it does, photo manipulation programs are a much better way of doing this.
So this brings us to photo manipulation, and what is in my opinion the best thing to happen to photography for a long time. Programs such as Adobe Photoshop have given many people the opportunity to create art in a brilliant way. Whether it is just slightly improving a photograph by balancing colours or completely changing it into something fantastical, flickr is full of amazing photos that have been created on Photoshop (or other similar programs). The problem with photo manipulation is by default the manipulation part, and in my opinion this does not do any harm with minor changes or huge obvious ones. The problem comes with subtle changes that alter the viewers perception of the photograph to positively change their view of a product being advertised. I will give an example of all three instances. Firstly, minor changes; this is when the photographer or editor remove blemishes, slightly change skin tones to the models usual appearance. For instance shooting may take place on a cold day, weird lighting or other skin colour changing circumstances. In this instance small changes to the tone may just warm the photograph and make it better but not fake. Other examples may include rashes or blemishes of the skin that are not usually there, and this is the main point about minor changes, they should not change part of the characteristics of the model. Huge changes are easier to explain, giving somebody bat wings or making it look like books are flying out of somebodies head are obvious changes and as such just add to the overall effect of a photo. The problem comes with the subtle changes, mainly used in advertising and media over the last few years. Mascara adverts digitally enhancing the length of eye lashes, dieting adverts literally rubbing out bits of models to make them look slimmer. The same thing happens in glamour shoots, making the women look more pleasing to the majority of viewers. What is wrong with this? Two main things to be precise, forcing people to aspire to a fake body image (something which will be looked at in future blogs) and the fact that the advertisers are just lying to us. Both of which are unacceptable. This gives photo manipulation a bad name that it often does not deserve. To see some hilarious Photoshop fails, click here
So we eventually come onto the innocent art of film photography, in this blog I will have little to say about film apart from a few main points. Firstly it is by far the most difficult of the three processes, especially if you develop the photographs yourself, it is expensive and time consuming, and on top of all that the picture may come out as nothing but sun glare. All is not lost for film however, as in my opinion at least, it can yield some of the best results out of the three. Now I am not going to get into the technical side of film photography, partly because it is not needed in this blog but also because it is very complicated and I do not understand the full process behind it, and would not like to pretend that I do. What I will say however is one good film picture can make you feel more proud than 100 quick snaps of a digital camera. Some photographers will disagree with this, many of the better digital photographs circulating have taken hours to produce, days on occasion and a quick browse of flickr or Facebook (specifically that of artists such as ElouCarroll) will show you the final product of hours of hard work. My favourite photos overall are digital, but the effort that goes into film photography adds an entire other dimension to the photographs. Secondly, do not be fooled by film photography, it can me manipulated, double exposures and other effects can give ghostly results and trick your mind into seeing what it wants you to see.
Overall I would say all three forms of processing all have a place, Instagram is the new social media way of showing the world what you are about, whether that be trend setter or unquestioning follower. Photo manipulation, just like photography itself, is an art to master but can be used to trick and deceive. Film is in my opinion the hardest of the three to use well but the gratification once done can often outweigh digital editing in both forms. Personally in my small folder of work photo manipulation is my favourite and yielded best results, and I am not a user of Instagram, but I see its place and only see it growing in the future. Film I am sad to say seems to be only in the hands of the aficionados now with its best mate vinyl records.
By Tom Rigg