Photography advice for my younger self

I was looking through some of my older photos taken with digital cameras before 2005, and boy were they bad. From the perspective of subject, composition, focal length, lighting, etc, they were pretty bad.

I also noticed how few photos I took. How was I going to get any better if I hardly ever photographed anything? I spend more effort acquiring gear than I did taking pictures.

And technically, they were also pretty bad. Old digital cameras (tiny sensor cameras, back then I couldn’t justify buying an APS-C digital camera, and full-frame digital didn’t exist or was insanely expensive) were pretty awful compared to modern digital cameras.

But if I had any advice for my old self, it would be:

1. Take lots and lots of pictures. Every week, as many as possible, of as many different subjects as possible.

2. Look at a lot of photos taken by other people, and learn to distinguish the good from the crappy pictures, because if you can’t identify those qualities in other people’s photos, then you probably can make your own good pictures. (But don’t tell someone who posts a crappy picture how crappy it is, that just gets people pissed off and doesn’t help you.)

3. Don’t worry about whether the quality of your gear is good or bad. Until you spend at least a year or two taking a lot of photos, you won’t take any good photos anyway, so it doesn’t matter if they have digital noise or aren’t sharp or have low resolution. A lousy photo taken with the best gear is still a lousy photo.

Especially don’t worry about gear in 2017. Even the cheapest Canon DSLR that sells for less than $400 has far better quality than 35mm film.

Things I hate on Instagram, part 3: people who post zillions of photos

I hate it when people post huge numbers of photos to the same tag. Post one photo, two a day at the most. Give other people an opportunity to have their photos seen.

Instagram could fix this problem of obnoxious user behavior by placing a limit on how many photos you see from a particular user if they post too many photos with the same tag. Instagram could also give us the ability to hide a particular user whom we never want to see again. Instagram could put some limits (or stricter limits than currently exist) on how many tags you can add to a single photo.

While the people who run Instagram could do these things, for reasons unknown to me, they choose not to.

Shamed by an older woman

I used my small and light M.Zuiko 9-18mm lens to take this picture, from the High Line. And while walking around the High Line, I passed by an older woman, old enough to be my mother, carrying a DSLR with a really huge lens, probably a full-frame f/2.8 zoom. Obviously, I was very wimpy to complain that the M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 is too heavy when an older woman carries around a lens twice as big and heavy.

Perhaps that’s why Olympus cameras aren’t popular in America, American men are too macho to carry small cameras while their womenfolk carry huge full-frame DSLRs.

In Japan, where Olympus cameras are popular, the smallest Olympus PEN cameras are especially popular with women. This is not the case in the United States, where women more commonly gravitate to Canon DSLRs, and alternate brands like Olympus, Sony, and Fuji are disproportionately favored by men. (Hey, just an observation, don’t shoot the observer.)

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This picture was taken from a crowded tourist area, the High Line park, so this alley has probably been photographed a huge number of times, making any photograph at best non-unique and at worst a cliché.

Japanese love Olympus and sunflowers

Olympus is a brand that’s not that popular with photographers in the United States. So when you visit the #Olympus tag at Instagram, you will notice that the majority of photos are posted by Japanese photographers.

One thing I learned about the Japanese from Instagram is that they love taking pictures of flowers, and in the month of August, their favorite flower is the sunflower. Who knew that sunflowers were so popular in Japan? Here’s an article at English-language Japan Monthly Web Magazine: Sunflower Fields Colors [sic] Summer in Japan. Yes, sunflowers are really big in Japan, no pun intended.

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I’m pretty sure that the eighties song “Turning Japanese” by the Vapors is a reference to the then-stereotype of camera-toting Japanese tourists obsessively taking pictures. I prefer the original song, but the 2009 cover has a much better music video starring Kirsten Dunst.

Things I hate on Instagram, part 2: ads and nag messages

After Facebook took over, of course they started ruining things with their capitalistic greed. Now we see annoying ads in the stream of new photos that people we follow posted.

And the nag screens: the app will nag you to verify your email address (so they can spam you with email) and nag you to turn on notifications so the app can bug you even when you’re not using it (so that you increase your engagement and view more ads).

Big thumbs down to Mark Zuckerberg. He’s already worth $70 billion, how much richer does he have to be? Give us an ad-free nag-free app, you can afford it.