Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thought Of The Day: Medium Format To Be Successful?

I read a blog post written by photographer Mark Dubovoy, and I disagreed with most of what he said.

This is not a criticism against Mark or his art, but I think he missed the mark (pun intended) with his post.

"My theory is that one of the main characteristics of successful photographs is that they contain something that was unseen by the observer before the photograph was exhibited," Mark writes.

He uses that statement to springboard to a discussion about the superiority of medium format cameras.

"What I like to call Hyper-Reality is the ability to show detail, dynamic range, color, depth of field and fine tonalities that either exceed the human eye or are so far above what the eye/brain system expects that it has basically the same effect as seeing the unseen for the first time."

That is all well and good. I don't think anyone doubts that medium format cameras have exceptional resolution. But Mark seems to have a snobbish attitude about it.

He makes a ridiculous comparison (in which many of the details are left out), showing two "identical" photographs taken with two different cameras. One camera is medium format, the other is not.

The photograph taken with the medium format camera is correctly exposed, but lacks much contrast and color saturation. The one not taken with a medium format camera is overexposed, but has good contrast and nice color saturation.

Mark raves about the medium format image and puts down the one that is not medium format.

"There is a huge difference between Image A and Image B," Mark states. "The punchline is that Image B was shot with a Medium Format camera. Image A with a smaller format camera. Let's momentarily put aside the fact that the Medium Format lens is much better. Image B is still clearly superior in every other area, and the visual impact of this is immediate."

The funny thing is I thought the non-medium format image was the better photograph. Granted, it was a half-stop overexposed, but it jumped off the page while the medium format image did not.

Just to make sure, I asked my wife which of the two she liked better. She chose the non-medium format image.

The point that Mark misses is everyone has different styles and tastes. Mark knows his style and his taste and creates photographs that match that. But that does not mean everyone will agree.

The image that he liked I did not, and the one he did not like I did.

Not everyone will find that the most expensive cameras create the best images, or that the least expensive cameras create the worst images.

Not long ago fashion photographer Lee Morris did a photoshoot using his iPhone (instead of his expensive DSLR). He showed the images but did not divulge what camera he used to create them. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and was even told that these were some of the best photographs he had ever taken.

"There are so many photographers who are obsessed with noise, sharpness, color, dynamic range, megapixels, chromatic aberration, moire, distortion, etc.," Lee said. "So many photographers get wrapped up in the technical side that they forget how to take compelling images."

Bingo! The quality of the camera matters much less than the photographer's ability to create something compelling with it. 

Mark added, "What I can say is that an image that does not show the unseen in some form, is highly unlikely to succeed."

Perhaps, Mark. Perhaps we all need medium format cameras to create successful photographs.

Or perhaps an image that does not show the seen in a compelling way, is highly unlikely to succeed--and the camera used to create that image matters not.

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