On Camera Intelligence and the Decline of Our Sense of Photography

Well with the “our” in the title I mean the large majority. Not you! Thing is, today’s cameras promise better and better images. Much of “modern” photography that is dictated by functions and presets, however, leaves photographers less connected with their subjects/objects and more dependent on “interpretations” of them. The uniqueness of a photograph gets lost in the multifaceted world of contemporary digital in-camera and post-shooting image processing. Not that celluloid film delivers a more authentic photography, but a less manipulated one.

As photographers, we’re connecting less with others these days. All these new camera innovations alter photography dramatically. We’re not even focused on our subjects/objects anymore, but on that LCD screen reviewing shots while missing out on other photo opps. Question though is, what are we sacrificing in a world of intelligent imaging technology by replacing parts of our brain with the dependance on buttons and functions?

Nah, photography is not in a state of dying, but if we continue down this path our sense of photography is. But “intelligent cameras” that simplify and facilitate photography at the same time distance the photographer from photography because the photographer’s inherent sensory receptors are replaced by algorithms that base an exposure on probability calculation rather than the sense of creating a good photograph.

Too much technology might endanger the skill to really "see" as a photographer.
Too much technology might endanger the skill to really “see” as a photographer.

It’s like with all those gadgets that drastically change our social lives. Couples are not even having time anymore for much intimacy. The preferred toys in bed have a screen. Technology replaces sex. Over time, we distance ourselves from others. We’re strangely “alone together” by moving away from enjoying each other’s presence.

Same goes for “intelligent” cameras. They might produce excellent results that look even better than when we have to be in control of aperture, shutter speed and the selection of focal length. But these jack-of-all-trades cameras separate us from, well, photography. All we’re focused at is the reviewing screen and those buttons and endless menu. And while we’re hypnotized by playing back images, we just miss out on potentially great shots.

Don’t get me wrong, I love innovation, but I despise paternalism. When we study the relationship between people and technology, we can’t deny that technology changes our ways of seeing ourselves and the world. We seem to see more and be aware of more, but in fact we’re using “robot technology” to simplify life that in the end makes us think and behave and become like robots.

It’s frightening to see really how technology can lead to the loss of an honest and deep sense of reality — as this sense of reality gets subverted and replaced with the illusion of a fictitious, virtual, maybe more beautiful but surely less real reality.

Again, and this is THEME’s untiring line, as photographers why not stick to the basics.

Cover that LCD screen with tape. Work the aperture and shutter speed dial. Take your time. Try to see. Connect. Interact. Shooting from the hip at random? That’s like shooting with a sawed-off shotgun. You can’t miss, but the yield is a matter of luck and not skill.

Amen to that.