Tuesday 19 July 2011

Camera Mods and Hacks

Digital camera manufacturers make cameras for all kinds of photography, especially the sort that is about record-keeping, advertisement or portraying a message in as simple a way as possible. Their job is to make their cameras as perfect as possible: to make them take pictures that can be measured scientifically to be as accurate and faithful to the scene in front of them and to remove the quirks that cameras in the bad-old-days used to produce irritatingly often.

Cameras are now very good, and in particular are excellent at giving us smooth gradations of tone on an LCD computer screen. With a few tweaks in one's favourite photoshop we can all look like we live in the smooth perfect world where film actors and actresses live and no-one ever has a single hair out of place. (I prefer the Gimp by the way, but "to photoshop" is now the accepted verb for the activity of editing in even the Gimp.)

For photography for advertising (even self-advertising) or for record and photo-journalistic uses, this is exactly what we want from our cameras. But for photography for art, especially photography that aims to make an old-fashioned printed picture that goes on a wall in our house or in a gallery, the "perfect" quality of the digital camera is lacking in exactly those little features and quirks that can bring it to life.

Of course, this is nothing new. Even film cameras were being pushed towards the end of their heydays towards the perfect machines for advertising. It's just that the digital revolution has taken this a bit further.

These pages are about how to tweak a camera - any camera, digital or film - back to producing pictures that might grace a art gallery as something special in terms of its quality of tones, textures, or something else. That's not to belittle the work of photojournalists, advertising photographers, or any other kind of photography. But these web pages are about a different kind of photography where the process of taking and making a picture is slowed down to enhance the qualities of the tones and marks on the image themselves.


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