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If we were to look up a dictionary definition of photography, we might find something along the lines of ‘the act or process of creating images using imaging equipment such as a camera or smartphone, and the subsequent processing of those images’.
That might sound a bit long-winded, but it actually comes nowhere close to fully describing photography and all its elements. So, let’s take a more detailed look at the question, ‘What is Photography?’
If you were to ask 1,000 people to define photography, it is a safe bet that the majority of them would answer something along the lines of capturing images. This is certainly the act from which all other aspects of photography follow on from.
The actual images captured can literally be anything: animal, mineral, vegetable, man, woman, child, baby, single person or crowds, big objects or small, still or moving, alive or dead, colorful or bland, a pre-set scene or random event, of this earth or of a faraway galaxy.
In truth, there is an infinite number of image subjects and scenes that can be photographed. Obviously, there are certain subjects, such as capturing fast action or images of outer space, for example, that require special cameras and other equipment.
However, even with the most basic camera phone, there is an almost limitless potential for the types of photographs that can be taken.
In order to take high-quality photographic images, camera equipment capable of doing so needs to be used.
This will either be a camera with a built-in lens or a camera where the lens is changeable depending on the types of images being taken.
The camera and lens will allow the photographer to make various adjustments which will affect the images. These adjustments can take account of the light conditions, the scene being captured, color, focus, and a whole lot more.
Other equipment such as flashes, filters, tripods, gimbals, and soft boxes may also be used.
Ultimately, how well the ‘shot’ is set up by the photographer will have a huge influence on the quality of the image.
However, all is not lost if it is not as good as expected, because thanks to modern graphic and imaging software, the image can be edited and adjusted to make it exactly as required.
Photography as an Art Form
For as long as photographs have been displayed, they have been regarded as an art form. The demand for high-quality photographic prints as decor in homes has never been higher, and the use of photographs for the likes of T-shirt and other printed materials is huge.
Photography as a Hobby
Although it can be a relatively expensive hobby when you consider the cost of a top quality camera, all the equipment needed, and also any imaging software, it is still one of the most popular hobbies in the world.
Numerous local camera clubs and photographic communities are proof of that. Taking up photography as a hobby is also aided by the vast array of online courses and tutorials which means beginners can learn photography quickly and inexpensively.
Photography as a Profession
Being a professional photographer has many routes, and indeed many outcomes. It could be as simple as deciding, that instead of it being your hobby, photography is now going to be your source of income.
You could freelance and potentially sell your images as prints, take up wedding photography, or sell your images in bulk online.
Alternatively, you may follow formal training to work as a press photographer or a professional photographer in the advertising industry.
Naturally, there are many other options, which further highlights the diversity that exists within photography.
Everyone is a Photographer These Days
The first cameras were invented in the 1800s, and since then they have gone through several huge leaps forward. From the early days of plates, we moved to film and then we had the move from black and white, to color, and more recently the switch to digital photography.
Probably the biggest change is the explosion in the use of handheld devices such as smartphones as cameras.
Today, everyone is effectively walking around with a digital camera in their pocket, and that means photographic images are everywhere. Just check your social media account and doubtless, there will be images from a friend’s night on the town or a cousin’s latest wacky hairstyle.
It also brings in to the public eye images that we would previously not have seen, including some major world events.
To the purist, these sorts of images might not be what they would regard as ‘photography’ in its purest sense, and to be fair most of us hardly consider factors like light conditions or the poses of those in the image.
Nevertheless, smartphones and the internet mean that everyone takes photographs in today’s world, which you could not have said just 20 years ago.