Today, Aug 19th, is World Photography Day. Why Aug 19th, you ask?
In 1827, Nicephore Niepce made the first photograph, using a pewter plate coated with bitumen, and exposing it to the sun over eight hours. He called it a heliograph.
Later in 1829, Niepce met a French stage designer and artist called Louis Daguerre, and together they developed a much improved process, that came to be known as Daguerreotype.
Niepce died suddenly, and Daguerre continued the development of the process with Niepce’s son, Isidore. In 1839, the French government purchased the patent from Daguerre and Isidore, in exchange for a modest pension for the two innovators.
On Monday, August 19th, 1839, the French government released the Daguerreotype photographic process to the public as an open-source technology.
In the meantime, British inventor William Fox Talbot also developed his own photographic process called calotype, patented in 1841. Unlike the French government, Talbot did not release his patent to the public, and levied a license fee.
As a result, Daguerreotype was quickly adopted by enthusiasts across the world, except in England. And so, thanks to the French government, you and I can enjoy photography without paying hefty royalties to anyone. Vive la France!
In the days of celluloid film, photography was a demanding hobby. Composing a good photo required considerable skill, a great deal of patience, a lot of good luck and a competent studio that could develop film correctly. A professional photographer or a serious hobbyist who wanted to develop his own photos had to have skills in chemistry as well, and a dark room, and plenty of money for film and chemicals.
Film photography was a time-consuming and expensive hobby, but it was fun nevertheless.
Things changed with the birth of the digital camera. Nikon introduced the first commercial digital SLR camera in 1986. And Canon, Minolta, Sony et al quickly followed. Those early digital cameras cost a fortune. Most of us photographers in India could merely dream of buying one.
Today, we have cameraphones, point-and-click digcams, gopro’s, webcams, god-knows-what-else, for any budget, any skill level.
Some questions about photography:
Is photography very expensive?
Of course not. If you have a decent smartphone, that’s enough to get started. Some of my best images have been made with my phone. If you have about Rs.20K to spare, you can get yourself a very good bridge camera that’s almost as good as a DSLR camera.
If you don’t have Rs 20K to spare, there are hundreds of affordable point-and-click digital cameras out there. As your skills improve, you can spend as much as you want, depending on how far you want to go. For most people, a bridge camera will be all they need.
Should I buy Photoshop or something?
Not necessarily. Most camera manufacturers offer free imaging software with their cameras. And there are many photo apps on the net, all free. Gimp, Snapseed, VSCO, the list is endless.
Do I need a computer?
Perhaps. For cameraphone photography, you don’t need a PC. Just click, process, share. For a bridge or DSLR camera, you do. Any unbranded PC is enough.
Where do I save my photos?
As you take more pictures, you will find yourself running out of space on your PC or phone. Not to worry. There are many cloud-based sites like Google Drive, Flickr and 500px that allow you to store and share hundreds of images. If you have the money, buy an external or internal hard disk.
What is the best time for photography?
In principle, any time is good. For outdoor photography, daytime is best. I do most of my photography in the hours between 3pm and 6pm, depending on the season. Dawn is also a good time. Avoid afternoons, in general.
What kind of photography do I get into?
Anything you like. Nature, wildlife, food, people, travel, street, candids – anything at all. There are on-line resources for every taste, every skill level, every person.
Does photography pay? No.
Don’t even think of quitting your job. At the professional level, photography is really expensive and very risky. Save your money and time. Enjoy photography as a hobby, take great photos that you can share with your friends and family, spend as much as you can afford, and not a penny more.
Which camera do I buy?
Buy only the camera you can comfortably afford, without the need to pay in instalments. Buying a camera ( or any other electronic device costing less than Rs. 20K) on instalments is just foolish. Cameras have negligible resale value. Remember that.
As I said, all you need is a good smartphone and a free app. Nowadays, you get all kinds of affordable lenses and accessories for smartphone photography, if you think your phone is not good enough on its own.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive and immensely satisfying hobby, that will last for a lifetime, I’d say modern photography is one of the best options you have.
Go ahead. Take out your camera. Make your day.
And while you’re at it, why not check out my Instagram feed, @fotofundas
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Cheers … Srini.