Thursday, March 29, 2012

Digital Shtick

I don't speak Yiddish but, like many people, I know a few words. I even sometimes use them, albeit more in my speech than in my writing.

The word, shtick, is one of those Yiddish words that manages to fall out of my mouth often enough. Shtick means gimmick or something that's gimmicky. Actually, it can mean more than that as there's more than a few ways you can use the word shtick. It also has a variety of nuances that can be called on in its use. But using the word shtick to describe something that is a gimmick or is gimmicky may be the most common way to define it.

Historically, shtick has been applied, probably most often, to comedians. Lots of comedians have their own, signature, shtick. Their shtick is either obvious or subtle. Whacky comedian, Gallagher, has built much of his career using a single, obvious, signature shtick: smashing watermelons.

Other types of entertainers use shtick as well. The legendary Pete Townsend of the rock band, The Who, used some pretty obvious shtick to help build the band's reputation. Townsend's shtick? Smashing his guitar to smithereens on stage, which kind of makes Townsend the Gallagher of rock musicians... or Gallagher the Townsend of comedians, take your pick.

Many photographers develop their own shtick as well. And I'm not just talking about today's digital photographers whose shtick is often digitally applied in post production. Iconic photographer, Edward Weston, may be best remembered for his shtick with peppers.

For photographers, their shtick generally falls into two categories: Production Shtick and Post-Production Shtick. Well-known contemporary shooter, Jill Greenberg, has that crying child shtick she's used in many of her photos. In fact, it's her crying kid shtick that's probably made her most famous. I would have to say Greenberg's shtick falls into both categories. Besides the kids crying, i.e., production shtick, there's some very obvious post-production schtick applied to her photos.

While the wildly popular photo app, Instagram, is well-known for it's photo sharing capabilities, it's also popular due to its ability to add digital shtick to the photos its users capture using Instagram compatible devices like iPhones and iPads. Hold your iPhone up, snap a pic, and then use one of Instagram's many effects to add a bit of digital shtick to your photo... then share it if you're so inclined.

Now before anyone starts thinking I'm about to speak ill of using digital shtick in one's photography, I'm not. I most definitely think it has its place in today's world of digital photography. And it can be a lot of fun adding digital shtick to our photos!

The image at the top (click to enlarge) is an example of some digital shtick I applied to one of my photos just yesterday. You see, I was messing around with my new Acer Android tablet and a photo app, Pixlr-o-matic, I had just downloaded. I didn't snap the photo with my tablet, altho I could have... or one similar to it. Instead, it's an image I shot a while ago which I had converted to B&W using Photoshop and then, just yesterday, copied it over to my tablet and used Pixlr-o-matic to add some digital shtick to it.

Did my application of digital shtick make it a better image? I suppose it depends on who you might ask. For me it did not. But I think it made it kinda fun and interesting in a gimmicky sort of way. It probably added some "wow" value to it, leastwise in the minds of viewers who know little about photography and are wowed by photos with digital shtick added. The best part? It only took four taps on my tablet to add the digital shtick: One tap to load the app, a second tap to load the photo, and the third and fourth taps to add the border and color effect. Voila! Instant shtick!

In the upcoming weeks, I'll probably be writing more about digital shtick using my Acer Android tablet to create it, I mean apply it, and that sort of stuff. I'm having fun playing around with it -- until my usual issues with attention deficit disorder kick in -- so I'll probably be sharing a bit more of that fun. After all, besides all the pics I've yet to shoot, I have many thousands of pretty girl photos stored on my hard drives all waiting for their turns in the new digital shtick world I've added to my bag of tricks.

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