Saturday, April 04, 2015

Game Changer

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I sometimes hear the words, "game changer," bandied about amongst photographers.  Usually, the words are applied to one piece of gear or another. The game-changing dubbed gear might be something new that's come along, or something new added to the kit of a photographer who, apparently, fully expects said new gear to be a game changer for his or her photography.

In the long evolution of photographic gear, has anything that's come along truly been a game changer? Well, sure... I guess. What sorts of things might have been true game changers?  Color film? The advent of 35mm SLR cameras? The arrival of digital photography? Probably. Probably those things and more have, to one degree or another, been game changers. Did they change every photographer's game? Yes and no. I suppose you'd have to look at it on an individual basis and tally  the results and then make some sort of subjective decision about how many photographers who embraced those new developments qualifies the gear for a game-changing crown or medal or certificate of merit.

What about personal acquisitions of specific types of gear? (Whether the gear itself is newly arrived on the market or simply new to the acquirer.) Is such gear a true game changer for those who acquire it? Again, yes and no.  I suppose it depends on what each photographer does with their newly purchased gear they believe (or were led to believe) will be game changers for their photography. That's why they probably bought the new gear, for it's game-changing possibilities, that is.  In other words, for what they might do that's new, unique, quite different, and game-changing compared to what they've done prior. (With gear they already possessed)  The changed game they hope and.or expect will take place might be in terms of results, i.e., the photos produced, or their approach to their photography or via newly acquired capabilities as a result of the new gear, i.e., it widens the scope of what they can do versus what they've been able to do in the past.

I'm only writing about this because, just the other day, I got into something of a somewhat contentious debate on Facebook with a photographer who decided to spend a fair amount of money on some new lighting gear -- a Profoto B1 system, to be specific -- and who believes (per his own words) it will be a "game changer" for his photography.

This particular photographer routinely "wows" me with his work. Not because his work is uniquely stand-out from a technical perspective -- and that's not to say his work is anything less than technically good -- but because of it's editorial content, points-of-view, thematic traits, and artistic merits. His pictures tell stories. Powerful stories. Human value stories. Stories of injustice and hope.

When I questioned the photographer's belief that his new Profoto B1 will be a "game changer" for him, i.e., I was curious how the B1 will become such a gamer changer for him, it unleashed more than a small amount of negative responses towards me from his friends, fans, admirers, and the photographer himself. He's a fairly popular shooter, by the way, and has a good-size FB following... as he deserves.

So, here's what I'm curious about: Is merely believing that a new addition to one's kit, be it a new camera, lens, lighting system, or something else, enough of a catalyst to actually be game-changing? Is faith in some new gear and what it might mean to a person's photography all that's required for it to actually be game changing? Or, is it a self-convinced illusion? Make that "delusion." I understand the power of faith and belief in something. It can drive people to great heights or, as is more often the case, not make much of a real difference, their strong beliefs notwithstanding.  It can even lead some into a results-abyss of sorts because their expectations, based on what they believe about their new gear, are far too great and unrealistic. (If only I had that new camera my photography would go through the roof!)

With regards to the photographer who (unwittingly) motivated me to write this update -- not that motivating me to write this was his intent, not even remotely -- I still don't see how his new lighting gear will be a game-changer for him since, in my opinion, the awesomeness of his photography has little or nothing to do with the specific lighting gear he chooses to employ. (Or which camera or lens he chooses to shoot with, for that matter.) His creative mind and his strongly-held personal points of view are his #1, always potentially game-changing possessions. (As it is for all photographers.) 

I do understand how the portability, increased power output, and some other capabilities of Profoto's B1 will offer him new abilities, efficiencies, and proficiencies for his work. But those are production workflow things.  What I still don't understand is how the B1, which is a pretty cool piece of lighting gear I'll readily admit, will truly be a game changer for him because the quality and emotional impact of his work has so little to do with whatever lighting gear he uses. His photography does use lighting to great effect to underscore his themes but, frankly, he could accomplish the same with two or three speedlites or some lower-end strobes. (I'm not sure what he's been using prior to acquiring the B1, but I'm pretty sure it's been much less expensive and less portable studio strobes. )

The gratuitous, nothing special, eye candy at the top, which has nothing to do with what I'm writing about  today and only serves as just that-- gratuitous eye candy, is Faith. Simple B&W conversion from a JPG with PS's B&W tool.  I snapped the pic some time ago on location using a bare wall behind Faith as my background.  Many (if not most) of my clients prefer bare walls or a seamless behind the models because of what will be done with the images, later on, by their art department people or graphic artists they hire. In other words, for the most part, the models will be cut-out from the BG.


Ken Tam said...

If he don't write it, nobody KNOW he is up to so call standard.

Bill Giles said...

These days, things change so fast that it is difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with technology. The real game changer is the marketplace, as many photographers have seen.