Pick a Side: The Best Photography Debates

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I like to think of photography as a pursuit that brings people together and fosters creative exploration and camaraderie.

But let's face it - there's some issues in this field that divide us along strong lines.

Like which among Canon and Nikon is the best, for example...

But that's just scratching the surface!

Let's explore a few long-standing photography debates so you can decide which side of the fence you're on.

Debate #1: Is Processing Your Photos a Form of Cheating?

It's Definitely Cheating...

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Ask around among some old-school photographers and many of them won't mince words...processing is cheating.

Now, folks that don't like processing aren't necessarily talking about basic adjustments you can make like dodging, burning, and cropping. You know, things you could do in a darkroom with film...

Instead, some photographers take issue with taking processing into the realm of photo manipulation - removing objects from the shot, for example.

For them, doing so means that the photo you created is no longer a representation of what you and your camera actually saw.

So, in their minds, post-processing is, in fact, cheating.

No, It's Not!

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Then again, ask around, and you'll encounter plenty of photographers that assert that processing an image is as much a part of the workflow as actually taking the shot out in the field.

No matter how much training, experience, or gear you have, it's virtually impossible to get everything right in-camera, thus the need for programs like Lightroom and Photoshop to help us make the image look more compelling.

Beyond that, many photographers consider post-processing a simple means of improving upon what they already captured with their camera.

In other words, post-processing isn't cheating but is merely a way for photographers to further their artistic vision.

Photography is a creative exercise, after all, so why limit oneself to only what can be done in-camera?

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Debate #2: Has Digital Photography Made Today's Photographers Better?

Yes, Digital Has Helped

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I would say that most folks are in this camp. After all, most of us use digital cameras to take our photos these days.

There's certainly something to be said for the ease of use of digital cameras. There's also something to be said for the improved control that today's cameras offer photographers of all levels of experience.

What's more, the evolution of smartphone cameras means that anyone can have a pretty powerful digital camera in their pocket, meaning digital photography has been opened up to the masses far more than ever before.

With more people having cameras and using those cameras to practice their photography, how could one argue that digital photography hasn't made photographers better?

Digital Photography Has Made Us Lazy

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The counterargument to this point is that digital photography enables laziness.

There's a couple of points to that.

First, with modern post-processing programs, you can simply edit out elements from the composition that you didn't take the time to notice when you took the shot. That means we can be lazier when composing photos than we could be back in the days of film.

Secondly, laziness arises out of the virtually unlimited number of photos you can take with a digital camera.

A single memory card can hold thousands of photos, so rather than taking one's time to compose a great shot, there's no pressure of using up all your film.

Instead, people can rapid-fire shots and hope that one in the bunch is good enough, rather than actually trying to get a great shot in the first place.

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Debate #3: Does Better Equipment Equate to Better Photos?

You Bet It Does!

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For many photographers, this is a no-brainer...

Having a good camera, a high-quality lens, and other top-notch photography gear helps facilitate improved pictures far more than bargain basement items.

For example, a high-dollar prime lens will be sharper than the kit lens that's thrown in with a camera body when you purchase it.

Likewise, a full frame camera has a larger sensor with more pixels than a crop sensor body, which means you can create images with better resolution and print them out larger without losing image quality.

In other words, professional photographers use professional-grade equipment for a reason - it makes the photos they take that much better.

It's the Photographer That Makes the Shot, Not the Gear

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Ask around, though, and you'll find plenty of people that totally disagree with the above argument.

What matters isn't the number of pixels or the quality of the lens glass. Instead, what matters the most is the manner in which the photo is composed, framed, and how the lighting was used to enhance the shot.

What's more, it's the creativity of photographers, not their gear, that's the most essential component of a high-quality image.

For example, you can give a brand new photographer a full frame camera and a top-of-the-line prime lens, but that won't make the photos they take any better because as a new photographer, they haven't yet mastered the art of photography.

Conversely, give a professional photographer an old, used camera and lens, and they can create some gorgeously epic photos.

So, the difference-maker isn't the gear, it's the person using the gear!

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Which Side of These Debates are You On?

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The great thing about these debates is that they will never be resolved.

I kind of like that because it helps us photographers have lively discussions about the craft we love so much.

If you ask me, there's really no right or wrong answer to any of these debates.

In other words, though I have opinions on all of these, I can see both sides and understand why someone might disagree with my position.

The next time you get into a lively discussion with a fellow photographer about these issues, just keep it friendly and respectful. No matter which side you're on, we're all after the same thing - great photos!

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