There is a lot of talk about what is objective and what is subjective in photography. It is true that we have plenty of objective factors, from the camera to the post-processing equipment. We can say that from the moment we press the shutter button to the final image on the screen or on the paper, everything is the result of an automated process that has very little to do with our (subjective) intervention. At least the painter has the ability to interpret the reality before transposing it on canvas; the photographer doesn’t.
What does the person behind the camera do? When and where the subjective factor enters into play? Well, anytime along the same process I mentioned above! How? Through selection and decision. As a photographer you have the ability to:
- select your tools (camera, lenses, accessories);
- select the parameters that affect the light that enter in the camera (exposure time, aperture, focus) or let the camera decide;
- choose your subject and the way you represent your subject (framing, background, composition, light, tone, moment of the day);
- select your post-processing tools (if desired) like the image editor and, why not, the computer used to post-process your photos;
- choose the post-processing procedures (corrections and adjustments, cropping, rotation, effects, etc.).
In the end, the final result is dependent on craftsmanship, probably the most elusive of all subjective factors mentioned above. A landscape can be photographed technically perfect and have at most a documentary value. Through craftsmanship the same landscape can communicate with the viewer, induce a mood or reveal an otherwise hidden interpretation of reality. I have seen less technically perfect photos that “talk” to us, involve us emotionally — this is what we need to achieve through photography.
Ansel Adams who migrated from music to photography once said “I tried to keep both arts alive, but the camera won. I found that while the camera does not express the soul, perhaps a photograph can!“