I've always been fascinated by photography. When I was younger, my dad would show me the photos he took when he traveled across Europe as a bachelor. I always admired his natural talent for framing and capturing the best shots. Growing up, I always respected good photography and tried to emulate it, albeit without much success. I always owned some kind of camera and would go through phases when all I wanted to do was take pictures. In the last few years, as digital photography has really come into its own, I've gotten to know some pretty amazing photographers, both professional and amateur. And now that everyone carries a camera in the form of a cell phone, we're all photographers. But is this democratization of the artform necessarily a good thing?
I think services like Flickr and Instagram are amazing because they expose some truly talented people and afford them the recognition they deserve. Scrolling through my Instagram feed is a treat every time. I get to see some world-class photos, many of which deserve to be framed and hung in a gallery, but instead they're on my iPad, completely free of charge. Of course, the flip side is that you've got to endure the bad with the good. Plenty of people fancy themselves photographers, and they'll plaster their work all over the Internet in an effort to get noticed. It's easy enough to unfollow them, even if their (inexplicably) loyal followers keep cheering them on.
In the end, sharing photos in online communities raises the bar and makes it possible for anyone to learn what good photography is. The pros share their craft with the amateurs, and soon even the worst photos on Instagram and Flickr aren't so terrible. It still amazes me that I've gotten to know such talented people and learn a trick or two from them over time. I'm not happy with most of the photos I take, but Instagram gives me an outlet to share the ones I am proud of. Meanwhile, I draw inspiration from the work of the pros as I keep trying to improve. For the moment, I'm still primarily a smartphone photographer, but I've toyed with the idea of upgrading to something of a slightly higher caliber when I've got some extra cash lying around. Until then, I'm very happy with my Droid Incredible and the Instagram community!
Do you consider yourself a photographer? How do you feel about online photo communities? Can too many "artists" make it harder to find true excellence? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
I've gotten to know some incredible and talented professional photographers through social media. Check them out and consider booking them for your next event! They're all awesome, I promise!