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Digital Pitfalls:

David Hoptman: Photographer, Educator, and founder of PhotoCreative Workshops Explains Digital Pitfalls. Article published:

Professional photographer/artist David Hoptman, founder of PhotoCreative workshops teaches online and offers photo workshops in Santa Fe, NM. David has lived in Santa Fe for most of his adult life. Previously David was teaching photography at the Santa Fe University of art and design, before that living in Italy, David taught photography at two colleges in Florence, Italy. Lorenzo di Medici and Santa Reparata.

David points out the pitfalls of digital imaging and the advantages of auto-functions as follows:

“The process of learning photography has been subverted by camera manufactures looking to sell more cameras and lenses, by enticing photographers into thinking that technology is the key to making strong imagery”. It’s easy for photographers to get side-tracked with photo-gadgetry and digital camera functions naively thinking their imagery will greatly improve by purchasing the latest camera model, faster lenses, or upgrading their photo software. Photographers can easily become seduced by technological gadgetry; cameras, lenses, megapixels, printing papers, inks, etc., all have little to do with understanding composition, the most important aspect of photography or any two-dimensional artform. Today’s sophisticated digital cameras and smartphones come loaded with an overabundance of technical functions that 90% of photographers will never understand or have reason to use. Endless menus and obscure camera functions make it difficult to focus on the process of simply taking a photograph and have more to do with camera manufacturers selling cameras than aiding photographers in making strong photographic imagery. Digital cameras with point-and-shoot capabilities including, auto-focus, auto-exposure, zoom lenses, and LCD monitors enable millions of aspiring photographers to begin making photographs without the necessity of learning photo-technical skills. Before digital imaging back in the days of film photography, aspiring photographers first had to become familiar with foundational photo-technical skills like shutter speeds, and apertures, working in the darkroom, printing, and knowledge of film processing just to get started with photography.

David describes digital distractions created by camera manufacturers:

The process of learning photography has been subverted by camera makers looking to sell more cameras by enticing people to think that technology is the key to image-making. The more digital distractions your camera has to offer the more money you will spend and the further you will be away from every photographer’s goal, which is to make poignant imagery. Distance yourself from all the endless technology, upgraded cameras, etc., that is fed to you by camera manufacturers. Their goal is to make money and sell you a new model every year with more stuff you will have to learn just to hold up your camera and take a shot. The more you simplify your workflow meaning putting aside digital functions the faster your photographic imagery will evolve and the better photographer you will become.

Many photo-YouTube videos are dedicated to which camera, or which lens is better and why. To see the difference between lenses, how many megapixels are better etc. you would need a high-tech lab to note the technical difference, which is cutting hairs finer than any practical person would waste their time on when in essence the goal is focusing on making strong photographic imagery. The answers are not to be found in technology, they are found by you dynamically interacting with your camera and environment making photos, and gaining experience while enjoying your surroundings, nature, cityscapes, etc. Sony is one of the leaders in digital cameras. They have introduced multiple versions of the same model year after year, each one with progressively upgraded software, and camera functions. Everyone purchases the next model thinking it will help them to take better photographs. More pixels will not make you a better photographer. That is a fallacy. Slowing down is the key to making better imagery. With simple digital auto-functions, you can start making well-balanced exposures almost as soon as you pick up your camera.

David clarifies photographic priorities:

Learning and truly understanding the photographic medium takes years of dedication, study, and experimentation. Camera functions such as shutter speeds and apertures are foundational aspects for fine-tuning photographic imagery, although not essential as they once were to get involved with digital imaging. My point is not to discourage those who wish to understand the photographic medium with all its myriad nuances, but to make the point that getting involved with photography today is much easier than in days past when the film was the only option. There are millions of wannabe photographers who have been enabled to enjoy taking photographs without having to first spend their time focusing on understanding photographic fundamentals. The goal is to first focus on learning composition, and when one starts to feel somewhat comfortable with compositional challenges, then it is time to begin integrating the technical aspects of shutter speeds, f-stops, etc. into the photo workflow.

David mentions perceptive skills are foundational in the creative process:

Perceptive skills, Imagination, and intuition are foundational qualities needed by everyone striving to make harmonious insightful photographic imagery. Almost anyone can learn to incorporate these conceptual and insightful aspects of perception into the creative process. The key is to slow down, be in the moment, and understand how to work with relationships of space and forms. Photographs that radiate feelings of harmony due to strong compositions are no different today than back in the historical beginnings of photography before digital photography. The aesthetics of harmony is always at play, and that has not changed since the inception of photography in 1839 with Niepce. What has changed is the ease, reliability, and functionality of digital cameras/smartphones of today. Photography can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. Less is usually more when it comes to image-making. Distilling a composition down to its essence is truly at the heart of the creative process. The journey is the joy and creativity the fruit and harvest.

Photography in essence is a challenging interactive endeavor. The saying goes for fishermen, “my worst day fishing is better than my best day at work”. When you go out and about to photograph and come back without any keepers (have not been truly satisfied with your results), you will still have enjoyed the process and most likely gleaned new skills that will aid you in your future photo-ventures. Like all worthwhile endeavors, photography takes practice and dedication.

David Hoptman’s Compositional Mantra:

  • Don’t Lose Your Focus

  • Stop=slow down

  • Look=tune into your environment

  • Focus=on the moment

Learn more about Photocreative Workshops on their official website:

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Perceptive skills, Imagination, intuition are foundational qualities needed by everyone striving to make harmonious insightful photographic imagery. The key is to slow down, be in the moment, and understand how to work with relationships of space and forms.


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