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Philosophy of Photography Taking pics is one thing, but understanding why we take them, what they mean, what they are best used for, how they effect our reality -- all of these and more are important issues of the Philosophy of Photography. One of the best authors on the subject is Susan Sontag in her book "On Photography."

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Why do we still shoot stills?
Old 02-20-2011   #1
Pickett Wilson
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Why do we still shoot stills?

I was sitting here in my home office editing some web video for the newspaper's website today, immersed in Final Cut Pro, and thought to myself, with the technology we have, and the ease of shooting video these days, why do I continue to shoot still photos? Of course, I still need them for the print edition of the newspaper, but why am I trying to personally tell stories with a single image, or even a series of single images?

Doesn't video actually tell a story better? What continues to be so appealing to me about still photos?

The technology to share video is no longer a limiting factor. You can literally hold video in your hands. There are smart phones, Ipads, computers...everywhere! The same technology most of us share still photos on.

So, here's the question. Beyond "because I like the cameras that shoot still photos," why do you prefer (or not, if that's the case) to shoot stills?
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Old 02-20-2011   #2
softshock
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I honestly prefer an article with a photo or two along with a written story. I can't stand when I go to a news site, almost any now, and it's a lot of video not even accompanied by a transcript! Writing will always tell the best story, but I feel a video is information overload. Keep in mind this is all just my personal opinion.
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Old 02-20-2011   #3
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Perhaps it is because it lacks the story telling aspect and it is rather, implied.
Implications can have a further meaning to them beyond the obvious or what is seen.

A single moment captured is quite often far more powerful and that single moment of a film reel that only existed for 1/60 of a second as the frames went by.
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Old 02-20-2011   #4
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For me it is the same reason that I prefer to read the book before I see the movie. The old cliché "a picture is worth a thousand words" is true for me - and the thousand words are my own. There is imagination and a connection with a good still image. You can also stare at it and put yourself in it. I don't believe video has that feeling. I have never seen a Norman Rockwell moment captured in a news video.
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Old 02-20-2011   #5
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most of the things that i photograph are still so that makes allot of sense. you cant make prints from videos, videos tell the truth and photographs hold a bit more mystery as to what may have come before or after.
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Old 02-20-2011   #6
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Modern times...creating "content" for the web. <sigh>


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Old 02-20-2011   #7
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It was never just about technical limitations. A still can communicate the essence of an event with a directness that a video clip cannot do. No knock on video, it just is a different thing. Consider TV news for instance, they are all about motion and showing a clip poses no problem, but more often than not major events are introduced by a still image behind the newscaster. Think about events like Oklahoma City, or the President at ground zero after 9/11, these conjure up a still image for me, that is what becomes iconic. Video can become iconic too but I don't see it pushing out the still. People have a deep sense for pictures and that goes way beyond any single technology.

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Old 02-20-2011   #8
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A response to a work of art is as much a function of what the viewer provides as it is of the artist's statement. Art is a dialogue. Motion film, as an inherently linear medium, removes much of the mystery and intrigue that's present in many of the best photographs. It brings too much to the table. The viewer's imagination is never given a moment to wander, to explore, to come up with its own answers to the questions what, why, and how. It's an excellent medium for linear storytelling, esp. when mated with sound, (or, at least, it's an effective one) but for communicating a moment or a feeling or an emotion to the viewer nothing will ever top a still image, in my opinion. A still image is the wardrobe and the looking-glass, and no form of art is as inviting, or as enticing to the imaginative mind.
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Old 02-20-2011   #9
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One thing to me is that, long past the "event" that a still photo depicts, even after its context is lost, the photo, abstracted from its original context, can still stand as an outstanding photo. Video will never really be abstracted.

An amazing portrait that happened to be shot during a child's birthday party will always be an amazing photo, even devoid of context. A video of a child's birthday party will always be a video of a child's birthday party.
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Old 02-20-2011   #10
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oh a few reasons... first I cant be bothered reinventing the wheel in terms of software, developing etc. Second I dont have the patience to set up a scene, and good video requires complex set ups and equipment.

The third and most important reason for me is that video takes away one important factor that I really enjoy, which is timing my shot and getting the right moment that captures the emotion and tells the story I want to tell. I'm sure it introduces others challenges and options that are equally or more interesting, but I really love my 1/250 moments

Oh yeah and you cant print video for your wall.
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Old 02-20-2011   #11
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A single frame is can be more effective. Ever click on a thumbnail, a single image from a 10:00 minute video, only to be disappointed by the other 9599 frames? Even videographers resort to choosing their single, best frame. To advertise entire movies, the best scenes are shown as previews. But ultimately, the entire movie is boiled down to a poster.

A single, powerful, image is simple more memorable that a video.

Last edited by Trooper : 02-20-2011 at 19:29.
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Old 02-20-2011   #12
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I tried to think of some examples where still images, video and sound all exist.

Hindenburg : it's the reporter 'Oh the Humanity' that I think of first.
911 attacks : there are no words to describe the shock of seeing the planes ploughing into the towers.
Apollo : there is a serene stillness looking at those Hasselblad moon photos.
Tiananmen square : it's that man causing the tanks to wiggle around.

Unfortunately I can't think of any written words matching the power of images and sound - perhaps that's a more telling sign of the times ?
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Old 02-20-2011   #13
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FrozenInTime, that's a good observation. While I personally prefer a written story to watching a video of the event, I'm 60 years old. Young people consume video and sound bites like I consume written words.
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Old 02-20-2011   #14
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Because a still photograph is more capable of making a lasting impression on ones mind while a video is fleeting. For an example here's the video of a thread I posted a few hours ago of photographer Matthew Lewis. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsR8Q...layer_embedded Clearly the still of the two girls swinging is much stronger than any video made of the same subject.
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Old 02-20-2011   #15
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This is one perspective, and one I agree with, on the difference between stills and video and why I prefer stills.

http://duckrabbit.info/2010/05/in-pr...dio-slideshow/

From where I sit, the video/mm splash hasn't made much of a difference and many newspapers are going with the 'programming model' vs the storytelling one. There are exceptions of course but bean counters have realized producing quality multimedia photojournalism eats up manpower and resources which they feel could be better spent elsewhere. Sorry to digress but it's relevent.
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Old 02-20-2011   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pickett Wilson View Post
FrozenInTime, that's a good observation. While I personally prefer a written story to watching a video of the event, I'm 60 years old. Young people consume video and sound bites like I consume written words.
And that's why "we're" a stupid generation! I despise facebook, twitter, myspace, and most news outlets in general. We were talking about this yesterday at the Philadelphia meetup, but it seems like every commercial on television or every ad for diapers, booze, insurance, or sports has some kind of "Visit us on: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc". I don't even have a TV set and only watch what I want to watch, on my own time, at Hulu or Netflix.
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Old 02-20-2011   #17
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I don't wish to be totally negative and unpleasant, but I have no interest in becoming a videographer. It's hard enough being a good still photographer and I am perfectly happy as I am.

Having said that, I am fully aware that video production is another branch of graphic arts, with its own disciplines and techniques. If one's inclinations are in that direction, or one wishes to do both still and video, have at it!

With best regards to all.

Pfreddee(Stephen)
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Old 02-20-2011   #18
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I almost never look at news still images anymore, and I have not read a newspaper in a couple of years now. For news, I visit one of the major news orgs website, read the news titles, and watch the video clips.

The days of still photography for news is over and so is that form of PJ work. Still photography is back where it started, mainly for artistic use.
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Old 02-20-2011   #19
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GSNfan, that's why our newspaper has a website. Our surveys show that the majority of folks in our county under 30 years old no longer buy newspapers and get the majority of their news from video online. I'm a print newspaper shooter from way back, but I also understand that dead tree newspapers, with the kind of demographic our surveys show, don't have a long future.

I don't particularly enjoy shooting and editing video. But I do enjoy the news game, and want to keep doing it.
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Old 02-20-2011   #20
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Video force you to take the "author" view point and timeline. You are not involved. It is a "cold" medium.

Still require author to involve the reader and not force them to think, force them to listen, force them to ... You have to ask the reader to think, ask reader to listen to the sound that is not there, ask the reader to imagine or even guess what is the intent/ the context / ... etc.

Also, I can quickly do with an image and hence if it is attractive, I would try to dig more about the "author" etc. But for video, well, I have to sit to watch that rubbish and find out that it is really rubbish and by the time it is too late. Hence, I do not iike video that much.

Also, still is for everyone to one but video, good one, is not for everyone to do. I have my 8x10 and probably if not wander so much, I can have my M9/D3x. Can I even reach a lens of video camera.
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Old 02-20-2011   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GSNfan View Post
For news, I visit one of the major news orgs website, read the news titles, and watch the video clips.
I'm too impatient to watch the news clips on the BBC,CNN etc. especially if they are preceded by a 20s advert
or if they take more than a couple of seconds to start streaming.
I would rather read the headlines and follow a link to a text report. Still images also win as attention grabbers in that context.

If I'm at home, I'm happy to be spoon fed the TV news.
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Old 02-20-2011   #22
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here's an angle for you,

my mom has a framed picture of me on her bookshelf; it's reasonably prominent, she can see it from everywhere... now imagine this were a 60-second video clip in an LCD frame
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Old 02-20-2011   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pickett Wilson View Post
Doesn't video actually tell a story better? What continues to be so appealing to me about still photos?
A story (or narrative), by definition, requires the passage of time. It is a series of related events. So movies, videos and language (spoken or written) are obviously more suitable for telling stories.
Still images do something different. They describe something of the look of things, frozen in time and removed from their original context. They represent and document the look of something, but at the same time change it. The best photos, to me, always seem to elaborate somehow on that. A photo may evoke some story in a viewer, but that isn't really telling a story, is it?

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Old 02-20-2011   #24
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If I'm on a site with embedded video, that begins running without my initiating it, I leave the site at once. I don't want unwanted data loaded on my box.

Also, if it's news, i want it quickly. I'll decide what content I want in depth. Sites with a lot of active content take time to load. I'll look elsewhere.
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Old 02-20-2011   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pickett Wilson View Post
GSNfan, that's why our newspaper has a website. Our surveys show that the majority of folks in our county under 30 years old no longer buy newspapers and get the majority of their news from video online. I'm a print newspaper shooter from way back, but I also understand that dead tree newspapers, with the kind of demographic our surveys show, don't have a long future.

I don't particularly enjoy shooting and editing video. But I do enjoy the news game, and want to keep doing it.
Many current stats reveal that a lot of those under 30 can't find the Pacific Ocean on a map or globe. If it's not a story about pop culture, many aren't interested. Maybe they need movement to attract their attention ?
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