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The one constant in photography seems to be debate.

By Jack Howard

September 8, 2010

There must be something innate in the photographic process that engenders passionate discourse.

While looking for a small photo gadget I hope to use on a shoot this weekend, I stumbled upon a small stack of hundred year old photography books that live amidst the general mayhem of gadgets, gear, equipment, whatnots and so on that is my office/work station.

One undated volume, "How to make Good Pictures" published by the Eastman Kodak Company, opens with these lines:

 

 

For Kodak, at least, the controversy over glass plates versus roll film was over–but I'm sure this debate continued amongst photography buffs over formulary counters, in smoky camera club meeting rooms, and whilst out and about capturing Sunday afternoon landscapes for quite a while longer.

And take a look at this passage from "The American Annual of Photography (Times-Bulletin) for 1904" published by The Anthony & Scovill Company (AKA "Ansco"):

 

 

Is it just me or does one hear the echoes of this erudite argument in the modern day in-camera or in-post flame wars? Or about the nature and merits of the HDRI process?

Methinks the one constant in photography is passionate–to put it mildly and fittingly for a family-friendly site–debate, discourse, and disagreement on any, every, and all aspects of anything and everything that can be done in more than one manner.

Photographers argue the relative merits of this brand or that, and each and every product announcement is yet another example of ground gained or lost in product superiority. Witness today's announcement of a luxe compact camera with HD video and a built-in mike jack from Nikon! When and what might Canon fire back with to match this volley? Only time will tell.

And meanwhile, as the battle rages on between the Nikon and Canon camps, there's a whole slew of other companies in the RC Cola role also creating great products and bringing real innovation to the marketplace. Look at the brand-new Sony cameras that further blur the line between SLR and EVF.  And the innovative sensor-shifting micro-alignment function on the Pentax K-7 hasn't been matched by any other company yet.

Photographers argue the merits of Aperture versus Lightroom, HDRI versus single-shot capture, and photorealistic versus surrealistic tone mapping. Mac versus Windows transcends photography, but this too is still a hot issue among digital photographers. Time lapse shooters argue the merits of sequencing in QuickTime Pro or Adobe After Effects. In every subgenre and specialty of photography, I'm sure there are debates to which I'm blissfully unaware, but hotly debated amongst this tribe or that–underwater, commercial real estate, pet portraiture, and on and on!

Ten years ago, it was film versus digital.  A while before that, it was prime versus zoom, chrome versus negative, medium format versus 35mm that were the hottest topics of the day.

And ten years from now, there will be, without a doubt, entirely new things to debate, disagree, and discourse about as we all go about enjoying this thing called photography.

Here'S the greatest thing about all this disagreement, debate and discourse on this and that about photography: it helps photography evolve and grow. The competition between the camera companies to lead with innovations and more robust feature sets offers photographers more chances and ways to express themselves creatively. The discussions between photographers on the merits of this technique or that style leads to more creativity–which, then, of course, leads to more debate on process versus product, the merits of this or that style or genre of gear, and the cycle continues.

One can only wonder what the photographic debates will look like 100 years from now!

 

In 100 words or less, what's your favorite topic of heated photographic debate? Let us know!

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