Photography: More Than Just Pressing a Button

by Filip Kierzenka '19

Photography is one of the most underrated and misjudged forms of art. People assume that the camera is doing all the work and that a photographer is just there to order the camera to do its magic. It isn’t art because anyone can just whip out their phone and take a picture of their Starbucks for Snapchat, right? This is where people go wrong. Just like with any art, there is good and bad photography. A great photographer doesn’t just take a photo of their Starbucks for the sake of getting some “likes” on social media; they take pictures with a purpose. Photos capture moments in time. They convey emotion and meaning.

Photography is underrated because the meaningful photos are often drowned out by pictures of no purpose. For instance, whenever my family travels, my mom will stop us every five feet to take a horribly staged photo. I ask her every time, “What is the point of taking thirty pictures that are exactly the same?” Every time she would respond, “because I like them.” This answer is not very convincing. Also, I’m positive that the vast majority of these photos are never looked at again.

Not that taking personal photos to remember a moment is a bad thing, but I do believe that good photos should inspire feelings in the viewer. To take a good photo with a DSLR camera, you need to make sure that all settings are set right (ISO, aperture, exposure, etc.), that the scene is established properly, not to mention that the object needs to be worthy of a picture. It actually is quite hard to get it all just right. It becomes a very nuanced art with a variety of elements, a change in any of which would lead to a slightly different picture. In fact, all of this work is just to get the photos to look good. It doesn’t even include the most important part: finding the subject. Great photographers should not only master their tools but also know where and when to capture a moment. It’s a shame that people don’t recognize this part of photography because once you recognize it, it becomes the most impressive element of a photo. The object is what separates a good photo from a great one.

Hopefully, after reading this article, you appreciate photography in a new way. Please don’t just look at photos for their visual appeal, but rather for the stories behind them. If you are interested in learning more about photography, I would strongly encourage Ms. Gilbert’s Fundamentals of Photography Saturday class. She teaches all of the pieces which come together to create a great picture, and it’s a lot of fun. Some of the photos in this article are from her Fall ‘17 class, and others are pictures which I think are examples of “great” photos.


Photo Citations:

  1. Elise Gobron

  2. Preston Dotson

  3. 2001 The Record (Bergen Co. NJ)/Getty Images

  4. Andrew Burton / Getty Images