Photography is Work : Part One

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This will be an ongoing essay on the act of shooting and making photographs. I’ll start with some of the physical things and work my way around to processing.

On swivel lcd’s and viewfinders…

Swivel lcd’s, like the kind that’s on my Canon A630, are a godsend. It helps me frame my subject, high, low, and at contorted angles with ease. At the cafes I can quickly shoot around my subject, normally the mugs filled with steaming hot java, milk pitchers, and glasses filled with water, without getting up and making a fuss and having people wonder what I’m doing. Same goes for when I’m shooting the cafe itself, the customers. It doesn’t pull anyone from their comfort zone, something I’d never want to do.

In the street I can shoot from the waist in all directions without drawing too much attention to myself. I also like the height better from mid chest to waist. Often the view from my eye, at that height, doesn’t feel right to me. And thanks to the swivel lcd I can frame all this exactly as I see it with little need for cropping afterward.

The other part of all this : I’ve never liked looking through a viewfinder on my 35mm cameras to frame my subjects. Of course I did it, but it was never enjoyable for me. Squinting into the little tunnels, trying to see the whole frame, reading the info about exposure and focus, it was never easy. I didn’t like it then, when shooting film, and I don’t like it now shooting digital.

It’s just a practical choice. I find it more natural to look at the lcd with my two eyes open, like looking at a thumbnail sketch, to decide on how I’d like to frame my subject. It also seems to be far less intimidating to people. For some reason people are threatened by my rather large dslr on the street, eye to viewfinder, looking their way. No joke, some act like I’m pointing a gun in their direction.

I understand that some photographers think the swivel lcd doesn’t look professional. That only an amateur would use a camera with a swiveling lcd. I’ve also heard that some think it makes a camera less sturdy. And some say it makes the camera body bigger, so they reject it for wanting the smallest camera possible.

My Canon A630 has been going strong since 2008. It does not seem less sturdy or less well built because of how the screen is attached. Also, the ability to turn the screen inwards toward the body when in my bag protects the lcd. I’ve never thought the camera was too big because of the screen, or I suppose I wouldn’t have bought it. Finally, I think ones work is more important than the camera one uses. If the quality is there for screen or print or whatever your need is then how the lcd is mounted to the camera doesn’t matter.

The swivel lcd makes it easier to do my work. It affords angles low and high that would have been very difficult without it. It helps me frame my subject matter in a way that’s more intuitive for me. I like the swivel lcd, and I hope we get to see them on more cameras as the years go by.

Some recent cameras that might fit the bill : Panasonic has the GH2 and the G3 both with swiveling lcd screens. These have larger sensors than the older Canon A630 I’ve been using. Samsung has a relatively recent EX1/TL500. Canon has a newer G12. And Nikon has a P7100, though it doesn’t swivel around as well as the Canon screen. Sony also has screens that move like on their NEX cameras, but they are like Nikon’s in that they move up and down and you can’t face them inward toward the body to protect the screen. But check out the lcd on Sony’s new A77. That’s wild.

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