Photography: Art Vs. Hobby

Posted in Uncategorized on December 15, 2010 by messymusic

Hey everyone, just to let you know I am not dead. In fact, I have just been up to my ears in college applications. I’m really sorry I haven’t posted in…well, forever. Hopefully that will change as I am about to go on winter break from school.

Lately I have been taking a lot of new photos. If you would like to see them, feel free to head on over to my DeviantArt page (

The holidays are coming up and I know for a fact that I am going to be getting some new photo equipment of some sort. What kind of photo equipment? I have no idea. I just know I’m getting some. I’m hoping for a macro lens personally…


Today is a day for an editorial. So here it goes.


Photography: Art vs. Hobby

I am fortunate enough to hold the position as Art and Design editor in my school’s Literary Magazine program. Being in such a position exposes me to a variety of mediums of art, both skilled and well…rather unskilled to say the least. Each year, as submissions are reviewed, I am bombarded with dozens of what seem to be vacation pictures.

Am I the only photographer who is irritated by a picture of a pretty sunset?

Don’t get me wrong, I have taken plenty of pictures of sunsets before. I have taken plenty of scenery pictures and plenty of tacky and cliche vacation pictures. However, I have never attempted to put these photos under the “art” category, and I have certainly never submitted them into an arts publication. My pretty scenery photos serve more of a purpose to my own memory than they do to my portfolio. I feel pretentious in saying this, after all, who am I to criticize the work of others to such an extent as to not call it “art?”

I am not going so far as to say that the pretty sunset pictures do not hold beauty in their own. I am not going so far to say that your photo of the Eiffel tower does not hold some charm. I will go so far as to say that if you are in a tourist destination, there is a quite real possibility that someone else has taken the same picture from the same angle as you. At that point, is it still art?

My definition of art includes the notion that your work cannot be easily recreated by those other than yourself. So is it still art if someone else has taken it from the same angle in the same place? My vote is no. However it is still a hobby. I do not consider myself an artist when I am taking pictures on vacation. I consider myself a tourist with a camera. A hobbyist. When I get a concept in my head of a project I would like to embark on is when I consider myself to be an artist.

It all comes down to this: if photography is to be an art, it requires the same amount of forethought as a painter would give to his newest work. In all other cases, it remains just a hobby.


Please feel free to comment if you agree or disagree with my assesment. =]


Lomography: A New Obsession

Posted in Ramblings, Tutorials and Techniques on September 26, 2010 by messymusic

I am a frequent visitor of Flickr and Deviantart. Over the years of my membership on DA, I had often seen over-saturated, highly contrasted, and interestingly lit photographs that I loved. I had assumed that it was just an effect that was created by people like me, who liked the way it looked. I never knew that it was actually a signature style of photography.

A few chance clicks on a photography website, and I found out about this amazing form of photography. It’s called Lomography.

So what the heck is Lomography? I was pretty stumped at first, but a google search helped explain most of what I needed to know.

Lomography is the product of two students in Vienna who stumbled across a Russian camera, the Lomo Kompakt Automat (or LC-A). They took a series of experimental snapshots, and the art was born. Soon after these photos were published, photographers the world over were clamoring to get their hands on one of these little cameras. The students quickly negotiated rights to distribute the camera.

Since it’s inception, lomography has evolved greatly and rapidly. New accessories, cameras, and film types are constantly being introduced to the market to give lomographers a unique edge above the rest. Experimental developing techniques such as cross processing further assist lomographers in obtaining that unique “lomo” look.

Lomography is the combination of low tech and high tech photography. Old cameras are used with new techniques to create beautiful, richly colored images that are hard to re-create. A signature vignette effect around the edges of the frame makes lomo photos easy to pick out.

Search "lomography" on Google Image, and you're likely to come up with something like this.

There are a variety of lomography cameras to choose from if you, like me, want to try this out. I haven’t really checked eBay or any of the obvious online retailers (I am a skeptic if nothing else…) however I have found that seems to have an extensive selection of cameras. Most of them are not ridiculously expensive as specialty cameras come. They start around $100 and increase in price depending on the model and its accessories. The website also sells kits that come with several cameras and accessories. The kits seem to be a pretty good deal from what I can tell. I have also seen some lomo cameras on sale at the art museums around the Los Angeles area. The Getty Center had a few on sale in the gift kiosk near the photography exhibit, and the MOCA (I went to the Geffen Center) also had some on sale in its gift shop.

If you are broke like me, however, and cannot afford to get your hands on one of those cute (and they are SO cute…retro and fabulous!) cameras, then there are many ways to fake it. I’ve tried out a few online tutorials and these have served me pretty nicely:

I faked this lomography effect on one of my own photos in Photoshop CS5.

My favorite part about lomography is that there is truly no set standard for how a picture is supposed to look. You don’t need to worry about trivial things like white balancing or color correcting, because lomography embraces the imperfections that come with the art of photography. A regular camera can take a snapshot of the world that is happening around you, but lomography cameras capture the moment, and alter it, all without you having to lift a finger. The results may be unorthodox but they symbolize the development of a great art form in a twenty-first century style. Lomographers may well be the new impressionists.

Film Vs. Digital

Posted in Ramblings on September 21, 2010 by messymusic

I suppose I am a bit of a snob when it comes to photography. I think maybe, deep inside, I hold a small inner grudge against digital photography (this is incredibly ironic considering the fact that I just bought a Canon Rebel DSLR three weeks ago and I adore it…). But to straighten things out a bit, I must remind you that my love of photography was fostered in the black and white darkrooms of CalArts.

I read an article on Yahoo about a week ago, which told about how many photographers were switching from film to digital. I have to admit, the contents of this article bugged me. The photography snob in me is screaming at the thought of this. Why didn’t they just START with film, and move to digital? I never considered myself a ‘photographer’ until I had an excellent understanding of the workings of a film camera; knowledge which, for the most part, can easily translate over to a DSLR camera any day.

Canon AE-1 Program

Ironically, I took this picture with my DSLR.

Here they are, so called “photographers,” forgetting about the roots of an art. I am all for progress, and I love my DSLR, but it just seemed a little wrong to me. You need to delve deep into the past of an art form for you to truly make an impact on its future. I believe that all serious photographers should understand the magic of film cameras. Sure film can be cumbersome, you have to scan your pictures to digitally edit them, you may not have access to a processing facility, and you can’t stick in an SD card and take a limitless amount of pictures, but there is still something magical about a film camera. Not to mention tangible.

Since my switch over to DSLR, it’s been a bit disconcerting to be able to take many pictures without having to wind the film once. I always feel a little melancholy over this, as it feels like I’ve lost just a little bit of something. I don’t think digital photographers can truly appreciate the aroma of a darkroom, or the fury that ensues when you spend three hours working to burn or dodge a specific print. It takes a whole new appreciation and love for an art form when you spend another four hours in the color darkroom, trying to balance your cyans and magentas.

This is the age of instant gratification. People love their DSLR’s because they can take a ton of good pictures with little hassle. I also appreciate the convenience of it, however knowing film techniques makes me appreciate it a lot more.

I do not believe that everyone should love and embrace film photography as the one way to take pictures. I simply believe that film is essential to learn, so you have a good foundation in the basics. A musician becomes a musician when they hear a piece of music, and decide to modify what they hear on their own. A photographer should operate in much the same way. Constantly striving to perfect your craft without forgetting its roots is important in any art.

So instead of “switching back” to film, just try it out. Give it some time and learn it. Love it or hate it, you beloved DSLR would not be around without it.

Bokeh Shapes

Posted in Tutorials and Techniques on September 17, 2010 by messymusic

For those of you who know what bokeh is, you may not know that it’s possible to make a custom bokeh shape. I found this excellent tutorial by Lucas Ridley that teaches you how to create your own bokeh shapes.

I’ll give you a bit of background on bokeh for those of you who don’t know what it is.

Bokeh refers to the out of focus parts of an image, and the quality of them. Pictures containing exclusively bokeh are becoming fairly common. Look up bokeh on Flickr for some awesome examples.

Mastering the technique of bokeh is simultaneously difficult and easy. Many an amateur photographer has unintentionally created a bokeh effect by forgetting to focus their lens before taking a snapshot. Generally, bokeh shots use a large aperture setting (for those of you new to DSLR, you need to set your camera to manual or Aperture priority to acheive this), and unfocus the light. It is important to use a large aperture so your bokeh lights do not look faceted (have sides reminiscent of the geometrical shape of the aperture) Generally the best kind of light to use for bokeh is single source, pinprick sized light (such as christmas lights or the lights in a city at night).

There are many valuable tutorials online that can teach you how to master the bokeh technique. One of my favorites is here:

Be sure to check it out! I am still fiddling around with this bokeh tutorial (I really want to make some star shapes, I have some good ideas!). When I get some good shots, you can be sure I’ll post them.

Photography and Me

Posted in Ramblings on September 16, 2010 by messymusic

Photography has long been a way for me to express myself.

I got my first digital camera at the age of seven. It was an awful thing of 1.2 megapixels. It boasted the ability to play MP3 tracks from it’s compact flash card as well as shoot video with sound. This was in 2000.

I got my next camera at the age of 11. It was a 5 megapixel Kodak easyshare camera. It was nice, but nothing phenomenal. However, I took some pretty awesome pictures with it. Usually when I didn’t mean to take a great picture.

My first contact with film was when my family went to Europe in 2003. I used my mom’s Canon AE-1 Program from the 80’s. I didn’t understand what an f-stop was or how to set a shutter speed, but I knew that I loved the clicking sound of the camera and the satisfying tug on the film when you wound it after a picture was taken.

Photography has always been a hobby of mine but it became a more serious obsession when I got into high school. My sophomore year of high school, I started taking black and white film photo classes at CalArts through the Community Arts Partnership program. It was the best thing that ever happened to me as a photographer. I began to understand how cameras worked, how the lifting of a shutter created a world on a sensor or piece of film.

It was magic.

I have been shooting on film for a long time, and I began to learn how to work in a black and white darkroom last year. I just recently bought my first DSLR, a Canon Rebel XS (yes the cheap one.) I am still learning about photography.

I don’t think I will ever perfect the art, but art is not about perfecting, it is about the journey.

I hope you want to learn alongside me.