Petapixel proves that Photography is Dead

When Petapixel ran the Creating Composite Photos, what it really did was to prove that photography is dead and digital re-imaging is alive. 

Clint Davis is a professional photographer but how much of what he does is really about photography? For many years now since I started to write this blog, I realize that Professional photographers in the traditional sense do not exist anymore. In essence, they have lost the legitimacy to call themselves photographers since digital imaging and technology has changed all that.

It started with the death of the color lab which was the conduit to print those photos. Here the masters of imaging did what they had to do to print a better picture. Now this doesn't mean they add things to it but their job is to make it look stunning. There are masters who take pride in their work in developing these print images that are good enough to hang in any corporate hall. Today that's up to a digital artist, who through photoshop recreates or re-imagines the photos. Why is this called digital art? Because it isn't real.

The image is a mixture of composites, sometimes the composite is with a background that isn't even real. So how does this count as photography?

If you look at it objectively from a digital artist point of view., even the car itself can be a toy version that is later blended into the picture.

This is why it becomes very difficult to justify the work of a photographer and a digital artist. Since you are not really creating a real picture, why not call yourself a composite artist?

The very use of the 'photographer' moniker has become a bit of a joke if all you do is blend bits of other photos into a single image.

But as we herald the passing of real photography, let's welcome the democratization of imaging where anyone with a computer and a camera can make wonderful pictures. The reality is that a picture no longer is worth a thousand words but a thousand smiles.


Fotr: Shooting Analog while using Digital

For those of you who have never own or shot a role of film, yes there is a way around it and it involves having an iPhone an app called Fotr.

It mimics the same way you shoot with analog film but with a catch, you need to buy the film. Yup, it should sound ridiculous but you have to buy a roll of 24 or 36 frame film, which mimics various film types from Kodak and Fuji.

Each time you shoot, the picture is pretty much final. You can't edit, change the color or save it to instagram. This means your final roll will then be sent online to a processing house or color lab where you get your prints back. The catch is that you need to set up a physical mailing address coz the prints from this roll will be mailed backed to you. The fee you pay for the roll includes world wide delivery of your prints.

The pricing for the roll is all inclusive but if you want a larger print, you need to pay more for it. Below is the price list. 

I think the whole idea of shooting in digital and processing in analog is a bit daft. The organic feel of the camera, along with the exposure controls is missing. You might as well shoot with one of those throw away box cameras when you are done as this is pretty much the experience if you shoot with an iPhone. 

Even with a Lomo, you need to think about the shutter speed and estimate the focus distance. There is a lot more work involved to appreciate the analog process. 

There were a few point a shoot cameras in its analog heyday but why would you want to mimic a fully point and shoot process if you wanted to know what shooting film is really like?

Sorry. I don't get it. 

less you transform your bathroom to DIY photo-l
this price you get your prints delivered worldwide. It's might seem expensive, but consider what


Michael Kors goes Analog with Fuji Instax Mini

Purveyors of high fashion, Michael Kors, have teamed up with Fuji to produce another Instax Mini 70 camera. 

Before you rush out to buy one, let it be known that the pricing details are yet unavailable but you could roughly second guess the price if you were to compare it with the Leica Sofort announced recently. 

Built more for selfies, the camera has a dedicated selfie mode and vanity mirror for you to check if you are in frame.. 

Fuji Instax mini is going to be a huge hit with fashion victims around the world and these so called camera partnerships will hopefully generate more revenue for analog instant film to make it even more worthwhile. 

Square is going to be Hip Too

In the mean time, Fuji is also planning a square format instant camera. The print area is only slightly smaller than the one on Polaroid Land cameras and is due to be launched in the first half of 2017. For most of us, it is not the size of the print but the size of the camera that dictates if it would be useful enough to carry around. 

For the mobile photography crowd, the iPhone fits in your pocket. To carry anything larger would mean you need to sling it over your heck or shoulder, which doesn't make it convenient. 

To appeal with the fashion conscious mavens of our age, yes analog photography can be expensive, the square format Fujifilm camera better look hip and cool or else it will be sitting on the shelves on stores gathering dust. 


Leica Sofort is a Fuji Instax Mini Camera


I really don't get it. Why is Leica jumping on the Fuji Instax Mini bandwagon just like Lomo while a much larger instant film format like the FP-100c is being given the death sentence? To be fair, I think peel film is really special and the colors are just great, but then again it was never a product that originated with Fujifilm in Japan. 

Earlier this year, Fujifilm announced that it was no longer producing the FP100c and that once the stocks run out, it would be the end of it. Now, the FP100c is a fine instant film that was license from Polaroid in its day, and yes, they pay a royalty to produce this but they never did come out with a camera to use this. Instead, we have the Instax Wide and Instax Mini, which are their own original properties. 

The problem I have with them is the size of the camera, the Wide is just too bulky of a camera but the prints are awesome, while the Instax Mini is just right in size but small in print. Those business card size prints means you have to squint to see what's on it. What's more, the Instax Mini has a following among the young, who love those instant prints for art and sharing with friends. 

So why is Leica, of all people, think these young ones would want to buy and use Leica branded Sofort Camera and Instant film?

The SoCalled Sofort

Now the Sofort Leica isn't going to change what Lomo is already doing, and even though it has several preset modes for shooting, it lacks any sort of manual controls. It even looks like a rip off of a Fujifilm Instax Mini 90. 

And since Leica is famous for its legendary optics, I am not sure if they are going to put glass lenses on this camera either. Will there be a Summarit or Summicron lens on this baby? Clearly there is a business strategy behind this which I will explain in a moment. 

Leica, like Ferrari and Porsche, has brand appeal but the average owner of these vehicles are much older folks that qualify for pensions and a retirement home in the Bahamas. 

These high net worth people aren't being replaced by the younger generation as they clearly favor the brands by Apple or Samsung when shooting something instant to share. The trendy mavens prefer Canon and Nikon and where does that leave Leica? What's worst is that Leica still foolishly markets itself as a street photographer's camera circa the 1950s when Henri Cartier Bresson would sling one around Paris to capture those impromptu moments. That style of photography has been replaced with an iPhone but Leica still thinks you should ante up to a five thousand dollar camera just to shoot street scenes. 

For some years now, I have noticed a dwindling number of fans for the German brand, I rarely see people use a Leica camera for fear they would be robbed or targeted in public. So when Leica signed a partnership with Huawei for the development of the P9 dual camera smartphone, they are clearly moving mainstream to garner enough interest from the younger generation to move to their brand. You whip out a smartphone with a Leica branded camera without generating the same attention as you would with a Leica branded digital camera. 

So here we have it, the Instant film compatriot to the digital Leica system. It is eye catching enough for the young at heart and not as stuffy as the Leica digital cameras which would cost you your left kidney to own. But that's not to say that the Leica Sofort is going to be cheap. Rumors have it at upwards of US$300 a pop. 

Leica will also sell Fuji Instax Mini film under its own Leica brand, expect to pay more for this privilege, but you can load up any Mini Instax film by Fujifilm. 

Leica is trying to appeal to a younger audience to arrest the falling sales of its own digital camera products. And with the brand appeal and hopefully, quality as well, we can see a new generation of Leica camera users who are not already retiring to the Bahamas. 

So I will no doubt double down on a Leica Sofort once I win the lottery. Enough said. 


Funded: The Lomo Instant Automat


Lomo has another instant camera using Fuji Instax Mini Prints. This time, it has auto exposure and it is called the Automat.

It is good to see that the analog instant sheet film is still alive but it probably isn't a great thing since you have the instant equivalent in the form of a Zink print for digital cameras. Yes, I have a instax mini, the first generation that is about 16 years old. It still works like a charm though I don't use it much. The problem with instant film is that it is expensive, and when you have a instant film camera that uses Zink prints, that is cheaper and equally convenient to have with you. 

Anyway, this isn't the first time Lomo has come out to support the Instax Mini revolution. And the Automat shares the same credentials as the Lomo Instant. It comes with both a wide angle and zoom lens attachments. 

The automat is fully funded on kickstarter as we speak, and I do not think it needed it. Kickstarter is for newbies wanting to launch a new invention and get the necessary crowdfunding. 

Lomo on the other hand, makes the cameras and test the market with a Kickstarter campaign for added publicity. They don't really need crowdfunding to know that there are enough people out there willing to double down on one of their new cameras. 

  • Film Format: Fujifilm Instax Mini 
  • Exposure Area: 62mm x 46mm 
  • Shutter Speed: Bulb (maximum 30 seconds), 8s-1/250 (Auto Mode)
  • Aperture: f/8, f/22 
  • Exposure Compensation: +1/-1 Exposure Values (Ambient Exposure)
  • Film Ejection Mechanism: Motorized
  • Multiple Exposures: Unlimited 
  • Built-in Flash Guide Number: 9 (m) 
  • Built-in Flash: Automatic Flash & Flash Off Mode
  • Zone Focusing Setting: 0.6m / 1-2m / infinite 
  • Tripod Mount: Yes 
  • Remote Control: 2 sensors (one at the front, one at the back), transmission via Infrared 
  • Film Counter: LED indication, counting down 
  • Battery Supply: 2 x CR2 batteries (2 x 3V) 
  • Remote Control Battery Supply: 1 x CR1632 (3V)
  • Remote Control Effective Range: Sunshine: 1-2m. Indoor: 5m. 
  • Filter Thread Diameter: 43mm

On another note, Fujifilm, the manufacturers of the original Instax cameras, have also released a monochrome instant print in the Instax Mini format. Not sure if it will be a hit but it would be nice to have for a change. 


How Public Domain Pictures became a Nightmare for Alamy and Getty


Recently, a case where a photographer donated a huge cache of images to the library of congress to become public domain has come to haunt Getty Images. 

Carol M Highsmith is currently suing Getty Images for US$ 1 billion dollars in damages. After she was sued by Getty Images for copyright infringement over her own photos that she donated to the US Library of Congress. In her gift, those photos has become royalty free but Getty Images thought they could misappropriate it and sue her instead. 

This is not the first time such public domain images are being used by Getty in licensing suits. A number of royalty free images from the Library of Congress has ended up in Getty's own coffers and you can actually buy them. 

This has made photographers world wide very incensed at the thought that Getty and Alamy prefer to sell public domain pictures and keep 100 percent of the profits. 

This isn't a bad business model. Take something for free and sue the pants out of people who use them. 

In the world today, are are millions of images being captured digitally every day of week. Many will end up in stock image libraries like Getty and Alamy which will never be sold because too few buyers are turning to them. 

The race to the bottom to sell bulk digital images with subscriptions has decimated the worth of digital photos and yet, Alamy and Getty prefer to list public domain pictures as a way to sell even more picture albeit scalping a clean profit for themselves. 

Such brazen thievery is no different than the many who steal photos off the Internet for commercial use. 

But that's not all, lately Getty has decided to kill its photojournalism department by declaring it doesn't want to keep photographers engaged in reportage work will no longer be getting further assignments from them. 

Reportage work was the bread and butter of photojournalism in its heyday, Today, photojournalism assignments are farmed out to anyone willing to work for beer money. 

I have images listed on Getty and it and not seen a single licensing sale from them, giving me reason to suspect they are more interested to selling photos where they make a bigger profit than those who are listed as royalty free on their library. 

But the rush to the bottom by royalty free image agencies are making the business more and more difficult to justify. 

We all know that you can buy an image for a song on some of these sites and it is a sign of desperation for photographers who want their work purchased. 

Getty has been in hot soup lately, making several of such misappropriations from photographers and later suing them for copyright infringement only to be counter sued by the photographer and copyright owner instead. 

Getty Fights Lawsuit Update

In the ongoing litigation between Getty and Carol Highsmith, the image agency has told the court that Carol's images in public domain is free and cannot be infringed so their argument is that Carol cannot sue them for copyright infringement since no protection exist for them. 

For charging people for public domain pictures, Getty had this to add. 
“Public domain works are routinely commercialized,” writes Getty. “Publishers charge money for their copies of Dickens novels and Shakespeare plays, etc.” That, claims Getty, is what they’re doing with Highsmith’s work, and it’s totally legal. 
So what they are saying is that you should never put ANY images up into public domain because Getty has the right to misappropriate it and sell them online for a fee. 

Told you this can't end well. 


Pure Photography is not about Photoshopping Details


Here is another reason why you should be reverting back to analog photography instead of going digital. The image above is the latest in a series of digital photo editing tools which basically allows you change any landscape picture into one that could just win you an award.

The program in question is called Landscape Pro, an intelligent picture detecting and enhancement program that runs on Macs and PCs.

What the program does is to detect elements within the picture to enhance and unlike Photoshop, which needs you to get down to smoothening the minute details like color fringing. It uses a masking technique for you to label objects within a picture so that the program can automate the process with a preset algorithm to darken, lighten, or just change the look and feel completely.

At the moment, some of the usual presets are already geared towards more challenging digital editing with contrast controls, lighting direction as well as shaded color in water environments.

With technological advances in digital editing, what is the worth of a picture these days?

For commercial photography, it is great guns to shoot in any weather and yet produce sunny 16 results. It saves time too since you are not subjected to environmental elements on any day which could ruin your shoot. So you can literally play God with your pictures.

Death of Pure Photography

Pure photography these days are designated with a #nofilter tag on pictures but the point is, who cares? I personally do not care if you have a #nofilter tag on your digital pictures since it is shot digitally in the first place. If you stuck a #film tag on it, I would take notice.

The #nofilter tag is like telling the world you are vegetarian but do I care that you don't eat meat? You still eat #food so why should I be of interest to how you eat.

Likewise why would I be interested in a #nofilter tag when all you shoot on is with a digital camera.

Unlike analog film, there is only so much you can do to it while in the darkroom. Contrast controls are limited to what you are able to do with hand dodging. Yes, this happens when you are in a dark room where you use your hands to dodge and burn a picture to control the highlights, and shadow details while expose a sheet of photographic paper with an Enlarger.

Beyond this, you can only touch up the film medium to scrub out very small details.

The purity of analog photography is now lost for good since every picture we see these days are nothing more than a by product of the computer age.

I would not bother to go and see a photo exhibition just to witness what technology is capable of doing to a digital image. But I would pay to go and see pictures capture from a forgotten past because photographer those days used only film.

For those living in Europe, there is still a love for photography that is unseen elsewhere though I do not know how long this affair will last.

Don't get me wrong. Digital for me is a great way to learn photography, you can shoot countless frames until you get it right without costing you a dime. In film, you pay for every frame that gets wasted.

The learning curve to photography is very low these days and if you still haven't got it, you might as well take up house painting.


35mm Film Cameras for use during a Zombie Apocalypse in 2016

I said smile dude...! 

The Zombie Apocalypse is upon us! If you are going to go out to document the last days of mankind, what would you use? Let's be fair, the Internet would die, and unless someone had access to your digital camera raw files, they would never be able to see how the world really ended. So your best bet would be to get a film camera to document everything before a Zombie gets you and eats your brain. So what are your choices? Read on. 

Nikon F6

Yup, still selling after all these years, be prepared to pay up to US$2600 to own one. This is like driving an all auto car, nothing to worry about, just point and shoot. The intelligent system will take care of backlighting and is weather sealed to prevent dust and water. So if you are running away from zombies through mud and grime, you'd be pretty sure the camera would work so long as you have these AA batteries handy. That's right, for all the metering and shutter to work, it needs to be powered up. This is what a professional photographer from the film age would buy. Lenses are autofocus too so no worries. Think of this as the Porsche of the analog camera world. 

Nikon FM10

It is like riding a five speed bicycle. Not the fastest camera, all manual...think of it as driving a stick shift, and the intelligence has to be from you and not the camera. It needs a battery to power up the light metering but aside from this, the camera will work without one if you know the Sunny 16 rule for film exposure. Selling for less than US$600, it is as dependable as an ice cream truck when you are getting away from brain eating zombies. 

Leica MP and M7

The M Professional or the M7 are both very similar, in that it cost a bomb to own. The M7 is the cheaper brother which cost in the ballpark of US$4,400 while the MP is up there at US$7,000. The exquisite Leica glass often cost more than the camera but that's another story. The Leica MP is for the Pro who prefers to have weather sealing. The MP uses SR44 cells to power the metering but beyond that, you don't have to worry much if you don't have it on your person. It still fires mechanically...but a word of warning... the M7 can't do the same. 

One of the problems with Rangefinders is that the viewfinder is a little off and without the proper frame lines within the viewfinder, you have to be psychic to shoot one. 

The M7 on the other hand is just another tool. I can't say much about these Ferraris of the analog camera world. Even though these German made machines are dependable enough to use as a weapon should a Zombie get you, it just doesn't quite fit the scenario if you had to pawn your left kidney to buy one. Then you have the split image focusing, which is quite a drag to use during low light. If money is no object to you then by all means ante up, and it uses 2L76 cell batteries if you want to have it shooting up to 60 rolls. 

Horizon Perfekt

A 35mm camera that shoots super wide images that encompasses two frames instead of one. This one is sold through the Lomo site and cost about US$350. Not bad if you want super wide panos on ordinary 135 film and with a selectable shutter speed, it probably is quite fun too. If you are looking to shoot wide open Zombie landscapes, this would be the perfect camera to use. As a wide angle camera, you could put yourself in a selfie the moment you are cornered by man eating zombies as a last documented proof that you have been assimilated. 

Lomo LCA+ and LCA Wide

Not one of my favs for reasons obvious, these are zone focusing cameras and what you see isn't what you get if you turn the focus dial wrongly. Some might like the blurry images as an art form but I beg to differ. However if you are not interested in pin sharp pictures of Zombies, hey....knock yourself. The LCA+ cost US$250 while the LCA Wide is US$390. Both are available for online purchase on the lomo site. 

Originally copied by the Russians and made famous as a point and shoot. The LCA was notorious when it came to reliability. So they sold out and gave the opportunity to the Chinese to make them but the camera's Mintar lens that made those gorgeous pictures famous are still Russian made. The color saturation difference between the normal 32mm focal length and 17mm focal length of the LCA Wide isn't much but the aperture on the LCA Wide isn't very useful in low light thanks to its f/4 aperture. 

So Here is the Deal...

Buy what you can afford. Each has its own quirks. Some require batteries, others don't. But if you want metering to be functioning, you need batteries, period. These could be the LR44 varieties for the Lomo LCA or AA batteries for the Nikon F6 with the battery grip or two CR123A without the grip. 

Lenses are another thing. For SLRs, having a zoom is great, and easier to shoot with. The Rangerfinders on the other hand requires you to have more than one lens at hand. Those with fixed focus lenses like the Lomo and Horizon will require you to run up close to your subject which can prove dangerous during a Zombie outbreak. 

Digital isn't going to cut it. Especially if you upload everything to the cloud, no one will ever see it. What's more, if your iPhone dies, your photos will die with it. That is why film is the way to go. Even if the exposed roll doesn't get developed immediately, your photos will remain intact as proven by people who bought used cameras from the last country and were still able to develop the unfinished roll of film within it. 

So if you want some semblance of legacy....shoot film. 


How Art became a victim of the Digital Age


Every artist secretly wants to continue doing what they love doing, and in doing so, they also hope to have the funds to continue this endeavor. 
I find it difficult to call myself an artist these days. Though never poor of talent but never rich enough to conquer the inevitable challenges of a chosen path. Everywhere I go these days, people talk of art for art sake, and how they have been robbed of their creation thanks to the digital world we live in. Take for example, Prince, who died recently and absolutely refuse to let people use his music unless it was paid for in some way. Or for that matter, artist photographers who are routinely called photoshop hacks because nothing they do is ever good enough for an audience fed on a steady stream of fake digital photos. 

What about the aging artist continue to struggle to get their work noticed, not that they are not any good but have yet to be discovered by social media. Then there are the craftsmen, who do what they do because of skill and technique and will never attain the merits of being an artist. 

Photography is no different. Photographic art sells, but for that you need to be a desktop artist and not one operating a digital camera. 

It's hard to justify the worth of a picture these days if it is shot in digital. I remember a time when being a photographer was a hardskill that had to be applied creatively. You need to know about the various types of film, how to develop it in a darkroom and how to print and dodge it with a enlarger. The chemicals were different, color negs, positive film, b/w and let's not forget about the type of paper used in the darkroom printing process. If a client want to blow up a picture to poster wall size, they come back to you and you have to find a good lab to do that. This was craftsmanship at its finest. 

Photographers were artist in the time of analogue film. They were admired and respected. The craftsmen of the photo trade also existed of course but they were not in high demand. These were the journeymen of the industry. Photographers who mastered the art of analog photography only developed those one of a kind prints. It wasn't something you'd find off a line printer because developing it on print also took a certain kind of skill. 
Today, the darkroom is a computer and the art is the digital filters you can dial in through Instagram or a camera app that works on your iPhone. 

Then the Internet came Along....

Digital is the way to go. There is nothing more to learn beyond processing it on a computer, which you must own of course, and with the right software...available free online if you know where to find it. What's more mobile apps offer you the chance to dial in those enhancements to photos with minimum skill. Want a sepia effect? Just ante up on that in-app purchase if you don't already have it. Digital has leveled the playing field so anyone with a smartphone can be a photographer. Even Steve McCurry, an ambassador of sorts for photojournalism declared he is no longer a photojournalist but a visual story teller. He switched places and got a whole lot of flak for this

Digital Photography is a non skill judging from the low expectations of both clients and photographers. If you try to explain the complex digital procedures during a shoot, they will laugh at you. Got a problem? The use Photoshop to solve it. For this, you need to be skilled in Photoshop....and talent hasn't got anything to do with it. It is a matter of skill on how you brush in or brush out a subject. You need to illuminate a certain area of a picture, you just dial in the overexposed in photoshop. You become a keyboard jockey once you learn all the hot keys needed to perform this on the fly. 

Lighting is very easy to learn these days with the instant results you get from digital filters and enhancements. Got a studio with strobes? Even simpler! Shoot each frame and compare the lighting exposure. It takes a fraction of a second for a frame to be shot and if you can't get it right after 3 shots, you got to be autistic. It was different in the days of analog. Even after taking exposure readings, you had to bracket the frame (three shots) to be safe. There is no fall back if exposure is wrong.

For years, Kodak and Fujifilm had to teach people how to use their film, and even held seminars for professional photographers. I attended them in my time and that's when the manual cameras were going out of fashion. People switched to all automatic film cameras but thanks to the film stocks, you could never be sure you have a hit or miss because Kodachrome behaved differently than negative film. So it was back to manual controls. I started to appreciate photography because it was complicated and knew that if I picked it up, it would go well with my writing. Yes, I started writing for newspapers and magazines using a manual know the sort that had actual physical keys which hammered a thin film of ink ribbon to paper. With a film camera in my bag, I was a photojournalist as well. How times have changed now that everything you want to do can be performed from the comfort of a Starbucks cafe with free WIFI and your smartphone. Everything you write or photograph can be up in social media in a matter of minutes. 

How Digital Killed the Analog Star

Did I shoot using Kodachrome? Yes I did. It was a bitch to learn to use but I picked it up after countless failures. Each time I got a package in the mail (you had to send it overseas for developing), my fingers could not contain the excitement as the postman rung the door bell to tell me I had mail.

Kodachrome was a hidden art that few photographers would learn to use in their lifetime. Casual photographers would never turn to Kodachrome as learning it was a trial by fire. You see, there are no sample shots you can look at or metadata to refer to. Each time you took a shot, you jot down the exposure data. The scene had to be remembered in your head as when your Kodachrome slides came back, you had to remember why it didn't turn out the way you remembered it. That was how difficult it was but you could pick that up if you spent time learning about film stocks and its nuances.

These days everything in photography has to do with economics and there is nothing Nikon and Canon can do to change that. First, I have been shooting for over 20 years, on film, instant and now digital, worked with some of the best photographers in the world and now seen how photography has taken on new meaning with digital thrown in.

Economics is what determines the success of any type of technology and for digital, the same is true for users who buy into those thousand dollar equipment in the hope of making it professionally.

It ain't easy making a living with digital equipment. Think of the investment, then think of the returns and you know why digital has been a difficult value point. Nikon and Canon want you to spend more money on equipment, buy more lenses, upgrade to new camera bodies every 12 to 18 months. 

Rapid Growth before a Decline

Digital DSLRs saw rapid growth from 2006 onwards, before tapering off in 2011, the trend now is to headed south, thanks largely to mobile smartphones.

I must say that I don't use a DSLR to shoot anymore. There is no reason to as I don't shoot professionally for anyone. Even when I do, I try to capture everything on a mobile device. Why? Coz it's a hobby. I turn down request to shoot because the pay is far too little and I am not in the mood to compete with people who flash around hefty DSLRs. Besides, taking a good photo is not difficult. If you know how to position your camera in view of the scene before you, you'd get a picture. It is not rocket science. Digital makes it real easy for you to get an idiot proof instant result that you can share with the world on Instagram.

DSLRs are great to have. Good to use if you find paying clients but these days, the only paying clients are those in wedding, commercial events or products and news. Even photojournalism doesn't pay enough to warrant you to take up a hefty insurance tab from Lloyds of London and going out to a war zone to make money shooting images. It's much cheaper for the news agencies to hire the locals from the war zone. Pay them peanuts too.

Does the world remember the last conflict photojournalist who fell in the line of duty? No. The world at large doesn't much give two hoots about who died photographing a war because digital images are apparently worthless beyond a use by date. Those who have died in Syria, Iraq, Libya....will be forgotten.

Digital pictures are passed around like a cheap hooker and after constant use as memes, would you even pay to enter an art gallery to see the real picture from the one you find on the web?

Would I have given two hoots about a photographer who gets beheaded on a YouTube video? Nope. I really have no business to care. People die all the time and I hope it was worth your entertainment because the real pictures from a war zone isn't worth much these days.

Pictures are Sold as Royalty Free

Yes, I have sold my pictures online. All of them are royalty free. Rights managed photos don't sell well because, well, they are expensive. 

These days, people rarely buy photos which are rights managed for print advertising. And I have pointed this out before when competing brands sometimes stumble on the same image and these gets used in a newspaper advert....both at the same time. 

Turn to the internet, and you would be inundated with offers to royalty free stock image libraries that sell loads of photos for one flat price. 

Crowd sourcing single use photos are now popular. A brand name yogurt company can now do away with a dedicated photo shoot with a commercial photography when they dangle an offer to the crowd sourcing community to produce a picture they can use online and in print. The cost? maybe in the region of 300 to 500 USD. WTF? A commercial photographer would charge 4 times as much to produce that same photo. Now you see the difference?

And if you have good skills on photoshop, you can make those royalty free images even better by removing the background brand names on the city streets and replacing them with less obvious signs. This is what you need to do to sell a five dollar royalty free stock photo. 

The Future is in Limited Prints

Digital photos are retouched, it's like a model whose had a ton of plastic surgery done on her. Film photos can be digitally scanned and enhanced, but you can still buy the real thing, a print from an analog negative. That's the real deal. No hocus pocus with Photoshop.

Iconic photo prints from analog film are going to be collectables one day. Just like the ones that was used to shoot Steve Jobs for the book. Both pictures featured in the book were taken on analog film. So who gets the last laugh? Certainly not the digital photographer.

Today, people keep photo albums on Flickr and Google Photos. No one even prints photos anymore. I have a family album which I pieced together and this is for those who wish to remember me when I am gone. But for the rest of you on digital, your digital account dies with you. Forgotten as though cobwebs had obscured your digital account. I don't even have digital photos of my best friend who died seven years ago, just a memory of his email address. And if a friend had a Facebook account, his profile will be put in cold storage if left inactive for more than a year. The memory of the dead will not stay alive on Facebook.

An iconic analog print photo signed and autographed will be an investment. That is art. It increases in value over time. The other stuff shot on digital, not so. 

Photography has evolved into the fast food business—and anyone can learn to make a burger from scratch at McDonalds. Make of that what you will....


My Life in the Fast Lane, a photographic journey


In another life, I was a championship winning team manager and with it, I carried two cameras with me on my many trips. Most of the time, I would shoot with a 5 megapixel Nikon 5700, and as a back up, I had a Lomo LCA film camera. For me, the cameras were tools to help with the communications aspects of the vocation.

The two are indistinguishable as a tool. I felt right at home shooting on both mediums, though I did find the zone focus system on the Lomo a bit limiting. Digital was useful. It gave me pictures of the car and driver whenever someone from the press wanted them.

First, I must tell you how I came about as a team manager. I was head hunted for the job during my stint as an ad-hoc PR consultant for Johor Circuit. My involvement in motor racing at that point had been editorial and communications, and previously to this, I was the Media Officer for the Rally of Asia. For that role, I took a whole load of pictures which were later used as the main content for newspapers as the official photographer appointed for that event actually fucked it up badly by just taking pictures of cars on the dirt road. 

My reputation as a race savvy manager was unknown to me but people within the industry saw that I did good work so why not double down on the position of team manager. This came about in 2003.... for the inaugural Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Championship. 

Charles Kwan, 2003 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Champion

The role offered to me was simple enough, I could learn on the job and do the motorsports communications for Novellus Infineon Racing based out of Switzerland. Infineon was run by a bunch of Porsche fanatics and they had decided to compete in all the Carrera Cup Championships all over the world. The communications part was very small, I wrote press releases for the races and had that emailed to Switzerland. 

I didn't have to submit photos but I did take them on the side. Charles Kwan, the team driver with five asia pacific touring car championships under his belt was very accommodating. He would tell when when he's free for some pictures and I would take them for use should the sponsors asked. This happened like clock work. Sponsors are your patrons, you must always live up to that expectation with the necessary photos in hand.

Damaged fender was replaced with spares, hence the white colored parts. Sepang Circuit 2003

I loved doing photography but the opportunity to shoot were rare. most of the time you were far too busy with team affairs to worry about a photo opportunity. Regardless of what you think, there isn't time to do justice when it comes to your job. Once you get to the circuit, a whole routine had to be run to ensure the car and driver is at optimum for the race. There are no short cuts because if any irresponsibility can cause someone his life. Then there was the press, who badgered for time to talk to the driver. A photo op maybe? Yea, sure once we are finished doing what we are suppose to do, that is to win races.

This meant that I never had the time to shoot the car when its out on qualifying trials or at free practise. It would be irresponsible to do this for the sake of fun.

During the quiet moments, sure you had the time to photograph the models, and models here don't mean cars. These are girls who don sponsored labels on their attire for photographers who work within the paddock area. Everyone else will have to use a long telephoto lens to get a closer look. As a team manager, you look like everyone else who worked in the pits. Not a very attractive proposition but you have to get your hands dirty all the time. I had to wheel in the racing slicks (tyres for racing use) which had to be checked and verified as we were limited to one new set per event.

Why Motorsports is Dangerous for Photographers

Getting paddock access is very difficult for safety reasons. Photographers or spectators usually get a pit walk at some point on Saturday events but that's not a given opportunity. Some tracks prefer to keep spectators where they can control them the grandstands. 

Press photographers have photog nests around the circuit where they can hide out until the cars come racing round. They get to stand in the hot sun, have their skins toasted to a golden brown in the process. But this was fun to them. It was also highly dangerous as cars do go sideways and with it, take any standing photographer nearby up to meet their maker. Thankfully, none of the accidents we had during the Cup races were fatal. Egos were bruised naturally but never a death. 

But that's not to say it didn't happen in other racing events. I know a few who were involved in such unfortunate events. A fellow driver in the Porsche Carrera Cup had one bad experience where his Ferrari caught fire and the Marshals came to help put the fire out. A speeding car took three of them down. All of them died. This was in Macau. A place famous for its unforgiving street circuits and was the last event for the Porsche race. 

Photographers who want to shoot at the starting grid have to get grid access. There are a limited number of passes and it's always the national press photographers that get the first lot. The grid access only allows you to shoot what you see on the grid and paddock area. 

Photographers normally don't get both track and grid access. Those who stay on the grid are a different kind of photographer and those shooting on track are strictly for circuit action. The races are far too short for photographers to get both track side and grid access. A sprint race like the Porsche Carrera cup last only about 30 mins at most. In accident prone tracks, this could stretch longer but it depends on the circuit length. There is no time for a photographer to run around a circuit to take scenic shots. It is possible in Formula One, where the races stretch over an hour and a half at times.

Chandra, our car mechanic has a last word with Charles before he goes out to race

 Keeping the Cars Clean and Shiny

You have no idea on the extremes we have to keep the cars clean. After all, the sponsors want their brands to stand out so every time the car goes out, the scratches on the logos and damages to the car must be inspected and if possible, changed at a moment's notice. 

We had a box full of decals on standby and once there was a altercation on track, we had to change the front bumper and replace all the stickers. In Beijing, where we had a race at Goldenport motor park and had to clean the car every few hours because a thin layer of desert sand had deposited on the car. It was such a nuisance that we eventually covered the car up in a Porsche issued custom cover before we left for the day to avoid cleaning it again the following day. 

Keeping the cars clean and beautiful is really about that photo moment. People would snap pictures and post it around and that's what we want. It's all part of the sponsorship package. 

Charles Kwan and Benard Quek
To be frank on matters of responsibility, the only time you can have fun with the camera is when the race is over. During that time, you take pictures of the paddock area, fellow drivers and even friends working with competing teams. 

I didn't find much use for the Lomo but it was a useful off track camera. For me, the idea of shooting your journey through every event was a challenge to say the least. There were gaps as you were far too busy to shoot or when it rained like the monsoon during our race in Johor, Malaysia. None of the cameras would have held up to the rain so no point taking them out. To properly document the journey throughout the season, you would need to have a dedicated photographer, which we didn't have a budget for. 

I didn't even have the time to fully appreciate Macau, our last race of the season. But we won and that's what mattered. We won the championship by just two points. It was a hard fought battle from Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, China and finally to Macau.This was a beautiful place, charming to a fault, and with a lovely mix of cultures. The pictures I took that time left an impression on me but those are my private memories. Korea was nice but the circuit was located too far from the Taebeak mountains. Going back to Seoul, we had a few days to enjoy the wonderful city. Charles met up with a Korean actor, Jung Woo Sung, and I whipped out my Lomo for that moment. 

Actor Jung Woo Sung with Charles Kwan, captured with a Lomo LCA

Using the Lomo was a hit or miss affair. The film I used suited the moment but there were times when the Lomo let me down. I did carry both cameras with me but somehow, it's always the film cameras that leave an impression on your because they are so darn hard to use when you are in a hurry. 

Lomo moment in Beijing Goldenport Circuit

At the end of the race in Macau, I did the right thing which shocked a lot of people.  I announced my retirement from motor sports. I always felt that you should retire when you are up there with the best and I am glad I did. Those memories that I have are still around in my photo album, and boy that was one helluva ride.