Straight photography

If I’d have to describe my style of shooting in one term, it would be straight photography. It is what the name implies — just straight photography, leaving out all the Lightroom nonsense and especially manipulating. For me personally straight photography is all about relying on the actual photography skills and in-camera techniques without the emphasis in editing. I like the idea of a perfect negative, which doesn’t require any fingering.

What bugs me about digital photography, it’s almost synonymous with editing in Lightroom and/or Photoshop. If done well, no big deal, but annoyingly often photographers can’t resist the urge to ruin the image with every possible adjustment slider in Lightroom. I’ve been using Photoshop since 1997, ever since I was a teenager, and I’ve edited the hell out of photos during my time. Leaving editing (mostly) out of my photography has really opened the highway of learning for me.

The biggest takeaway has been the obvious realisation, that the photograph actually has to be good in order to make a nice image. In my previous life I wasn’t able to accept a bad photo and I often tried to save it by banging it in Photoshop. No amount of editing can’t turn a bad photo into a good one. The basic building blocks of the image has to work before the benefits of editing can be achieved. But then again, if the photograph is good straight from the camera, is there any reason to edit it? Usually a good photo can stand of it’s own and very little editing is required. If any at all.

After accepting that Photoshop skills cannot save bad photography skills, it left me with only one option — learning how to photograph. And boy has it been rewarding! I suppose it’s possible to learn just as well with digital, but at least for me, doing straight photography on film, has been the ultimate combination in learning. I can’t say I wont return to digital some day, but at least, I’ve learned some valuable core skills during this time, that I can easily take into digital work too.

I’ve also come to embrace the fact that gear doesn’t play a big role either. I find it comforting to know that I need basically only one good camera. The amount of gear doesn’t supplement the lack of skill either, it seems.

There’s nothing quite like being able capture candid moments by using simple gear and available light. In the center of straight photography, is the actual skill — not gear or going mental in Photoshop.

2 Comments

  1. C K

    Found your website because I’m interested in returning to 35mm photography. I too feel that the digital ‘revolution’ has distorted the real pleasure of photography. The downsides of staying digital are rarely talked about. I shot film in the mid 70’s to late 90’s and then stepped into digital. I eventually stopped dragging my big camera around and just carried a smartphone. But now, semi-retired I want to return to taking real pictures. There are none on my walls, just paintings, but no photographs. I miss the darkroom, and the paper photos. They’re tangible, real, and they contain memories of how a photo was taken, who was there and the circumstances at the time, that no digital process will ever contain. So now I’m looking for the best source of online information, probably a forum of film enthusiast to keep being inspired to return to film. Not much luck so far.

    • Sorry it took me some time to reply! Yeah, I’m on the same page with you here. I’m too always scouting for good resources. There’s few really good groups on Facebook, but maybe the biggest source of information, at least for me, is the Film Photography Podcast. It’s pretty far from a forum, but it is a good and entertaining listen. There’s an active community surrounding it too with their Facebook page, Flickr group etc. https://filmphotographyproject.com

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