Spare Us Your Shutter Speeds, Share With Us Your Soul

This is an open letter, a plea, to all of us who write about cameras and photography.

A plea to espouse less about the range of shutter speeds or shooting modes or sensor dimensions of your latest (old) photographic friend.

To spare us another paragraph containing mind numbingly over used phrases like “the top plate is relatively uncluttered”, “adjustable in third stop increments” or “27 point multi AF”.

To stop investing your time writing hundreds of words about mediocre cameras and making dozens of mediocre pictures with them, just to prove they still work.

Instead please write about why you photograph, what you love about it, why you can’t live without it, how you spend half your waking hours thinking about it, then go to sleep and dream about it.

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I implore you to use and share stories of only the machines that thrill and and ignite and delight you (and why), the ones which make you feel so at one with them that they become invisible, and you become invincible.

I urge you, put aside the torpid technical text and instead imbue us with impassioned prose about the most beautiful, exhilarating photographic love(s) of your life…

Is this too much to ask? 

Please let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

48 thoughts on “Spare Us Your Shutter Speeds, Share With Us Your Soul”

  1. Oh Dan, I am laughing and laughing about todays post. I do very simple photography and love what I do so when I see many of your posts full of the technical stuff I am just lost to it. I love reading about everything you implore your readers to write about. I love reading about the passion behind a person’s interests including photography. You write about that too of course and I understand it love from susanJOY

    1. Susan, yes that’s exactly it, I’m also interested in the passion behind the interest, more than the technical details.

      I appreciate that for many the technical details are the passion, and to a great extent knowing how aperture, shutter speed etc impacts a photo is invaluable.

      But these ubiquitous posts about old cameras that all say exactly the same things, and describe in fine detail what you can clearly see in a couple of decent photos of a camera, I just find rather boring!

      Plus you don’t get any of the writer/photographer’s personality come through, as they all sound the same, speaking as if they’re reading out a camera manual.

  2. Steady on there fella… Should I start getting worried?

    😉

    I was about to post a 500 word treatise regarding my “5 point/finger multi AF” system, and why I can’t live without it. Well, now that’s in the recycling bin!

    *sigh*

    1. Anton, if your wrote it as 10 words about describing the “5 point/finger multi AF system” then 490 words about why you can’t live without it, I’d read with interest. It’s the “why” I love – why certain cameras and certain features of certain cameras make you fall in love them. I just don’t need to have the manual and/or manufacturer’s spiel about the features regurgitated in fine detail.

      Slightly off topic but this reminds me I’ve had two or three Samsung cameras in the past that have been boxed, and some of their packaging text is almost comical, like they have taken a random phrase generator and put in all the most exciting and sexy words they could think of. So you get lines like “the perfection of excellence” and “inspiration achieved”…

      1. don’t get me started on adverts/marketing for hair and beauty products…
        I KNOW they just make up s**t as they go along
        Some of those words are just… *speechless*
        🙂

        1. Ha ha, yeh they’re the worst on TV for that.

          The Samsung text was amusing because it felt a bit broken, like they had used a machine to create the phrases and just mashed them together.

          The hair and beauty ad language is a creative industry in its own right.

          Remember they only do it because we’re worth it… ; )

          1. I was hooked after the 3rd jar of laser revitalift

            so, I knew I was worth it!!

            🙂

            I mean really, LASER? In a jar? or do you have to apply it with a laser? or you can only see the effects with a laser? just too many questions…

          2. But in all seriousness, I’ve been there buddy. ‘Please stop talking about the same gear!’
            I even started a Twitter hashtag #yourenotaphotographerif (I know, very catchy 😉 )

            You’re not a photographer… If you’re more concerned about #socialmedia #stats, you’re not really a photographer!

            You’re not a photographer… If your ‘photography’ site has a preview of your (sponsored) rented camper-van, you’re not really a photographer!

            the same goes for gear saturated blogs and sites…
            so, there. You know how I feel

          3. I had an old Konica with a sticky shutter, loose focus screen and scratched mirror a few years back. I bought a litre bottle of L’Oreal Total Repair shampoo and soaked the Konica in it. It certainly did not do what it claimed on the bottle, the camera was worse than ever after that!

          4. That Ode to Social Media from Anil is just brilliant
            What a great way to start the day 🙂

            Certainly put a smile on m’dial
            cheers for that fella

  3. Very good point. I never quite know why I put technical stuff in may be it might help someone starting up. But I try mix it up with where I or how I got there to place. My next post will be heeding your words.

    1. Hi Ange, thanks for your comments.

      I certainly feel there’s a lot of merit in posting how to posts for beginners, showing how we approach certain technical aspects of photography. I’ve written a few of these myself and they’ve been popular.

      What I find dull is reading a dozen different blogs that all describe a hundred different but largely similar old cameras in a near identical way. It’s just not for me, life’s too short to reading phrases like “the ISO dial sits on an uncluttered top plate” even one more time!

  4. Lately I’ve been using the same camera my father used to photograph me 74 years ago to photograph my grandchildren. The connection across four generations means much more to me than any particulars about hardware and materials.

    1. Doug, that personal history through a single camera is amazing… I can’t recall ever seeing my mother or father with a camera, though my nan was ever present with her Kodak Ektralites and similar in the 70s and 80s. I doubt many of these are still working!

  5. I just deleted my negative post about Leica. No reason to give my truthful opinion to people who didn’t ask for it.

    I will say in a positive note. The new Fujifilm XH-1 has the softest shutter I have ever experienced. It is a total game changer for low light long exposure photography. I don’t need to mention the IBIS because most new cameras have it. IBIS is very important to me. But I’ve never loved a shutter button on any camera.

    1. Corvus, shame I missed your Leica rant, that sounded entertaining!

      Why is that soft shutter a game changer? I don’t know what IBIS means I’m afraid!

      1. I think my anti-Leica rant will have to wait until you waste the money on one and realize they do not live up to the hype at all. (Leica lenses are still mostly great, the bodies are for fools.)

        IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) moves the sensor of the camera around in the camera to combat vibrations at all shutter speeds. What it means in real life is a low light photo taken at 3200 ISO can now easily be taken at 200 ISO.

        The super soft and sensitive shutter button on the XH-2 (activating nearly by breathing on it.) adds to the IBIS to allow 1/4 second handheld photos with a 53mm equivalent lens.

        That single feature of the XH-2 makes me enjoy the camera much more. It also makes me forgive it’s many flaws.

        1. It’s unlikely I will be a Leica owner anytime soon. Maybe if I won the lottery I might explore one of the digital ones, but it’s not really something that interests me. I prefer the cheaper end of the spectrum, and being able to make pictures I like with very inexpensive and straightforward kit.

          IBIS must be very useful if you want to keep your ISO low. Sounds akin to suspension on a car, evening out the bumps in the road.

          It’s interesting how one feature on a certain camera can be so valuable to us that we overlook other shortcomings. No camera is perfect, but a standout feature plus being competent in all other areas can make it a clear favourite.

  6. Actually have been photographing the same stretch of the river banks of the Susquehanna River , aproximately 15 miles in length , I think for 7 years . I look for ways to make all green in the summer months and all brown in the winter months look sexy!! I I photograph the living and the dead life along the banks . Animal and plant . The river trusts me and shares her magic and gives up her hidden treasures for me to see . The banks of the Susquehanna River call and I can’t refuse .

    1. Yes MW! That is more like it. I’m intrigued by your descriptions, do you have your photos online somewhere or do you make pictures just for your own satisfaction?

      1. Actually the digital photos are backed up on four hard drives as not to lose them . When I take a digital photo I follow up with a film photo . Most film photos are hung on chicken wire through my room, to me there conversations are never lost . A lot of the treasures are disappearing on this stretch of the river banks because of time and weather . I have a deep connection with this area of the river and it pains me to think that it might be lost . Long story short, out two loves has come a beautiful trek. MW

        1. MW, I’m also a big fan of walking in nature and photography, and they go hand in hand beautifully. Do you find that even if you’re not using a camera, you’re still seeing and making photographs of what you see in your mind?

  7. Pretty entertaining post Dan. I would never call myself a photographer, it is just a fun hobby for me. Related to Doug’s post above, it takes me back to my childhood and fun ramblings with my Great-Uncle on photo walks. Sometimes I use his camera. It just makes me feel good. Most of my pictures are rubbish, and I don’t feel any need to share them. Once in a while I get a pleasing picture of friends, or co=workers and I have it printed and give it as a gift. I do find it fascinating what kinds of gear people are drawn to and why.

    1. Yeh Jon, I appreciate different people get different things from photography. Indeed each of us I’m sure get a range of pleasures from the hobby. The key is finding why we photography, and how we can best serve that need, so we just enjoy it as much as possible.

  8. I’m just a simple hobbyist who enjoys film photography the way I was taught it in the 70’s & 80’s, hunting for that picture that will be pleasing enough to be mounted on the wall. I like using simple media, no fancy editing software either, just admires the work of others regardless of equipment is used and shares his work using the medium of the internet… as for my technical details of what I’ve done or used, I can never remember from one shot to the other and don’t ask me, I really don’t care!

    1. Martin, I try to keep it simple too, and often think I would have enjoyed being born a generation earlier more, especially on the photography front.

      Because I got into the cycle of testing so many cameras between around 2012 and 2017, I had to be super methodical with tracking and labelling photos so I knew which camera, film and lens I used.

      These days as I use radically fewer cameras (essentially two digital compacts plus camera phone), I don’t really need to be this thorough with labelling, tagging etc anymore, because ultimately it doesn’t matter what camera made the picture, just whether you like the final image or not.

      I have a post in draft about this very thing!

  9. Hi Dan, do you have any tips for someone just starting out in photography? I am wanting to keep everything pretty simple to start off with – I am reading and listening and learning everyday, but I want to crack the foundations before I start to learn out more difficult techniques etc.

    1. Hi, thanks for your question. What kind of photography are you interested in, ie what kind of subjects? Which camera do you have?

      I might be able to point you in the right direction if I know more about your intentions.

      Oh and what’s your real name? I’m assuming it’s not Cloud Based DAM, unless you’re some distant cousin of Jean Claude Van DAM?? 🙂

  10. A proud Minolta user since I inherited a Minolta SR7 at the age of five with a 28mm 3.5, I guess I was destined to become a landscape photographer, don’t get me wrong Ive been through other formats I’ve even done digital, been through all the major brands and some very expensive lenses but I keep going back to Minolta and some 44 years after my first camera I still regularly use my SR7, SrT101,303 and 303b but my 2 XD 5’s and XD7’s get the most use, I can bore you to deaths with tech specs on all theses cameras but I won’t be saying anything that hasn’t been said before, so if you’re interested in the shite it’s on camera wiki, I mainly use the big old all heavy metal and glass lenses all primes, hey if it ain’t broke and still gives great results why replace them so what if they’re heavy ever heard of a monopod, I only have on MC lens a 100-200 zoom it gets a fair bit of use it’s basic has a tiny 48mm filter on the front but I love the perspective this lens gives I have no MD lenses, so when I go out it’s a bag of heavy and at least two cameras, if I’m doing serious paid work I use phase one 645 and another bag full of lenses, but these are tools my Minolta’s are as big a part of my life as my wife ( she’s a Nikonite but apart from that she’s perfect to me ) only I’ve known and loved my cameras longer, they’ve documented my life from the age of five till now including family some who are no longer with us the wife the kids and family holidays and that first 28mm lens lead me to travel to find different landscapes well as far as a kid can travel on a bus with pocket money after buying film, so they also taught me the value of money and early independence and made me yearn to travel further afield, and still now myself my wife and kids are still ticking waterfalls of a very long list and while my wife and youngest are very much digital myself and eldest daughter are still very much film and Minolta or in her case Konica/Minolta, so if you took my cameras from my life I have no idea who or where I would be, they are very much a part of me and the family I developed for myself around me.

    1. Drew, thanks for your comments.

      I have had a few Minolta film cameras, and I’m familiar with those you mention. A couple I had were almost my ideal camera. For old school back to basics all manual film shooting, I had an SR-1s. The 55/1.7 lens it came with was great, but I couldn’t resist getting the 58/1.4 sibling at a later date. I loved the simplicity, elegance and beautiful build of the camera and lens. I think the SR7 was a later evolution of the SR-1s.

      I also had an X-700 which was good but felt overly complicated. So I got an X-300, which again was excellent, and had just enough control for me. But alas I went through three of them in a month or so, all failed electronically. Such a shame because I really enjoyed them, and the Minolta lenses are as good as any I’ve used.

      Last Minoltas Standing

      So ultimately I went back to Pentax – M42 and K mount – as I’ve found them far more reliable.

      Still have a soft spot for Minolta though and wouldn’t rule out getting one again. But only one of the older SRs that are all mechanical and not electronic!

      For me this reveals something important about the cameras that last in my collection – I need to be able to depend on them like an old friend. Just like you’ve done with your SR7…

      Oh and I had a couple of Minolta AF lenses that blew me away – the Macro 50/2.8 and Baby Beercan 35-70/4. Absolutely fantastic, and I had great fun with them on Sony DLSRs which share the same mount. But again I returned to Pentax, they just have more soul – even the K10D DSLR I had, compared with other digital I’ve tried. Again that unexplainable connection and reliability that some cameras seem to give and others don’t.

  11. My daughter uses both those auto lenses and more besides on her Dynax 4 and her 800 Si, its criminal how cheaply the lenses are now well apart from the fast 2.8 Tele Primes, i myself still use my 58mm 1.4 and all but one of my lenses were from the original Sr series as i said heavy metal, as for cameras well i could never afford an XK or XM and prices are still high due to the collectors who want to use them as dust magnets, after the XD’s i looked at the other cameras and the only ones i might of tried were the XE’s both the X700 300 and later 570 were just too light weight and plasticy for me feeling more like cheap electronic toys and less like workhorse cameras, the later Konica/Minolta film cameras became more plasticy and more reliant on electronics, im sure to some people these were great cameras but the only one i ever considered was the last Dynax/Maxxum 9, but by then i had swapped to Canon for work but my Canon cameras have only ever been tools, my Minolta’s are my real cameras these are my go to to relax and feel comfortable in my own ability cameras and when i need more of the same but larger then there’s my Mamiya 645 1000’s and an even heavier bag of manual lenses, a camera i bought for weddings in my 20’s but have never been able to part with, each to their own i say cameras and brands will always be a personal preference, i have mine you have yours and others have theirs, its the photography and the passion with which they are used which counts the most.

    1. Thanks Andy for your thoughts. I was amazed by those Minolta AF lenses, and I had couple of the early Dynax bodies (7000 and 7000i I think) which we great fun. But I’m not really an AF kind of guy with SLRs, I prefer to slow it down and shoot manually.

      All the Canons I’ve had share a common thread – very capable but a bit bland and lacking in character or personality.

      Yes absolutely, it’s not the brand that matters but why and how a certain camera helps us enjoy photography more, and make images we love.

          1. Dan, just learnt something new with AF. Would have loved auto focus with my film camera….my Pentax but always just stuck with whatever limitations I had with it never realising there was a whole other world of cameras which I am learning here all these years later. SusanJOY

  12. Uh Oh, were talking AF, i can see where this is leading, reciprocity failure, parallax error and maybe lossy compression, whats next……

  13. It sure didn’t take long for this comment thread to get all technical 🙂 Loved the article. I’m always interested in photographs taken where people live their lives and I enjoy hearing about the thoughts and inspiration behind those photos. I’m a hobby photographer just getting back into film. Have been on IG for quite some time and credit that forum for reigniting my passion for photography, but am getting really turned off by what I am seeing there recently. I’ve been spending more time reading blogs such as yours. Jim Grey of “Down the Road” was the blog that got me started and now I’m thinking I’d rather share my photos in this type of setting.

    1. Ha ha, yes it’s all too easy to slip back into tech talk! Most of my blog posts are a reminder to myself to do more or less of something or other, and this one is no exception.

      I don’t know if you’ve read my post on Instagram a few months ago, I have very mixed feelings.

      https://35hunter.wordpress.com/2017/11/22/why-i-use-instagram-sort-of/

      In short, yes it’s potentially an excellent show case for some wonderful and inspiring photography. But it’s so optimised for phones that it’s frustrating using on anything bigger, and who really wants to try to browse beautiful photos on a a screen that fits in the palm of their hand? Not me!

      I’ve pretty much retired from Instagram again, indeed all social media. Now it’s mostly just Flickr I use as an archive and our connected network of photography blogs to interact and share with other photographers.

      What is it that’s turned you off Instagram? Do you have a blog yourself?

  14. I have the desire to start a blog but haven’t taken the leap yet. I’ve read your posts on that subject and am working on compiling some material. As far as what has turned me off of Instagram (even though I’m still there for now :), it’s mainly the soul sucking nature of it. So much of the same people going to the same locations to shoot the same photographs. And the need for “followers” and “likes”. I really loved your most recent post where you speak about removing yourself from all the “photography” that is online now and spending time looking at more classic examples and reading about the photographers of the past. I’m feeling like my creative mind needs a serious re-boot.

    1. Sandy, thanks for your comments. Keep writing and working at the blog.

      With you on Instagram, especially the need for followers, likes, whatever. And to what end purpose?

      I am withdrawing more from the online world yes, in various ways. More posts on this in the pipeline.

      What are you planning to do to reboot your creative mind?

  15. I love your passion and desire to explore the passion others feel about photography. I have the same “thinking about it” and “dreaming about it” experience with photobooth photography. I still get so excited about the scientific miracle of being able to capture a fleeting moment of time forever. The more time passes since the invention of photography, the more miraculous and exciting it is to be able to look back in time, as our knowledge and perception of the past changes and evolves.

    1. I still find film and digital photography like some kind of sorcery as I don’t fully understand the process behind it. To be able to capture a scene forever is an absolute marvel.

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