Irreversible Photography (IP) I would define simply as the making a single and final version of a photograph the moment your release the shutter.
Beyond that moment there is nothing extra you add or change about the image, no adjusting, or tweaking, or processing. It’s irreversible.
The only further decision to make is whether it’s worth sharing, or keeping at all.
This is of course not to say IP is a matter of hit and hope, simply taking a snapshot with your camera on fully auto everything zoom program mode and crossing your fingers that every image that results is spectacular.
Like the proverbial infinite room of monkeys recreating the works of Shakespeare, you’d sooner or later produce something you like. But without really having any idea how, or being able to reproduce or take any credit for the decisions that led to this result.
With Irreversible Photography, it’s about shifting when and where you make the fundamental decisions that will result in consistent photographs that you enjoy and can be proud of.
That work doesn’t begin when you release the shutter.
Before that, the work begins with deciding where you’re going to focus the lens, and what your depth of field will be – therefore your aperture.
But before that, the work begins with deciding what to include in the frame, and what to leave out.
But before that, the work begins with deciding which focal length of lens to use that will allow you to include what you want in the frame, for the kind of environments you prefer to work in, and the subjects you most enjoy shooting.
But before that, the work begins with deciding whether you’re shooting in colour or black and white, and how to set up your camera so it outputs an image that you like the look of, and don’t need to spend hours (or even minutes) post processing afterwards.
But before that, the work begins with deciding which camera and lens you will use to make all of the work described above as easy and intuitive as possible.
Though it might seem thoughtless and lazy from the outside to some, Irreversible Photography is in fact a studied, considered and efficient approach.
One that allows us to do the work ahead of time so in those moments of capturing what we find beautiful, we have very little to think about but how to frame and focus.
And the less that’s in our way, the more likely we are to not only get the final images we’re pleased with, but to enjoy ourselves more too.
Irreversible Photography allows us to lose ourselves in that beautiful flow of photography without interruption or irritation.
You know this feeling as well as I do.
Something that is so precious and immersive, yet near impossible to find if we’re having to make a dozen decisions like those above every single time we raise our cameras. Or, if you have too many cameras, before you even pick which one to raise in the first place.
Irreversible Photography is something I’ve been steadily spiralling ever closer to in the last year or so.
With the Pentax Q, I’m pretty much there. The camera is set up just how I want it. Zero post processing is required. I simply decide after which photographs to keep and share, and the rest get culled.
With my Ricohs and Xperia smartphone, there’s one extra step – a simple process with Snapseed that takes a couple of seconds and mostly adds a little contrast.
(I like Hipstamatic too, but Snapseed seems more obvious in how to find and tweak the way you want, and it’s on all devices, not just Apple.)
But even with this additional little processing step, happily I feel I’ve evolved a long way from where I was a couple of years ago – being overwhelmed with decisions at every turn, and compounding the problems even further by continuously buying and trying more and more cameras.
How do you feel about Irreversible Photography, and how close to reaching it are you with your photography?
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