In the days of the stereo wars manufacturers put all kinds of "accessories" in their audio equipment. There were equalizers - both graphic and parametric - and monitors and noise generators (for setting the equalizers) and meters and compressors galore. There were turntable speed adjusters and tone arm counterweights and floating-zero-force cartridges and platter pads without number. There were an infinite number of speaker stands. It seemed the music played through the system was simply an excuse to go mess around with the toys. But if you wanted to be an "audiophile" (and back then, who didn't?) and have the system that was the envy of your peers, you had to have all of this stuff.
And then came the Sony Walkman and, as they say, the rest is history.
Could photography be headed in the same direction?
In no particular order-
- We have to calibrate the color on our monitors.
- We have to calibrate the auto-focus on each one of our lenses. This is a new requirement.
- We have to shoot in a camera raw file format.
- We have to have to appropriate software to process our camera raw files.
- We need to have the correct storage media in our cameras.
- We have to have the appropriate plug-ins or extensions for our software.
- We have to make sure our computers have the "correct" graphics processing unit (GPU) to take advantage of all of the new things in our software. This is a new one, too.
- We have to have the correct central processing unit (CPU) to handle the demands of the software. This rolls around every so often - maybe some derivation of Moore's Law.
- We have to have the correct laptop to take in the field.
- We need to have the correct field storage device to take with us.
- and on, and on... and on.
Could we be getting to the point where we are taking photographs to justify all of the stuff? and to justify having all of the stuff necessary to do all the stuff.
Of course the reality is that you don't have to do any of it. If you are happy with your computer or your processing software or your camera that is fine. Continue to use it.
But there is this continual drumbeat of more complexity and of more stuff all in pursuit of the industry-defined (and elusive) "perfect image".
The overriding question here - with any of this stuff - is whether or not the photographs we produce are substantially better because of it. Or are we doing what we do to justify all of this stuff?
To put it another way, does all of this stuff enhance our telling of the subject's story? If not we are simply wagging the dog.
Just something to think about.