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Don't worry, be snappy: Stop complaining about your digital camera

Christopher Breen | Aug. 4, 2014
When one has done something long enough (and, for the sake of this particular argument, let's say living can be reasonably counted among them) there's a tendency to take the long view--we have some notion of where we've been as well as how things are now. Recent complaints about the state of Apple and photography have compelled me to take a journey down the historical highway in the hope of gaining some perspective on just where we stand in regard to taking and making images with our cameras.

Begone, red bulb

I like inhaling monomethyl-p-aminophenol hemisulfate and sodium sulfite in a sealed room as much as the next guy, but can we please give a shout-out to image editing on a computer? The process of developing photographs in a dark room was a black art (though, as someone who briefly took a stab at it in high school, an enjoyable one) and, like other elements of photography, could run into significant amounts of money.

Today we have an arsenal of tools that allow us to manipulate images in ways unimaginable in those dark days. Sure, some of iPhoto's tools may be broad, even rough, but just imagine being darkroom-bound and tackling some of the tasks that those tools can perform in an instant (and that can be undone just as quickly) — particularly if you're an amateur who wouldn't know a dodge from a burn if one slapped you across the kisser.

The assets of organization

Once we had those printed images, we were obliged to do something with them. The retentive among us carefully culled the poor shots from the worthy and precisely placed them in photo albums — perhaps dotting the i by inscribing a caption beneath each one. The rest of us chucked them into a convenient drawer or shoebox with the idea that, upon our demise, our next-of-kin would discover them and exclaim "Wow, what terrible cameras and paper stock they had in those days!" and then throw them on the dustheap along with our sixteenth-edition Twilight novels.

It's entirely possible to approach image organization in these same ways today. The fastidious among us will discard the majority of their pictures upon import with the idea that even pros miss more often than hit. And, with what remains, keyword and albumize like there's no tomorrow. On the other extreme there are amateur shooters like me who — rather than taking the time to sift and sort — simply add more storage to house those precious "Your thumb's in the way" moments.

But, thanks to efforts by Apple and others, we now have many in-between steps. Bright minds understand that when you have the ability to capture a nearly unlimited number of images, avenues for organization become umpteen times more important. And these minds deliver in the form of metadata that lets us tag images by date and time, location, camera, aperture ... even by the people who appear in our pictures. With the help of this data and smart sorting schemes (Apple's Smart Albums, for example), even lazy people have the opportunity to put their images in some kind of rudimentary order without having to make much of an effort.


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