Five Things Photographers Need to Stop Doing

By Jonathan Timar
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Warning: contains nerdy stuff. If that’s not your thing, maybe just skip this one.

I was reading an an article today about the new DJI Mavic Mini drone. I am really excited about this little wonder as given all the regulations, I have never really been interested in getting a drone, an item which I suspect would be only occasionally useful to me, but this one flies right under the radar, so to speak.

But that’s not what this is about. While I was reading that article I witnessed the (incorrect) use of a term which drives me a bit bonkers. This is not an attack on that article or its writer, and it’s nothing personal. This stuff is endemic in the photography world, and it’s difficult to trace its origins (though I have my suspicions).

Feeling particularly peevish (I had just woken up from a nap), I was going to leave a comment and, er, express myself. But then I thought that wouldn’t be very nice, or very productive, and I stopped myself.

But I got to thinking: I bet I could think up a few more things that annoy me and turn it into a “listicle” (God save us from all these made up words, but I digress).

So here they are, five things I think the photography community needs to stop doing, starting with the one that set me off.

Stop calling it a “crop sensor”

Hipster Coffee

Remember, you can’t get shallow depth of field from a “crop sensor”.

There is no such thing. Really, there isn’t.

The only possible exception is an APS-C sized sensor installed behind a mount and lens designed for 35mm.

Here is the most applicable dictionary definition I could find:

crop/kräp/

verb

past tense: cropped; past participle: cropped

  1. cut (something, especially a person’s hair) very short.
    • cut the edges of (a photograph) in order to produce a better picture or to fit a given space.

You could argue that an APS-C sensor cuts off the image circle of a 35mm lens and its therefore a crop, and this is indeed how this terminology got started. I’d argue that even that is an abuse of the term, but I’m willing to let it slide. In this context, an APS-C sensor in a Canon DSLR could be considered a “crop sensor” but the exact same sensor in a Fuji X Series camera (which is designed from the ground up for a sensor of that size) most certainly could not.

What is not acceptable to me is people referring to every sensor smaller than 35mm as a “crop sensor”. This is simply not the case.

A Micro Four Thirds sensor behind a Micro Four Thirds Lens is not a “crop sensor”. If you put a lens designed for a 35mm lens in front of it using an adapter, it’s still not a “crop sensor”. Nothing you do can make it a “crop sensor”. What’s it being cropped from?

Think about it.

The teeny, tiny sensor in your smartphone is not a “crop sensor”. It’s just a teeny, tiny, sensor with a teeny, tiny lens to match it. Neither are the sensors your GoPro, the really cool new DJI Mavic Mini, or that old compact camera you bought in 2006. They are full-size sensors that happen to be smaller.

A smaller sensor is no more a “crop sensor” than a larger medium format sensor is a “reverse crop-sensor”.

Which brings me to…

Stop calling it a “full frame” camera

This is the inverse of the stupidity of the calling all sensors smaller than 35mm “crops”.

There are a multitude of different camera systems. Some have frames as large a full sheet of paper. Referring to 35mm as “full frame” is ridiculous. The only time it is correct is if you are comparing it to cameras that have APS-C sensors behind a lens mount designed for 35mm.

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In the Micro Four Thirds system, a 4/3 sensor is “full frame”. In the Fuji X System an APS-C sensor is “full frame”.

Just call it 35mm or 135 format. That’s what it is.

Stop being obsessed with image noise

A Mouldy and Sculler Motel

I didn’t think this image was noisy enough out of camera, so I added more in Photoshop.

If i had a nickel for every time I’ve come across an (invariably boring) photographer obsessing about image noise or opining that a camera is “unusable” above ISO 800 in YouTube comments or Facebook groups… Well, I probably wouldn’t be rich, but I’d have a damn heavy piggy bank.

There are two things in particular which drive me nuts about this:

They have no clue what they are talking about, and they have no idea how spoiled they are.

If the average person could see an average frame of 35mm film blown up to the larger-than-full-screen proportions that today’s measurbators routinely examine their images at, I think they’d be in for a shock. Smarter people than I have proven that digital cameras surpassed film long ago (though their predictions for the future were far less accurate) and the gap has only gotten wider. Even with the resurgence of film, however, very few get to do this as most are making do with the very poor quality scanners that are readily available and affordable at this point in history.

This is not a film versus digital argument, I bring it up only because for many decades 35mm film, an objectively inferior medium to the digital of today, served photographers well even though it was grainy and slow and, in most cases, almost completely useless after sunset without a tripod and/or a flash.

The irony is that film’s inherit inferiority is probably largely responsible for it’s resurgence in recent years. A lot of photographers are looking for something that’s a little less perfect, with colours and qualities that are more pleasing than they are accurate. Good for them, I say.

But on the other hand, we have a large contingent of (mostly ‘digital native’?) photographers whining if their handheld in the dark ISO 6400 shots aren’t perfectly smooth, and then…

They waste hundreds of dollars buying expensive, magic, ‘AI” powered shovelware to smear their images into oblivion.

This is something I really don’t get. Never once have I ever seen an image with heavy noise reduction applied that looked better than the original, no matter how advanced the algorithm.

Using heavy noise reduction on your images is like old people getting face lifts. They go from looking like normal humans to weird, stretched caricatures of themselves.

My rules for image noise: leave it alone. Don’t smooth it. Don’t sharpen it. Learn to make use of it.

And while were on the subject, and since I already used film to make my point, there’s another claim that seems to get repeated over and over: that film grain is some lovely thing and digital noise is very different and very not lovely.

This is total nonsense and I can only speculate that the popularity of this claim is the combined result of the relative snobbery of “film photographers” (sorry, but it’s true, you know it), and the ubiquity of the aforementioned measurbating noiseophobes.

For all practical purposes, film grain and digital luminance (not to be confused with splotchy colour noise which is very different but also easily removed in a non-destructive way) noise are far more similar than they are different, and both are best when they are embraced.

Lomo 100 pushed to 800 1

A noisy image, this time made with film.

Stop complaining about “too much editing”

Do a quick Google search and you’ll come up with countless articles by various photographers warning you about the dangers of “too much editing“.

In general, these articles are unoriginal at best, and preachy, opinionated nonsense at worst. Rarely can the authors restrain themselves to offering practical advice (watch out for clipping, those colours that look right on your cheap laptop are going to look radioactive to anyone with a decent screen, don’t over-sharpen, etc.)

Nope, these articles are invariably just obnoxious opinion pieces full of “rules” that are nothing more than the author’s personal preferences expressed with a ridiculous level of grandiosity, often with examples of “bad” editing just to drive the point home.

Then there are the people who think any editing at all is cheating. Or that cropping shouldn’t be allowed. And don’t even think about cloning out a distraction!

Look, unless you’re photographing crime scenes, you can literally do whatever you want with your photos. You cannot possibly “over-edit” them, because they are YOUR photos. I may not like what you do with your photos. You may not like what I do with mine.

And that’s okay, there are no rules.

One thing I will say is that you should ALWAYS edit a copy and save your original files, because YOU might decide that a photo you took five years ago was “over-edited” and you’d like to redo it. But let that be a judgment you make for yourself.

Stop complaining about people watermarking their images

Yes, I know you think it’s pointless. And you are right, a lot of watermarks are easily cropped out, and tools like content-aware fill make it easier than ever.

But a semi-transparent watermark in the middle of the image remains quite difficult to remove for most people without wrecking the photo, and more importantly, most will just move on to the next photo. If you’re careful, you can strike a balance where it won’t be noticed by most unless they are looking for it.

What is it to you, anyway? If you find someone’s attempt to protect their property annoying, just move on.

So there are the first five things that came to mind when I think of my pet peeves about the photography community. I am sure there are more, but I’ll leave it at that. For now.

Do you disagree? Do you have a pet peeve of your own to share? Just want to tell me how stupid I am? Then leave a comment below!

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