Photography is often referred to as a two-dimensional form, but this is a misnomer. At least, it is a misnomer in regards to the dimensions photography occupies in life.
Talk to any experienced photographer and they will tell you that the moment when the photo is actually taken is only the first sliver of what is involved in making, rather than taking, a photograph. How many dimensions can we uncover? The deeper you delve into the art, the craft and the technology, the more layers unfold.
I find photography is much like learning a foreign language. At first, you learn a few basics. You can greet, ask about the weather, understand simple directions. Yes! I am speaking French! But then there comes that moment when someone asks you for an opinion. Or you feel a need to speak in the conditional (if I had known, I would have . . . ). Or you are desperate to explain an issue (I made my reservation last August, but it may be in my sister's name . . . )
And suddenly you realize that you do not speak French at all. There is much much more to be learned.
Photography is like that. Only more so.
First, we learn to operate a digital camera. Even today's "point and shoot" cameras offer options and choices which require some level of understanding. There is that joyful moment - hooray! I can take pictures.
But "taking" and "making" pictures are not the same. And so there is a hunger to learn a bit more. How to find the best vantage point. How to compose an image with some originality. And gradually . . . what about the lighting? Speedlights or constant fluorescents? How do I balance them? How do I arrange them?
So now the image is in my camera, I can look at it on my computer or smartphone, I can share it with others. But. It doesn't really look that great. Can it be improved? Of course!
The world of photo optimization is one which can be easy or a lifelong study. From the beautiful simplicity of Snapseed to the seemingly infinite possibilities of PhotoShop, there is no limit to the learning that can occur, or the time that it can occupy.
Once the image is ideal, or at least adequately pleasing, there is the question of what to do with it. Exhibit it on a website? Or take it yet another step and learn to print it. That means studying papers, so that you choose the one which best matches the photographic qualities of your image. It also means calibrating your monitor, understanding inks, and discovering the language that links your computer to your printer, so that the image you see on your screen will emerge from your printer exactly so.
And finally, now that the glorious image exists in a tactile way, it must be properly displayed. Which brings us to the world of framing, rag mats and foamboard, an ability to cut mats and an understanding of archival principles.
The final step is exhibition, and that truly is a universe all its own.
Few people take up photography with all these levels in mind. But for many of us, that first inclination to take camera in hand, with however a casual end in mind, is the first step on a road that is endlessly fascinating. It has taken some time, but I have come to feel that all these elements are keystones in the photographic process. I am simply driven to immerse myself.
Some days, it feels like the process of achieving comfort with all these dimensions will be endless. And it may well be.
But so are the rewards.