Four developments in my life helped me take photography to another level.

Continued from: Seeing the World Differently

iPhone Instagram Snapshot

iPhone Instagram Snapshot

One was my admission to film school: I had gotten in the USC graduate program in cinema-television production. While lighting for cinema and television could be far more complicated than still photography, the concepts I learned in cinematography greatly informed my photography. If you could light a scene for a movie you could pretty much figure-out how to do it for a still photograph.

The second development was getting access to a series of increasingly more powerful Apple Macintosh computers, along with photo editing software. For many years, the hardware and software were painfully slow and primitive in comparison to today's tools. But gradually as hardware and software got better, I was using successive versions of digital darkrooms, including the Photoshop.

Painting with Light: Lighting & Photoshop Techniques for Photographers

Painting with Light: Lighting & Photoshop Techniques for Photographers


In the digital darkroom, you can observe in real-time how exposure, contrast and color worked. It was orders-of-magnitude faster than old-world photography where you would take photos and then develop and print via a lab or your own darkroom. Either way the feedback loop was days or weeks rather than minutes and hours. I could see in real time (or near real time) how light and color worked. This one of the fastest ways to learn how RGB And CMYK color worked at an intuitive level, rather than trying to make intellectual sense of what seemed like very confusing theory before.  But as much as this helped with learning, computers added their own technical challenges.

With the advent of computer imaging I not only had to understand the physics of light and the chemistry of film emulsions, I was having to learn about pixels, color depth, gama, digital color models, look-up tables and other elements of the digital world. I would also have to understand monitor technology as I learned about scanner and printer technology. Still slow, frustrating and laborious, but gradually getting better.

The Best Camera Is The One That's With You: iPhone Photography by Chase Jarvis

The Best Camera Is The One That's With You: iPhone Photography by Chase Jarvis

The third development was the creation of viable digital cameras, particularly digital SLRs, and of late, prosumer compact cameras. This helped bring real-time feedback to the process of talking photographs: you could see a preview the photo on a small screen.  It was a poor quality preview, but a preview non-the-less. In the early days, I would use a digital camera to take a series of snap shots sketches. When I found the shot I like, I would then switch to a film camera to take the "real" picture. Over time the quality of cameras would get better, previewing functions would get better and the integration of digital darkroom software would get more powerful. As these factors improved, it became possible to do serious photography with serious digital darkroom work and serious digital printing.

Believe it or not, the fourth development in my ability to take photos was the introduction of the iPhone – as well as successive versions of quality compact digital cameras. While the iPhone camera has serious limitation and compact cameras are no match for pro or prosumer cameras, they have the powerful advantage of being with you.  I have no idea who said it first, but this is especially true of the iPhone, smartphones and pocketable compact cameras:

"The best camera is the one that you have with you."

It doesn't matter how many great cameras you have, they have no value if they're not with you – at-the-ready – in the moment you want to capture. The ubiquity of decent quality cameras in the form of smart phones and pocket-sized cameras is a dramatic shift in taking photography to another level. This is true for many people and was especially true for me. That does not mean these cameras can take the place of high quality professional cameras, but they make increase the opportunities for finding great shots. More importantly that leads us to keep our camera eyes turned-on at-the-ready.  They help us to see the world differently.

Select Snapshots from my Instacanvas Gallery

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