Pixel Pimp – How Can Millions of Great Pictures Be Wrong? – by Warren Winter

Warren Winter, aka The Pixel Pimp, is a photojournalism industry veteran with 25 years experience. He’s been a Director, Managing Director, Editor, and Consultant, to many major photo agencies including his own agency, PSG, as well as other famous agencies including Polaris, WpN, ZUMA, Sipa, and WireImage. The photographers and newspapers he’s represented have seen their work on covers including Time, Newsweek, People, US Weekly, Paris Match, Stern, and Der Spiegel (to name a few), and been featured in every major publication in the world. The Pixel Pimp is a photo agency-related news and philosophy column written in a blunt, hopefully insightful, always sarcastic manner.

FWIW, IMHO, like OMG, the camera you use doesn’t mean squat anymore.  Seriously!  I’m not 100% sure it ever really did.

The purely academic debate of Nikon vs. Canon is genuinely pointless.  I promise.  But now, some who might identify themselves as serious photographers or photojournalists, have started expressing their passionate dislike for pictures made with the iPhone and, to some extent, those who use iPhones to make serious photographs.

canon - nikon - iphone

Honestly, is there anyone left who doesn’t understand that the camera you use matters not?  Not even a little.  All that matters is what you produce, period.  Period!

These things are just tools.  Hammer, saw, baby.  Nothing more.  Use the right tool for the job.  Don’t get too bent out of shape if you, or someone else, uses a Stanley or a Black and Decker to drive the nail in straight.  Focus on the craft of creating great images, driving straight nails, and don’t get distracted by the drudgery of “real photographers use real cameras and the infidels use iPhones.”

Andrew Kaufman

Photo by Andrew Kaufman

As an agent I can tell you there is no problem licensing photos made with iPhones in a wide range of situations to a wide range of clients.  News, portraiture, documentary, feature… the images can be printed nicely at 8×10 making them usable by the vast majority of magazines, newspapers, broadcasters, and internet sites.

News shooters should not kid themselves… the iPhone and cell phone cameras in general are in the hands of a billion people.  Breaking news stories have had a huge number of images made by cell phones taking up large swath’s of magazine and newspaper page space.  Think London tube bombing… the most interesting photos were all made by citizens using their cell phones as they were trying to get out of the tube.  The pictures made by professional news photographers of the twisted double decker bus weren’t nearly as interesting or unique as the shots made by Lady Josephine Blow on her cell, down in the hole, as it were.

For those who’d complain about the iPhone’s lack of resolution I’d ask them to remember such crap-cam’s as the Nikon D1h.  2.7 feeble megapixels producing one severely underwhelming image file.  I guarantee you the RAW file from the iPhone surpasses the D1h in quality yet I clearly recall licensing numerous images to magazines like Time and Newsweek shot on that miserable Nikon brick.

Andrew Kaufman

Photos by Andrew Kaufman

It’s somewhat amusing, somewhat not, to watch people deride iPhone photos as inherently bad pictures.   I think the whole idea of what “is” a good photo depends on what your definition of “is” is.  (That line isn’t just good for Presidents trying to explain their wayward willies anymore)  The nay-sayers complain that they lack “sharpness and resolution” or it’s a “gimmick to get attention” or that you’ll be “shooting yourself in the foot” because you’ll need higher resolution files later in life because big time photographers have big time gallery exhibitions and they all show big prints.  Big, big, big!  I hate to break it to you but the big, oversized print for exhibition is something that has been happening over the past 20 or 30 years primarily.  Prior to that it was quite common to display smaller prints and if you think an exhibition of 10×10 inch prints in 16×16 frames couldn’t draw a crowd or make a, well, um, big impression then I think you may want to consider if you’re concerned with the form of the exhibition more than the content of the photos presented.  I’d rather see a great photo printed small than a crappy photo printed at any size, especially large.

Those quotes were taken from a series of message board comments about portraits Getty photographer Nick Laham shot of the New York Yankees on his iPhone.  Frankly, I think Nick’s images were gorgeous and, for a players day photo session where there are 90 other photographers shooting the same athletes in the same way, over and over, Nick did a great job of making unique images from a, generally speaking, visually bland assignment.

Andrew Kaufman

Photos by Andrew Kaufman

Andrew Kaufman, a Miami Beach, FL based freelance photographer, is a great example of someone who’s embraced the technology and change.  As one who prefers film but shoots digital when it suits the job, he is someone who truly understands the importance of using the right tool for the job.  Sometimes that’s a 4×5 film camera, sometimes that’s his iPhone.  There’s something genuinely art-deco and nostalgic about the look of his iPhone photos from the Magic City (Miami and the Beaches) area.  Furthermore, Andrew’s iPhone work underscores my point about these images being perfectly well suited for gallery exhibition as he presently has a collection of 7 images on exhibition at the Harold Golen Gallery in Miami’s Wynwood.  A coffee table book of the Miami Beach architecture, art scene, nightlife, and general social vibe would be an easy sell to publishers and make a great iPad app for people traveling to Miami Beach.  And, as an agent, I could argue the fact that the images were all shot on an iPhone would be a great marketing device for selling the project to both publishers and consumers alike.  Consumers in particular as so many people own iPhones, love photography, and could potentially find inspiration in such a book where they feel that “they could do that too”.  Whether or not they could is, of course, highly unlikely. Here are some tear sheets of Andrew’s published work.

Andrew Kaufman

Photo by Andrew Kaufman

I’ll wrap up my rant at this point by simply saying don’t be afraid of change my change-phobic photo friends.  Remember the tension among photographers when the first professional digital cameras came out?  “Digital will never be as good as film” or “I’ll have an editor watching a live feed of what I’m shooting telling me when to shoot”.  Or how about when Canon got everyone all uppity again when they dropped the 5d Mark II on the world?  I just scratched my head in disappointment as I heard newspaper staffer after newspaper staffer say “I’m a photographer, I don’t shoot video”.  Those clowns are presently standing in the unemployment line, knuckles dragging along the floor, with the other photo-cromagnons whining and complaining rather than boldly embracing, adapting, and incorporating the new tools into their careers.

Be bold, dammit!

Andrew Kaufman

Photos by Andrew Kaufman

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