on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

On Photographic Technology

If you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road

Guy Tal

Professional photographic artist, author and speaker working primarily in the Western US. Website



Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road. ~ Stewart Brand

Thanks to our capacity for creative invention, technological progress has been part of the human experience in any age. It would be foolish to characterise technological progress as all good or all bad. The same kind of creative inventiveness has given us musical instruments and the guillotine, cellular phones and nuclear weapons, great novels and computer viruses. Creativity serves artists and scientists just as well as it serves bank robbers and corrupt politicians.

Guy Tal - Luminosities

Just like it would be foolish to consider technological innovation as either good or bad without further qualification, it is also foolish to outright ignore advances in technology—to pretend they are not happening, or that they are of no consequences.

No matter how conservative or traditional we are, or wish to be, in our work, I believe that a proactive and rational approach to assimilating (or rejecting) new technologies is a better strategy than to be in denial of them.
Technology affects us whether we acknowledge it or not, whether we approve of it or not, whether we resist it or not. No matter how conservative or traditional we are, or wish to be, in our work, I believe that a proactive and rational approach to assimilating (or rejecting) new technologies is a better strategy than to be in denial of them.

A common slogan in the digital age in photography is, “you can’t fix it in software (or specifically in Photoshop),” implying that if you didn’t get everything “right” in the camera you have failed utterly to produce a usable or worthwhile photograph, and may as well discard the captured file (or piece of film). Not only is it a demonstrably untrue statement; it also treats as a fixed quantity something that is not—something that in fact evolves rapidly, in leaps and bounds—the capabilities of processing software. The myriad of sliders and checkboxes in most photo processing software in fact make it fairly easy to “fix” (at least to a degree) anything from colour and contrast to sharpness and filter effects, from qualities of light to dust specs on the sensor, from haze to aspect ratio, from exposure problems to optical distortion, and many more. I can’t count the number of times I revisited older images with newer software and was able to overcome and correct various flaws I couldn’t address at the time of capturing these images. As it turns out, there are in fact a great many things you can fix in software, and likely many more you will be able to fix in software in the years ahead.



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