Grandma cameras killed photography, and made the world a more creative place.

January 8, 2011 — 2 Comments

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Film. Expensive, bulky equipment. Waiting days for your pictures to get developed. When I took  photos and sold camera equipment in a photography store in the 1980’s, the stuff required to see your family Thanksgiving photos was a lot different. In hindsight, it was lousy.

Many a customer would pay for their photos, take a quick look at them, and frown a great big frown, having gotten only a few good shots out of each roll. Errors could result in a bunch of abstract shots of your lens cap, or your kid’s surprise photoessay with 24 blurry shots of a dog’s nose, costing about $13 in film and processing. Some folks got pissed. Some cried. I learned the amazing emotional power that comes with people’s personal photos.

Then technology changed everything. First, one hour processing rocking the photo business, and our expectations as consumers. Then “Grandma cameras” popped onto the scene. Grandma cameras were what we called the first point-and-shoot, automatic everything cameras that were so easy to use, even Grandma could do it. The day the Grandma cameras went on sale, the old bulky SLRs started to fade away, and the masses were given more creative license.

A couple of decades later, photography has (thankfully) evolved into the simple, less expensive, more creative, awesome thing that it is today. The evolution and democratization of picture taking gave birth to new businesses and industries, and many photo-related companies failed to evolve, and died.

In 1981, the ability to improve your image ended the second the shutter opened. Today, it’s not just taking the photo, it’s how you manipulate it after you take, be it on a laptop, iPad or iPhone. The results you can get in 2 minutes today used to take much more time, more money. Creativity was almost exclusively in the hands of professionals.

Would Facebook be worth $42 billion (oops, I mean $50 million) today if it didn’t have photos? No way. The easy, cheap photography tools and processes in 2011 have democratize creativity. You can thank your Grandma.

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2 responses to Grandma cameras killed photography, and made the world a more creative place.

  1. 

    While your comments are true for the mass audience, you could always continue to manipulate an image after taking it by manipulating the negative.

  2. 

    Hey Mostly, thanks for the comment. You’re absolutely right. In the darkroom, dodging and burning and funky processing tactics could certainly push the image. I’ve heard photographers say Ansel Adams might have been less awesome without pushing silver. I just think it’s so fantastic that in this era, Joe SixPack can do awesome image manipulation very quickly without a darkroom, without all the equipment, chemicals and paper, without much money, and without much expertise. (But of course without much talent, Joe’s images could still be crappy!)

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