Old School Vs. New School Photography

Old Vs New School

There are generally two types “schools” when it comes to photography. “Old school” photographers refer mainly to those who had to “struggle” with doing everything on their own with a fully-manual camera, while the “new school” photographers refer to the young (and the young-at-heart) photographers who grew up in a world of automation.

Old school photographers are said to be highly adaptable, that they can handle just about any camera, after having just fiddling around with it for five minutes, since the basics of camera functions are all the same, regardless the make or model of the camera. One simply needs to find out where the manufacturer puts the respective buttons on the new camera, and you’ll be able to do the rest on your own.

New school photographers, on the other hand, grew up in the information age. They are more familiar with surfing through menus to get to any specific function of the camera. These photographers are more comfortable with letting the hardware handle the nitty-gritty controls of the cameras, like the exposure, focus, and a host of other minor controls.

Put an old school photographer into the modern world of photography, where every button on the camera controls more than just one single function, he or she may be facing a situation known as “information overload”, and may not be able to “understand” the system at all. Besides, how is one able to trust a little piece of silicon-chip make important decisions, like that aperture to use, what shutter speed to use, where to focus the lens, etc.? Well, it’s highly likely that he or she will simply set everything to manual override, and take the decision making back into their own hands. It may not be as efficient as the manufacturers had intended their products to be, but at the very least, work can still be accomplished.

However, things aren’t that simple if you do the reverse, by putting a new school photographer in the world of “manual-everything”… Let’s not make matters worse by dropping a view camera onto their laps, nor even the humble medium format cameras. Let’s start off with something as simple as a 35 mm mechanical SLR camera, e.g. Yashica FX-3, Pentax K1000, Nikon FM2, Contax S2, Leica R6, etc. The chances are quite high that this newbie (relatively speaking) won’t be able to do much work at all.

Now, before you start flaming me for over-generalisation, I’d like to make it known that I derived that statement above from personal experience. I consider myself to be an old school photographer, and have been trying to adapt to the world of modern photography. It took me several years to make myself comfortable enough to allow that little piece of silicon-chip to do the focusing on my camera. As of now, I still decide on the exposure value myself.

Until recently, I’ve never really got close enough to any of the new school photographers to learn their habits. Anyway, recently I got to know this fairly new photographer, and we’ve worked together on a few projects. And I was fairly surprised to hear it from his mouth, that he can’t focus the camera unless it “beeps” to confirm focus-lock…

On top of that, he has this annoying habit of asking me what exposure setting am I using all the time. I’m guessing that he couldn’t be bothered to learn to read exposure meter in his camera or in a hand-held exposure meter. And since you can’t use auto-exposure in a studio environment, he keeps looking over my shoulder to see what shutter speed and aperture I’m using for the shoot.

I guess it’s the same with driving. A manual-shift driver can easily adapt to driving an auto-shift car with no problem. But an auto-shift driver may have problems trying to drive a stick-shift.

Go figure…

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