Fujifilm Interview is Disappointing (But, There is a Silver Lining)

Sigh.

As you might recall, I wrote a piece back in June entitled Is Fujifilm Losing Its Soul?, and I opened the second paragraph with my answer: Fujifilm has already lost its soul. Some of you disagreed, but the vast majority agreed with my sentiments—it seemed to resonate with a lot of you.

I came across an article (via Fujirumors) published two days ago in which Dave Etchells of Imaging Resource interviewed five Fujifilm managers. You can read the whole thing if you’d like. Some parts of it stood out to me, and so I thought I’d highlight those. I’m going to get a little cynical, so be sure to hold onto your hats. I promise to wrap it up on a positive note.

“Seeing a PASM dial on the X-H2S,” Dave states, “some people have been saying, ‘Oh no, Fuji’s abandoning us! Where are the individual exposure controls?’  <laughter around the table>….”

I guess that’s funny? I mean, seriously, when a large group of your most loyal customers state a concern, your response is to laugh at and mock them? Not cool, not one bit. And this is the problem. Want proof that Fujifilm has already lost its soul? Here it is, right in that laughter.

Captured with a Fujifilm X-E1

“Yeah, that’s kind of interesting,” answered Fujifilm Divisional Manger Yuji Igarishi, “because we did not hear that when we introduced it for the GFX.”

“Huh, that is interesting,” answered Dave, “that the issue never came up with the GFX.”

That is interesting, because I heard it. I said it myself. Not sure why Fujifilm didn’t get the memo, other than GFX is financially out of reach for many X shooters, so they’re not as passionate about what Fujifilm does with GFX as they are with X. Trust me, Fujifilm: some people noticed and cared that the latest GFX cameras are PASM, and there are people who won’t buy them for that reason. Maybe it’s not enough photographers for the company to concern themselves with, I don’t know, but people did vocalize the concern. If you don’t care, then you don’t care; if you do care, perhaps broaden where you’re finding feedback (for example, nobody asked me, despite having such a large and passionate Fujifilm audience…). Maybe it wasn’t stated loudly, but the issue certainly did come up.

“…I tend to think of PASM as being more for amateurs,” Dave continued, “but actually it’s the professionals who need it, to be able to change modes quickly.”

Ah, I get it now: PASM is for pros, and the traditional tactile controls of Fujifilm’s other products are for amateurs, and if you prefer them, you’re an amateur. Only the lowly amateur peasants don’t want PASM. If you’re a pro, surely you prefer PASM. Apparently Fujifilm prefers to focus on potential “pro” customers and not their current “amateur” customers. Yes, I’m taking the quote noticeably out of context, but, reading the interview, that’s the sentiment I got, whether or not it was flatly stated.

Captured with a Fujifilm X-Pro1

Look, PASM isn’t any more or less for pros than the traditional controls; it’s simply a preference, largely based on how one learned photography—if you learned on PASM you tend to prefer PASM, and if you learned on traditional controls you tend to prefer traditional controls. Fujifilm was one of the very few camera makers who made products for those who don’t prefer PASM, and that’s a big reason why the majority of their users purchased their first Fujifilm camera, and an important reason why they continue to do so. Everyone makes PASM cameras, but, aside from Fujifilm, who makes non-PASM models? It’s a pretty short (and largely expensive) list. It’s fine that Fujifilm wants to expand their customer base and offer a diversity of products to meet the needs of various customers. Awesome. But don’t do it at the expense of (and while mocking and belittling) those who have purchased your products for years. That’s a good way to make your loyal customers a lot less loyal, which will only bite you in the butt.

“…We’re not moving everything away from the dials,” Yuji reassures, “no need to worry about that.”

Not everything. Some things—yes. But don’t you worry ’bout a thing. Yeah, I mean, a couple models had their traditional controls replaced with PASM (X-H and GFX-50S lines), but it’s not going to happen to the other camera series, you can trust that. Never mind that (once the X-H2 is official announced in a few days) five of the last seven X + GFX cameras have been PASM. And one of those two non-PASM models was basically just a firmware update. To me, it seems like a commitment to “moving… away from the dials” and not the other way around. Actions speak louder than words.

Speaking of GFX…

“I think when we introduced the 50R,” stated Yuji, “that was kind of the first small medium-format camera, so I think there was a value there. Now that we have a smaller body with the GFX100S, I think there’s maybe less need for something even more compact. Of course, we always look at the market to see if there’s a need to introduce something, but I think at the moment, probably because of the GFX100S body size, there’s not as much demand for a smaller model as before.”

Captured with a Fujifilm X-T1

In other words, rangefinder styling and traditional controls—forget about it. If that’s what you want, GFX isn’t for you. I guess there’s very little hope of “wow” product #7….

“Fujifilm has a very broad range of APS-C bodies these days,” Dave mentioned, “with no fewer than 6 different product lines. Will all of these lines continue into the future, or do you see some of them going away or merging with each other?”

“Currently,” Yuji answered, “we believe that each product line has its own unique characteristics, so as long as that makes sense for us, we’ll continue with that line. For us, it’s whether we can provide value for the customers. Some of the products take longer to update, because it doesn’t make sense to update them every year. For example with the X-H, it took four years to come up with the next version. You know, we always think about whether a new model makes sense. If we have the technology, when we feel ready, then we’ll introduce a successor.”

I actually strongly agree that “it doesn’t make sense to update [camera models] every year.” Or even every two years. I think three to five years is a sufficient amount of time to update a line. Camera makers often too quickly update their models, in hopes of maximizing sales by always having a “new” version with the “latest” this or that. Yes, people aren’t generally eager to spend a grand or more on five-year-old digital camera technology, but if that technology is good, then it’s still good for years to come, not just for a year or two. By constantly updating models, camera makers are basically admitting that their gear is obsolete quickly, and not something that’s relevant for a significant period of time. Fujifilm is celebrating 10 years of X-mount, and the X-Pro1 is certainly still a capable camera—a testament that their cameras are relevant for many years, not just a couple.

Captured with a Fujifilm X-E1

I do think there’s hope in Yuji’s statement for an eventual X80 (the perhaps someday successor to the X70). With any luck, Fujifilm will “feel ready” soon. Probably not, but one can wish. On the flip side, Fujifilm basically stated the fine print: if it doesn’t make sense to them, they’ll change or discontinue something without batting an eye. Will the X-T5 have PASM? Not likely—I’d be pretty shocked—but perhaps the X-T6 will, especially if Fujifilm determines that more “pros” are using that line than “amateur” photographers… or, really, if Fujifilm thinks by doing so it will attract more people from other brands. Will the X-T00 line be discontinued in favor of the X-S00 line? It could happen—I’d be surprised if it did—but as long as Fujifilm believes it makes sense in order to sell more models to the customers that they hope to attract, they’ll do it. Yuji’s statement could essentially be summarized: we don’t have any specific plans that we’re ready to publicly discuss, but nothing is off the table. That could be good or that could be bad, I guess depending on your perspective.

A lot is said in that interview, but I’ll end with one of Yuji’s conclusions: “In general, we’re very appreciative of people’s interest in our products.”

People are very interested in Fujifilm’s products. I think a lot of the long-time customers are a little concerned about the choices Fujfilm has been making, and what those choices mean for the long haul. I think many loyal customers are unsure of the direction that Fujifilm is heading. The Fujifilm at 20 years of X-mount might not much resemble the one at 10 years—something you might celebrate or mourn, probably largely depending on how long you’ve been a customer.

Here’s the silver lining that I promised: the cameras Fujifilm has made over the last number of years are really good—and should last a long time, too—so it doesn’t matter what Fujifilm does, because what they did do was very good. If the X-T5, X-Pro4, or X100VI (or whatever it will be called) isn’t what you hoped it would be, you still have the X-T4, X-Pro3, and X100V—heck, you still have the X-T1, X-Pro1, and X100, and all the models in-between! You might notice that I captured all of the pictures in this article with older models. A good camera is a good camera, and as long as it serves you well, you don’t need to “upgrade” to the latest and greatest just because the reviewers and YouTubers (most of which were given or loaned their gear for free) say that you should. Is that old camera still relevant to you and your photography? If so, then you’re already set, and none of this other stuff even matters.

The RAW vs JPEG Debate Needs to End… Again

Straight-out-of-camera JPEG from my Fujifilm X-E4 using the Pacific Blues recipe.

I read a couple of articles over the last several days that bothered me, both of which stated that you must shoot RAW. These articles come up often—it’s nothing new. I’ve written about it before, and even before that. The sentiment of “only amateurs shoot JPEG” and “you really should shoot RAW” get old. Those are tired, worn out statements that are largely based on “truths” that are no longer true. My hope with this article is to simply provide a counter-point. This blog and all of you who use Film Simulation Recipes are a strong testament that speaks louder than this article ever could, so I’ll try to keep it brief.

First, I want to make this very clear: do what works for you. If RAW works for you, do that. If JPEGs work for you, do that. If editing JPEGs works for you, do that. If film works for you, do that. Or any combination of those things or anything else, do that. Whatever you have found that works for you, that’s what you should be doing. If what you are doing isn’t really working for you, try something else. There’s no right or wrong way to do things, just different ways, some of which work for some and some of which work for others. Different strokes for different folks, right?

One reason why I think the “RAW vs JPEG” debate keeps coming up is because more-and-more photography consumers (not photographers, but those who view photographs) detest photo manipulation. Photoshop has become a bad word. Whether it’s a photo contest where the winner exceeded the editing allowed by the rules (and so has their title stripped), or the magazine cover where the girl no longer looks like how they really look, or the picture in the news where things were added or subtracted to change the meaning of the image, or the image that’s just been edited so much that it’s no longer believable—whatever the story, sometimes photography consumers feel that photography is dishonest, and the manipulation of an image equals a manipulation of the one viewing it. There appears to be a lack of honesty by photographers, particularly when they edit so much. You might agree or disagree with this sentiment, but the sentiment is real. I know this because I once defended Steve McCurry’s use of Photoshop, and because of this someone accused me in a college paper of wanting little girls to have low self-esteem.

Straight-out-of-camera JPEG from my Fujifilm X100V using the Vintage Color recipe.

I think a lot of these “RAW is better” articles and videos stem from a response to this sentiment, which is fine. I don’t blame anyone for trying to defend what they do when someone criticizes it. Trust me, I get it. Where I do have a problem is that many times in the defense of RAW the JPEG photographer is insulted. The argument is, “I have to shoot RAW because JPEGs suck.” Or, “Only amateurs use JPEG.” It’s as if the JPEG shooter must be put down in order to make the RAW shooter feel superior. That’s just lame. Yes, there was a time early in the development of digital camera technology where the straight-out-of-camera JPEG was no good and so RAW really was the only viable option for quality images, but that day has long passed, especially for (but certainly not limited to) those who use Fujifilm cameras. That argument is old and tired and no longer based in truth. It once was true, but now is a myth. Perpetuating that myth helps no one. Insulting people definitely doesn’t help.

Of course, Ansel Adams is always brought into this. Well, he was the darkroom master, so obviously he manipulated his photos to a significant degree. Usually an Ansel Adams quote is included, which proves the point that you should never rely on straight-out-of-camera pictures. Adams never would have. Except this ignores his work with Polaroids—he loved Polaroids, something a lot of people are unaware of. There’s a whole chapter (entitled One-Step Photography) in one of his books where he discusses the benefits of not having to use a darkroom. Ansel Adams is hugely inspirational, and his words are highly motivating, but I don’t think he would be strictly a RAW shooter and staunchly against straight-out-of-camera JPEGs—it is a disservice to the legendary master to just assume he would be against JPEGs.

The real arguments that should be made to defend the use of RAW are these:
– It’s my art, and as the artist I get to decide how it’s created. I understand that not everyone will like it, but a lot of people seem to, so I’m going to keep doing it my way.
– I capture undeveloped digital images that, like film, must be developed through a process, and I have a specific process for it that works well for me.
– Images have been manipulated to create the final picture since the beginning of photography—over 150 years!—so what I’m doing is nothing new and well within the traditions of the art.
– I enjoy using photo editing software, and adjusting the pictures is half the fun for me.

Straight-out-of-camera JPEG from my Fujifilm X-E4 using the Positive Film recipe.

Notice how all of those arguments are strong, and none of them insults anyone. Unfortunately, there will always be those who disagree, and you’ll never change their minds. Perhaps just being as honest and straightforward as practical will help. If you swapped the sky with another sky, just say so. If you removed people from the frame, don’t hide that fact. Don’t make the manipulations that you did a big secret, which makes people believe that you’re hiding something from them. Or do keep it a secret—it’s not really any of my business what you do or don’t do, and I don’t really care. It’s your art, after all, so you get to decide what you do and what parts of your process you want to keep a mystery.

My process is straightforward. I program Film Simulation Recipes into my cameras, and I use camera-made JPEGs that are unedited (aside from minor cropping and straightening). While I basically don’t edit anymore, I certainly used to. I used to be a RAW photographer. I used to spend up to 30 minutes on each picture in software. That process worked alright for a time, but my current process works for me now. It saves me so much time, it makes creating photographs more enjoyable, it allows me to be more in-tune with my camera and the scene (because I have to get it right in-the-field or else), and I still get the look I want—the aesthetic I would have made if I had edited a RAW image in software. I love it! But I fully understand that it’s not for everyone. If it works for you, great! If it doesn’t work for you, great! If it works for you sometimes but doesn’t other times, great! You’ve got to do what works for you, and ignore those who say that there’s only one “right” way to do things.

The “RAW vs JPEG” debate needs to end. Photography consumers don’t care how you achieved your picture, except in those cases where people feel that they were duped by a heavily manipulated image. I suggest being upfront about how much editing you did, if you did a lot—but that’s up to you, and is between you and your audience. Otherwise, nobody cares if you shot RAW and edited in-software or if it’s a straight-out-of-camera JPEG, or anything else in-between. One process isn’t better or worse than another—they each have advantages and disadvantages, so it is simply a matter of if what you are doing works for you or not. If it works, that’s awesome! If it doesn’t, then try something else. Mic dropped, debate over.

10 “WOW” Products Fujifilm Should Be Making Right Now

“We are working on WOW product development.” —Jun Watanabe, Product Planning Group Manager, Imaging Solutions Division, Fujifilm

Fujirumors reported on an article by Digital Camera Life that translated and summarized a video by Map Camera, which featured an interview with Fujifilm Product Planning Manager Jun Watanabe. In addition to the quote above, Jun also said, “I would like to continue working to create ‘WOW’ products with the development team, including me, so that we can meet everyone’s expectations and say, ‘I definitely want to buy this.'”

Before we go any further, I must point out that this seems a little like the “Telephone Game” where one person whispers something into someone’s ear, and that person whispers what they heard into the next person’s ear, and so on, until the last person speaks what they heard, which doesn’t much resemble what the first person whispered. Now add to that a translation of a translation, and we get these quotes by Jun Watanabe, which may or may not be what he actually said. However, for the purpose of this article, we’ll assume that Fujifilm is indeed currently working on products that will make people say “wow”—or at least products that the Product Planning Group thinks will make people say that—and they want to “meet everyone’s expectations” somehow.

There’s a lot to digest, of course. Sometime in the 1400’s, monk and poet John Lydgate stated, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” No one product will “meet everyone’s expectations” but perhaps he simply means that between all of the projects that they’re working on, once they all come out, that there will be a “wow product” for everyone.

Coastal Blooms – San Simeon, CA – Fujifilm X-E4 – “Pacific Blues” recipe

I’m in a unique position here at Fuji X Weekly, because I hear from a lot of Fujifilm photographers—granted, mostly those who shoot with Film Simulation Recipes, which is certainly not everyone with a Fujifilm camera, but a large number nonetheless. I have a pretty good pulse on a large segment of Fujifilm’s customers. I know what would make a lot of their customers say, “I definitely want to buy this!” But Fujifilm has never asked me. I have a lot of valuable feedback that I would be more than happy to give to them, if they’re ever interested.

I think the top two things that would make the Fujifilm photographers in this audience say “wow” are 1) a recommitment to Kaizen updates, and 2) more JPEG options (film simulations and such). For example, the Classic Negative film simulation has more of a wow factor for many of the tens of thousands of people shooting with recipes than the autofocus speed of the X-H2s, and giving that film simulation to the X-T3—the all-time top selling model—via a firmware update is a no-brainer for making your customers happy. I assume, however, that the Product Planning Group is not involved with those things—it’s different departments altogether—so Jun and his gang might completely agree, but it wouldn’t make any difference.

What I thought I’d do with this article, on the off-chance that someone from Fujifilm reads it (maybe even Mr. Watanabe himself), is provide some ideas for “wow” products that Fujifilm photographers would want to buy. These are things that would make people take notice. I don’t think becoming more like another brand is a good way to make people say “wow” (except, perhaps, sarcastically). These are ideas for products that would set Fujifilm apart from the crowd, and not blend in. Ordered from least exciting to most (in my opinion anyway), here’s my list of the 10 “WOW” products that Fujifilm should be making right now!

10. Minimalist Model

Maybe just have this little screen and remove the big one.

The Fujifilm X-E4 is already a “minimalist” camera that people either love or hate, and in some ways Fujifilm wen’t too far, removing too many dials and switches and such. But, what if Fujifilm went even further?

Here’s my idea: no rear screen—just a hybrid viewfinder (maybe like the one in the X-Pro2?). Maybe include the little “box tab” screen of the X-Pro3? No video mode. Incorporate the dual shutter/ISO knob of the X100V. Add back the M/C/S switch. Maybe include a C1-C7 knob (or switch of some kind)? Otherwise, clean and simple. Small and lightweight. This wouldn’t be the X-E5, but a new model altogether, made for the experience of shooting with it.

I’m sure this would not sell like hotcakes, and a lot of people wouldn’t like it, but it would certainly grab headlines. Every camera reviewer would want to get their hands on one, just to try it. A lot of people would want to try it. I would want to try it, and most likely own it. Crazy? Yes. Great? Probably, depending on the design choices—it will be a tough balancing act, though, and making it “just right” won’t be easy.

9. 135mm Lens

135mm focal-length.

Fujifilm has a 90mm prime and a (really large and expensive) 200mm prime, but nothing in-between. I found a vintage Vivitar 135mm lens that I just love using, and it made me wonder why doesn’t Fujifilm have a 135mm prime? They should.

This isn’t something to get carried away with. Should it have OIS (stabilization)? It could, but it definitely doesn’t have to. Should it have a wide maximum aperture? F/2.8 is plenty wide enough. Should it be weather-sealed? Probably, I think that’s more-or-less expected nowadays. This shouldn’t be a $6,000 lens or even a $1,200 lens, but sub-$1,000—maybe around $800-$900.

8. Another Pancake Lens

The 27mm pancake helps make this setup super small and lightweight.

One obvious advantage of APS-C over full-frame is size and weight. A big draw to Fujifilm cameras, from those who in the past shot Canon or Sony or Nikon, is the smaller package. It can be such a pain to lug around big and heavy gear, and after doing that for awhile it’s refreshing to have something less intrusive around your neck. Not only are the cameras smaller and lighter, but the lenses can be, too.

Fujifilm has a number of small and lightweight primes, but only two pancakes: the 18mm f/2 and 27mm f/2.8. The 18mm is long overdue for an update (keep the optics, give it a faster and quieter motor). The 27mm, which was recently updated (but is hard to find because it sells out even before hitting the store shelves), is my personal favorite lens. Why not add another pancake option?

I think there are three potential focal-lengths for the new pancake, but I’m not certain which would be best. My personal top-choice is something longer than the 27mm, perhaps a 40mm f/2.8. This short-telephoto would be good for portraits and walk-around photography. Another option would be something wider than the 18mm, perhaps 14mm (or 15mm) f/3.5. The third option would be something in-between 18mm and 27mm, like maybe 23mm f/2.8. I don’t know which one should be made, but I know that one of them should, because size and weight are a big draw to the system, and having a serious series of pancake lenses would do a lot to emphasis that advantage.

7. GFX100R

This is shape that the GFX100R should have.

I don’t own a GFX camera, but if I did, it would definitely be a rangefinder-styled model. So far, the GFX 50R is the only rangefinder-styled camera in the GFX lineup, and it’s old—almost four years old now. It’s the cheapest GFX model—you can pick one up for $2,850 right now—but maybe it hasn’t sold well, I don’t know (perhaps that’s why it’s the only one). If it has sold at least somewhat well, I think it makes a lot of sense to offer a 100-megapixel updated model with the same sensor as the GFX100S. That for sure would make people say wow!

6. ISOCELL

I captured this picture in 2012 using a Samsung NX200.

This isn’t so much a product as it is a technology. Samsung partnered with Fujifilm to develop the ISOCELL technology that is used in a number of cellphone cameras now. If Fujifilm used a Samsung-made ISOCELL sensor with “Tetra” pixel-binning for X-Trans, that would grab headlines. Imagine a 112-megapixel X-Trans VI sensor that produced 28-megapixel images for high-ISO or extended dynamic range, and otherwise delivered medium-format-like high-resolution pictures. People would take notice!

5. Infrared Camera

Straight-out-of-camera infrared picture on non-converted Fujifilm X-E4.

A number of people want to do IR photography, but the conversion process is invasive and expensive. The only camera-line that makes infrared photography easy is the Sigma SD models, which include a removable IR filter—take the filter off and shoot IR photography, put it back on and shoot normal. I don’t know if that’s particularly practical for Fujifilm, but they could make an already-IR camera model. In fact, Fujifilm did this with the X-T1; however, it was only available for medical purposes, and not sold to the general public.

I don’t think an IR model would need to be the X-T4 (or future X-T5), but something more affordable, like the X-T30 II or future X-T40. Obviously not everyone would go out and buy one, but I think there’d be enough interest to make it worthwhile for Fujifilm to produce. It would certainly be a wow-camera for some photographers.

4. Digital XPan

XPan aspect ratio captured with the RitchieCam App on my iPhone.

The XPan cameras were a joint venture between Fujifilm and Hasselblad, beginning in 1998, that used 35mm film to capture panoramic pictures in the 65×24 aspect ratio. While XPan cameras weren’t huge commercial successes, they gained a cult-following—so much so that Fujifilm has included the XPan aspect ratio as an option on the latest GFX models.

My idea is not for a 65×24 crop, but for a camera with a 65×24-shaped sensor. This would require a special-built sensor, which might be both difficult and expensive to procure. I think it would need to be in an X-Pro-like body, and probably should have a fixed-lens… maybe 30mm f/2.8? If it were interchangeable-lens, perhaps it would require two or three special lenses to use the full sensor (for the XPan ratio), or use any other X-mount lens and the camera automatically produces a 3:2 aspect ratio image. To me, the fixed-lens option makes the most sense.

I don’t think a digital XPan camera is especially practical, but it would be a huge headliner. Without a doubt it would make people’s jaws drop, and maybe even their wallets open.

3. X200 (Full-Frame X100)

Imagine this bigger….

I do not see Fujifilm jumping into the full-frame market. It’s crowded, and between X and GFX, Fujifilm can already basically indirectly compete well against it. Still, a lot of people have asked Fujifilm to produce a full-frame line; however, that’s like starting over from scratch, since most of their current X lenses won’t cover the sensor, and the GFX lenses are large and expensive compared to many full-frame options. It would be a huge financial risk that probably wouldn’t pay off. With that said, I do think there’s one full-frame camera that Fujifilm could produce that would be much less risky: the X200, a full-frame version of the X100-series.

It would obviously be bigger, heavier, and more expensive than the X100V. I think the focal-length of the lens should be different, too, so that it is not just the sensor size that separates the X100 line from the X200. Perhaps 50mm? Maybe 30mm? 35mm could be perfect, so it might not be a good idea to mess with it. There should be something more to differentiate the APS-C version from the full-frame, and Fujifilm would have to figure that out.

If Fujifilm did produce this camera, it would for certain have a big wow-factor, and I have zero doubts that people would line up to buy it.

2. X80

Imagine this smaller….

The Fujifilm X70 was doomed from the start. It was announced just three months before the first X-Trans III camera, right when Sony announced that they were not going to produce anymore 16-megapixel APS-C sensors. Fujifilm used their last X-Trans II sensors in this camera (plus the X-E2S), and when supplies ran out, so did this camera. When people asked when they were going to release a successor, Fujifilm stated that the X-Trans III sensor was “too hot” to place inside the tiny X70 body. The closest thing to a successor was the XF10, an inexpensive Bayer model with a PASM dial. But the X70 is much beloved by those who own them—to this day they can be tough to find, and they’re not cheap (don’t expect to find a bargain just because it’s old).

If Fujifilm were to release a real successor to the X70 (which would likely be called X80), it would no doubt be a hit. Smaller, lighter, and more-wide-angle than the X100 series, with the latest technology and JPEG options, would make people look. And buy! I’m confident that this would be a top-seller.

1. X100 and/or X-Pro “Acros Edition”

My top recommendation to Fujifilm for a “WOW” product is a monochrome-only camera based on either the X100 or X-Pro line, and called “Acros Edition.” It would basically be Fujifilm’s version of the Leica’s black-and-white-only cameras, like the M Monochrom, M10 Monochrome, and Q2 Monochrom.

What advantages do monochrome-only cameras have over color sensors? For one, all of the pixels are used for luminosity information (not just half, or in the case of X-Trans, 55%), which means more apparent resolution (more detailed image), less digital noise, improved high-ISO performance, and increased dynamic range. You can use color filters with it just like with black-and-white film. And it’s fun and cool. I’d be first in line to buy one, and I’m sure many reading this would be right beside me, as this would be the wow camera of all wow cameras.


I don’t know if any of these 10 product ideas are currently being considered by Fujifilm or not. Their idea of what would make people say “wow” and mine might be two completely different things. Fujifilm’s idea of what might make people say, “I definitely want to buy this,” could be 180º from mine. If Fujifilm should happen to read this, I want to make sure that my ideas were stated, because maybe—just maybe—this could impact future designs in some way. Probably not; however, it’s still fun to dream.

Now it’s your turn! Which of these 10 ideas would you be most excited for? What products would make you go “wow” that I didn’t include in this list? Let me know in the comments!

Is Boosting a Post on Instagram Worth It?

This article is a follow-up to my Instagram is Dying — For Photographers article that I published last month. It won’t apply to everyone reading this. If you have an Instagram “professional account” or have considered changing to one, this post is for you. Specifically, I wanted to look at what happens when you tap “Boost post”—an option only available for pro accounts—and find out if it’s worthwhile to do. What’s the process? How much does it cost? What do you get in return? Is it worth it?

To start with, I don’t recommend switching to a professional account on Instagram unless you really “need” to. The moment I switched to a pro account, my engagement dropped in half. You do get tools, such as analytics, and various other features in the “Professional Dashboard” to help you build your brand, but, unless you feel those things are necessary, I’d steer clear of switching. Meta basically says that the pro account will help you, but then they handicap you and want you to pay them money to solve it. I have had no interest in giving them my money—I simply want Instagram to show my posts to my followers, but that’s obviously not happening. After publishing that other article and reading all the feedback, I thought it would be worth exploring “Boost post” because there are probably many others who feel similarly, and are wondering if it’s worthwhile to try or just another scammy thing that Meta is doing.

Before I get into this, I think it’s worth going over some of the statistics. I’ve discovered that over the last year my Instagram posts tend to fall into one of four categories. About 50% of my posts get minimal engagement (likes, comments, etc.) and are seen by 15%-25% of my followers. About 30% of of my posts get moderate engagement and are seen by 40%-50% of my followers. About 15% of my posts get strong engagement and are seen by 60%-75% of my followers. About 5% of my posts get exceptional engagement and are seen by 85%-100% of my audience. If Instagram simply showed my posts to more of my followers, they’d get more engagement. Some of you might only see 5% of my posts. Half of you might only see one-in-three posts. I think only about 15% of my followers see all of my posts, which is crazy. You might notice similar statistics with your posts and your followers.

Under each of my posts, Instagram has a “Boost post” icon that taunts me. It’s intended to do that. “If you just press me, all your followers will see this post,” it says. But is that true? I didn’t know. I assumed, but I was ignorant, and I didn’t want to be ignorant. So I tapped it.

When you tap “Boost post” you are presented with three options: more profile visits, more website visits, and more messages. Under your boosted post, which is actually a sponsored ad, is a call-to-action button that will do one of three things, depending on the “goal” you select. I get about 50 messages a day on Instagram already, so I took that option off the table immediately. I ended up running two sponsored ads, and selected “more profile visits” for one and “more website visits” for the other. More profile visits is a call-to-action to visit your Instagram profile. Once there, I have no idea what people do, but they’re apparently taking a look at you. More website visits is a call-to-action to click a link to whatever website you want people to go to (I chose RitchieCam.com). More messages is a call-to-action to get direct messages on Instagram, I assume.

After that, you’ll be asked to “define your audience” so that Instagram knows who to show your ad to. You can select Automatic (“people like your followers”), or Create your own. I chose the latter for both posts. With that, you have to select the interest of those you want to target. Fujifilm is an option and photography is an option, but straight-out-of-camera, JPEG, and film simulation recipes are not—in other words, it’s more broad, and popular brands and common interests are what you have to choose from. Then, you have to select where those people live. I tried United States, but that was too large of a group apparently, so I had to narrow it down by state—you can select about 10-15, depending on the populations of those states. I’m sure smaller countries could have been chosen. You could select specific cities, too. I don’t like how Instagram set this up, but maybe it would work well for you, I guess depending on your situation. For most people, I imagine that Automatic is likely the best option.

Lastly, you have to select your budget ($5, $7, $20, and custom) and duration (1 to 30 days, or indefinitely until paused). For the first post I chose $5 each day for 5 days ($25 total), with an estimated reach of 4,000 to 10,000. The second post I selected $7 each day for 6 days ($42 total), with an estimated reach of 6,300 to 16,000. Tap “Next” to review, and your ad goes live. You can pay with a credit card or PayPal, which you setup the first time through.

So, how did my boosted posts (a.k.a. sponsored ads) go?

The first one, which had the goal of profile visits, was one of those 5% posts with tons of engagement. Unfortunately, when you boost a post, Instagram doesn’t tell you if the accounts reached were followers or non-followers (like they do otherwise), which was disappointing to learn. My suspicion is that they showed it to more followers plus more non-followers—a combination. This post reached over 37,000 people (I have 26K+ followers), so my assumption is that Instagram showed pretty close to 100% of my followers this post, plus 11K non-followers. That’s excellent! I wish all of my posts got this attention. However, Instagram claims that only 5% (less than 2K) saw this post as a result of the ad (less than half the reach that Instagram estimated). And, only 64 people viewed my profile as a result of the call-to-action, which is a small number (I think) for $25. I have no idea if any of those 64 learned of Film Simulation Recipes or followed me or anything else. Was this a rare “exceptional engagement” post because of the ad or in spite of it? I have no idea—I really didn’t get any answers.

The second one, which had a goal of website visits, was one of those 30% posts with moderate engagement. This post reached 15,000 people, and (just guessing) 10K-11K might have been followers. Instagram claims that 26% (less than 4K) saw this post as a result of the ad (significantly less than Instagram estimated). There were (supposedly) 52 people who visited my website as a result of the call-to-action, which isn’t a lot for the $42 spent. I have no way to know if that led to anything further.

I would have to boost a lot more posts to gain any real data to draw any conclusions. The odds are that one of these two posts “should have been” in the common 50% category that receive minimal engagement and views, but neither were. There were three other posts—one before the first ad, one in-between, and one after the second ad—two of which had minimal engagement (seen by less than 25% of my followers), and one had moderate engagement (seen by about 50% of my followers). It makes me think that Instagram does show your boosted posts to more of your followers, but I cannot say that with certainty, or give any kind of guess on how many it might be. It would be great if Instagram had that as an option: show post to all followers. Maybe charge $5 for that. But, that’s not an option. I do find it interesting that one ad was a top-30% post and the other was a top-5% post, so I do believe that boosting a post does just that—boosts a post. Imagine that. But I really don’t feel that the $67 I paid did much of anything other than that.

I think it was good to try, but I don’t think I’ll do it again. I paid about 40¢ per profile visit for the fist ad, and I paid about 80¢ per website visit for the second ad. That’s probably a decent price (cost-per-click) for digital advertisements, but definitely not something that I want to pay—maybe if I was selling something expensive it would be worthwhile. I just want Instagram to show my posts to my followers, and I do think boosting a post does that to a degree, but it’s an expensive way to do it, and not really “worth it” in my opinion.

By the way, be sure to follow me on Instagram if you don’t already.

Instagram is Dying — For Photographers

Instagram is a dying platform for photographers.

Still shocking to me, I’ve gotten a lot of followers on the Fuji X Weekly Instagram account over the last two years: over 25K right now! I topped 10K followers on May 11, 2021, and 25K on July 9, 2022—it has grown 150% in roughly 14 months. That’s amazing, and all thanks goes to you! I never thought that was possible.

When I reached 10K followers I signed up for a business account. While it certainly has its benefits, it also has one huge negative: Instagram wants me to pay them money to show you, my followers, my posts. They purposefully hide your content from your own followers—if someone seeks it out they will find it, but it won’t show up in their feed—unless you pay Instagram a fee. My engagement dropped in half the instant I signed up for the business account. You might think that engagement—likes, comments, shares, etc.—would have grown at the same rate as the followers, but not so. The average post at 25K has a similar engagement as a post at 10K prior to signing up for a business account. While my followers have increased by 150%, my engagement has only increased by 100%—back to where it was before Instagram cut it in half.

Instagram is a great place to feed your envy. There are people whose pictures suck that have 100K or more followers and are basically earning an income from Instagram. There are people who capture amazing pictures who have less than two hundred followers. I’ve seen both of those circumstances personally, and maybe you have, too. Now I’m not the world’s greatest photographer by any means. I see many, many photographers who are more talented than I who have fewer followers, and I also see the opposite, too. Nobody’s self-worth should come from Instagram, and the followers and engagement (or lack of it) don’t actually mean anything. Unfortunately, it’s more of a popularity contest than anything else; however, Instagram is a good way to connect with others across the world.

Once upon a time Instagram was the place to see wonderful photographs. You could find a lot of inspiration. It still is, but less so now. Why? Instagram (which is owned by Facebook/Meta) recently claimed that engagement in still photographs is down nearly 50% over the last two years, so that’s why they’re focusing on video. I call B.S. on this.

I know two things: Instagram will hide your content if they want to, and Instagram (Meta, actually) doesn’t like competition. Whenever a new social media app comes along that Meta perceives as a threat, they buy it; if they can’t buy it, they make their own version of it to incorporate into their own apps. Right now that competition is TikTok, and since Meta can’t buy it (I’m sure they tried at one point), they’re becoming “TikTok” in order to win—at the expense of you, the photographer.

I believe that Instagram has put into place algorithms to suppress still photography and simultaneously push video content (Reels, as they call it). Then they say that still photography is dying and video is booming, so they need to be video-centric. They’re paying people money to publish videos. I’m not a video guy myself, but by far my most popular post on Instagram is a Reel, with triple the engagement of my most popular still-photography post. Is it because you all are more interested videos, or because Instagram wants you to be more interested in video? In my opinion they’re trying to transform their app into TikTok, which means that photography needs to take a back seat.

You can still be successful on Instagram as a photographer. Since Instagram is pushing Reels so hard, you might consider using those to show your pictures (instead of a traditional post, or in addition to it). I’m personally not a fan of what Instagram is becoming, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful. A lot of people have discovered my Film Simulation Recipes through Instagram. I’ve made a lot of connections (I get about 50 DMs on IG each day!), and even made some friends. There are definitely still some positives.

I do think the time is ripe for an Instagram-alternative for photographers. I know that many have tried, and no one has really succeeded. I don’t know what its unique shtick should be, but there has to be something that sets it apart. Money is obviously an obstacle, because everyone wants a free app, but an app like that would be expensive to produce and maintain. I don’t have the solution, but I do know that an opportunity exists right now for someone who thinks that they might have the solution.

Now it’s your turn! Do you like or dislike how Instagram is evolving? Would you try an Instagram alternative if there was a good one? Is there a current app that you prefer to Instagram and why? Let me know in the comments!

Be sure to check out my Apps!

What Future Camera Technology Might Be Like

Barn by the Tetons – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1 – Nik Silver Efex edit

What will future cameras be like? More specifically, what do I think they’ll be like? This is an odd topic that has come up a few times recently in various places. I don’t have any inside information. I’ve never laid eyes on any top-secret still-in-development cameras. I only have my own ideas and opinions, which are probably inaccurate. I’ve certainly been wrong before, and I’m probably wrong now. Still, it’s fun to speculate.

I think, in the not-too-distant future, perhaps beginning in roughly five years, we’ll see camera manufacturers team up with software companies to offer more (and better) in-camera filters. We’re going to see more software built into cameras, and with that, I think we’ll start to see VSCO, RNI, Alien Skin, Nik Collection, and others, partner with camera manufacturers to include their popular presets integrated into gear. This will also allow RAW files to match straight-out-of-camera JPEGs (and TIFFs) simply by applying the same preset in-software as in-camera.

Mirrored Mountain – Mirror Lake, UT – Fujifilm X-E1 – Alien Skin Exposure edit

The Zeiss ZX1 camera has Lightroom Mobile built-in. The Pixii camera can be programmed with LUT profiles. It’s not even close to mainstream yet, but you can see the very beginning of this shift start to build. I think it is only a matter of time before you will be able to capture in-camera with (for example) the RNI Kodak Gold v.3 preset. I don’t think Canon, Sony, Nikon, or Fujifilm will be the first company to do this. Maybe Leica. Perhaps a future Panasonic S-series model. I’m not exactly sure, but it will definitely be a marketing strategy for whoever does it first.

I believe that in the beginning it will be collaborations between specific manufactures and software companies. For example, Sony might partner with VSCO, and perhaps Nikon partners with RNI. I personally hope Fujifilm partners with RNI or Alien Skin, but my guess is that Fujifilm will hold onto their film simulations, which, let’s be honest, is a similar concept. Film simulations are kind of like presets, especially since they can be customized with film simulation recipes; however, in its current state film simulations don’t go as far as what I believe is coming. I do think Fujifilm can accomplish in-house their own presets, since they do seem to have a nice head start, but I don’t know if they have the foresight to take it far enough or the R&D resources to keep up once it takes off. We’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out. Currently, Fujifilm’s Film Simulations, with the help of custom JPEG recipes, are the closest thing right now to what I believe is coming.

Eventually I see it morphing into more of an app model, where you can buy any company’s presets and use them on your camera, no matter the brand. Buy a Canon and download the RNI app if you want their presets, or VSCO if you want theirs. If you have a Fujifilm camera, you can use the exact same presets on that camera as you can on your Sony. This might be 10 or more years down the road, but it seems like it is inevitable that it will happen someday.

Whitefish Lake Infrared – Whitefish, MT – Fujifilm X100V – RNI Aero edit

Why do I think all this is the future of photography technology? What I believe is going to happen is a stronger movement towards straight-out-of-camera. Not for bragging rights, but for three reasons: 1) it saves so much time, 2) it can be more fun, and 3) it opens up photography more to those who don’t have the desire, skills, or time to post-process their pictures. Technology will make getting post-processed-like-looks more accessible without the need to actually do it. It’s going to be easier and more automatic. You, the photographer, will have to select which look you want, and the camera will do the work for you and will deliver to you out-of-camera that look without any need for Lightroom, etc., to achieve it. Upload the picture to whatever social media or cloud storage you want right from the camera. No need for a computer, as it’s all handled by the camera. You won’t even need your phone, unless camera companies figure out that they can harness the phone’s computing power to do the work for them, and the phone becomes (wirelessly) integrated into the camera.

I could be completely wrong about all of this. I’ve certainly been wrong many times before. Nobody knows the future. I do see things moving in this direction, and in a very small way, because of my film simulation recipes, I’ve had a hand in moving it.

Sentinel & Merced – Yosemite NP, CA – Fujifilm X100V – SOOC “Vintage Color” unedited

Of Shadow & Light — Be The Light

The Art of Photography – Fujifilm X100V – “Kodak Tri-X 400

The first time that I saw Bruce Barnbaum‘s Chair & Shadow photograph was over 20 years ago in college during Photography 102. Most of those classes began with a look at well-known or really good photographs, with a discussion of why these pictures were special, and Bruce’s photo was one of those. At the time I had no idea who he was. I remember being struck by how this simple image could be so moving. The Zone System was mentioned, as well as dodging and burning and perhaps some other technical stuff.

I didn’t see Chair & Shadow again for more than a decade, when it was featured on the cover of The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression. I bought the book and read it cover-to-cover. It’s a great resource for those wanting to be more artful with their images. Note that the current edition of the book has a different cover photo.

Bruce’s picture is of a simple folding chair inside a large empty room with a door cracked open. The building looks old. The picture leaves far more questions than answers. Where is this? What is the significance of this place? Why is the chair in this large and otherwise empty room? Who sits in it? Why is the door partially open? What is outside? Is this a good place or bad place? These and other unanswered questions are likely why this image produces an emotional response, and, depending on the answers your mind invents, it might be good feelings or uneasy feelings—either way, you likely had an emotional response to the photo. Ultimately the picture is about shadow and light—more shadow than light, with light piercing the darkness—and utilizes a simple (yet effective) composition to make that point.

Yesterday I visited PetaPixel and saw that they published an article (which apparently first ran in Medium Format Magazine) in which Bruce Barnbaum explains the story behind his famous photo. It was such a fun read for me, because of my own experiences with the image. Many of my unanswered questions were answered in an interesting way. I very much enjoyed it!

Then I read the comments section. Big mistake. It’s amazing how people can be so negative yet full of unsubstantiated pride. You see it everywhere on the internet, including photography websites. I suppose it is easy to do that when you can hide behind anonymity. I learned awhile back not to Google my own name, because people have said some really awful things about me, largely because they simply disagreed with something I said. You can imagine, since I encourage people to shoot JPEGs, that it rocks the boat a little.

What’s great about the Fuji X Weekly community is that you’ll find very little of this nasty negativity here. Yeah, it’s seemingly everywhere else, but not among you. You guys and gals are extraordinarily kind, and it shows. You are like the light shining through the door in Chair & Shadow, illuminating the room. It’s really refreshing, and seemingly uncommon. Thank you for being a light in the “darkness” that is the internet. You are the best community in all of photography—I’m certain of it—and I appreciate you!

Shrinking Camera Market: What Fujifilm Should Do In 2021 & Beyond

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Fujifilm X100V captured by a Fujifilm X-T1

It’s no secret that camera sales have been declining for several years. The global pandemic has unsurprisingly significantly impacted the camera industry. Some companies have had bigger declines than others, and I think over the coming couple of years we’ll see some camera makers restructure, put themselves up for sale, or go out of business altogether. What should Fujifilm do to minimize declines and maximize profits in these tough times?

I’m not an industry insider or business expert. There aren’t any good reasons why Fujifilm should listen to me on this topic (other than I’m one of their customers). Besides, they have a pretty darn good track record for dealing with change within the industry and economy. Fujifilm doesn’t need my help. This article is more for my own enjoyment and perhaps yours. It’s fun to consider and discuss this topic. I don’t expect anything else to come from this.

Camera sales have been declining since the collapse of the compact camera market. Cellphone camera technology has come a long ways, which has rendered point-and-shoot cameras obsolete. The casual amateur snap-shooter uses their phone now to capture pictures, and has no need or interest in another camera. Before cellphone cameras had decent image quality, camera manufacturers were selling cheap automatic cameras to these folks. Lots and lots of them. But now that market is all dried up.

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Captured with a Fujifilm X-T1. This camera is four models old but is still quite capable.

The more serious shooters are still buying cameras, but cameras have reached a point of diminishing returns. Digital technology changes quickly, but if a camera is already really good, these improvements have less of a practical application. For instance, if a photographer finds that his or her camera’s autofocus is already more than good enough for their photography, a quicker autofocus system won’t likely tempt that photographer to upgrade. If a photographer finds that his or her camera already has enough resolution for the size they print, more resolution won’t likely tempt that photographer to upgrade. In other words, photographers by-and-large are keeping and using their gear for longer than they did 10 years ago, or even five. Digital is still disposable, but it is becoming less so, or at least photographers are beginning to realize that they don’t need to “upgrade” as frequently as they used to.

The camera industry isn’t Fujifilm’s main business. After the film collapse, Fujifilm diversified, and now they’re a pharmaceutical and cosmetics company that also happens to sell cameras. Their camera arm, which is just a small part of their business model, is doing better than many other camera makers right now. Still, the current market is impacting Fujifilm, and will continue to do so, which means Fujifilm might need to consider some changes.

Fujifilm has several camera models that are essentially the same, but look different and have only small feature differences. Fujifilm should consider ways to either further differentiate their similar models or combine them into one. The X-T200 and the X-A7 have nearly identical features, and having both models seems redundant. The X-Pro3 was made more unique to further separate it from the X-T3, and that worked out well, I believe. I look at the X-E line, which I love. My first Fujifilm camera was an X-E1. The X-E3 is so similar to the X-T20, aside from camera body design, so what differentiates the two besides shape? Fujifilm should consider discontinuing the X-E line, or do something to the eventual X-T40 or X-E4 to better differentiate the models. For example, if Fujifilm added IBIS to the X-T40 or made the X-E4 a black-and-white only camera (the “X-E Acros” is what I’d call it), that would separate them, and Fujifilm would have unique models. I think, alternatively, the X-T40 could basically be transitioned into a higher-end model, and serve as the (eventual) X-T5 without IBIS. The X-H line, now that the X-T4 has IBIS, is also redundant, so the X-H2 would need something to make it stand out, such as 8K video. Since the X-T4 has been so well received, I’m not sure how much of a market there is for an X-H2, but Fujifilm insists that this camera is in the works. It will be interesting to see it when it comes out, perhaps next year, and how well it does.

Fujifilm has situated itself as the leader in digital medium-format. It seems like overnight they went from not-even-in-that-market to top-dog, thanks to the success of the GFX line. Still, it’s more of a niche market than anything mainstream. I think what’s missing is a “budget” rangefinder-style 100-megapixel camera without IBIS. Essentially a GFX-50R, but with the 100MP sensor of the GFX100 inside. Maybe Fujifilm should consider adding IBIS to whatever camera replaces the GFX-50S. I have no idea how profitable this line has been for Fujifilm, and if it will stand the test of time, but I think it was smart of Fujifilm to jump into a market that they could easily dominate.

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This is a camera-made JPEG from a Fujifilm X100V, but looks more like film.

Something else that I think Fujifilm should consider is replacing cameras less frequently. When they release a camera and then replace it with a new model one year later, that’s too soon. Two years is too soon. Three years should be a minimum between updated cameras, and four to five years is even better. I know this might sound counter to what consumers want, but X-Trans III cameras, such as the X100F, X-T2, X-T20 and X-E3, are still very excellent! The X-E3 hasn’t been replaced yet, and the X100F was only recently replaced after three years, but the X-T2 is three models old now, and there’s already “talk” of an upcoming X-T40, while the X-T30 isn’t even a year-and-a-half old yet. It’s better to get the most out of a model, then replace it with something that’s a significant improvement over the previous edition. There’s a latin phrase festina lente, which means “make haste slowly.” Fujifilm needs to keep pushing the envelope and strive to produce more technologically advanced cameras, but not be too eager to release new models that only have small improvements over previous versions. If Fujifilm were to update the firmware on the X-T3 and X-T30 to breathe new excitement into these models, these cameras could still be sold for another two years easily.

There’s one more important point that I’d like to make, and this relates to Fuji X Weekly. I think Fujifilm needs to focus even more on JPEGs. I’ve discovered that there’s a huge community of photographers who love the camera-made JPEGs produced by Fujifilm cameras, whether straight-out-of-camera or with X RAW Studio. The film simulations—a brilliant idea by Fujifilm—were just the tip of the iceberg, and now film simulation recipes are all the rage. There’s something big here, bigger than I think Fujifilm realizes. Yes, Fujifilm has demonstrated their commitment to the JPEG with the X100V, X-Pro3 and X-T4, but they need to continue their commitment on future models. This is a fairly unique angle that Fujifilm has. While other camera makers do, in fact, have some nice JPEGs, Fujifilm is perhaps the only brand with a cult following based on it. They should absolutely capitalize on that, more so than they have been.

I doubt that Fujifilm will read this article, and I’m even more doubtful that they’ll make any internal changes based on it. I think it’s sound advice, but what do I know? Whether or not Fujifilm does any of the things I suggest, I think they’ll be just fine and will weather this “storm” without too much trouble. The guys running the company seem pretty smart to me, and are doing just fine without my advice. It will be fascinating to see exactly what happens within the camera industry in 2021 and beyond, and what Fujifilm does to find success during these tough times.

Defending Tatsuo Suzuki

This will be a controversial post. I’m a bit hesitant to publish it, because it will cause a stir, and I’m not looking for trouble. The Fuji X Weekly audience has been extraordinarily civil, which is something I’m extremely grateful for, as the internet can oftentimes be the exact opposite of civil. The internet has a way of bringing out the worst in people, perhaps because they can hide behind anonymity, or maybe there is a disconnect that makes interactions seem a bit less human; whatever the reason, people sometimes are rude or downright mean on the web. I’m asking right up front for civility and human kindness in regards to this article.

The video at the top, entitled My Milestone, was produced by Fujifilm to promote the X100V. It was promptly removed by Fujifilm because of public outcry. The featured photographer, Tatsuo Suzuki, is controversial, not for his images, but for how he captures those images. This video created quite a stir on the internet, and the worst in people showed up strongly in the comments of various articles regarding the video.

Here’s another video that shows Suzuki’s photographs and technique:

It seems as though the majority of people are against Suzuki’s style and agree that the video is controversial, and they believe that Fujifilm should never have associated themselves with him. Fujirumors and PetaPixel even conducted polls that confirm it. Now Suzuki is no longer a Fuji X Ambassador, either because Fujifilm dropped him or he dropped them. I’m going to go against popular opinion and defend Tatsuo Suzuki. The reaction to the Fujifilm video has been a huge overreaction.

As best as I can gather, what Suzuki did in the video that sparked all the outrage is demonstrate his “aggressive” style of shooting. He’s very much “in your face” as he walks the streets of Tokyo with his camera. It comes across as rude, as he invades people’s personal bubbles. My opinion is that he does this because, in Japan, people are extremely guarded, and the photographs that he captures, which are very good, would be impossible with any other technique. It’s the technique that he chooses to use in order to fulfill his photographic vision. It’s abrasive, yes, but also effective.

Suzuki is not the first to use this aggressive technique nor is he the most extreme with it. Bruce Gilden, Garry Winogrand and Eric Kim come to mind, and I’m sure there are many others. These are all successful and celebrated, albeit controversial, photographers, including Suzuki. They are far from the only controversial photographers out there. Even the legendary Steve McCurry has been called controversial at times. My point is this: just because you disagree with something doesn’t make it wrong.

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Man In Red – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

Was Suzuki doing anything illegal? No. In Japan, and many parts of the world, this type of photography is legal. Was he acting different than you or most people might act in public? Yes. Just because you don’t go around taking unsolicited closeup pictures of strangers doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to do so. Is it strange? Yes. Wrong? Not necessarily.

There’s a trend right now to shut down debate when faced with a differing opinion. If there’s something that you disagree with, it’s become common to attack the person whom one disagrees with. It used to be that people could “agree to disagree” and still be kind and caring and remain friends. Nowadays, if someone says or does something that you disagree with, you might attack their character and call them all sorts of names, demanding that they be stripped of their dignity until they change their ways. That’s exactly what I’ve seen in this debate. It’s really nasty and harmful. Those who go to war with their words against someone who did or said something that they disagree with, those people are the ones that stop dialogue, who encourage hate, and stifle civility. It’s good to say, “I don’t appreciate the way he conducts himself.” It’s not alright to call him all sorts of mean names and tear apart his character bit by bit.

I don’t know Tatsuo Suzuki personally. For all I know he’s the nicest guy in the world. Perhaps he helps little old ladies cross the street and rescues cats from trees and does all sorts of good deeds. Maybe he’s the “jerk” that people have been calling him, but maybe that couldn’t be further from the truth. You don’t know. I don’t know. Why assume the worst in him when you don’t know him? We’d all be better off if we assumed the best in others.

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Ghosts of the Past – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm XF10

When I do street photography, I like to be the guy that nobody notices who stealthily gets the shot without being seen. One of the big reasons why I do this is fear, but I tell myself that it’s also out of respect for those I might be photographing. Is that really the best approach? I noticed that a lot of people called Suzuki a “creep” because of how he conducts himself when he photographs. But what is creepier: the guy in the shadows hiding and lurking or the guy who makes it completely obvious to everyone around him exactly what he’s doing? While it’s much more shocking to see Suzuki at work, I wonder how shocked people would be to find out someone has been secretly photographing them without them noticing? While ignorance is bliss, I do think being open and honest is better than being secretive and sneaky. Most people don’t have the guts to be open and honest in candid street photography, so they hide.

You might be saying to all of this, “So what?” There’s something that happened to me a number of years ago. Somebody that I don’t know wrote a college paper on the evils of Photoshop. They argued that manipulating photographs of woman was causing a self-esteem crisis among young girls. I had written an article (for a different photography blog) defending Steve McCurry’s use of Photoshop. Remember when that was a big deal? Anyway, whoever this person was that wrote the paper quoted (really, misquoted) me in it, taking my words out of context, and made it seem as though I wanted young girls to have self-esteem problems. It was completely absurd! The university published this paper on their website. Someone that didn’t know me assumed the worst in me based on a quote that they didn’t understand, and unfairly attacked my character. That was completely wrong of them to do it! The lesson here is that we have to be very cautious not to do the same to others that this person did to me. Thankfully, I don’t think anybody cared what the paper said and nothing negative came out of it. In the case of Suzuki, someone did care what was said and something negative did come out of it.

Fujifilm knew who Tatsuo Suzuki was when they invited him to be an ambassador. They knew who he was when they made the promotional video for their product. They should have stood by him and defended him. If they lost a few customers over it, that’s alright because they knew who he was and despite that (because of that?) decided to partner with him. It seems pretty crummy to toss him aside just because some people complained. It also seems crummy that people don’t care to understand Suzuki’s point of view, and prefer the easy route of character assassination instead. I think that the best advice moving forward is to take a deep breath and examine ourselves first before biting someone’s head off. We have two ears and one mouth, so we should be quick to listen and slow to speak. Or, in this case, slow to type.

5 Tips To Become A Better Photographer in 2020

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It’s almost the new year! 2020 is at the doorstep. This year is nearly over. You might be wondering how to improve your photography in 2020. Perhaps you feel that your pictures aren’t “good enough” and you wish you could make pictures like what you see others creating. Maybe you are in a rut and don’t know how to move forward. Or it could be that you always keep your camera in auto because you are intimidated by all of the different settings and you don’t really understand all of the technical stuff. Perhaps you just received your first “real” camera for Christmas and don’t know where to start. Whatever the reason, you want to become a better photographer in 2020. Well, this article is for you!

If you are not moving forward, you are moving backwards. No matter what your skill level is, you should always be striving to improve. You should be pushing yourself to be more technically proficient or to learn a new technique or to be more creative or to have a stronger vision. Throughout your life, and not just in 2020, you should be trying to become a better photographer. Keep working towards improvement. Don’t stand still, because you can’t.

Really, I’m in the same boat as you. I’m trying to become a better photographer in 2020. I’m pushing myself to improve my camera skills. My advice is aimed at myself just as much as you. We’re all in this together. I hope that you find the five tips below helpful in your quest to become a better photographer in 2020!

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UP 4014 & UP 844 Racing West – Richardson Draw, WY – Fujifilm X-T20

Tip #1 – Know Your Gear, Part 1: Read The Manual

This might sound silly and obvious, but it’s important to know your camera and other photography gear inside and out. You need to know what all of the different settings do. You need to know how to make adjustments. You need to know how it all works. Most people thumb through the manual when they first get a new camera or other gear, and never look at it again. It’s a very good idea to take a careful look at it during unboxing, but it’s also a good idea to revisit the manual every so often. Pull the booklet back out after owning the camera for three months, and again at the one-year mark. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find! If you are like me, you’ll learn new things each time that you do this. Knowing your gear is the necessary foundation for improving your photography.

Tip #2 – Know Your Gear, Part 2: Understand How It Works

Knowing how to change the aperture is one thing, but knowing how it will affect the picture is another. Those who have been doing photography for awhile likely have a good grasp on what all of the different settings do to a picture, but those who are inexperienced might have no idea. Even if you have a good grasp, it’s always beneficial to investigate more deeply, understand more precisely, and try new techniques. There are tons of people who don’t understand even the basics, and things like the exposure triangle are completely foreign to them. If you rely on the camera to guess what the right settings should be, you are basically crossing your fingers and wishing on a star that your picture will turn out well. If you intimately understand how your camera works and how different settings affect the image, you can ensure that your pictures turn out just as you want them to.

There are tons of great resources for learning different aspects of camera settings. Nowadays, with the internet, everything is right at your fingertips. Oftentimes the best way to learn is by doing, which means that you take your camera out of auto and play around with it. Spend some time experimenting with different apertures, different shutter speeds, different ISOs, etc.,etc., and compare the results. This is a learning process, so don’t worry that your pictures aren’t good yet. It takes a lot of time, but the time investment is well worth it. Whatever you are trying to learn, read up on it, then go out and do it, not being afraid to fail, but trying again and again until it’s second nature.

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Onaqui Wild Horses – Dugway, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

Tip #3 – Invest In Experiences

Camera companies want you to think that you need the latest and greatest gear to become a better photographer. If only you had more resolution, better auto-focus, a larger sensor, a faster lens, etc., your pictures would look amazing, and they don’t because you didn’t buy it. My advice is to use what you already have to the best of your ability, and spend the money on experiences instead of new gear. Travel! Go someplace amazing. It doesn’t have to be far. Even if you were only going to spend $500, that money could get you somewhere. Take your camera with you and use it. Take lots of pictures! It’s better to keep the gear that you own and really use it, than to buy new gear and not use it as much. Eventually it will make sense to “upgrade” to something new, and you’ll know when that time is, but for now spend your money on experiences and not gear.

Tip #4 – Find The Light

Photography requires light, so it should come as no surprise that great photography requires great light. “Great light” is a little difficult to define, and it varies greatly depending on the subject, but oftentimes you know it when you see it. You can find great light anytime of the day or night if you look hard enough, and most of the time you have to seek it to find it. You can sometimes even create your own great light if it does not naturally exist. The most obvious great light is found near sunrise and sunset, and that’s a great starting point for those searching for it. With practice and experience, you’ll more easily spot great light, recognizing how to best utilize it for stronger pictures. The key is to always actively look for great light, but it takes a lot of clicks of the shutter to be proficient at finding it.

Tip #5 – Be The Man Who Came Back

There was an article in the September 1955 issue of Arizona Highways magazine by photographer Chuck Abbott entitled You Have To Go Back To Get The Good Ones. In the article he addresses the very question of this blog post: how does one become a better photographer? His answer: be the man who came back. Return again and again to the same subject. Try the picture at a different time of day, in a different season, under different light, from a different angle, etc. Keep coming back to it over and over, and don’t stop, even if you are satisfied with the results. Press yourself to make a more interesting picture of something that you’ve photographed before. Be a better storyteller than the last time. Make a stronger composition than your previous attempts. This is the best piece of advice that I can give you: if you want to become a better photographer in 2020, be the person who came back.

Photography Investments

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Cameras are terrible financial investments. In a way they’re like cars: as soon as you own it, the value drops, because it’s now used and not brand-new. And the more it’s used and the older it gets, the more the value drops. That’s not 100% true all of the time–there are exceptions–but it’s pretty true. You don’t buy cars as a financial investment, unless it’s a rare antique car, and you don’t buy camera gear as a financial investment, unless there’s something that makes it collectible. Most of your photography gear, if not all of it, is worth a little less now than when you purchased it.

About a year-and-a-half ago I did something really crazy: I distressed a Fujifilm X-E1 to look old and worn. It was a gutsy thing to do, and I had mixed thoughts as I did it. I mean, who takes sandpaper to their cameras? Once finished, I sold the distressed camera for more than I had paid for it. I turned the camera from an appliance into art, and that increased the value of it, at least a little. That’s an unusual situation. Most of the time, the photography gear that I buy decreases in value, not increases.

Cameras are a lousy investment, but you can make money with them if you want. You can do family portraits or weddings or sell prints. People make money with cameras all of the time. Not necessarily lots of money. In the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the medium salary of a photographer is about $35,000 annually, which is an average wage. You can use your gear as a tool to make money, even if down the road you sell your camera for far less than you paid for it.

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The photography business world is extraordinarily crowded. Everyone’s a photographer nowadays. Not only are there a ton more photographers than there used to be, but the number of great photographs being created has skyrocketed. What used to be considered “good” is now “average” and what used to be “great” is now “good”–yet “amazing” photographs are still amazing. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd, and there’s very little being created that’s unique. Starting a photography business has never been easier, but creating a successful photography business is still just as tough as it has always been, if not more difficult because there are fewer photography consumers (from a business standpoint) than there used to be, yet with stiffer competition.

There is a way in which photography gear is a worthwhile investment, and that’s experiences. Because I own a camera, I want to photograph with it, and because of that I go places, see things, meet people, and otherwise live differently than if I didn’t have a camera. The camera opens up a life of experiences that would be completely foreign to me if I wasn’t a photographer. You cannot put a dollar figure on these experiences because they’re priceless. Their value transcends money. I wouldn’t trade these experiences for any amount of money.

Besides, I love creating photographs. There’s something deep inside of me that yearns to be creative, and photography is my preferred artistic outlet. I feel that photography is just as necessary for me as eating, sleeping and breathing. An investment in photography gear is an investment in experiences if I allow it to be. Even though the camera I spent $1,000 on might only be worth $500 next year, it was still money well spent, just as long as I create photographs with it. If gaining wealth isn’t the goal, investing in photography is a great decision because my life is richer for it. In my opinion, it’s better to live a rich life than to live a life devoted to being rich. My photography gear allows me to live a richer life, not because of the gear itself, but because of what I do with it.

‘Tis The Season For Stealing

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Ethos – Riverdale, UT – Fujifilm X100F – Double Exposure

It’s come to my attention that I’m the victim of theft. People have been stealing my words and pictures from the Fuji X Weekly blog. They have taken them without permission and illegally used them on their own websites. Sometimes they’ve even claimed them as their own. It’s extraordinarily disheartening. This blog is intended to be helpful to Fujifilm photographers, and not a place to find license-free content. I, and I alone, own the copyright.

This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last, that someone has illegally taken my intellectual property. Five or six years ago I was reading a newspaper (something that I rarely do) and I spotted one of my pictures in an advertisement. Someone found my picture on the internet, copied it, and used it in a printed ad to sell their product. Crazy, huh? I’ve seen someone trying to illegally sell one of my pictures on a print-on-demand site. Someone else used some of my pictures without permission in an article that was factually untrue. In a theft that I just recently became aware of, an entire article of mine was copy-and-pasted onto someone else’s website, word-for-word, picture-for-picture, without permission. They didn’t even credit it to me (not that it would have made it any less illegal, but perhaps slightly less unethical). Sometimes creative people are easy targets because we put ourselves “out there” for the public to see.

The internet has made theft incredibly easy. It only takes a couple of clicks to steal someone’s pictures or words. As many times as my pictures have been illegally taken and used, my words have been plagiarized even more often. There are ways to use someone else’s words legally and ethically, but there are people out there on the internet who either don’t know or don’t care. Perhaps ignorance is better than irreverence, but they’re both bad. I just want people to stop stealing my stuff. I don’t want to be victimized by lowlifes on the internet who are trying to benefit from my work. Go write your own words! Go capture your own pictures! Oh, you’re not very good at those things? Well, did you ever think to contact me and go about this the right way? Or do you only care about yourself?

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I do this website mostly as a service to you. Nobody pays me to write the articles you find on Fuji X Weekly, a blog that has been beneficial to many Fujifilm photographers. I do get compensated a small amount for the ads and the affiliate links, but it doesn’t pay much; mostly it covers the cost of running the website. In the words of Napoleon Dynamite, “That’s like a dollar an hour!” If only it were that much. But I enjoy “giving back” because so many have helped me along the way, and it’s good for the soul to be helpful to others. I also love to write, and this blog is good practice for me. I hope that you like seeing my pictures, too. There are many reasons why I do this Fujifilm blog, but being victimized is surely not one of them.

If you are reading this and you illegally copied my pictures and words and are using them without permission and in a way that violates “fair use” laws, please take it down. Please remove from your website what you stole from me. If you go to the About page, there’s a way to contact me. Please use that to reach out to me if you’d like to use my pictures or words the right way, the legal way: with permission. I’m sure we can work something out. But please stop stealing. I don’t like it. Nobody does. It’s wrong. This is a community, and we’re all neighbors, so let’s be kind and not disrespectful. Thank you.

Some of you have shared my content in limited ways, citing the source, and following the rules of fair use. Rest assured that this article isn’t aimed at you. I appreciate what you do and your support. My disdain is aimed towards those who don’t follow the rules, operating outside of ethical and legal; those who would rather steal, profiting off of the hard work of others. My words belong to me, and my photographs are mine. Don’t take what’s not yours, it really is that simple.

New: Fuji X Weekly Development Page

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I created a new Fuji X Weekly page called Development. You can find it by clicking on the top-left “hamburger” menu and then selecting Development. This new page has absolutely nothing to do with developing pictures, but instead has posts relating to personal development as a photographer. This is where you’ll find things like how-to articles and photography advice. So far it’s not a huge list of articles, but I hope to expand it greatly in the coming months. It’s small now, but it will be much larger soon enough. I’m hoping that it will be a wonderful resource for some of you. I encourage you to check it out, and to revisit it regularly to see what’s new.

Times Have Changed

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Airport Lobby – McKinney, TX – I captured this picture about 20 years ago.

I was thinking about how things have changed significantly in photography over the last 20 years. I have been doing this picture-taking thing for 20 years, beginning when I enrolled in Photography 101 in college. I remember that it started because, in the summer of 1998, I took a trip to New England, and brought along my dad’s Sears 35mm SLR and a bunch of film. I didn’t really know how to use the camera, but how hard could it be? When I returned and had the film developed, the pictures were extraordinarily awful! There were only a few frames that were correctly exposed, and the ones that were exposed alright had other issues, such as improper focus or were poorly composed. My desire to learn photography came out of the frustration of not understanding how to capture a descent picture. That fall I enrolled in college and signed up for a photography class, and soon fell in love with the art of creating pictures.

While it’s easy to say that the biggest change in photography over the last 20 years is technology, I don’t know if that’s completely true. Gear has changed a whole lot. When I started, it was all about film and darkrooms. Now it’s about sensors and software. However, there’s some carryover between the two methods. Technology has made things easier for the most part. I think it’s possible nowadays to throw a camera into auto and get good results, and one-click software has made editing much simpler. The prerequisite knowledge of how stuff works and why is no longer required, although it can still be very useful. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the learning curve for digital isn’t necessarily less–it’s definitely different–but there are technologies that will allow you to appear to know what you’re doing even when you don’t. Because the camera and software will take care of many things for you, you don’t have to know what you’re doing to capture a decent picture. Today’s cellphone cameras are more capable than many DSLRs were 15 years ago, and are one-click wonders. Advancements in photography technology has opened up photographic possibilities that weren’t conceivable before. It’s incredible what the modern camera can do! Another aspect of all this gear change is that cameras have become throw-away. People often “upgrade” their gear every year or two, and many don’t keep a camera more than five years. A ten year old camera is ancient. It used to be, in the old film days, that people kept their gear much, much longer, and typically only replaced their camera if it broke.

Another big change is the number of photos being created. Over a trillion pictures are captured worldwide each year now. When I started out the number was around 85 billion, so that’s a pretty big increase–about 12 times, in fact! Not only are there a ton more pictures being captured, but the ability to share those pictures with an audience worldwide is much, much easier (that’s a gross understatement). Everyday, each of us are bombarded with pictures. It’s become overwhelming! It’s to the point that it is difficult to get noticed among all the noise. You have to be extraordinarily great, do something especially unusual, have great marketing skills, or have amazingly good luck to get noticed. Or cheat. A lot of people buy their way to success nowadays, using questionable or downright unethical methods. Despite the fact that it’s more difficult to get noticed or create an iconic image, the number of great pictures being captured now is significantly higher than it used to be. Since there’s a heck-of-a-lot of quality pictures available, it’s a great time to be a photography consumer.

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Clearing Rainstorm – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 – I captured this yesterday.

While way more photographs are being captured now than ever before, the number of pictures being printed is way down. Most photographs are only seen digitally via a computer monitor or cellphone or tablet. The physical print is significantly less common than 20 years ago. While the number of digital pictures is high, the number of physical pictures is low. However, with print-on-demand services, it’s very easy to obtain a print of almost any subject, if you should ever need a photographic print of something.

I bring this up because, in my opinion, the biggest change in photography over the last twenty years is the photographic market. It’s much harder to make good money as a photographer now than it used to be. Everybody with a camera–and everyone has a camera–is a photographer. It’s incredibly easy to start a photography business nowadays. Buy a camera, which will take decent pictures in full-auto mode, take a few snaps of family and friends, create a (free) website to look professional, then post a portrait or wedding photography business ad on Facebook Marketplace. I have seen a lot of people do this. And they make money, but not a lot. The photographers who are actually talented, which is a minority group, can do well for themselves, but many earn much less than they should for their efforts. The stock photo business is pretty much dead, replaced by micro-stock, which sells images for cheap and gives photographers peanuts at best for their work. They get away with this because a huge number of “photographers” willingly participate, trying to earn something from their pictures. The photojournalist has been replaced by onlookers with cellphones. The travel photographer has been replaced by the “influencer” who probably cheated his or her way to success. A lot of photography jobs that were good jobs have been replaced by things that don’t pay much, if anything at all.

I’m not saying this because I’m bitter. I’m just pointing out how the photographic industry in many genres has changed a whole bunch, which has made it more difficult for the photographer to make a decent living. There are still plenty of people who are making good money at photography. There are new opportunities that didn’t exist before. If you really want to become a successful photographer, I believe that if you keep trying really hard and are determined to do so, you’ll likely see your dream fulfilled. It won’t be easy and won’t likely happen overnight, but it can certainly happen. If you are doing photography for the love of the art and have no interest in the financial side of picture making, you’re doing it at an extraordinarily great time.

It’s an interesting era in photography. Gear has changed, becoming more impressive with each year. People across the globe are capturing pictures at an unprecedented rate. If you like viewing photographs or creating photographs, there’s never been a better time. If you want to earn money from making pictures, competition is extremely fierce, and you might find it as tough as it’s ever been to be successful. There are opportunities, so it’s far from impossible, but making good money from photography is not an easy task. It never was easy, but it’s more true today. You have to discover your niche and market the heck out of it. Those who don’t need to earn money from photography, but can create simply because they love to, are the lucky ones. They have it good. In fact, they’ve never had it better.

Art & Photography

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Pas Une Abeille – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2

Photography is a form of art, or at least it can be. Discussing art is kind of a dangerous proposition because it’s subjective, and you are bound to step on someone’s toes. I think it’s important to talk about art, and, even if someone might be offended, it is beneficial to have some understanding of what it is and how it relates to photography. I’ll make an attempt at defining art and demonstrating how it relates to you.

Most photographs are not art, which means most people who snap pictures with a camera are not artists. Most people who have a paintbrush in their hands are not artists. Most people who sing aren’t recording artists. Not all people who whittle are wood-carvers. Not all people who draw letters are calligraphers. You get the idea. Just because something is similar to art, does not make it art. There is something that separates actual art from facsimile “art” that’s not really art at all.

Before jumping too deep into this, I want to clarify that it is perfectly fine that most photographs are not art. There are many different purposes for the photograph, and art is just one of them. There is nothing wrong with pictures that aren’t art, as they have their place, just as photographs as art also have their place. Just because one uses a camera doesn’t mean that person must be or should be an artist. You may have little to no interest in art at all, but you love to photograph, and there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever.

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Curtain Abstract – Mesquite, NV – Fujifilm X100F

Webster defines art as “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination.” Oxford defines it as “the expression of human creative skill and imagination.” Both of these explanations are similar and describe the two critical components for determining if something is art or not: skill and imagination. If something is created skillfully but not imaginatively, it’s not art. If something is created imaginatively but not skillfully, it’s not art. It must be both skillfully and imaginatively completed in order to be considered art.

People have different levels of skill and creativity. You might be very skillful but only marginally creative. You can be highly creative but only marginally skillful. Either way, you can still create art, and you can work to improve your shortcomings. You can become more proficient and increase your creativity with practice. Obviously you want to be very skillful and highly creative if you wish to be an artist photographer. That’s a life-long process, and there are no easy one-size-fits-all instant answers. Just continue to work hard and be persistent.

Aside from knowing how to use your camera gear to achieve your desired results, and having imagination enough to know what you want the results to be in the first place, I think that there are a few more aspects to art that should be talked about. Look again at what Webster said of art, paying particular attention to the phrase, “conscious use of…” in the definition. You have to know what it is that you are creating. You have to be able to define it. You should be able to explain it to some extent. If you can’t, it’s not likely art that you’re creating.

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Ethos – Riverdale, UT – Fujifilm X100F

I used to show my photographs to people and they’d say, “Oh, that looks nice!” Or, “What a pretty picture!” Then one day someone asked, “What does this picture mean? What is its purpose?” I had no answer because I had never thought of that before. I really didn’t know what to say, and it was kind of embarrassing. I realized that I needed to have an answer for all of my photographs–I needed to know the purpose and meaning of each–but the answer needed to be made prior to exposure, not after. If I’m trying to make it up after the fact it will typically translate as artificial and weak. If a photograph is art, the photographer should be able to give a clear and concise explanation of the image. It doesn’t necessarily have to be profound. It doesn’t necessarily have to be obvious to the viewer. But the photographer should know clearly in their mind why they created the image and what the meaning of it is. And it’s okay if the viewer doesn’t see it the same way that you see it, it only matters that you know why you created it.

I believe that if something is art it should convey something to the viewer. It might be a strong and obvious message, it might be a subtle concept, it might be an emotion–there should be some kind of nonverbal communication, whether clear or vague. The photographer must decide what it is that the picture will convey, and then make decisions prior to exposure that will most strongly speak it. The Oxford explanation of art uses the word “expression” which can be defined as making one’s thoughts and feelings known. When you are an artist photographer, that’s exactly what you are doing. You are expressing your thoughts and/or feelings to others through your pictures. You are giving the viewer a glimpse of yourself through your photographs. Art is self expression. How you do this is entirely up to you. What glimpses you give of yourself is entirely up to you. You have to make those decisions, then skillfully and imaginatively create something from it.

Not everyone will appreciate your art. Not everyone will get it. In fact, if you are truly expressing yourself, you should expect criticism. People have opinions that are different than yours. People have experiences that are different than yours. People see the world through different eyes than yours. Strangers will look at something that you think is great and they’ll think it’s terrible. That’s completely okay, and you may not realize it, but you do the exact same thing. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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Snake River Fog – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

If you are an artist photographer, you have to expect that criticism will come. Take it for what it’s worth, and, most likely, it’s not worth much. Listen to people who you trust, and take their criticism to heart. They mean well with what they say, and they’re just trying to help you. For everyone else, give the criticism a listen, but don’t put much stock into it, and don’t let it bother you. If you’re not getting any criticism at all, it’s most likely because you are not creating art, and you are not expressing yourself through your photographs enough.

Not everyone is an artist photographer, and not every artist photographer is always creating art. Photography as art happens when someone consciously expresses themselves in a masterful and creative fashion. It happens when the photographer communicates thoughts or emotions through pictures. I’m constantly striving to be an artist photographer. Sometimes I think I’ve succeeded, other times I feel like I’ve fallen short. But I keep at it, never giving up, always striving ahead.

The takeaway that I’d like to most impart is that you and I should continuously be working towards becoming more skilled with our gear and we should daily be practicing creativity. Constantly take baby steps to become a better and more artistic photographer. Even if things are slow developing or mistakes happen, don’t give up but instead keep moving forward. Be persistent. Tomorrow’s photographs can be better than today’s.

Focus On What Matters

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I’ve been thinking about focus a lot lately. Not focus of the lens, but focus of the mind and life. How can I photographically improve? How can I use my time better? What should I be doing different? There are a lot of different aspects of this that I could talk about, and I’ll try to get to several of them in this article.

What comes to my mind first regarding focus and photography is composition. Something catches your eyes and you want to capture it with your camera. You have to consider what it is exactly that you wish to make a picture of. There is something about the scene that fascinates you, but what is it? Is it the light? The color? Design? Juxtaposition? Contrast? How can you best photographically communicate that? Once you’ve answered those questions and many others, then you can go about creating a meaningful image by cutting out everything that isn’t important.

Photography is a lot like sculpting. The sculptor starts with a rock and chisels away everything that isn’t the finished sculpture. The photographer starts with a vast scene and removes everything that isn’t the picture that’s in his or her mind. Focus on what the picture should look like, and then take out of the frame everything that doesn’t belong.  Less is more. Successful photography is often about non-verbally communicating as clearly and concisely as possible.

I get asked sometimes how I find time to photograph every day. Life is busy. I have four young kids that keep me immensely occupied. I have to put food on the table and a roof over my family’s heads. There are so many different people and things that require my attention. It’s often easier to not photograph. On the flip side it’s also easy to photograph too much and neglect the more important things around me. I get pulled in a lot of different directions. Finding balance is difficult, but possible.

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When you are passionate about something you find the time for it. I’m passionate about my family. I’m passionate about photography. I’m passionate about writing and other things. I make time for the things that I love. Something’s got to give, so I spend less time on the things that don’t matter as much to me.

You have to focus your time deliberately and wisely. If you are flying day-to-day by the seat of your pants you’ll spend too much time on one thing and ignore the others. Everything will find itself unbalanced. You have to focus your time and energy with purpose. You have to set aside a predetermined amount of time to your passion, and focus on accomplishing what you need regarding that passion within that time.

Sometimes things can spill over from one thing into another. For example, I love photography and I love my family, so I can sometimes photograph while I’m doing things with my family, or my family can become the subject of my photography. The caution here is to not let the camera interfere with family time, and not let family interfere with camera time. It’s important to set aside time that’s just for family and just for photography. There has to be a balance. It takes careful planning, but it is possible to accommodate a lot of different things in life.

Everyone should have passions and everyone should have dreams. Your passions will be the focus of your life. Where two (or more) passions meet is where you’ll do your best work. For example, if you love photography and also horses, you should combine the two passions and create your best work. Dream of what you could possibly create by photographing what you love!

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I think a lot of people photograph whatever it is that catches their eyes at any given moment. I know that I do this often, and there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with it, but it creates disjointed work. It’s better to focus one’s efforts onto refined ideas. The more specific you can be about what you photograph the better. You could call it specializing, but I don’t think you have to pick just one genre. I suggest focusing your attention on very specific photographic topics and create a cohesive body of work. If there is some subject, object, genre or style that you are particularly fascinated by, focus your efforts on that. I believe that the more specific you can be the more successful you are likely to be.

Richard Steinheimer once said something to the effect of, “Photography is about being in the right place at the right time, and that often means going places that others aren’t willing to go and at times that they’re not willing to be there.” In other words, a big part of photography is luck, but you can create your own luck through determination and preparation. Focus your energy into being in the right places at the right times to capture great photographs. This might entail extra research, it might entail going down the road less traveled (metaphorically and literally), it might entail getting out of bed and venturing out into the cold while everyone else is warm and comfortably sleeping. Whatever it means, you have to be determined to do it.

I find myself too often with metaphorically blurred vision. I feel that sometimes my efforts are going nowhere, that I’m just spinning my wheels. I need to focus better, and that includes my time, my dreams, my efforts, my subjects, my compositions and more. It’s about refining, which means removing the unnecessary stuff that just takes up time and space, and clearing away all of the useless distractions that abound each day. Focus more on the things that matter and less on the things that don’t.

RAW Doesn’t Make You Better

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Canyon Pinion – Canyonlands NP, UT – Fujifilm X100F

I read something yesterday that bothered me. A really talented photographer, who has a blog that I like to read sometimes, posted an article stating that the number one thing you can do to improve your landscape photography is to shoot RAW. His argument was, essentially, that post-processing is a necessary aspect of photography, so you might as well fully embrace it and start with a RAW file. I get that if you plan to significantly manipulate your photographs you should probably use RAW because a JPEG is limited in how far you can take it before it begins to degrade. I disagree that post-processing is always or even usually needed, and I don’t think anyone should feel like they must fully embrace it. Edit if you want, or save yourself a bunch of time and strive to get the look that you are after using the options found in your camera. Most of the time it’s possible to get the look that you want straight out of camera, no editing necessary.

Fujifilm cameras are especially great at JPEG processing. Using the different film simulations, which can be significantly customized, and the dynamic range options, it’s possible to get polished images straight out of camera that resemble edited RAW photographs. In fact, while I do some light post-processing occasionally, most of the time I do not edit my photographs whatsoever. I don’t need to! Fujifilm cameras save me so much time because they can produce really nice pictures that don’t require editing, such as the two in this article.

In the early days of digital photography, cameras had a narrow dynamic range, were not particularly good at anything above base ISO, were spotty at white balance, and weren’t programmed to make JPEGs any better than mediocre (at best), so RAW was indeed necessary. Even just 10 years ago camera-made JPEGs weren’t especially great, although on most camera brands they had improved significantly. There was a time when the “you must shoot RAW” argument was valid. It’s not 1998 or 2008 anymore, and almost all cameras are capable of making nice JPEGs. Some cameras are better than others, and that’s why I shoot Fujifilm, but almost any camera make and model manufactured over the last five or so years can make a good JPEG if you take the time to program it to your liking.

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Storm Over San Luis Valley – Alamosa, CO – Fujifilm X-Pro2

I’d much rather spend an extra moment setting the camera to what I want before capturing the image than sitting at a computer later fiddling with a RAW file. I’d rather let the camera do the work for me in the field so that I don’t have to at home. My photography doesn’t suffer for it. You wouldn’t know that my photographs are camera-made JPEGs if I didn’t tell you. I don’t know about you, but I already spend too much time sitting at a computer, so the more I can reduce that the better off I am.

Shooting RAW doesn’t make anyone a better photographer. Use RAW if you want, but it’s just a tool to achieve the results that you’re after, just as the JPEG processor in your camera is a tool to achieve desired results. Use the tool that works best for you. Don’t think that you must shoot RAW because someone doesn’t understand how to get good results without it. If the person who wrote the article took the time to set up their camera in the field, I’m sure that they could create the images they want without the need for Lightroom or Photoshop. It’s fine that the person didn’t, but I think it’s unfair to suggest that RAW is necessary for “better” photography. It’s untrue that you must embrace post-processing to create great photographs, because which format you choose has no bearing on your talent.

The Certainty of Change

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Gate To Indifference – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

If there is one thing that is certain it’s that things change. Nothing stays the same forever. Changes can be big, and they sometimes happen overnight. Sometimes they’re quite small and are hardly noticeable, occurring over years and years. But you can rest assured that change will happen, whether big or small or fast or slow.

The photographs you see in this article of the abandoned homes are an example of slow change. It took years for these structures to transform from nice living spaces to derelict dumps. After a place is no longer maintained, the change seems to accelerate as vandals and nature take over. For these abandoned buildings that’s not where the change ends. There would soon be rapid developments that made the property essentually unrecognizable.

I captured these photographs in April of last year. I’d pass by the buildings often and wanted to stop and make some exposures. I used to do a lot of urban exploration type photography. I don’t venture into that genre much anymore, but I still get excited when I see an abandoned place, and I still have the desire to capture it. After a year of seeing these abandoned houses on a large property in Salt Lake City, Utah, I decided to stop and photograph them.

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Losing History – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

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Little House In The Valley – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

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Abandoned House – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

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Still, I Love You – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

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The Place Had An Air of Neglect – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

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Tree of Broken Glass – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

It wasn’t but two weeks after I captured the photographs above that the buildings were demolished. Big machines came in and knocked them down. The rubble was removed. Then more big machines came in and removed the trees and leveled the ground. Soon enough there was nothing left but a huge patch of flat dirt.

I watched as things changed rapidly. In a matter of weeks the property was unrecognizable. It looked absolutely nothing like it had before. As time passed concrete began to pour and after that walls went up. Something big was being constructed on the site where the abandoned homes once stood.

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Sitting Large – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Diversity – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Caterpillar – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F

From start to finish, the project took about 16 months to go from a neglected property with derelict buildings to a finished distribution center. Now huge structures sit on the land, complete with sidewalks and nice landscaping and such. The transformation is almost unbelievable!

The moral of this story is that you should get out and capture the things that interest you, because things will change, and your opportunity might disappear. Don’t wait. Don’t procrastinate. The time is now! Grab your camera and capture that thing you’ve been eyeing before it’s too late, because eventually it will be too late.

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Distribution – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Industrial Mirror – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Distributing Abstract – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F

Less Angry & More Caring

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Ain’t No Love On The Streets – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

I’m going to get on my soapbox for a minute, I hope that you don’t mind. There’s something that’s been bothered me for the last few days and I feel the need to say something about it.

Last week I published an article about distressing a Fujifilm X-E1 to make it look old and worn. I knew that there would be strong mixed reactions to it. I was actually surprised that, of all the comments and emails I received, about 60% were positive and 40% were negative. I thought the reaction would be more negative than positive, but it turned out to be the other way around. More people seem to like it than not.

What bothers me, though, is that every single negative reaction that I received, either as a comment or email, had a personal insult attached to it. Each and every time, the person who had something negative to say also said something mean, intentionally being hurtful. In one case, the person was clearly bigoted, and their words were laced with intolerance.

I was expecting negative words. I don’t have a problem receiving constructive criticism. In fact, in photography, constructive criticism is essential for improvement. I learned this decades ago in Photography 101, when we would have “peer review” in class. I’m very open to criticism, as long as the person means well and has the experience to back up what he or she is saying.

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Broken Souls – Newberry Springs, CA – Sigma DP2 Merrill

What I received was not constructive criticism, but destructive criticism. The words written to me were deliberately intended to tear me down. These people didn’t like what I did, so they decided to verbally destroy me. It wasn’t enough to simply say, “I don’t like it.” Or, “It’s ugly.” Or, “I find it to be dishonest.” No, what was said was more akin to, “I don’t like it, and you’re a pathetic excuse for a cotton headed ninny muggins and your breath stinks.” Or something along those lines, but with stronger words.

It seems like more and more that it’s not enough to simply disagree with someone. If you don’t like or understand what someone did or said, the first response seems to be to discredit the person by verbally thrashing them. It seems that, instead of trying to see things from that person’s perspective to understand it, what happens instead is people tend to become abusive with their words. It’s like they cannot handle an opinion or thought or action that is different than their own.

If you gave 10 photographers the same subject to capture, they’d each come up with a different picture. Each one has different ideas and experiences that effect the outcome of the image. Each person is unique, so their process is going to be unique. Their perspective on the subject is going to be different. Each person sees the world through their own lens.

Can you imagine if each person verbally assaulted the others for having a perspective that’s different? Can you imagine if they were calling each other nasty names for not capturing the image in the same way? It’s absurd, but that’s essentially what’s going on. Everyone has a different perspective on things based on their own experiences. It would be better, instead of shutting down someone for having a different perspective, to attempt to see things through the other person’s lens, to try to understand that person’s opinion, thought or action. Walk a mile in their shoes first before coming down all judgmental-like.

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Because Everyone Is Unique – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

I’m having a difficult time understanding why someone’s first reaction to something that they don’t like or understand would be anger and wrath. This isn’t anything new, though. When I had my old photography blog, I wrote a camera review and someone didn’t like what I said, and they wrote, “If I see you on the street I’ll punch you in the face!” Now I don’t think the person was entirely serious, but what would make someone have that kind of reaction to something that, in the big scheme of things, doesn’t matter whatsoever? Why so quick to anger?

What I do with my camera is my prerogative, just as what you do with yours is your prerogative. And what I do with Fuji X Weekly is my prerogative, because it’s my blog. That’s why you don’t see those negative, hurtful comments. I deleted them, because I can. Don’t like it? Go make your own blog, and handle those kind of things in the manner that you wish. If you have some constructive criticism, by all means offer it. If you have destructive criticism, you are wasting your time, because I will not put up with it. Take your anger and mean spirit elsewhere.

We should all be more kind to each other. We are all humans. Nobody is perfect. We’re all broken and awkward in some way. We’re all on this road of life together. Let’s be kind. Let’s be helpful. Let’s build each other up instead of tearing down. There’s no need to be mean. There’s no need to be bigoted. Nobody is better than the next guy. Everybody makes mistakes. Everyone has their own reasons for things. This world needs more love and less hate. More understanding and less prejudice. More civility and less rudeness. More forgiveness and less resentment. More helping hands and fewer middle fingers. We can accomplish this together, if each one does his or her part.

Okay, I’m off the soapbox. Now back to your regularly scheduled program….