He let me mess with his Canon XTi and Lensbaby 2.0. Since I’ve systematically destroyed all my cameras, it has been a long while. When my hands grabbed the camera, it was electric—my hands were made for an SLR, my eyes were made to be behind the viewfinder. I snapped a couple of photos.
He then asked me a question he had been pestered with that day, “Why don’t you just use photoshop to do the same thing the lensbaby does?”
[My answer after the jump]
Emulation and editing
You can’t get the same shot in photoshop. You can emulate it with lens blurring effects, but it’s not the same. From a physics perspective, it definitely isn’t the same, but I mean from a philosophical one. The manufacturers like to call the lensbaby a “selective focus lens.” And that is what I do, select focus, edit in camera.
You may think, “Well, why not just take a perfect shot with a great lens and then blur in post. Why edit in camera?” But that is a beginner’s thought and why most photographs are unremarkable. That’d be no different than saying, “Why don’t I invent a zillion pixel camera that shoots my world in all directions, continuously, at 10,000 times a second?”
What and just go back and choose the right part of the right shot and just “photoshop it?”
Our time is too precious. So we edit.
Editing as a choice
When we choose the lens, we edit perspective. When we adjust the metering, we edit the light. When we frame the shot, we edit other parts out. The instant we press the shutter, we edit the other moments out. When you shoot with a lensbaby, you select on subject and edit the others out.
Watch a beginner with a zoom lens. They try to say this and that with their camera with a shot, pretty soon they have put so much stuff into the shot that they’ve really said nothing at all! The biggest advantage of a prime lens is that it forces you to edit with your feet and perspective. Zoom is the auto-correct of the camera world.
When you use a Lensbaby, it’s a prime-squared. You are not only stuck with a single focal length, you are handicapped by a single focus (and aperture). You have to think, “What am I saying?” because you can only say one thing as it will blur the rest. Maybe you choose to focus on “eye” or maybe you focus on “shoulder” or perhaps “logo.” That is the subject you choose and with a press of the shutter, it turns into a word: “intensity” or “beauty” or “MacWorld.”
And when we really think about it, isn’t that what our eye does when we look at things? I don’t see everything at once—my eye selects a subject.
Think about the photograph when you photograph.
Pointing in both directions
The camera points at you, but it points at me too—as an editor, to choose to photograph you then, in this way, at this moment, inside this environment, and with this light.
When your home is about to burn down, you save the wedding album before you save the cash. Money can be replaced, but that memory can’t. A photograph has a special value and the value is in the edit—not what you put in, but what you left out. Why is this moment, out of all the moments in our life, significant?
As photographers, we are stewards of that significance.
Photography is phun!
My hand touches the camera again. Photography is fun again. The lensbaby brings some of that fun back, selecting a tiny sliver of significance out from the whole canvas of it all.
I then returned the camera and lensbaby to its owner, who said, “They should hire you to sell these things.” 😀