Continuing this exploration of thinking about the process, one comes to the question of whether the important thing is getting the picture or actually making the picture. In other words, is the final product the most important thing?
This hinges again on the possibility that a great picture can be taken inadvertently and also that using a point and shoot camera can end up getting a great picture. Does it matter whether the photographer manually selected aspects, that is, does it matter that he or she had specialized knowledge, in order to give the picture value?
(Naturally, as in any art, an established presence such as Ansel Adams will, on the strength of the context of their work, add some value to any picture, if only because it it part of a career).
I have taken two photography classes (one in general principles and the other in night photography) and as I sat in those classes, I questioned how necessary the learning was if all I wanted to do was produce good images. I already had a few years with a point and shoot and ended up with some of my best pictures with my only real contribution being framing and choosing what to shoot. So why bother with the arcane knowledge?
One argument is that it increases the range of the things you are capable of shooting but technology is increasing in such leaps and bounds that that argument is losing steam.
Is it no more than it just feels better to know that your photograph required more of your deliberate actions even if those actions did not necessarily produce anything better than if you had automated? I think the strongest argument for learning is just for its own sake…that you like to know about light and exposures etc…that that has its own pleasure independently of whether it results in good photographs or not. (And to iterate a point from the last post, in most other arts, it is near impossible to produce even a single great final product without years of practice.)
Since most pictures are judged as finished works and while they should be explicable, generally their provenance is ignored. Artistic intent is assumed. Not to mention the preponderance of manipulating the base image to such a degree that it matters less how it was obtained (for now, let’s stick with the idea that it was an actual picture taken by the person doing the manipulating).
Addendum: Just to be absolutely clear, I am referring to representative photography. For artistic manipulation, being able to hack the camera one way or another has no match in presets (though again, there are some pretty clever “arty” presets now such as Elements lomography app). For the record, I am a “manual” operator but cannot help but wonder about these things.