Photography is not hard to picture

From magazines and photocollections to images shared on social media, photography is everywhere. Smartphones put a camera in everyone’s pocket and social media gives them a platform to share photos and videos. Photography is for amateurs and professionals alike with easy ways to get started and the means to grow and improve.

Junior Tabatha Trigler is the president of the NAU Photography Club. While she started with a basic point-and-shoot camera in middle school, she said smartphone cameras open photography up to everyone.

“I think it’s become a lot more accessible, which is great,” Trigler said. “Everyone should have the opportunity to take pictures and remember the places they’re going and the things they’re doing. I think that smartphone cameras really allow us that opportunity.”

Harun Mehmedinović, a professor in the School of Communication and a widely published professional photographer and filmmaker, agreed that smartphone cameras have greatly increased accessibility to photography. He said they have largely eliminated the need to go out and purchase an entry-level point-and-shoot camera, removing a big barrier.

Sophomore Anthony Cataldo, the vice president of the Photography Club, said smartphone cameras work well for the everyday needs of the average user. Smartphones also serve as a great introduction to photography and make it possible for start-up photographers to get decent results.

Trigler said even professionals can make use of smartphones. Many professional photographers, whom she calls “iPhoneographers,” create impressive work using their phones.

Dawn Kish, an Honors College faculty member and longtime professional photographer based in Flagstaff, has taken photos with many different cameras and formats throughout her career but still enjoys using her smartphone’s camera. Kish even used it for one of her published projects.

“I’ve had a published story about Route 66 with just my iPhone photography through Arizona Highways Magazine,” Kish said.

While smartphones have given many people a camera at their fingertips, social media also plays a major role in bringing photography to the general public. Each of the photographers agreed that it is huge in the world of photography.

Cataldo said social media, particularly Instagram, is a major platform for people to share their photos and see the work of others.

“You can find pretty much most of my work on Instagram,” Cataldo said. “I feel like it’s broadened who can be a photographer or wants to know more about it.”

While negativity certainly exists on social media, he said it has been overall very positive for most photographers.

Social media incentivizes people to get into photography in the first place, which Trigler said can be a positive experience.

“I think that it’s encouraging people to go out and take pictures, which is great because it gets you out of the house,” Trigler said. “It makes you go explore new areas.”

Social media has also made it possible for more people to gain notoriety as photographers and make a living off their work.

Social networks like Instagram have millions of users who share photos, giving a platform to photographers whose work might not receive attention otherwise. Mehmedinović said social media has made it much easier for photographers to get their work in front of others by allowing them to self-publish and quickly reach their followers.

“Before you had to have some kind of major success in some area or some kind of unique photos that a magazine would take,” Mehmedinović said. “Now you can put them up on Twitter and hashtag it, and somehow it becomes a million views. The avenues have opened up, and it can let sort of obscure people suddenly have a huge amount of attention and even get jobs off of it, or get notoriety or fame.”

For amateur photographers and members of the general public looking to improve their work and take photos that they can be proud of, Trigler said to focus on practice.

“Get outside, go practice, go have fun with it,” Trigler said. “Take a picture tons of times until you get what you want.”

Cataldo said he puts a lot of emphasis on the lighting in his photography, both naturally and artificially.

He suggested working with light, understanding how it affects a photo and how it can be used. Manipulating the light can improve the quality of the photo and help the photographer create a wider variety of images.

“Play with how light makes your photo,” Cataldo said. “The light basically makes or breaks a photo, I would definitely say for people looking to better improve their skills, play with light. See what you can do with light; light is the key.”

Mehmedinović said storytelling is one of the most important aspects of any image. He said it’s not enough for a photo to be visually pleasing, it also needs to be compelling.

“To me, the content, the story is more important than technical execution, or some kind of sense of beauty or the aesthetic beauty of it,” Mehmedinovic said. “I don’t care what camera you shot it with or whatever lens you used, or even if you shot it on a cellphone. I personally don’t care at all for that. I’m just looking at it as is this compelling to me as imagery.”

Kish also values storytelling and said when she gets to tell stories with her work, she is also learning and can apply those lessons outside of photography.

Mehmedinović said artistic photography is largely in the eyes of the beholder. He said there are many debates regarding if certain pieces of photography are art, but as long as a piece of work makes people feel strongly, it’s a victory. For Kish, photography is an art because it follows the same process and can have the same effect as any other art form.

“Photography is definitely art, because art is a human effort to create,” Kish said. “When you’re creating something, you’re moving something and somebody, emotions or feelings, and that is an important thing in any art.”

As a teacher, Kish would encourage anyone interested in photography to try it out. She said everyone should pursue their passions and photography is no exception.

“If they’ve been interested in it, they should just follow that path. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out,” Kish said. “Just go for it. I feel like anybody should just be going after their passions no matter what.”

All the photographers agreed that there is a low barrier to entry in photography and great ways to share one’s work with others. Whether someone is looking to simply capture memorable moments or learn the skills to make a living off their work, there are many ways to get started, and as Trigler said, photography can be for everyone.