A World of Buttons For Photography

I watched Girl, Interrupted for the first time earlier this week. There’s a scene whenAngelina Jolie’s character, in a delirious state of rage, yells, “There are too many buttons in the world!” That struck me as kind of funny. Smart phones, tablets, or laptops didn’t even exist at that time.

We really do live in a sea of buttons now. And people who are turned off by that are often turned off by digital cameras. Having to burrow down through menus on LCD screens to control shutter speed? That’s unappealing to someone who used to just switch from 200-speed film to 800 to get the job done.

Photos Are not Data

My, that’s a lovely vacation photo you’ve got in there.

The good news is that camera language has stuck. An F-stop is still an F-stop. Apertures are still apertures. White balance is still white balance. So, when a person of the Kodachrome generation needs help on a digital camera, he’s not faced with the barriers as when, say, his computer crashes. No tech-support snob is going to ask him to locate his router (it’s in the woodshop!) or whether he’s using a cloud (for what? rain?).

Little has changed about accessories either. We still use tripods, interchangeable lenses, studio lights, and the like. They’ve been improved, yes, but not replaced. So, there’s little need to learn new vocabulary or retrain your brain and body to get the job done. Think about that in contrast to the time grandma first learns to use a mouse, for example. (FYI, for people who came of age before the digital era, learning to mouse is the tech equivalent of patting your head while rubbing your tummy.)

All those buttons? Not as overwhelming as they look. There are far more alienating changes afoot in the digital-camera age. It’s not the way we take photographs. It’s the way we share them. Grandma should not have to buy a smart phone or open an Instagram account to see your photographs. Dad should not have to put on reading glasses or fumble with his big thumbs to get a look at your iPhone pictures. And nobody should have to own a computer or smart phone to share their photography.

Fortunately, photographs were never meant to live forever on SD cards, hard drives, and cloud services. Get them off your devices and into prints. Submit them online for processing or take the no-buttons approach and drop off your SD card at the store. When your images are in frames, on walls, or in albums, nobody has to navigate more than the turn of a corner or the turn of a page to enjoy them.


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