I wanted to dive into one of my favorite topics. Why do I choose to shoot Old-School All-In-Camera Photography? And I will explain what exactly All-In Camera Photography means.
What does All-In-Camera mean? This means the images you see hanging in my galleries, on my website, or on social media, you would have seen in the back of my camera if you were standing next to me out in the field. It’s that simple. The images you see in this blog are what you would have seen in the back of my camera if you were standing next to me when I shot it.
There are many reasons I choose to shoot Old-School style All-In-camera Photography. Read on down and I will explain why I do it, the way I do it. It's because I love it!
#1 Fun! First and foremost, because its fun! Yes, that is the main reason. I like to test my all of skills, on the spot, out in the field by using all of my camera's technology, along with my knowledge of Old-School Film Style Photography that I use together to create amazingly colorful All-In-Camera Images. I believe capturing a moment in time is what photography is all about, and there is no better way to do that then to capture that moment right in the camera, on the spot, while it is happening.
#2 Instant Gratification. Yes, I am not a patient enough photographer to wait until I get back to my computer to post-process an image (or series of images) into a photograph to see if I have captured a gallery worthy shot. I need to know right then! Right on the spot! I get so jacked up, excited, and totally thrilled every time I click the shutter and know right then and there, that I have nailed it! And put that shot in the Bank! In photography I thrive on instant gratification! Photography would seem so boring to me if I had to wait and Photoshop an image to know if I had captured it or not. And I love showing off the back of my camera! It is a real treat to just turn the camera to the person next to me and show them the finished image. I almost always get "How did you do that!" and I answer, "It's just old-school all-in-camera photography!"
#3 To be different. In today's over-saturated market of photography, with so many outstanding post-processing photographers out there, you need a way to stand out. My technique helps to be different and unique in an over post-processed and over-edited photography world. Not only does my work have a different look (hopefully representative of Old-School Slide Film Photography), it puts a different spin on photography all together. My customers love the fact I do not digitally edit my images. It is a huge selling point in both of my galleries. As a matter of fact, I always show customers my latest work right on the back of my camera. I have sold many of my #1 prints right off the back of the camera. Many people come into my gallery not believing the “Not Digitally Altered” signs, and they come ask me how I do it. I get out the camera and show them. This gives them an immediate understanding, and a respect for what I do (I hope most of the time anyway). So many people are simply blown away by looking at the back of my camera. And again, I get instant satisfaction from that. I absolutely love showing off the back of my camera!
#4 Teaching. I love teaching All-In-Camera Photography. I love that my students also get immediate feedback and instant learning. When you are learning to capture photographs right in the camera, on the spot, you learn faster. This also sets me apart from all other photography teachers. Most photographers will take you out in the field, teach you to take a bracketed set of images, then put you into a classroom and teach you how they post process them. There is nothing wrong with this method. There are plenty of students out there that want to learn a certain photographer’s techniques in post processing. But what if you don't want to learn Photoshop or Lightroom? What if you don't want to spend any time in the computer to do photography? What if you just want to take the best image possible right in the camera? Well then, I am the teacher for you. As a matter of fact, I am one of the only true All-In-Camera teachers left in the United States. I have students fly in from all over the country and sometimes from around the world to learn my All-In-Camera techniques. I take great pride in this, and I take teaching my students very seriously. I want to give each and every student, the very best lesson possible. I want to ignite my student’s passion for photography and get them as close to not needing post processing as possible. And I love taking my students on an epic and fun adventure while we do it! We have so much fun out in the field learning All-In-Camera techniques.
#5 Publications. I have always felt that one of the reasons I am one of the most published photographers in the country is because I do not alter my work. Without getting too technical, many large printing presses struggle to print work that has been layered and then flattened in post processing. As it was once explained to me, some of the biggest calendar companies still print using CMYC printers. My own Images of the Norwest Calendars are printed in CMYC, my book Images of the West, was printed on CMYK printers. It is very difficult for these printers to use over edited work, as they can't break the color channels of images that have been layered and flattened. Some calendar companies even say in their submission terms, if you have layered and flattened your images, please don't send them, we cannot use them, no matter how good they may be. Although publication payments are not what they used to be, I still get published 100-200 times a year. And I have been published well over 5000 times worldwide. It also gives me something different to write about in my articles and speak about. I have written countless articles on All-In-Camera Photography. When I speak at conventions, or for photography clubs, All-In-Camera Photography is always a very popular topic. I write blogs on it for other companies and do live webinars on the topic.
These are just some of the reasons I love being an All-In Camera Photographer!
How did I end of this way? It is simple, I started my career before there was Photoshop or post-processing, and I shot on Kodak Slide Films. Slide film shooting was not forgiving at all, so you had to be a master of light and technique. Back in those days, publication work was a huge part of my income. There just weren’t that many photographers out there that could shoot at a high enough level for publication. I used to send my original slides right to the publisher. I had publishers asking me to send in more work all the time.
Then one year 80% of my publishers stopped accepting film. So, I was forced to switch to digital. Digital cameras had been around for about seven years by this point. As a matter of fact, all my students were already shooting digital cameras. I was the only one shooting film. By waiting so long to switch, digital cameras had advanced many generations. My first camera was the Canon 5D Mark 2, and it was the first camera that had the ability to mimic Kodak Slide Films. My first shots on the camera were horrible. They had no color whatsoever. For a couple of weeks, I thought I would have to learn Photoshop or give up photography entirely. After all I was already known as that “Not Digitally Altered” guy. It was an incredibly depressing time for me and my business. How was I to continue doing what I had been doing?
So, I went out in the field to master the new camera and figure out how to shoot like I had been shooting. I experimented with the in-camera color controls and white balances, and after a couple of weeks of trial and error, I figured out how to match all of my favorite slide films. These included Kodak Elite Chrome, Ektachrome and even Kodak Kodachrome. I was back in business. I could use my same Old-School Techniques and get even better results. And my All-In-Camera style was born. What a day it was to be back in business with the camera. Of course, camera sensors continued to evolve and so did the camera I shot on. After the Canon 5D Mark 2, I graduated to the Canon 5D Mark 3, then the Cannon 5DSR. This is the camera I shoot today and hope to shoot for the rest of my career. I call it the Image Monster as it loves to gobble up outstanding All-In-Camera Images. Other cameras brands and other Canon Cameras can also master All-In Camera Photography, but I prefer the sensor tone of the Canon 5DSR as its sensor is my “roll of film”.
What is Old-School Film-Style Photography in a digital camera? Well, there's a lot to it, but let me explain the basics. For the most part it's a camera on a tripod, shooting through a small aperture to create a big depth of field, which creates a long exposure (why you need a tripod). Utilizing the color palettes in the camera to create digital “Rolls of Film” or color pallets. Controlling the white balance in the camera. Using a circular polarizing filter to reduce glare during the day and using graduated split neutral density filters to balance light, especially at sunrise or sunset, right in the camera. Those are the simple basics of All-In-Camera Photography.
There are a few huge advances in shooting my Old-School Style in a digital camera over film camera. One is white balance. This is something that film just did not have. White balance helps you make color adjustments for the type of light you are shooting in. In film days you could only change the roll of film. This is a big advantage. In film days if I was shooting in the shade, all my water always turned blue. Over the years I leaned to use this to my advantage on waterfalls I thought would look better with a blue tone I the water. If I did not want the blue tone, then I went back and shot it on an overcast cast light day for a more balanced light. Now I can turn up the white balance and correct the blue tone. Another huge advantage is print quality. I can make 8-foot-long prints off my digital camera. This was simply not possible off of a 35mm slide, as my maximum size tapped out at a 30x45. And the biggest advantage of all…you can see what you are doing. In film days you had no idea if you were getting it right, or if you were making technical a mistake, you only found out later when the film was developed. If you missed the shot, you missed the shot. With a digital camera, you can take that first shot, and immediately correct all of your mistakes. If you shot it too dark, you could lighten up it and take another shot. If there's is a distracting stick in the photo, you can move it out the frame and shoot again. If the color palette is wrong, you can change the "digital roll of film” and change your white balance and shoot it again. Being able to see what you're doing and make adjustments is the biggest advantage of shooting a digital camera for All-In Camera Photography! Even though I was a hard-core film shooter, I would never go back, especially because I can still shoot my Old-School, Film-Style Photography, All-In-Camera right on the spot in my digital camera.
Are there drawbacks to the way I shoot? Yes, there sure are. I cannot Photoshop in the sun or add light that was not there. I need perfect light! This means for some of my best images, they may have taken a number of visits over a period of years to capture. When I find a great composition, I am relentless. I will return over and over again, until I get the light that I need to make it a Gallery Shot. There are plenty of scenes that I observe that cannot be shot All-In-Camera. Sometimes I just say to myself, that scene is for viewing, not for shooting. I see a lot of photographs that I would call fake photography or Digital Art. Many photographers will simply drop in a sky if they didn't get good light on their first visit to a location. This is something I will never do. They made a nice piece of Art, but they DID NOT capture a photograph. They didn't capture a moment in time. I will dive more into this subject and what is a photograph in a future blog, as this is a huge topic for me. This is not to say that there are not many great photographers out there that post-process their images and still capture a moment in time. I am the fan of plenty of them. I don't care if a photographer does Photoshop or Lightroom or does any other type of post-processing. If what they present captured moment in time that the viewer of the work could have witnessed had they been there in person, then they too have captured a photograph. There is nothing wrong with post-processing in photography, as its the excepted norm in today’s photography. It’s just no fun for me!
I have always said, there is only one absolute rule in photography, that there is no absolute rule in photography. Each photographer must find their own way in photography, and if that way makes them happy, then they're doing it right! Old-School, All-In-Camera Photography makes me happy, so I am doing it right! Many publications and colleges have called me a Master of All-In-Camera Photography. I could not appreciate this more, as I have certainly spent the last 25 years trying to perfect it.
Thank you so much for reading my blog. I hope you have enjoyed my story about why I'm an Old-School, All-In-Camera Photographer. I also hope that it helps you look at my work in a different way. Just know that some of the images you see in my galleries or on my website may have taken me years to capture. If you want to learn to shoot All-In Camera Photography, please click on my lesson page, or click this link: Lessons | Randall J Hodges Photography
Until next time!
Randall J Hodges