Be a Shutterbug, Not a Bug | Ajaz Ahmad

Clicking pictures and their processing is undoubtedly one of the finest arts, a photographer has to deal with. It demands diligence, genuineness, and dedication. Because, it is through a photograph only that we freeze a moment in time, forever. Pictures, therefore, are timeless. They keep fascinating their viewers endlessly. Hence, photographers have to deal with a very delicate job of showing the different perspectives of man and nature. Photo processing is indeed an essential aspect of photography wherein we attempt to complete the pictured stuff manually, which a camera fails to do, like a slight adjustment in the contrast, saturation, shadow, sharpness, etc
Pir Panjal Mountain Range Captured From Bufliaz | Photo by Ajaz Ahmad

However, one must keep in mind that changing the colour of mountains from dark-blue to orange doesn't possess any wow-factor. It is, therefore, high time that we understand the basic difference between the art of photography and the art of painting. As a painting may permit an artist to showcase black snow on a white mountain, as a pigment of his or her own imagination, but the art of photography does not provide us with such liberties. Henceforth, we ought to edit an image in such a way that it doesn't lose its original appeal and it doesn't look unnatural to the onlookers. 

Everything in this regard was going smoothly with the photographers putting the whole world in a broader context of history, culture, and society. Then came a few, sniffing around, with picture editing apps like Snapseed and Picsart installed on their smartphones, who began to alter God's howling creation and man’s inherent nature. All hell broke loose on a bad day when they first laid their atrocious hands on such photo editing apps. The art of photography was thence attacked, as Hitler attacked Poland. Or the way, ISIS ruined the heritage, in the Levant.

Some of the photo editing apps, nonetheless, are fine tools for image processing. Some others are still the finest, for the smartphones, but the way these self-claimed photographers are altering the real nature of things is ignominious, distasteful, and disgraceful to a rational or even a romantic eye. 

Camouflaged Weevil Resting on A Flower | Photo by Ajaz Ahmad

Alas! The grass becomes yellow and the sky turns pink, and the red waters flow in rivers, when the self-glorified photographers take the camera in their hands. They never realize that grass cannot turn into yellow, even in winters. It is brown, if they have observed the grass at all. Red rivers are unimaginable unless they carry the blood of soldiers from the battle of Kalinga, or the sherbet of Aab-e-Kousar flowing in the paradise, which no living being or for that matter a photographer has observed through the lenses of a camera, so far. They say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So, an artist doesn’t require to explain every bit of detail in a picture. Rather, let the viewers read those thousand words, you have attempted to speak through your work. Is photography not a universal language? A language, which does not permit us to say many words to describe the content in a photograph. A caption that may include the name of a place or event being photographed. 

Needless to say, that after a few years of camera holding experience, I still find myself oblivious in taking good photographs. Nevertheless, I have found that learning with practice always meliorates and makes it better. They say, practice makes men perfect. In this regard, I seek to share a few things which I have learnt over the years, and which I believe may help those who seek to venture into the world of photography. To begin with the backdrop, one must know that if you are being clicked by your friend in front of a wall, then you are the subject and the wall overhanging you, is the backdrop or background. Since smartphones, to date are unable to blur the backdrops as efficiently as the DSLRs do, it becomes mandatory to take care of the backdrop, before bringing a subject under focus. It is, therefore, a prerequisite for clicking a good picture. To clarify further, it doesn’t matter how much a person focuses on hairstyle or dress, if there is a shoe lying upside down or leftover packets of Bingo Tedhe-Medhe in the background, your photograph won’t be worth a shot. The backdrop, therefore, is as important as the foreground. 

Imagine, we are out for a picnic to a beautiful rolling meadow with a burbling brook cutting it into two, surrounded by forests and snow-clad mountains overlooking us with a camera in our hands. Then come those few who instead of focusing on the mesmerizing nature, focus on their own sorry faces which are being clicked since the evolution of photography. Do we not know that our faces remain the same regardless of the places we visit? Our appearances, don’t change much whether we are at a messy home or at a place where God has placed landscape in an orderly manner. Thus, we ought to shift our emphasis from the monotony of our mortal bodies to the immortal natural landscape around us.  Mother Earth deserves it. 

Always remember, stealing is a sinful act and a punishable crime. So, we mustn’t indulge in plagiarism by posting photos on social media, without giving the owners due credits, and some respect.  The image editing apps might allow you to crop a credit watermark from any corner of the photograph, but God doesn’t. So doesn’t the law and the basic morality. It is unethical. It may result into at least public shaming, if not public stoning. That may bring home embarrassment and humiliation. Have you ever seen those defunct Instagram accounts where the admins are not posting anything new? This happens when they are caught posting images clicked by others. When they are shamed publicly after a photo owner uploads his original work and tags those social media users who thought it was their (admin) work. A few others, still have the option to drag the plagiarist to the courtrooms. Hence we mustn’t steal, as the Bible commands.

Similarly, when we participate in the seminars or conferences, where Mr. X or Miss Y is the guest speaker some of us have no earthly concerns with their ‘boring’ speech. So we try to be clicked with them, at all costs. Finally, we win the race of getting clicked beating many others in the race, by plotting a man in the audience. Subsequently, we run to our man to check if the photograph taken is worth sharing on social media or not? And after a thorough examination, sadly, we find some random man's weird face popped-up in one corner of the photograph, ruining every bit of charm. This, however, was bound to happen because he was also trying to do the same stunt which we could do a little more successfully. Therefore we go home, try to process the photo. We crop it to the maximum possible limit to regain the charm faded by that weird face and finally we decide to post it on Facebook with a caption that reads "Sharing stage with renowned Mr. X or Miss Y to discuss some serious issues pertaining to education". And bingo! After posting it, the first comment appears. 'Nice bro, looking cool'. Browsing through such comments, although may make us fetch Nirvana temporarily, but deep inside, we know the truth. The truth that we and Mr. X and Miss Y were looking in different directions when our struggle reached its destined end. 

In a similar fashion, a few with high-end smartphones, attempt to shoot videos, to imitate vloggers with multi-million subscribers on YouTube or elsewhere. Hence they shoot street fights of dogs and men and events like them.  They shoot and shoot, aimlessly and mindlessly. A tip for such ‘shutterbugs’, is that shooting a video is neither a sting operation and nor a scandalous MMS. If you are shooting a public event or a private party, the basic rule is to hold your camera still. Use a tripod if you own one. 

Do take proper care of the backdrop while shooting an interview. And if you are shooting in an open space, pause your shooting repeatedly to relocate the camera for a new angle. While shooting a video, make sure the subject is in the center of the screen. Same holds for photography too. If recording a public event or something connatural, where your voice-over is not required, don't talk unnecessarily otherwise you will end up listening to a very weird voice later on while playing the video. 

We must keep in mind that the noble art of photography is meant for preserving cultures, histories, and memories of them. Imagine, our planet is being hit by a zombie apocalypse. Everything goes upside-down. Generations after generations are getting wiped out. And following this, a new form of human life evolves after a few centuries. And when the archaeologists of that era try to excavate our ways of life. Imagine they find our storage-card in a box lying beneath a rock and after thorough examinations, they find hundreds of photos of our same ‘beautiful’ face. Won’t this bring a good amount of shame to the ancestors of our next civilization? So should not we also try to capture, the animals, the birds, the buildings, the mountains of our times and also record the different shades of poverty, richness, sunset, moonrise, moonset, and so on.  We are no more cave dwellers. We have a camera. And everything around is an idea, capture it, process it, and store it. Leave traces of your generation for descendants to explore. Do not be a narcissist. Be a part of history writing.  Be a shutterbug.

About the Author: Ajaz Ahmed Khawaja is an amateur photographer and a teacher in Jammu and Kashmir Department of School Education. He belongs to Poonch district of J&K.

Pir Panjal Post is a blogging outlet which aims at educating people and creating awareness on the issues concerning human society like Education, Politics, Economics, Science, art and literature. The main focus of this blog is on encouraging the budding writers, poets, painters, calligraphers, photographers etc. Besides, it intends to serve the vernacular languages.