What Albert Einstein Can Teach Photographers

Wonderous patterns in the water off the coast of South Georgia Island.

The rational mind is the servant and the intuitive mind is the gift. We honor the servant and have forgotten the gift.
— Albert Einstein

I believe this quote from Albert Einstein is of paramount importance to aspiring photographers. More and more technique seems to dominate our education and equipment our photographic practice. Software companies release so-called major upgrades to their product around every 18 months. Likewise, camera manufactures launch new feature-heavy and megapixel-laden cameras on a similar timeline. Some folks barely get their head around these new products before new ones are released onto the market.

In the case of the camera most folks are so overcome by complex interfaces and a plethora of options that they set their camera to one of the auto settings and use it, pretty much, like a point and shoot camera. Photoshop is no easier for the novice to comprehend than was the case with previous versions. Thank goodness for products like Adobe Lightroom which, unlike Photoshop, is designed primarily for photographers, both professional and enthusiast. After a little quality tuition the user is well on the way to producing excellent results without too much trouble.

But is it necessary to buy new software, computers and cameras and, for that matter, mobile phones every 18-24 months? The manufacturers want us to believe it is. And their marketing programs use the old features/benefits approach to convince us that we’d be much better off with the new product. Despite the obvious financial implications of buying into this philosophy, is it the right action to take?

Do You Really Need a New Mobile Phone?

I had my first mobile phone, an Ericsson, for around 5 years. It was a top of the line model and well built. I bought it to last and looked after it. I only upgraded, to an iPhone 3Gs, when the old phone died. That seems like quite a radical behavior in our contemporary throw away culture. You could never hold me up as being a slave to fashion.

Over the years I’ve upgraded my iPhone several times. I still have an iPhone 6s and may well update to an iPhone 8s when it’s released. But I wasn’t tempted to buy an iPhone 7, simply because it was released. I need to see a real and definite advantage in upgrading before I spend the cash.

Over the years I’ve purchased phones on a plan and also bought them outright. I may move to a plan that allows me to upgrade every 12 months. But I’II first look at the costs associated with such a contract and, again, I’d only be interested in upgrading if there’s real benefits in doing so.

Do You Really Need a New Camera?

It’s true to say that I've bought and sold cameras much more frequently than I should have. There are no world-records or bragging rights involved with that statement, but I hope to help folks make sense of the psychology behind their own purchasing habits. Who knows it might even save you some money.

Balancing the Rational and the Intuitive Mind

The theme of this article underpins much of my own philosophy towards photography. We have to balance our rational mind, which is associated with logic, technique and equipment with our intuitive mind, which is free, creative and experience driven.

The most boring photographs are often well exposed, sharp and made with the latest equipment. Conversely, the most beautiful photographs often have little to do with the equipment used to make them and may not display mastery over traditional photographic techniques. The most beautiful and emotionally compelling images are not about the subject photographed, but about the photographer’s experience of the photographic event and about how, through the process of making or looking at the image, new possibilities or realities are experienced.

This may all seem like nonsense to you. But it is a key difference that separates the act of photography, as a relatively poor 2-dimensional form of documenting our 3-dimensional world, with photography as an art form.

I like to think of Einstein’s comment to mean that to be able to make use of science and the rational, logic seeking mind to quantify, understand and explain the beauty of existence you first need to learn to perceive it beyond the usual five sensory organs (i.e., sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing). Intuition should be trusted for I believe that to understand something, you first need to experience it.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru