Back in the 1880s, taking a picture took immense effort. The process of heliography devised by French inventor Nicéphore Niépce, for example, often required exposures lasting several days. Several days. And that was just the exposure. By the time you actually had developed an image you ran the risk of developing age-induced memory loss and forgetting everything you had so carefully calibrated at the outset.
These days we live in an era of instant gratification. The time it takes to snap a pic and see the results is literally fractions of second. This circumstance — enabled by phenomenal advances in technology — means two things. First: lots and lots of selfies. Lots of ’em. Second, it means that we also live in an era of instant learning.
Think about it. If you’re looking to do more with your camera than capture your feet on a beach, your new nails, or that time you ate frozen yogurt with your best friend Mark, learning about the intricacies of shutter speed, aperture settings, and lighting is virtually costless.
It used to be that amateur photographers would have to worry about incremental costs every time they pressed the shutter button — film, development equipment, photo paper, chemicals. It also used to take significant effort to keep track of which setting you used, and in which order, so that you could learn about what worked and what didn’t.
Now, we enjoy costless and continuous feedback cycles, whereby the results of a slight f-stop adjustment are laid bare instantaneously. For those in technology, think of this ability to work and learn fast as a form of Agile for photography.
This era of quick and costless learning, of course, didn’t just materialize. Before 1900, taking a picture likely took at least a day, if not longer. Between 1900 and roughly the 1970s, it took hours. Then, with the advent of Polaroid film in the 1970s, we were down to minutes. Finally, with advances digital camera technology, we finally got the learning-feedback cycles down to seconds — and eventually fractions of a second.
So, what’s the takeaway? Take lots of pictures. Experiment. And, most of all, demonstrate your appreciation for this incredible ability to learn by taking a sixty-shot montage of your feet. On a beach.