One of many pieces of Jonathan Worth wisdom to me was his differentiation, as a photographer, of the photographic print versus the digital image. Both we see as pictures, representations of the world.

The business of photography, assigning a value to a photo, the laws of copyright, our idea of ownership are fixated in that idea of the print. If we can control it’s distribution, then we can create value. But a digital image of course can be infinitely reproduced, and denying it’s nature, we shackle it with things like watermarks, copyright, DRM etc to assert control over what cannot be fully contained.

Side by side, on screen and on paper, a photo of a flower looks the same.

But they are far from the same.

Yet we try to make them the same.

A recent experience made my think again about this. I met Greg, a local photographer, one night at our local brewery. In hearing of my interest in photography, after the cursory card swaps (that still an analog thing I am ok with), Greg talked about a local photography club in Payson. They are running a contest seeking local photos to feature in an annual calendar they produce. He urged me to submit some of mine.

Despite the fact that the submission process was sending preview quality images to their Facebook group, I swallowed my aversion to the smell of the place to submit a few.

Months later, I was rather pleased to get an email from Patty letting me know the judges wanted to feature one of mine for the April photo.

It’s rather fitting as I took the photo in April this year. It was the morning after an overnight rain. While walking across a drainage with the dog, I was mesmerized by the patterns of water drops collected on the wild lupine. I took this photo with my iPhone 6, as I rather like now seeing what I can do on dog walk time w/o lugging the big camera.

I was asked to provide a full quality TIFF version, which I generated in Photoshop and sent off.

But then there was a problem.

While the image was ~3000 x 2000 pixels, they were worried it was not high quality enough for print. Patty said she would ask their layout person for “some magic.”

Alas, I got word this morning they could not make it work:

Try as we might, your splendid cell phone image will not print as a large image. It still is in the running to appear in the calendar as one of the small inserts. It is a wonderful image and is an encouragement to us all to carry our DSLR camera with us as much as we can. ;)

And most of my photography is with the DSLR, I love my sensor on 7D, and I live with my nifty 50 f/1.4 lens. But my goal is interesting photos, and with an iPhone 6 I may have taken more photos with a mobile this year then before (still at most 10% of my photos).

Two of them got selected to flickr Explore

So despite the advice, I don’t feel the need to carry the big gun all the time.

Not making in the calendar is not really a huge disappointment.

But to me, it is a reminder of how in many cases (and here it is appropriate because they actually are printing and resolution is important and so my whole argument is built on warm jello), the print photo is most privileged, most valued.

Yet to me, it is the experience of taking the photo, later editing and adding captions, the memory imprint, the representation when I see it on screen, that has value to me. It’s not the photo, but the image, and what that image represents. It was a moment in my life where I stopped to notice water drops.

Felix (my dog) probably sat there patiently as I did my study the object thing, as much as I wait patiently while he passionately sniffs a stump. It does not show the context of this little slice of forest between neighborhood, the dozens or more of nearby flowers with similar patterns, the deepness of the blue sky that day. It cannot convey that reassuring feeling of a small amount of moisture in what is usually a bone dry climate.

The photo is not the image is not the experience.

Top / Featured Image: A digital image of prints made from a 1950s vintage Kodak Pony camera my photo shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Like you, I tend now to hike with my phone (and my Go Pro as it is also lightweight). I am sorting my dad’s thousands of slides and deeply thinking about what is worth photographing. My dad and I often take close to exactly the same shots–he trained my eye with his.
    Also, every year I document with great delight the emergence of the same flowers, the changing of the seasons; in fact, I rarely have anything visually unique to “say.”

    As you say, what matters is the moment of aesthetic arrest, the pause, the immersive moment. I enjoy the seeing once and through the camera a second time and a third time in post and a fourth in sharing. That encompasses a world of observation, emotion, and pleasure, which some translate as the rising of gratitude and joy.

  2. A shame about the calendar picture. I go in spurts with the dSLR. Sometimes I have it, most of the time not. But better to make the picture you made with a phone than to not have it at all.

  3. And I get to experience the joy of your photos whatever device they are taken on, but only because I can see them here online.
    Anne’s photography continues to go from strength to strength but much of that happens because she can record, detail, representations, ephemera, using her phone. Rather than going out with the dSLR to ‘take pictures’ she goes out to ‘do stuff’ and at the same time takes amazing pics with her phone. The dSLR has a place but its privilege has waned!

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