The disconnection between an online portfolio and the amazing detail and resolution of contemporary cameras and lenses.

If you are a photographer who came to photography in the film days or the early days of digital cameras your intention on most jobs was to deliver high resolution, high dynamic range files. Since my career started around 1980 I came into this profession expected to deliver images from 4x5 inch cameras and medium format (real medium format = 6x6 cm and larger....) cameras that could easily be used across a "double-truck spread" in the four color print process. The minimum target for use in most brochures and magazine spreads was 11 by 17 inches. Since film didn't have a set DPI we just aimed for as much quality as we could. The color separators were the ones who converted our analog film to measurable CMYK files. 

But the clients and the color separators were always happier with the biggest pieces of film you could deliver. And to get the jobs that required this; and paid the best, you had to show portfolios that were creative, beautiful and also technically as good as they could be. Clients reviewed portfolios by calling in actual enlarger printed "books" or portfolios. Another way of presenting work was to have black matted 4x5 or 8x10 inch color transparencies to show... because....everyone had a light table and a loupe back then. Splash twenty or so rich and detailed 8x10 inch transparencies down on a light table, watch an art director dive into the detail and technical achievements and you were well on your way to booking your next job. 

It feels like it was around 2006 or 2007 that the creative community collectively decided that calling in portfolios and shipping heavy collections of transparencies or big selections of prints around the country via Federal Express was too expensive and had become unnecessary. As budgets tightened and art directors started getting spread thinner and thinner fewer of them took actual phone calls from creative freelancers and more and more of them started looking at websites when they were considering hiring photographers. 

All of a sudden big, beautiful physical presentations went out the window ---- like typesetters. At that juncture clients started relying on what they saw via email promotions, and websites that were always a compromise between speed of loading and quality. The photographers at the top suffered most because the presentation formats killed the ability to show off the richness of a beautifully made, large format image by rendering it a fraction of its actual size and also at a diminished bit depth. The web became locked into Jpeg files, rendered to about 1600 pixels, distilled down to 8 bit and then represented, compressed, onto a 6 bit (if you were lucky) monitor. It's a huge difference when compared to viewing a pristine print or transparency presentation firsthand. In person. Right there in front of you. 

Now things are even worse when it comes to presentation. A lot of younger art directors and designers are getting by using laptops for work. The images they see are even further diminished. A lot of creative professionals are scrolling through Instagram or even Flickr to find photographic talent. And while broadband has improved the load times and sizes of webpage images the viewing restrictions and monitor capabilities are still depreciation funnels for good photography. What clients see on various screens, viewed in mixed light conditions, is nothing like what prior portfolios used to be. And on the social media sites your work, which may have started life as something beautifully lit and gorged full of delicate and wonderful detail will now sit next to other peoples' work, some of which is edited down to be more adaptable and easier to digest on phone screens. Incredibly detailed work next to work customized for quick consumption on a small screen. 

Which begs the question in 2023... why in the heck are we endlessly pursuing "better" cameras and lenses? Unless you are routinely printing large or delivering files to people who will use them to print large it's mostly a waste of money and then there's all that time lost "researching" new gear. To be honest, while I bought and use a Leica SL2 if I'd had more time and experience with the 24 megapixels SL I would have stopped right there. Perfect camera and perfect image size for so much of what we do all the time. For one or two jobs a year that require more quality and resolution than 24 megapixels it makes a tremendous amount more sense to just rent the needed gear. 

Same with the Leica Q2. I would love the weather tight Q2 body and nicer button configuration but wrapped around a 24 megapixel sensor instead of the current 47+ megapixel sensor. True...you can crop more. But do you really need to? And how much quality is diminished by cropping if your final target destination is something 1600 pixels max on Instagram? Really? More? You need more?

For those few clients who really do want to see how much quality they can expect we put up galleries at full res on Smugmug.com. They are still 8 bit files but at least we can show them with all the detail that's contained within. And I still send out printed mailers from time to time. But we are now at the point where the final targets on most jobs actually are the websites and social media sites that are related to the client business. So, where do we go from here?  Is it time to sell everything before everyone else realizes how bizarre the market has become? Can we do it all with our phones? More importantly = will anyone actually want to pay us to make photographs with our phones? The jury is still out. I guess we'll wait and see....
Overkill? Wasted resources? How many phones could we have bought instead....?

this was a huge file. Not anymore....

OT: Survived the early morning appt. with my dermatologist. No issues. Even made it to swim practice on time. Actually, early. Good start to a cloudy, gray day. Now the dentist appointment looms large. ("looms" = for JC).