As ENR closes the year with its fifth annual construction photography contest issue, the improving quality of the submissions is quite noticeable.
The overall quality of submissions implies that our photo-taking readers are getting better shots, generally. The judges this year found far fewer pictures with flaws in exposure, focus or resolution. In previous years, such flaws had made them easy cuts before the second-round consideration. It may be that photographers’ interest in picture taking is growing and they are inspired to do better work so that they can get their shots published. But chances are the biggest enabler comes with the proliferation of better digital cameras at affordable prices.
“Everybody has one in the office now,” laments long-time construction photographer Stephen Sette Ducati, of Boston, who has been shooting professionally for 25 years. “Everybody has a Cannon 20D and they send the co-op kid out to shoot their projects. First it was the interior design and architecture clients, and now it’s the contractors. I don’t know what our future is,” Ducati says.
These days, many cameras in the $400 to $1,400 range have features that significantly improve the odds that even an amateur will grab good shots. Common resolution has increased from two megapixels to 10 and more, ensuring a deeper pool of data from the get-go. Automatic modes are smarter at figuring out exposures and can even bracket exposures with one press of the shutter. Focusing also is faster and can be manipulated to snap to the most important element in the frame, even if it is off to the side.
Perhaps the biggest improvements are in the reduction of the painful lag between pressing the button and actually taking the shot, and image stabilization features that help keep things sharp, even when the camera moves during the exposure. These features used to distinguish the high-end, more expensive models.
The ultimate differentiator between technically good shots and great shots, however, is the photographer’s eye. This collection shows what we mean.