This is what it was like being a professional photographer in the 1940s

Aug 2, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

This is what it was like being a professional photographer in the 1940s

Aug 2, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Almost every day, I come across YouTube videos, blog posts and even social media posts from photographers. Specifically, they have some business epiphany or some revelation about being a photographer.

They think they’ve discovered something new. And for them, they have. But as this video about professional photographers in the 1940s shows, lots of them had figured all this out way back then, too.

Everything that is new was once old

Looking back at videos like this from 80 years ago, talking about a profession that still exists today, is fascinating. Photography technology has changed a lot over the last eight decades. We’ve seen the transition all the way from large, medium and 35mm format film all the way through to digital.

But despite all the changes, the business of photography has also remained the same in many aspects. You still need the same set of photographic skills to succeed. Sure, the camera operation might be a little different, but the principles of physics, exposure and composition haven’t really changed over the last 80 years.

In fairness, our tastes have changed over the last 80 years. But, I think if you plucked a photographer from 1840 and set him loose in 2023 with a modern mirrorless camera, I think they’d be able to get it shooting a half-decent image fairly quickly. Once they got over the shock of being 80 years in the future and the disappointment at the lack of flying cars.

The video is from 1946 and is said to be in the public domain. It was uploaded to the YouTube channel DIY Extravaganza after being upscaled to 720p using AI.

You had to know your stuff!

Of particular interest to me was the constant reinforcement that if you wanted any chance at all of making it as a photographer, you had to be good at what you did. Understanding exposure, composition, and lighting were mandatory basics. As was knowing your equipment and how it works.

These days, when you look around social media, those things don’t seem to be as valued or important anymore. Now, cameras and smartphones can cover up so many photographic sins, it’s unreal.

Fortunately, there are still many photographers out there today who are invested and motivated to really learn their craft. As for the rest of them, don’t mind them. They’ll get bored and move onto something else eventually.

What type of photographer would you like to have been in the 1940s?

[via Pop Photo]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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