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Thread: Does getting better, or getting critique, make us too fussy?

  1. #1
    As smooth as hessian undies
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    Does getting better, or getting critique, make us too fussy?

    I did a favour for a couple of friends and took some photos for one of them, at the other one's 60th birthday party.
    I spent the next two weeks processing the photos, and gave them to both the organiser and the birthday woman.

    When the organiser asked me what had been involved in the processing, I pulled out my laptop from which I do all my work, and showed her the difference between the image SOOC and the image with a bit of contrast, and brightness adjustment.
    Since Photoshop keeps any changes that were made to the RAW file, in an XMP file, and opens up the image to the way it was when I had finished all the PP - it seemed sensible not to open an image I'd already processed to do the demo for her, but rather to open one of the images I'd rejected, and work on that, as it would still open up pretty much as it was SOOC.

    Unfortunately, I made the mistake of mentioning to her, that I would have to open "one I rejected" because it wouldn't have remembered the PP done to it.
    I opened it, and promptly did a few quick contrast and brightness adjustments, and a basic sharpen, then turned preview on and off a few times to show her the difference. She was dutifully impressed, but then asked me why on earth had I rejected the shot and not included it in the ones that I gave her.
    I explained that there were two main faults: Firstly, the light coming in one far window had blown out and I found the bright white in that small section of the image distracting, she said she barely noticed that until I mentioned it, because it was a window in the background, and to her wasn't really significant in the photo. When she asked the second reason, I knew I was in trouble, because the second reason I'd rejected that shot was because I had cut part of the foot off a person that was off to one side of the image, but had not been able to crop that person out of the image, so the missing foot annoyed me, even though they were an insignificant part of the background.
    She looked at me as though I was making fun of her when I said that was the reason. She looked as though she was trying to work out if I was pulling her leg or serious, but embarrassingly I was actually serious. I had rejected the shot for that reason.

    I then thought about the fact that I'd previously been given that same look when I showed a mate some pics I'd taken of the moon rising over a nearby mountain while I had been camping with him the weekend before, and when I showed him one I had rejected because there was no empty space below his foot - his foot was hard against the bottom edge of the image, when normally it's preferable to have some empty space between someone and the edge of the shot - he gave me that same, "you're freaking kidding me, you rejected this shot because of THAT?" type of look and asked me to give HIM a copy of the shot because it was good enough for HIS standard, and emphasised the words like he thought my standards were ridiculous.

    I'm starting to fear that the more exposure (pardon the pun) that I get to critiquing photos, the more overly fussy I become about what I keep and what I reject.
    The lady for whom I took the 60th birthday shots then asked to see what else I'd rejected, and found quite a few she really wanted me to add to the already over 200 shots I'd thought worth keeping, as the reasons that I'd rejected them weren't even things she knew about, let alone been things that would have worried her in the shots. They'd probably only be noticed if I'd put the shots up in a competition for judging.


    So can it end up that the more we learn about what makes a "great photo", the more we risk becoming too perfectionist? Perhaps discarding photos that really could or should be kept?
    I'm thinking, that for me personally, it seems that I may have swung too far the one way in my progress from beginner to whatever, and that I might now need to swing back a bit and be a little less fussy for general purpose photography. Am I the only one now TOO fussy, or so fussy that friends think me nuts?
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  2. #2
    Ausphotography Regular livio's Avatar
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    Well put I hear you loud and clear and I think that this is right on. The more we concentrate on perfection the more we discard even though what we discard may be warmer and tell a stronger story than what we keep. When taking photos of people I generally work with them to select and reject it helps me get a better idea of what is important to them.

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    Livio

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    well in my opinion, they are your photos to give or keep, and they meet your criteria or they dont.
    i suppose if its not a paid job then you may wish to be less fussy, but if its paid, what happens when the relative or the friend photographer comes along and asks your client - "the photographer gave you THAT?"
    in your case - i reckon they wouldn't be feeling quite so sure about their low standards anymore
    Successful People Make Adjustments - Evander Holyfield

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    I get where you're coming from! As a photographer it's nice/good/important/essential to know the 'rules' and have a good eye for detail, depending on what sort of photography you're doing and who it is for.

    Sometimes, for private shoots, what I do is shortlist twice - one shortlist is the ones I'm happy with, that I'll go edit properly. The second shortlist is the ones I'm NOT embarrassed about, that I'll just do very basic edits on. I'll give both lots to the client, and say 'here are the best photos, edited. I've also given you a lot of other photos that I didn't think were that special but you might want to see them.'

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    I think the point is made that one needs to separate the artistic side from the happy snap side of photography.

    A professorial in business or an artist would only want his clientele to see his best work. But most people will only see the photo as a captured moment rather than a work of art.

    You are obviously an artist, I build wooden period ships models..people look at them and say wow how do you etc...but I feel rather awkward because I can see all the errors and faults in my work and I now begin to see exactly what you are asking yourself in relation to photography.

    Self criticism is the harshest kind. History is full of very fussy artists...where would we be without them?

  6. #6
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    I don't think that is being too 'fussy', I think it is simply being professional about what you are doing. If it is up to the 'tog to choose the photos that will go to the client, the 'tog will want to display what they think is best.

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Just like perfectionists in any field, or endeavour, we see what others do not, purely because we have that experience. To turn this around, would you let this lady be a judge in something like the Moran Portraiture Prize, or the AIPP wedding photographer of the year?

    I certainly agree that her views are valid and it gives you a perspective on what a non-photographer sees as being of value in a photograph, but as artists, we tend to be more picky. This goes back to learning when you first took up photography. You were just like this lady, but as people showed you how to improve your photos you came to see there was much more to it, and you start to strive to improve.

    If we all just took advice from our aunt or uncle, grandfather or the local priest, then chances are, none of us would be taking better photos than we did when we started out.
    "It is one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it is another thing to make a portrait of who they are" - Paul Caponigro

    Constructive Critique of my photographs is always appreciated
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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    The main point coming out in all the replies so far is that you should stick to doing what you have been doing, and continue to be as critical of your self as you possibly can.

    Even tho the lady's opinion is valid, imagine if you took some time to teach her some of the finer points of photography that you've learned yourself, and she became more of an amateur photographer herself.

    After a short time of producing, critiquing, selecting and displaying her own images, she would almost certainly agree with your image selection processes(I reckon)


    .. and then join up on AP and be here asking the same question as you have done!
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  9. #9
    Wayne shoots while Di chats!
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    It is definitely true that we become more critical of our work as we improve. I just have to go back over those one's we thought were really good when we started out....


    It is hard when someone thinks a lot of your work, and can't accept that so many photo's were taken, yet they only see a small proporttion. The others are still their loved one's and they don't see the problems we do, and why can't they get the 10 shots that are exactly the same? Added to that it is difficult for us to make the call about which expressions the client will or will not like, the one we rejected because one eye was closed may be exactly what the client wants. I like the idea, (speaking from an amateur point of view here) of a double shortlist that Achee mentioned. Gently steering people to the better shots by making it very clear that these are the best shots, but allowing them some of the "seconds" help us to see what others not quite so picky see.


    Communication is , however the key. We took some baby photo's for a friend, and were thrilled when told they had a large canvas on the wall, which they were thrilled with. Imagine how we felt when we found the crop on the one metre x 1/2 metre canvas had been cropped to remove babies feet....... We were devastated, they had not noticed nor cared. Needless to say we learnt a valuable lesson that day, and made it even clearer that ratio's matter for the second child.

    It is good for us to cantinue to improve, but for those we are photographing it is not the main factor. I guess somewhere we need a happy medium.

    It is obviously a very different proposition for those making their living from photography. In the end it is our choice as the photographer, each of us needs to make the decision we are comfortable with.

    Di
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  10. #10
    It's all about the Light!
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    There is a huge difference between a competition image and a 'memory' or 'record' shot.
    I keep a lot of images that either Nel or I like, but have technical faults; we like the image all the same.

    Good is acceptable for most people; competitions do have a much higher standard.

    In club level judging the terms 'memory' or 'record' shot are used almost disparagingly, but should not be as those images are perfectly acceptable for their purpose.

    That said, when doing occasional events etc. I do reject a bunch of shots, and keep the good or above for the 'client' (usually family and/or friends).
    These all get some level of processing being as needed: crop, noise reduction, levels, contrast, saturation, sharpening.
    They don't get to see the clangers
    As a result I get a very positive response to what I provide, even when many of those images would not make it to a comp.

    So I say keep a reasonable standard for what you provide to friends etc. because you are demonstrating your creative skills.
    regards, Kym Gallery Honest & Direct Constructive Critique Appreciated! ©
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  11. #11
    http://steveaxford.smugmug.com/ Steve Axford's Avatar
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    You say you kept 200 shots. That is a lot! My only caution would be that some of your rejects may show expressions or actions that your perfect shots may not show. Sometimes we need to keep imperfect shots because they show interesting things. And sometimes we need to discard perfect shots because we already have similar things.

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    We also have to not let this become an easy way out. 'Oh the client will not care if I chopped their feet off in the baby shoot'. Cause the next client will care and it could come back to haunt you. The last thing you need is a client whinging to their friends and associates (or on FB) that your photos were crap, cause the feet were cut off, or Aunt betty's head is chopped off.

    Being aware of what one clients wants is great, but applying that to every client is not a good way to do business. We should always strive for perfection, just as we would expect someone we contracted to do something for us

  13. #13
    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ezookiel View Post
    ...So can it end up that the more we learn about what makes a "great photo", the more we risk becoming too perfectionist? Perhaps discarding photos that really could or should be kept?
    I'm thinking, that for me personally, it seems that I may have swung too far the one way in my progress from beginner to whatever, and that I might now need to swing back a bit and be a little less fussy for general purpose photography. Am I the only one now TOO fussy, or so fussy that friends think me nuts?...
    A bit of doubt occasionally is an essential way to check up on where you're at. The saga describes an interplay between two sets of people that are momentarily linked by a common subject of photography.
    Each set is coming from vastly different places (from the sounds of it) and unconsciously lugging their baggage with them. From what has happened, they cannot possibly understand that you acted for valid reasons
    of your own, and when these did not match any expectations of theirs, it began to appear as if their expectations were being deemed by you as being invalid - ie, appearing as a slight to them.

    I don't say that this is absolutely right, just based on similar, if less dramatic situations, I've had and arising in different areas from photography.
    I do not think that you should alter your standards over this, Zook. To me most of the unwarranted misapprehension is on their part.

    Perhaps a thing you can take from this is that you can tell them next time that there are some photos that you thought not so good. Let the involved parties have a say in them. That way ANY REASONABLE
    person could not possibly take your stance as an affront.

    Er, Am.
    CC, Image editing OK.

  14. #14
    Sir Rattus79 - The Proclaimant
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    In my experience the difference between a good photographer and a great photographer is that the great photographer will only show their very best work in online forums/facebook etc.

    That's how I make myself look brilliant anyway
    Greg Bartle,
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  15. #15
    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rattus79 View Post
    That's how I make myself look brilliant anyway

    Would that no mean it is us that decides if you are brilliant or not? Maybe i should start a poll asking if Greg is Briliant?

  16. #16
    Sir Rattus79 - The Proclaimant
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    Quote Originally Posted by ricktas View Post
    Would that no mean it is us that decides if you are brilliant or not? Maybe i should start a poll asking if Greg is Briliant?
    You can if you want Rick, but the sensus will be clear

    You'd best include a gravy option though!!!

  17. #17
    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rattus79 View Post
    You can if you want Rick, but the sensus will be clear

    You'd best include a gravy option though!!!
    done.. gravy was substituted for a cheaper generic...

  18. #18
    Sir Rattus79 - The Proclaimant
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    Cool, If anyone needs me, I will be off bribing AP members for their votes .....

    (You can have your thread back now)

  19. #19
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    The rules of course can change. The Impressionists did overtake the preceding Realists - but perhaps the Photographers provided a substitute and let the Pointillists prosper?

    Ian
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  20. #20
    Who let the rabble in? Lance B's Avatar
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    Well, they do say that ignorance is bliss.

    So, the less you know, the less you are critical of your own work and other's work.

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