I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...

Started May 24, 2013 | Discussions
ROC124
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Re: Are you saying...
In reply to Jack Hogan, May 24, 2013

Jack Hogan wrote:

Sometimes detail detracts from a specific image, sometimes it adds to it - choosing what is necessary and what is not is part of the artistry.  Which may be more or less appreciated depending on the times*.

I agree with Jack's point. It is a matter of using all the image elements and characteristics in a way that creates a fine image. That may result in great detail everywhere, only in some places, or nowhere. Same applies to contrast, color, et.al. What is the image concept, what story is being told and how do you manage the image characteristics to do that? There isn't one right or best way.

The comments I've heard from many art buyers aren't really about detail or any other one characteristic of photographs. It is about the tendency of many photographs to look like technical exercises displaying the excellence of the equipment. The photographer forgets to use the image to tell a story or convey emotion. That is fine for some purposes, but isn't necessarily what non-photographers want to put on their walls at home. It might work better in an office or institution setting.

One buyer told me her desire for art is to trigger memories, and her memories are rarely sharp. She said to many photographs in galleries leave nothing to her imagination, i.e. the photographer has locked her into one way of experiencing the image. But that is just one person's view.

That said, she bought one of my most uniformly sharp, detailed prints, because the other image characteristics triggered a pleasant memory.

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GaryR60
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Re: I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...
In reply to Great Bustard, May 24, 2013

Great Bustard wrote:

...based on this post:

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/51516317

Particularly, this paragraph, and particularly the portion I highlighted in bold:

I had a recent (very successful!) gallery show of prints up to 20"x30" from the E-3. Got many comments about how "natural" the prints looked. Several people said they didn't realize at first they were photographs. They used terms such as "relaxed, smooth and inviting" to describe them. Several, including other photographers, thought they were from film, though the photographers said they were puzzled by the lack of film grain. They were surprised to hear they were digital. Several, including buyers, said they generally don't like prints from digital cameras because they are too "self-conscious" in that they have too much unnecessary detail, too obviously photographic, and too unpleasant to live with on the wall, even if initially striking.

What do people think?  It's a very interesting observation, in my opinion.

Hmmmm....well, what strikes me most is the apparent contradictions between his comment that people weren't aware they were looking at photographs (which caused me to wonder if they'd been overprocessed in HDR, to the point of looking like paintings, as I've seen so many do) and the statement from the buyers, who say they find digital photography "too obviously photographic." Since they were evidently not talking about his images, I assume I was right in thinking he'd overprocessed them to the point at which they no longer look like photographs, but instead, look like paintings or 3D renderings. Personally, I dislike images that have been so overprocessed that they no longer look photographic. I grew up with film and so my personal aesthetic is very film-oriented and I appreciate the gritty realism of digital images, especially in black and white. I do street photography, among other genres, and most of my street work is rather high-contrast black and white in which maximum detail is deliberately revealed to provide a gritty realism, as my subjects are usually shot in an urban environment. But, that's just me.

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bosjohn21
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Re: I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...
In reply to Great Bustard, May 24, 2013

Great Bustard wrote:

panos_m wrote:

Is this a question on realism?

Not really.  The question is on the relationship between the detail in a photo vs the appeal of the photo.

there is so much unsaid. were the audience to your show mostly other photographers or general public. Was your show venue a place that would attract other photogrphers and those interested in photography as opposed to a general art gallery showing your work?

clearly ( no pun intended) for some work detail is important for other works not so much. There is no generalization I can think of to cover the subject. If I am doing a brightly lit land scape of California grass lands it is my intent usually to have as much sharpness and detail as I possibly can, I feel the detail of the grass is important to my composition. If I am doing street the detail maybe not so important who knows.

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CharlesB58
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Re: I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...
In reply to Great Bustard, May 24, 2013

Great Bustard wrote:

...based on this post:

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/51516317

Particularly, this paragraph, and particularly the portion I highlighted in bold:

I had a recent (very successful!) gallery show of prints up to 20"x30" from the E-3. Got many comments about how "natural" the prints looked. Several people said they didn't realize at first they were photographs. They used terms such as "relaxed, smooth and inviting" to describe them. Several, including other photographers, thought they were from film, though the photographers said they were puzzled by the lack of film grain. They were surprised to hear they were digital. Several, including buyers, said they generally don't like prints from digital cameras because they are too "self-conscious" in that they have too much unnecessary detail, too obviously photographic, and too unpleasant to live with on the wall, even if initially striking.

What do people think?  It's a very interesting observation, in my opinion.

My theory is the comments reflect a combination of ignorance and arrogance on the part of those making the comments. I mean, "too obviously photographic"? Really? (Makes me think of Han Solo telling Chewbaca to keep his distance but not make it look like he's trying to keep his distance.LOL)

Perhaps what they are referring too is poorly processed images made into prints, or people who processed for pixel peeping on monitors and having the prints done by a lab that simply runs their files through the printer? I'm puzzled about the photographers and others who were "puzzled by the lack of film grain" (What: they never saw prints made from Kodachrome 25 or Pan-X sheet film-both are almost grainless unless you stick your nose right in the print?)

The comments really do strike me as a bit of photographic snobbery.

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69chevy
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Re: I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...
In reply to Great Bustard, May 24, 2013

Great Bustard wrote:

...based on this post:

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/51516317

Particularly, this paragraph, and particularly the portion I highlighted in bold:

I had a recent (very successful!) gallery show of prints up to 20"x30" from the E-3. Got many comments about how "natural" the prints looked. Several people said they didn't realize at first they were photographs. They used terms such as "relaxed, smooth and inviting" to describe them. Several, including other photographers, thought they were from film, though the photographers said they were puzzled by the lack of film grain. They were surprised to hear they were digital. Several, including buyers, said they generally don't like prints from digital cameras because they are too "self-conscious" in that they have too much unnecessary detail, too obviously photographic, and too unpleasant to live with on the wall, even if initially striking.

What do people think?  It's a very interesting observation, in my opinion.

For me, photography is about mastering a large number of variables to produce an intended result.

Since this is my view, I weigh some aspects more than others since compromise has to happen to one variable in order to change another.

I assume most photographers have a variable they favor most.

For some, it is composition, others chase perfect exposure, some want razor sharpness, and others like colors and tonality.

In the end, as long as the photo makes an impact, none of the above are "more" important than the other. More often than not, one of the above will be lacking heavily.

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Ulric
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Re: I would like to discuss the anesthetics of photography ...
In reply to Detail Man, May 24, 2013

Detail Man wrote:

"Article: The Exposure Triangle - Secrets to increasing your Noise/Signal Ratio."

Now enhanced to the Exposure Square - A single pixel at 18% grey covering the entire image area, neither signal nor noise.

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ROC124
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Re: I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...
In reply to GaryR60, May 24, 2013

GaryR60 wrote:

Hmmmm....well, what strikes me most is the apparent contradictions between his comment that people weren't aware they were looking at photographs (which caused me to wonder if they'd been overprocessed in HDR, to the point of looking like paintings, as I've seen so many do) and the statement from the buyers, who say they find digital photography "too obviously photographic." Since they were evidently not talking about his images, I assume I was right in thinking he'd overprocessed them to the point at which they no longer look like photographs, but instead, look like paintings or 3D renderings. Personally, I dislike images that have been so overprocessed that they no longer look photographic. I grew up with film and so my personal aesthetic is very film-oriented and I appreciate the gritty realism of digital images, especially in black and white. I do street photography, among other genres, and most of my street work is rather high-contrast black and white in which maximum detail is deliberately revealed to provide a gritty realism, as my subjects are usually shot in an urban environment. But, that's just me. the buyer reaction was about their first impressions. The images in question were obviously photos. They explained that their first impression was about the image itself, and their second impression was about the medium used. They were telling me they are put off by too many images where the medium is the most important and obvious characteristic, and the image content seems secondary.

The buyer reactions were about their first impressions. The images were realistic, not my impressionistic work, and obviously photographs. Their first reaction wasn't about the medium used, it was about the image content.

Couple of years ago I saw an 18 x 24 (image area) landscape print at a local photo competition, don't recall the photographer. It was selected by the public as their favorite. It was taken with a medium format digital back, and was extraordinarily detailed throughout, but the detail didn't jump out, it was very subtle, playing only a supporting role. It was sharp and crisp in key foreground elements, and less sharp and crisp in the background, but everything looked very natural. The detail was there, but the exquisite lighting and tonality were dominant over details. I looked at it a long time before even noticing the detail.

As folks came by I tried to overhear their comments. Nearly everyone's first reaction after saying it was breath-taking was wondering why a painting was in a photography show. Then they quickly realized it was photo and were astonished, as was I. It was clearly a photograph with tremendous realism, but the first impression transcended photography. Every part of the image looked completely natural, nothing looked over processed. It was just drop dead gorgeous. Since then I've been trying to explore how viewers react to images and why.

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ROC124
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Re: Are you saying...
In reply to Great Bustard, May 24, 2013

Here is one of the non-impressionist images which got comments about not realizing at first it was a photograph:

This is obviously a photograph, and no one was confused about it. They were telling me their first reaction was to the image, not the medium. Some went on to say what they often don't like about other examples of the photography medium, including some of mine. Some of those comments were about photographs too often emphasizing some element like global detail at the expense of the overall image.

I did little post processing: global capture sharpening, slight positive clarity gradient in foreground, local saturation boost in the yellow leaves, local creative sharpening on leaves on rocks, slight negative clarity and negative sharpening on the background in the upper left quadrant, slight vignette.

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Andreas Stuebs
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Re: I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...
In reply to ROC124, May 24, 2013

I tend to agree with the previous poster. Fine, exacting detail is not necessarily off turning. However there has been a type of digital aethetics with a lot of localized contrast which punches you in the face and which doesn't serve any real purpose other than to show of the photographers PS skills - or what he considers them to be. That and over saturated colours you find in any gallery selling photographs.

It is not digital per se, as you can do it otherwise.As the previous poster points out.  There is a certain fashion amongst photographers and it seem that the non photographic customers do not take a liking to it - well at least not all of them.

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rsn48
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True creativity is difficult, copying it isn't as much....
In reply to Great Bustard, May 24, 2013

The old adage about photography is still true.  Photography is the easiest of arts to master technically but one of the hardest arts to produce your own identifiable style.  Most very good photographers, serious amateurs and pro's, copy what has been done in the past and make excellent images, but uniquely their style - no!

Generally what is the latest fad, is taking photos that are liked and utilize the latest equipment.  So low light urban night scapes is becoming popular, low light photography in general is more abundant, sharper wild life photos, better macros, more colourful dramatic landscapes.  Sharp is the new "in" and will be copied.  Sharp is in because with our much better equipment we can achieve wonderfully detailed images.

So I'm not surprised that some might be bored with sharpness.  What is "in" is copied, the bales of hay on the farmland at sunset casting their shadows, those colourful caves that have been photo'd to death, colourful doors of Santa Fe (I was bored when I saw the first one) which are really a study of colour and texture.  Today you can go to a photography store or mail in retailer and order "playing cards"that have posses the wedding photographer can use; the images those photographers will take using those cards as suggestion will probably look good, but there will be no creativity in them, which the best wedding photographers have established over time.

But there are older "in's" that have been done to death so that we don't take them as much, older men and women with wrinkles highlighted by side light, sunsets, pretty women in street photography (notice Vivian Maier has a noticeable lack of pretty women in her photography, she wasn't as pretty women obsessed as male photographers). Coils of rope on jetties, a lone colourful older beat up boat moored alone in a quaint harbour; the list goes on.  At one point, there was a great article listing all the things a new photographer shouldn't photograph as they had been over done.  It is easier to copy creativity than it is to be creative.

So with today's wonderful equipment, we shouldn't be surprised at emerging styles that are beginning to bore people, new creativity will flower, impress then later after it has been copied copiously, bore us.

As for the look of film, the more I see of older film images the more I realize the superiority of digital.  Once you get used to sharp vivid colours, the old stuff seems flatter.  I think film has been over rated, if the technology truly was the much superior more pros would be using it as they want to get the best image out there.

So be careful when blaming technology when copied creativity is to blame.

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d3xmeister
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Re: Are you saying...
In reply to ROC124, May 24, 2013

You know, this reminds me of an interview with Philip Bloom. He was asked by George Lucas to go at Lucas Ranch, shoot some video with his 5D Mark II there, and present the footage the next day. George Lugas wanted to see if they can use DSLR as a third camera setup for a movie they were working on.

Philip Bloom thought the quality would be poor for the big screen, he looked at the footage on his laptop screen and he said ,,Man this will look bad,,

Day of the presentation, in a projection room with a big screen, with George Lucas, Quentin Tarantino and others, they watched the footage from the DSLR. They all thought it looked wonderful and they used it for the movie. How can this be ? The 5D Mark II barely make it to true 720p.

Watch the whole story on youtube, it's the interview by that long curly hair guy from B&H.

The point is, there's more to IQ than lab measurements, and I've been arguing this for years on these forums.

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rkhndjr
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Re: True creativity is difficult, copying it isn't as much....
In reply to rsn48, May 24, 2013

rsn48 wrote:

The old adage about photography is still true.  Photography is the easiest of arts to master technically but one of the hardest arts to produce your own identifiable style.  Most very good photographers, serious amateurs and pro's, copy what has been done in the past and make excellent images, but uniquely their style - no!

Generally what is the latest fad, is taking photos that are liked and utilize the latest equipment.  So low light urban night scapes is becoming popular, low light photography in general is more abundant, sharper wild life photos, better macros, more colourful dramatic landscapes.  Sharp is the new "in" and will be copied.  Sharp is in because with our much better equipment we can achieve wonderfully detailed images.

So I'm not surprised that some might be bored with sharpness.  What is "in" is copied, the bales of hay on the farmland at sunset casting their shadows, those colourful caves that have been photo'd to death, colourful doors of Santa Fe (I was bored when I saw the first one) which are really a study of colour and texture.  Today you can go to a photography store or mail in retailer and order "playing cards"that have posses the wedding photographer can use; the images those photographers will take using those cards as suggestion will probably look good, but there will be no creativity in them, which the best wedding photographers have established over time.

But there are older "in's" that have been done to death so that we don't take them as much, older men and women with wrinkles highlighted by side light, sunsets, pretty women in street photography (notice Vivian Maier has a noticeable lack of pretty women in her photography, she wasn't as pretty women obsessed as male photographers). Coils of rope on jetties, a lone colourful older beat up boat moored alone in a quaint harbour; the list goes on.  At one point, there was a great article listing all the things a new photographer shouldn't photograph as they had been over done.  It is easier to copy creativity than it is to be creative.

So with today's wonderful equipment, we shouldn't be surprised at emerging styles that are beginning to bore people, new creativity will flower, impress then later after it has been copied copiously, bore us.

As for the look of film, the more I see of older film images the more I realize the superiority of digital.  Once you get used to sharp vivid colours, the old stuff seems flatter.  I think film has been over rated, if the technology truly was the much superior more pros would be using it as they want to get the best image out there.

So be careful when blaming technology when copied creativity is to blame.

What ever happened to liking a picture and being happy with your own idea of the thing? All the above replies and the OP strike me as one up man ship of sorts...I used film long before most here were born and love digital and do not analyze it.

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Great Bustard
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Re: Are you saying...
In reply to Jack Hogan, May 24, 2013

Jack Hogan wrote:

Great Bustard wrote:

If so, then wouldn't the comments about "unnecessary detail" mean that the people who made the comment represent a minority opinion of those that pursue photography?

Sometimes detail detracts from a specific image, sometimes it adds to it - choosing what is necessary and what is not is part of the artistry.  Which may be more or less appreciated depending on the times (recently whenever a certain look has become popular a plug-in has been developed to create it easily. The KR look, the color feature inside a B&W look, the grunge look, the heavy HDR look.  They get tiresome quickly.  I think we are currently coming off the Tonal Contrast look: a mixture of all of the above

Except the quote that I predicated this thread on:

I had a recent (very successful!) gallery show of prints up to 20"x30" from the E-3. Got many comments about how "natural" the prints looked. Several people said they didn't realize at first they were photographs. They used terms such as "relaxed, smooth and inviting" to describe them. Several, including other photographers, thought they were from film, though the photographers said they were puzzled by the lack of film grain. They were surprised to hear they were digital. Several, including buyers, said they generally don't like prints from digital cameras because they are too "self-conscious" in that they have too much unnecessary detail, too obviously photographic, and too unpleasant to live with on the wall, even if initially striking.

made a sweeping indictment (generalization) about digital photos having "too much unnecessary detail" that are "too obviously photographic" (not sure I know what that means) and are "too unpleasant to live with on the wall, even if initially striking".

In contrast, I presume, to film photos which do not have "too much unnecessary detail" that are not "too obviously photographic", and are not "too unpleasant to live with on the wall".

I sometimes like images that have both a lot and a little of detail (as in some of Bob's mysty/long ss/low dof images or Ian Bramhan 's look ).  But generalizing, 'unnecessary' detail/sharpness may also be part of a look that we are getting tired of and/or that is not required by gallery going patrons of the arts today: Capturing and displaying perfect image information is too 'perfect' and tells us too little about the artist and what s/he is trying to convey.  A perfect capture/print may be categorized as an impersonal poster, merely the recording of what was there - A willfully 'imperfect' capture/print may instead be categorized as an artistic expression of the artist's thoughts and feelings at the time.   Humans do not love perfection served on a silver platter - they love puzzles and imperfections that challenge them to figure out something about who shot the image, what s/he felt at the time and what s/he wants to say.  The beauty of digital is that often one can capture and process for both, if one wants.

Are you trying to say that they were talking about how *some* photos are processed as opposed to the whole of digital photography?  Because their comments absolutely did not imply anything of the sort.

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Great Bustard
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Re: Are you saying...
In reply to ROC124, May 24, 2013

ROC124 wrote:

Here is one of the non-impressionist images which got comments about not realizing at first it was a photograph:

This is obviously a photograph, and no one was confused about it.

That was what I was thinking. 

They were telling me their first reaction was to the image, not the medium. Some went on to say what they often don't like about other examples of the photography medium, including some of mine. Some of those comments were about photographs too often emphasizing some element like global detail at the expense of the overall image.

I did little post processing: global capture sharpening, slight positive clarity gradient in foreground, local saturation boost in the yellow leaves, local creative sharpening on leaves on rocks, slight negative clarity and negative sharpening on the background in the upper left quadrant, slight vignette.

I am still honestly confused.  While your photo above is very nice (I absolutely mean that), it looks to me just like what a good landscape photo usually looks like.

What, pray tell, were they talking about?

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Great Bustard
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Re: I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...
In reply to Calinature, May 24, 2013

Calinature wrote:

Thanks for the interesting discussion.  Here's my take:

The human mind selectively sees just a few objects/scenes at any one time.  A good photograph should limit the scope of presentation through selective composition, effective contrast of lighting, etc.  Perhaps modern digital photography has fostered an overly ambitious, overly expansive, overly saturated look...because we have the technology to do so.  Mark Twain once said of Bierstad's paintings that they were better than the original. When I see photos like Galen Rowell's (which was originally film), I wonder if these brilliant scenes would eventually be too much as a print on a wall?

Another way to express this concept is fractals. Landscape studies have shown that an intermediate level of complexity is more appealing that either too simplistic or overly crowded, detailed scenes. Perhaps the appeal of black and white is that one element, color, is removed to that the composition can be accentuated.

Question:  which camera would be the ideal for landscape photography, all else equal (that means we are not figuring size, weight, price, and other operational considerations into the decision):

  • 6 MP
  • 12 MP
  • 18 MP
  • 24 MP
  • 36 MP
  • 35mm Film
  • Medium Format Film
  • Large Format Film

Good photographs, as "art", should be somewhat stylistic/impressionistic/symbolic that leaves a little imagination for the particular viewer.  With too much detail and clutter, one cannot see the forest for the trees.  Or perhaps showing just a few trees is more effective than a whole forest. This is not to say that detail isn't important in some parts of the photo.

So, for example, you are saying landscape photos are best taken at wide apertures where portions will be outside the DOF, or very narrow apertures, where diffraction will soften the whole photo?

Is too much dynamic range also contributing to a digital look? Is lifting too much shadow giving a flat look to photos?

Just because you can push the shadows does not mean you should.  Just because you can shoot wide open doesn't mean you should.  Just because you can stop down to f/22 doesn't mean you should.  This is not a digital vs film thing.

Again, thanks all for your many insightful comments.  JEFF

Thanks!

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ROC124
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Re: Are you saying...
In reply to Great Bustard, May 24, 2013

Great Bustard wrote:

Are you trying to say that they were talking about how *some* photos are processed as opposed to the whole of digital photography?  Because their comments absolutely did not imply anything of the sort.

I think it is about prcoessing and perception, not digital vs. film. The comments I related from that night, in combination with others heard over time, seemed to condemn a perceived digital "look." Thinking about what they meant reminded how few purely-film and optical enlargement images ever look over sharpened. Even with images made on medium/large format Velvia and printed on Cibachrome with eye-popping saturation, contrast and tremendous detail, they still seemed smooth without detail that dominated, even though it was present. Indeed, most of us probably didn't go to the bother of creating sharpening masks in our darkrooms. I didn't.

Digital can be different because it is easier to process but isn't constrained to any particular look. But I don't think it is inherently too detailed, too sharp or too anything. It is tremendously maleable and it is up to the photographer to determine to the final look.

Kind of reminds me of the vinyl vs. digital debate in audio. I don't find either to be superior; it depends on what the recording engineer did.

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ROC124
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Re: Are you saying...
In reply to Great Bustard, May 24, 2013

Great Bustard wrote:

I am still honestly confused.  While your photo above is very nice (I absolutely mean that), it looks to me just like what a good landscape photo usually looks like.

What, pray tell, were they talking about?

Damned if I know! Seriously, I was trying to make sense of them, and the contrasting, often opposite comments I hear from other photographers. About that photo, another photographer asked me that night why I didn't sharpen more to highlight the details. He noted the softness in the background where I had applied slight negative clarity.  It is all audience-dependent, but for that small sample it told me to pay attention to the appropriate balance of elements, don't let any one thing overwhelm the others, and don't emphasize something just because the technology allows it. I think that is what the person who said "digital is often too self-conscious" meant - many prints emphasize things that don't contribute to the image just because the tech allows it.

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Great Bustard
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Re: Are you saying...
In reply to ROC124, May 24, 2013

ROC124 wrote:

Great Bustard wrote:

Are you trying to say that they were talking about how *some* photos are processed as opposed to the whole of digital photography?  Because their comments absolutely did not imply anything of the sort.

I think it is about prcoessing and perception, not digital vs. film.

This makes eminently more sense to me than the quoted comments:

I had a recent (very successful!) gallery show of prints up to 20"x30" from the E-3. Got many comments about how "natural" the prints looked. Several people said they didn't realize at first they were photographs. They used terms such as "relaxed, smooth and inviting" to describe them. Several, including other photographers, thought they were from film, though the photographers said they were puzzled by the lack of film grain. They were surprised to hear they were digital. Several, including buyers, said they generally don't like prints from digital cameras because they are too "self-conscious" in that they have too much unnecessary detail, too obviously photographic, and too unpleasant to live with on the wall, even if initially striking.

The comments I related from that night, in combination with others heard over time, seemed to condemn a perceived digital "look." Thinking about what they meant reminded how few purely-film and optical enlargement images ever look over sharpened. Even with images made on medium/large format Velvia and printed on Cibachrome with eye-popping saturation, contrast and tremendous detail, they still seemed smooth without detail that dominated, even though it was present. Indeed, most of us probably didn't go to the bother of creating sharpening masks in our darkrooms. I didn't.

Of the photos I have displayed in my office, many are surprised that they are digital, not film.  I have a feeling that, to most, "digital" means what they are used to seeing from low-end compacts or cell phones.

I simply expected that the comments from those that viewed your photos to have been more educated about what digital is.

Digital can be different because it is easier to process but isn't constrained to any particular look.

Absolutely.

But I don't think it is inherently too detailed, too sharp or too anything. It is tremendously maleable and it is up to the photographer to determine to the final look.

I'm pleased to hear you say that.

Kind of reminds me of the vinyl vs. digital debate in audio. I don't find either to be superior; it depends on what the recording engineer did.

Well, it would appear we are on the same page.

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Great Bustard
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Re: Are you saying...
In reply to ROC124, May 24, 2013

ROC124 wrote:

Great Bustard wrote:

I am still honestly confused.  While your photo above is very nice (I absolutely mean that), it looks to me just like what a good landscape photo usually looks like.

What, pray tell, were they talking about?

Damned if I know!

Seriously, I was trying to make sense of them, and the contrasting, often opposite comments I hear from other photographers. About that photo, another photographer asked me that night why I didn't sharpen more to highlight the details. He noted the softness in the background where I had applied slight negative clarity.  It is all audience-dependent, but for that small sample it told me to pay attention to the appropriate balance of elements, don't let any one thing overwhelm the others, and don't emphasize something just because the technology allows it. I think that is what the person who said "digital is often too self-conscious" meant - many prints emphasize things that don't contribute to the image just because the tech allows it.

Myself, I'm a great fan of ultra shallow DOF, which many decry as going too far in the other direction.  I even try it on scenes that one would not usually associate with shallow DOF photography, but usually without much success.  Here are some examples that I consider successful:

Canon 5D + 50 / 1.2L @ f/1.2, 1/8000, ISO 100

Canon 5D + 50 / 1.2L @ f / 1.2, 1/8000, ISO 100

Canon 5D + 50 / 1.2L @ f / 1.2, 1/125, ISO 100

Canon 5D + 100 / 2 @ f/2, 1/8000, ISO 100

Canon 5D + 50 / 1.2L @ f/1.2, 1/125, ISO 100

Canon 5D + 50 / 1.2L + CPL @ f/1.2, 1/3200, ISO 100

Canon 5D + 50 / 1.2L @ f/1.2, 1/800, ISO 100

Canon 5D + 24 / 1.4L + CPL @ f/1.4, 1/3200, ISO 100

Canon 5D + 24 / 1.4L @ f/1.4, 1/250, ISO 100

Of course, another way about it is to shoot with very narrow apertures, which will result in significant diffraction softening, but with a much more even softness across the frame than the above shallow DOF examples.

Again, please allow me to express my appreciation for your very interesting observation, along with your insightful replies.  Let me also reiterate how much I enjoyed going through your galleries -- outstanding work!

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Great Bustard
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Re: I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...
In reply to ROC124, May 24, 2013

ROC124 wrote:

Have time only for a quick response right now. My original comments were about what I was hearing from actual buyers and potential buyers in a gallery. Other photographers had an opposite opinion.

I was interested in this issue of too much extraneous detail and too self-consciously photographic prints because local galleries have told me for years that photography generally doesn't sell well. I'm trying to understand why, so I always question potential buyers.

Interesting.  When you say that local galleries have said for years that "photography generally doesn't sell well", what, exactly, do they mean?  That other forms of art (e.g. paintings, sculpturs, pottery, etc.) sell better than photography?

Easy to separate other photographers from potential buyers at the galleries: the photographers have their faces close to the prints looking at the details, and potential buyers are standing back looking at the whole image!

That, methinks, is an important observation.  Myself, when editing a photo, I will go through the photo at an enlargement where I can see individual pixels.  When viewing photos at an exhibition, however, I generally view from the closest distance where I can take in the whole photo comfortably.

Thanks for starting this thread.

Not at all.  Thanks for that very intriguing post that inspired it.

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