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

Started May 24, 2013 | Discussions
GaryW
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Re: I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...
In reply to Great Bustard, May 25, 2013

Great Bustard wrote:

...based on this post:

..... 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.

I realized in my early days of digital that oversharpening was a problem.  There was a lot of talk about a "digital look", compared to film.  I think this was 90% oversharpening, and 10% noise reduction, at least back then.  Nowadays, maybe it's 30% oversharpening and 70% noise reduction.  With more pixels, there's less need for sharpening (or at least it's less visible), but it's still there way more than it should be.  Meanwhile, noise reduction is really making a mess out of the detail as well.  I'd rather have a more "smooth" look (neutral sharpening) and allow some noise.  (Although, some noise is better than others; it's interesting how some RAW converters dither the noise or something to make it look better.)

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DimLS
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Re: I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...
In reply to GaryW, May 25, 2013

For me, as years pass, i care less for sharpness and unsharp mask. I never care for noise, unless its extremely harsh.Also to get a realistic image doesnt mean to have sharpness, especially considering that the printed photograph is meant to be viewed from a distance,where ultimate sharpness is irrelevant.

For me, more important is the contrast, microcontrast, color, general feeling.

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JamesMortimer
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Re: I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...
In reply to Great Bustard, May 25, 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.

The fact that they "were surprised to hear they were digital" indicates to me that they are being elitist posers.

It's like that movie 2012 - the art gallery director talking about to copy of the Mona Lisa.
He's told that it's such a good copy that you can't tell the difference without some special laser-imaging detection - he replies that "it's still a copy though".

My point (to both) is that if you can't tell the difference then there is no difference.
(If the gallery owner had not been told about the substitution then he would not know that his gallery had the copy!)

I'll be kinder here and say that it might not be that they are posers - they might just be trotting out the same old tired rubbish they heard or were told by someone else..

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edispics
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Re: I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...
In reply to Great Bustard, May 25, 2013

This photo has been used as an example in other threads here. It was sold for $4.3M:

Break open your piggy bank, $4.3M for this one.

It was digitally manipulated to remove dog walkers and a factory building. Over Processed? Too much detail? Not enough detail? Too soft? Exaggerated colours? Does any of this relate to whether anyone remotely likes this photo or not or whether it is marketable?

Wiki states: "The work has been described by arts writer Florence Waters in The Daily Telegraph as a "vibrant, beautiful and memorable – I should say unforgettable – contemporary twist on [...] the romantic landscape"[6] and by journalist Maev Kennedy in The Guardian as "a sludgy image of the grey Rhine under grey skies".[3]"

The well-worn saying about being in the eye of the beholder comes to mind.

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richarddd
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Re: I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...
In reply to Great Bustard, May 26, 2013

All art is a distortion of reality.  Many people prefer art that distorts in a familiar way.

Consider recorded music.  Many prefer the euphonic distortion produced by vinyl records or tube amps to more accurate (which they'd call more clinical) sound.  OTOH, many claim compressed music sounds bad, yet almost no one can distinguish a properly compressed version from an original CD in a double blind test (everyone can easily distinguish in a not blind test).

It's said that recent forgeries of paintings are very hard to detect, because the differences from originals reflect the current aesthetic to the point we can't see them, while 100 year old forgeries are much easier to detect, because they are reflecting a now unfamiliar distortion.  A fish doesn't notice it's in water, but most of us would.

It's also possible that the quoted language reflected a desire to sound profound rather than anything genuine (cf. the Marshall McLuhan scene in Annie Hall).

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bugzie
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Re: I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...
In reply to Great Bustard, May 26, 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.

There's another consideration. If you've bought a kick-backside camera and a kick-backside lens, you're going to want to show off their abilities. You're less inclined to try some lo-fi effects. The camera manufacturers want you to buy as much as possible. You need all those megapixels and you need that a-mazing lens. You want to do things that show them off as much as possible. Artistic considerations are set aside for technical showcasing. The results can be dazzling. Especially if you throw in some deft post-processing. But for many people this is digital. Too much detail, too much colour, too much "pop". And they find film comforting in that they perceive it as warmer, softer and more human. Now we know film can give technically amazing results and digital can be understated. It's just when people see the "hyper-real", they associate it with digital.

But it does give some food for thought. Maybe we do need to back off a little and think about what we're doing. Is the gear determining what we do or are we the ones deciding where we're going?

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Paphios
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Re: Are you saying...
In reply to ROC124, May 26, 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.

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Something along these lines is what I first thought.  Digital photographers do much of their work on images that are going to be presented on the web at low resolution (compared to the native camera resolution).  As a result, sharpening with hard edges is used to make the detail visible at these resolutions.  When printing large, the detail is apparent without hard edges resulting in a more film like image.  Your subject matter and composition (which I like very much) seems well suited for presentation in the manner you have chosen.  I think I have gained some useful insight from this discussion.

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Beat Traveller
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Re: I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...
In reply to Great Bustard, May 26, 2013

It makes sense. The brain can only focus on so many elements at once. Digital photography and post-processing makes it possible to boost every element of a photograph to optimum, and it's very easy for photographers to get a kind of tunnel-vision whereby they expect every image to have maximum detail, contrast, sharpness, saturation, dynamic range etc.

You only need to show a less than 'technically' perfect photo to someone now and then to be reminded of how this is not a recipe for aesthetic impact. My fiancee often wanders past my laptop while I'm obsessing over sharpening artifacts and mentions that the photo looks really good.

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Jack Hogan
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On beauty and beholders
In reply to edispics, May 26, 2013

edispics wrote:

The well-worn saying about being in the eye of the beholder comes to mind.

Here is another favorite example, this time a painting.  Technically so perfect that words failed me then - and they continue to do so now

Voice of Fire, purchased in 1989 for $1.8 million

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Joe Pineapples
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Detail and false detail......
In reply to Great Bustard, May 26, 2013

One of my favourite photographic exhibitions was of large format (8x10 or larger) contact prints. These photographs were amazingly rich in detail, and there was something about that detail that was very pleasing - it drew your eye into the photographs, and I found myself visiting the gallery several times and going back to view my favourites.

With digital photography we have fantastic image quality but also the phenomenon of false detail: aliasing artefacts created when the photo is taken, and sharpening artefacts created in PP.  These can give a photograph a tremendous immediate impact, but does that grow wearisome over time? My favourite photographs are the ones I go back to, not the ones that make me go "Wow!" right away.

However, these criticisms I would find more applicable at the level of the dpreview photo challenge than a professional art photography exhibition, so the comments quoted in the OP don't ring quite true to me; but then it's okay to be a photo-bluffer and trash-talk some high-priced art photography occasionally...

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looper1234
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Re: I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...
In reply to edispics, May 26, 2013

edispics wrote:

This photo has been used as an example in other threads here. It was sold for $4.3M:

Break open your piggy bank, $4.3M for this one.

Well, anything is worth what people are willing to pay for them.

Those post modern art get their values from combined hype, and the expectation to go up in value.

I prefer art to derive its value from the work of the artist, the time, the energy spent, the endless thought, the severed ears.

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d3xmeister
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Re: Are you saying...
In reply to Paphios, May 27, 2013

Very interesting thread. I know what you say about sharpening. Most of images posted on these forums look way oversharpened to me (but people seem to like that). I don't sharpen my images at all, why should I ? When viewing on my computer screen or HDTV, there's so much downscaling going on that sharpening only make the photos look worse in my opinion. I only sharpen when I (rarely) print big.

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Raist3d
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Re: I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...
In reply to Great Bustard, May 28, 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.

If you ask me I think what happens is that on digital as someone said you can get some artifacts and then there is something about it where it has "too much detail everywhere" to the point of being distracting.  If I had to put my finger on it, I have seen some film photographs of medium and large format prints that have a lot of detail yet they keep a certain "natural softness" to them.  They draw the eye by the amazing tonality along with detail but the detail doesn't end abruptly but it all mixes...

I know this is kind of hard to describe but maybe you are getting my drift by the description.

In a way too much micro contrast/detail all over the shot in everything it's a bit like 95%+ of the HDR out there where people think it's cool to give equal importance and exposure to the clouds in the sky and the ground, creating a whole mess that calls for attention everywhere, ruining composition and particular attention to particular places, making for a very tiring shot to look at.

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Great Bustard
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Re: I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...
In reply to Raist3d, May 29, 2013

Raist3d wrote:

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.

If you ask me I think what happens is that on digital as someone said you can get some artifacts and then there is something about it where it has "too much detail everywhere" to the point of being distracting.

But do you think this is common on digital prints displayed in galleries?  I mean, for sure, facebook posts from cell phones, but...

If I had to put my finger on it, I have seen some film photographs of medium and large format prints that have a lot of detail yet they keep a certain "natural softness" to them.  They draw the eye by the amazing tonality along with detail but the detail doesn't end abruptly but it all mixes...

I know this is kind of hard to describe but maybe you are getting my drift by the description.

But cannot the same be done with digital?  If so, are you suggesting digital photographers choose to do otherwise?

In a way too much micro contrast/detail all over the shot in everything it's a bit like 95%+ of the HDR out there where people think it's cool to give equal importance and exposure to the clouds in the sky and the ground, creating a whole mess that calls for attention everywhere, ruining composition and particular attention to particular places, making for a very tiring shot to look at.

For sure, many photos that are subject to strong tone curves look more like digital art than a photograph.  But is such processing mainstream enough to where people associate that look with digital?

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Great Bustard
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Re: Detail and false detail......
In reply to Joe Pineapples, May 29, 2013

Joe Pineapples wrote:

One of my favourite photographic exhibitions was of large format (8x10 or larger) contact prints.

I can make 8x10 inch prints with digital. 

These photographs were amazingly rich in detail, and there was something about that detail that was very pleasing - it drew your eye into the photographs, and I found myself visiting the gallery several times and going back to view my favourites.

Sure.

With digital photography we have fantastic image quality but also the phenomenon of false detail: aliasing artefacts created when the photo is taken, and sharpening artefacts created in PP.  These can give a photograph a tremendous immediate impact, but does that grow wearisome over time? My favourite photographs are the ones I go back to, not the ones that make me go "Wow!" right away.

Indeed.  However, would you say that such "over-the-top" processing is representative of the types of prints you would find in a gallery?  My experience is otherwise, but my experience is not necessarily representative.

However, these criticisms I would find more applicable at the level of the dpreview photo challenge than a professional art photography exhibition, so the comments quoted in the OP don't ring quite true to me;

Bingo.  That's what I was trying to say.

...but then it's okay to be a photo-bluffer and trash-talk some high-priced art photography occasionally...

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