Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What Makes A "Good" Picture Anyhow?

I have been thinking a lot about this lately. In fact, it goes way beyond thinking. I have been absorbed by this for some time now. I am not sure when it all started, but it has become quite a distraction. Everywhere I go, and everything I see, I find myself evaluating it. In some ways it has heightened my awareness of the beauty we live in. However, it has taken a little piece of my "ignorance is bliss" lifestyle, and squashed it like a bug.

Sometime in March, I joined an Online Photography Board that specializes in Child Portrait Photography. I have learned so much from this amazing group of photographers. I feel that the most important thing I have garnered is INSPIRATION! I love having the opportunity to view some pretty amazing pictures. It gives me a sense of challenge and purpose. I strive to capture a photograph that might inspire someone else. I always appreciate a good challenge.

One of the things I noticed in the vast group of both professional and novice photographers, is the wide range of creativity, and the amazing span of opinions. It is sort of a thrill to post a picture asking for Constructive Criticism. You better have your hard hat on, because you are likely to hear some things that might sting a bit. There certainly are members that are real sticklers for the "Rules of Photography", and having a technically perfect photograph. You can learn a great deal from reading their points of view. Through this process, I have been intrigued by the true sense of "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" philosophy. One person can gaze upon a picture and see something that really appeals to them. Another will only see the flaws.

One day a few months ago, I saw the words, "oh...now that looks like it should be in a magazine!" It got me thinking...what kind of pictures are in a magazine? So being just who I am....I started looking. Now I find myself hardly reading a magazine at all. Instead I am studying the photographs in the advertisements, and in the articles. Guess what? There is a real variety of types of photographs published in magazines. The most shocking realization was that MOST photos I have seen have at least one technical error. WOW...this got me really thinking again...why would magazines publish technically imperfect photographs? I mean, I am sure they can hire photographers with the abilities to capture a "perfect picture", right? Why then am I seeing photos with blown spots, and focus issues, and non-even lighting? Why am I seeing dappled light that leaves supposedly "unattractive" shadows on people's faces? WHY? Why? Why?

Is it because it is possible that a photo can still "speak" to someone even if the lightening wasn't even? Is it possible that a message can still be conveyed with the perfect expression on the subjects face even though they aren't looking directly at the lens? Is it at all possible that small blown out area of a white shirt doesn't ALWAYS distract from the rest of the picture? These are things that I have felt in my heart, but after spending just a few too many hours reading "constructive criticism" of photos that I admire, I began to waver. I began to think that if there had been an error it was meant for the trash can. I am certainly glad that I started paying attention to the real world. I am glad that I can accept that sometimes there will be flaws, but it doesn't mean it isn't worthy of viewing.

As I go about my day lately, I look at the world differently. I find myself trying to see it from different angles. I suddenly kneel down to see just what that fence looks like from that view. I lay on the grass and look up at things. I notice the light, and how it changes the look of the world around me. There is so much to see and learn. It is fun. However, on the flip side, I wish I could just sit down and flip through a magazine and not think, "why did they use that photograph? Couldn't the manage one where both children are in focus?" I might be getting a little cocky also, as I often find myself thinking, "I could have taken a better photograph than that!" tee hee.....I find it is a fun learning tool though. I like to imagine what I would have done differently to make the photo better.

I think it is worthy to note that although this post suggests that I might be trying to make excuses for photography errors. I am not. I am simply saying that I have discovered, that technically perfect doesn't have to be the ultimate goal. I need to stay focused on that. It is finding the creativity in photography, while striving to improve your technique. We just can't lose sight of what moves us.

The photo I have posted in my side bar this week is a perfect example of what I am talking about. One side of her face is darker than the other. Her outfit is crazy, and the chest of her jammies is blown out. It would be sweeter if the bright orange bubble container weren't there, but I LOVE this picture. It speaks to me. Yes, I know how it could have been "better", but that doesn't take away the moment and memory. It isn't perfect, but for me....it is close!

8 Live It or Love It:

Jules said...

I love this post Corey! You are very very right in that some of the most beautiful pictures I've seen aren't "perfect".

Love Makenna in all of her weird outfit and orange bubble glory!

Ingrid said...

That picture is pretty, it captures who Makenna is.

There are pictures that can be good technically speaking, and still be boring and empty of soul. So technical prowess without a good eye (and a bit of luck sometimes) is nothing.

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

First of all, I love that shot of Makenna!

I want to continue in the same vein of perspective as Ingrid's. Photography is an art. Within art, there has to be some allowance for poetic licence, for voice, and for imperfection. For example, a writer can write a piece which is technically perfect in every way, but if it lacks voice and character, the writing is dull and flat. Too little attention paid the "rules" of any medium can be distracting - no doubt about that. But there is so much more to a piece in its entirety than whether or not it meets a standard of perfection.

All of that is to say that you are one of those people who has been gifted with an eye and talent for photography. You have come up with some amazing and inspiring shots and I so hope that, as you have written here, you won't let the pursuit of technical perfection rob you of the joys of just capturing the world around you.

Laura said...

I often wonder about some of the horrible pics I see in magazines too - lol! I do love this pic. Being a b&w fan (that is the only thing I have in my house) I would LOVE to see this in b&w. And I like the shadowing to the one side of her face - makes for a more interesting picture imo! Beautiful girl you have there :)

kouredios said...

Very well said Corey. And to add to what Megan said, it's not just art--it's life. There really is no one right way to do anything, just lots of people with their own views and things that speak to them. ;)

Laura said...

Great post, Corey! I'm definitely not a photographer, so I don't notice technical aspects of photos - positive or negative. But these are great thoughts, and like Megan said, they can be applied to all forms of art. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder, and the artist!

*Heidi* said...

Okay, I read it, and am now shakin' in my boots... How am I ever going to take pictures at the wedding? All I do is take pictures of my signs and tags--not people! Should I tell them "no"? Why can't I say "no"? Okay, I feel better, I got to whine a little.

Do you know of a photography site for amateurs that have been asked to do the impossible?

I'm going to learn from your posting today: I will do what was asked of me with what I have, my ability to look through the lens and click, capturing the moment through my own eyes and my own camera. Years later, they will be happy they have photographs, and these pictures will bring the memory of the wedding. That's what's important.

Thanks...I need that!

David Spach said...

That is a beautiful picture of Makenna. I think that there is only one "good" picture and that is the one that makes you feel "good". There are lots of photos that are just breathetaking, and yet, to someone else , may not move them at all. So beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Look at 'super models'. they are by some people's opinion to be emulated or seen as ideal. IMHO, 'I don't think so!' Not that they are ugly... but I think we have to be careful whose opinions we regard.
Thanks for the post. Loved it

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