For some, it may be counter productive to chase photographic technical perfection.

Malibu

A
Malibu

  • 1
  • 1
  • 38
Rockwood Park-4

A
Rockwood Park-4

  • 0
  • 0
  • 45
Enamored

A
Enamored

  • 0
  • 0
  • 105
Kea'au Bike Flower

A
Kea'au Bike Flower

  • 3
  • 1
  • 152

Recent Classifieds

Forum statistics

Threads
180,518
Messages
2,490,970
Members
95,091
Latest member
gigidamico
Recent bookmarks
0

Sean

Admin
Admin
Joined
Aug 29, 2002
Messages
11,576
Location
New Zealand
Shooter
Multi Format
I have a feeling I fall into this camp, that chasing perfection or it being a subconscious baseline seems to lead to a creative block. I know what perfection looks like, I've seen such prints in galleries and do marvel at them. However, I was recently falling into the trap of being too hard on myself and juggling what others expectations and standards might be. I almost literally lost sight of what matters most, that I love what I create regardless of what others might expect. Once working to let go of these constraints, things began to gel. If we don't strive to create for ourselves, then we are playing the part of a photographer and not being one. How do you feel about your own work and do you feel overly self-conscious about your creative and technical decisions? For some, their passion might lie in the technical side and give them more creative options.

Sean
 

fdonadio

Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2015
Messages
2,033
Location
Berlin, DE
Shooter
Multi Format
I have similar problems… I mean, I feel like very, very distant from perfection, but I tend to pursue “productivity”. I hate to go out and come “empty-handed”. And, of course, I want to keep my “quality” always rising.

That mindset keeps getting in the way of my enjoyment, so I think I need to focus more on the process than on the results. Citing @Eric Rose, from another thread:

“Getting out is 99% of the enjoyment. Photographs you are happy with are a bonus.”
 

Nitroplait

Member
Joined
Jul 13, 2020
Messages
511
Location
Europe (EU)
Shooter
Multi Format
I think the emergence of digital lifted the burden of perfection away from my film photography.
I know I can do technically much better with digital technology, so I don't have to strive to achieve perfection with the analogue medium.

It was a great creative relief to realise that.
 

Don Heisz

Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2021
Messages
2,650
Location
Ontario
Shooter
35mm RF
One needs to be proficient enough, technically, to get the desired results. For some people, that means a high level of technical skill. For others, that means very little. It's up to the individual to determine what it is he or she wants or needs.

Most of the pictures I take are using a Leica III and no meter. They usually end up technically good-enough for what I want. They tend to look the way I want them to look.

But there are other photos where I'll set up the tripod, arrange lights, take meter readings, think about what developer to use, carefully figure out the proper exposure - it all depends on what I am trying to get.

Some people will thrive with more and more technical knowledge. It will inform their work and more easily get them the results they want.

The illusion here is that there is something like objective photographic technical perfection. "Technical perfection" would be using the tools at hand in the most proper way to attain the desired result -- which is not the same as attaining an "objectively perfect result". The "smoothest grain" is not objectively more perfect than "grain like crushed gravel" - it's only more perfect if that's what you're trying to get. If you want "grain like crushed gravel", smooth grain is a less-perfect result.

Take @awty for instance. I would consider the photos he posts to be technically amazing. They're not like looking at the thing-in-reality (like looking out a window, for instance) - and they're not supposed to be. But he knows how he wants his pictures to look. And he does exactly that. That is employing proper technique.
 

juan

Subscriber
Joined
May 7, 2003
Messages
2,505
Location
St. Simons I
Shooter
Multi Format
The illusion here is that there is something like objective photographic technical perfection. "Technical perfection" would be using the tools at hand in the most proper way to attain the desired result -- which is not the same as attaining an "objectively perfect result". The "smoothest grain" is not objectively more perfect than "grain like crushed gravel" - it's only more perfect if that's what you're trying to get. If you want "grain like crushed gravel", smooth grain is a less-perfect result.
Agree. I had my revelation nearly 20-years ago when a collector of Ansel Adams’ work allowed The University of Florida to display his collection. Included were some of Adams’ earliest works. These prints were generally 8x10 or smaller and were delicately printed. They were far, far different from the huge, contrasty prints he made later in his career - even with the same negative.

I'm sure he thought both versions were his best prints at the time he made them. Which is perfection?
 

peter k.

Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2011
Messages
1,327
Location
Sedona Az.
Shooter
Multi Format
Boy Sean, you nailed it on the head where we are right now... thankyou. Were going to just get out and enjoy...
HeHawwww...
 

ic-racer

Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2007
Messages
12,708
Location
USA
Shooter
Multi Format
Fixer stains, dust, wrinkled paper, crooked borders, fogged paper, etc. don’t have any positive contribution to my work, so, no interest in technical imperfections at this time.
 

momus

Subscriber
Joined
Jun 14, 2009
Messages
5,086
Location
Lower Earth
Shooter
Medium Format
Who is to say that the way you originally learned something is the best way? That's a good approach to it.

With our work, the only person we really need to please is ourselves. It's a difficult frame of mind to get into though, much less sustain because it goes against our willingness to listen to others and respect their views. But do it we must, or be constantly distracted and manipulated like a puppet by extraneous crap, for lack of a better word.

All of us have seen pristine photographs in galleries and museums that just didn't resonate. Technical precision can only get you so far, we have to be saying something "beyond" what the eyes see. Learning the technical process is sort of a must do, but who knows? Maybe not. Even if it is, for us, we need to let it go or it will constrain our creativity. A lot of the great art in museums came from people that broke the rules, either by intention or otherwise.
 
Last edited:

greg zinselmeier

Subscriber
Joined
Feb 11, 2016
Messages
430
Location
milwaukee
Shooter
Multi Format
I have a process. I shoot in a studio with strobes. I use the same settings/lighting techniques. I develop film exactly the same way. I use the same paper with the same paper dev. Processing the same way. SO I CAN CONCENTRATE ON CONTENT!!!
 

Helge

Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2018
Messages
3,044
Location
Denmark
Shooter
Medium Format
I have a process. I shoot in a studio with strobes. I use the same settings/lighting techniques. I develop film exactly the same way. I use the same paper with the same paper dev. Processing the same way. SO I CAN CONCENTRATE ON CONTENT!!!
WHAT IS CONTENT?
 

Two23

Member
Joined
Jul 4, 2010
Messages
590
Location
South Dakota
Shooter
8x10 Format
During the 90s I was after as much technical perfection as I could get, but once I began shooting digital I found I could pretty much do what I wanted with software. However, I got bored with that. I returned to shooting some film in 2010 using a Kodak Brownie and began collecting and using old (1920s) cameras. I was shooting 4x5 starting in 1995 and started using dry plates with lenses from ~1900. I liked the look. Three years ago I began shooting wet plate with c.1860s lenses, moving from 4x5 to 5x7 and now 8x10. I really like the look of wet plate. I get more sense of accomplishment from it.


Kent in SD
 

Alex Benjamin

Subscriber
Joined
Aug 8, 2018
Messages
725
Location
Montreal
Shooter
Multi Format
I do strive for perfection. I want the next roll to be better than the last one, I want the next print to be better than the last one. I want to learn from all the mistakes I make. I need to know I can do better. Technically and imaginatively.

Does this take away from the pleasure of going outside and "just shooting"? Of course not. Is it discouraging? Of course not—if you haven't come to terms with the fact that out of the thousands of photos you'll take most will not be worth printing or even showing to someone else, you shouldn't be a photographer. Do I find this healthy? Indeed I do. Striving for perfection makes me pay attention more, to the world around me—nature, people, light, etc.—, to the moment(s) happening around me.

This as long as I do it according to my own standards.

As soon as you start "juggling what others expectations and standards might be", all the benefits are lost.
 

TheFlyingCamera

Membership Council
Council
Joined
May 24, 2005
Messages
11,198
Location
Washington DC
Shooter
Multi Format
I don't think I strive for perfection - but I do have high standards for my work and I generally don't release it/share it until it meets those standards. But I've also found that pushing myself certain ways to free up my photogaphy (Holgas, Lomo LC-A 120 and Lomo Belair cameras, pinhole cameras) have also given me a degree of freedom other more technical, more "perfect" cameras would not, because I already know the cameras have limitations, and I'm using those limitations to free up my creative juices. If I don't have to worry about perfect exposure (because I can't with a Holga or a pinhole) or precision focusing (the Lomos) then I just focus (pun intended) on what I can control, which is composition. I still like the precision of my Rolleiflexes, but having those other cameras also teaches a lesson in serendipity and vision.
 

Helge

Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2018
Messages
3,044
Location
Denmark
Shooter
Medium Format
Well, it's pretty much a truism and a cliche, but it bears repeating.

One of the greatest art critics of all time, John Ruskin said it very eloquently I think:

“. . . no good work whatever can be perfect, and the demand for perfection is always a sign of a misunderstanding of the ends of art. . . . no great man ever stops working till he has reached his point of failure: that is to say, his mind is always far in advance of his powers of execution, and the latter will now and then give way in trying to follow it; besides that he will always give to the inferior portions of his work only such inferior attention as they require; and according to his greatness he becomes so accustomed to the feeling of dissatisfaction with the best he can do, that in moments of lassitude or anger with himself he will not care though the beholder be dissatisfied also. I believe there has only been one man who would not acknowledge this necessity, and strove always to reach perfection, Leonardo; the end of his vain effort being merely that he would take ten years to a picture and leave it unfinished. And therefore, if we are to have great men working at all, or less men doing their best, the work will be imperfect, however beautiful. Of human work none but what is bad can be perfect, in its own bad way.”

And

“…while in all things that we see or do, we are to desire perfection, and strive for it, we are nevertheless not to set the meaner thing, in its narrow accomplishment, above the nobler thing, in its mighty progress; not to esteem smooth minuteness above shattered majesty; not to prefer mean victory to honourable defeat; not to lower the level of our aim, that we may the more surely enjoy the complacency of success.”

Both from Stones of Venice
 
Last edited:

VinceInMT

Subscriber
Joined
Nov 14, 2017
Messages
774
Location
Montana, USA
Shooter
Multi Format
The issue of self-criticism and judgements is found across all artistic endeavors. The goal is to not let them stop the artist from making work. It is in the making that expertise is gained and the output moves closer to the desired goal.

I know that I have a love/hate relationship with all my work be it photography, drawing, or painting.
 

Sirius Glass

Subscriber
Joined
Jan 18, 2007
Messages
42,528
Location
Southern California
Shooter
Multi Format
I strive to do the best I can. I am using darkroom techniques only and usually the best I can is good enough but occasionally I have to up my game and work towards greater perfection to make the print good enough to be successful.
 

Maris

Member
Joined
Jan 17, 2006
Messages
1,383
Location
Noosa, Australia
Shooter
Multi Format
Within the limited genre of gelatin-silver black and white photography I find nine tenths of the photographic challenge is discovering interesting, evocative, expressive subject matter that communicates a theme I have in mind. That done the rest is routine.

Film exposure is easy providing it is about right or maybe a bit extra.
Development is easy provided it is about right or maybe a bit extra.
Decanting the contents of a negative onto modern variable contrast photographic paper using a well adjusted enlarger is an iterative process with essentially instant feedback. Keep at it until it comes out right.

There are two easy fall backs:

In the arts an artist designating a picture as complete cannot, even in principle, be wrong.
Wabi Sabi: nothing is finished, nothing is perfect, nothing lasts forever.
 

BCM

Subscriber
Joined
Dec 1, 2021
Messages
55
Location
San Antonio
Shooter
8x10 Format
I used to obsess about lenses (taking and enlarging) and purchased the very best of everything I could afford. Later, I purchased prints by Weston and Adams and started to realize that the only think that makes a great photograph is the image. You have to know your craft and that takes time but when you really look at The Masters (Weston, Strand, Adams, Sexton, Avedon, etc) original prints, you'll note that many aren't dead-on sharp (I'll admit I've never seen that with Sexton) and that it is the image that is impressed on your mind.
 

Cholentpot

Subscriber
Joined
Oct 26, 2015
Messages
5,327
Shooter
35mm
I don't look for perfection in photos. I do look for technical prowess and understanding that if there's a deficit or error the artists themselves must have seen it and included it because it somehow added to the overall body of work.

I'm one of those that despises perfection in art, music for example. I want to hear the slight flubs, the count in, the slight sharp or flat of the singer, the catch in the voice. Autotune killed quite a bit of music for me. Go on the tube and you can watch performances from the 80's that have been remastered with the vocals cleaned up using autotune. I don't really want to hear The Highwaymen singing through a machine (really, they put their voices through an algorithm) I like my art to have a degree of rawness to it. Not novice raw but a dash of reality.
 
Joined
Aug 29, 2017
Messages
5,221
Location
New Jersey formerly NYC
Shooter
Multi Format
I have been at this for so long, I think I operate on automatic even though I shoot manually.
A while ago, the camera became an extension of my mind, and I find all the technical stuff fun.
The hard part for me is trying to come up with meaningful work, so I am constantly feeding my brain with images, stories and locations.
Commercial work is so much easier than personal work. At least for me it is.
If this was easy, I would not love it as I do.

When I was working before retirement, I also found it easier to do my job than find meaningful personal stuff to do. Work is already directed for you. You know what has to be done and you have to get on with it. And it ends and some point either at 5pm or when the project is complete.

Not so with hobbies. You have to direct yourself, set objectives, and set aside the time to do it. In many ways, it requires more imagination and dedication.
 

snusmumriken

Member
Joined
Jul 22, 2021
Messages
610
Location
Salisbury, UK
Shooter
35mm
WHAT IS CONTENT?
At first I thought this was just a wind-up question. But then I wondered, 'What is it that's missing from all my reject photos?'. In the past I rejected many on grounds of poor technique, but as my technique became more consistent I realised that content is really the decisive factor (I include viewpoint, composition and timing in 'content'). Now I would say that selection of content both pre- and post-exposure is everything. It's what makes each photographer's 'voice'.

I am a fan of Elliott Erwitt. His book 'Unseen' consists of images that failed the first cut. It includes quite a few that were undoubtedly below par technically: out-of-focus or otherwise blurred, drastically under-exposed, or massively grainy. But because the content is striking, a bit of strong printing has played down the imperfections, and the content speaks.
 
Photrio.com contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.
To read our full affiliate disclosure statement please click Here.

PHOTRIO PARTNERS EQUALLY FUNDING OUR COMMUNITY:



Ilford ADOX Freestyle Photographic Stearman Press Weldon Color Lab
Top Bottom