Why are photographers so "fussy"?

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VinceInMT

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Even with analogue photography when it comes to processing there are those who think that unless they use a particular developer/paper/film/lens their efforts will be doomed to failure...

I think this speaks to the heart of the issue. For some, and this could be the photographer or the viewer of the photograph, they might first dissect or evaluate an image purely on its technical merit. They will look at color balance, range of tones, sharpness in the corners, etc. and request data on equipment used and the methods employed. That is who they are. For others, photographers or viewers, they will look at the image and react to the composition and subject matter.

As an analogy, when some people see my motorcycle they ask how fast it will go. Others want to know where I have gone on it. (For those curious about the answers, It’s supposed to go well-over 150mph but I will never experience that myself, and in the past 18 months I’ve ridden coast to coast and racked up 20,000 miles on it.)
 

faberryman

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There was a time, perhaps sometime in the 1970's to 1980's where amateur photographers who were a lot less in number than today. If you were any good in both taking a picture and then processing it you had to have knowledge and the ability to use it. Equipment was a lot more basic then and you had to know what you were doing. This was before the start of the automation we know now - and take for granted. A good move? I think the jury on both sides are still out on that.

There was little angst of how sharp their images were because it was a more level playing field. There wasn't the demand for the next high tech marvel that would eventually remove a lot of the necessary skill and understanding.

There wasn't the mad scramble to buy the latest and 'best' equipment to 'improve' their pictures when they were already in possession of the main tool to do what they think will be achieved with the latest gadget laden 'marvel'. I have a feeling that the only thing that was and still is improved by the constant sale of new and ever increasingly expensive 'toys' will be the bank balances of the manufacturers.
Is this something you actually experienced, something you read about, or something you imagined? Being an amateur photographer during the period you describe, I had a much different experience.
 
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Vaughn

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So it IS about technique after all.

It's about image, technique, equipment, and the artist.

When someone has developed ways of seeing and ways of representing that seeing over a few decades, one's equipment, film, exposure, development, et al, can become very important. To produce a consistent tight body of work (if that is one's desire) requires control and that they perhaps "use a particular developer/paper/film/lens" combination for success.
 

koraks

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It's about image, technique, equipment, and the artist.

I agree, Vaughn. I should have elaborated a bit. The point I made was that even if you think you're primarily concerned with the artistic side of the matter, or the conceptual underpinnings, or the personal perspective, etc., technique still plays a role. We all differ in where we place the emphasis.
 

Vaughn

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And sometimes the technique used is no technique...rarely works, but at the university it was always fun to watch the train wreaks.

It's about image, technique, equipment, and the artist -- and the light, of course -- and the viewer, too, I suppose. Often I have to approach those one at a time or in groups, but am always thinking of them in totality.
 

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Vince - Specific tools VERSUS impact of of the intended visul object???? Absurd. Did Michelangelo sculpt the marble Pieta using a paintbrush, or conversely, illustrate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with a chisel? Specific tools and methods count. The constant drumbeat on this forum that, "I just care for the image" is basically "malarkey". Process and end result are inseparable. Even if someones is being sloppy and doesn't really care, that is what shows. Even remembering to remove the lens cap is part of valid technique.
 

Sirius Glass

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Vince - Specific tools VERSUS impact of of the intended visul object???? Absurd. Did Michelangelo sculpt the marble Pieta using a paintbrush, or conversely, illustrate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with a chisel? Specific tools and methods count. The constant drumbeat on this forum that, "I just care for the image" is basically "malarkey". Process and end result are inseparable. Even if someones is being sloppy and doesn't really care, that is what shows. Even remembering to remove the lens cap is part of valid technique.

All my photographs with the lens cap have always been perfect. The problem then is making the print [or slide].
 

MattKing

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In the 1970s and 1980s, there were:
1) really large numbers of photographers who depended entirely upon labs - particularly slide film labs - and were enjoying an explosion of availability of 35mm SLR equipment - the Canon AE-1 being a particular engine for that explosion; and
2) fairly large numbers of photographers who were enjoying the wide variety and availability of high quality darkroom equipment during that time.
There was certainly some photographers who did both.
But a lot of people specialized in the form of "fussyness" that they employed.
Of course, there were also those who shot movies ...
 

eli griggs

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I think this speaks to the heart of the issue. For some, and this could be the photographer or the viewer of the photograph, they might first dissect or evaluate an image purely on its technical merit. They will look at color balance, range of tones, sharpness in the corners, etc. and request data on equipment used and the methods employed. That is who they are. For others, photographers or viewers, they will look at the image and react to the composition and subject matter.

As an analogy, when some people see my motorcycle they ask how fast it will go. Others want to know where I have gone on it. (For those curious about the answers, It’s supposed to go well-over 150mph but I will never experience that myself, and in the past 18 months I’ve ridden coast to coast and racked up 20,000 miles on it.)

"Failure" only exist between the photographer's ears and their own soul, all other considerations are second or thirded rated criticisms that, while they may lead to an advancement of the quality, marketing or movement of his/her photographs, is secondary.

Do no believe this is true, take a look at a true, pure photographer's work, Vivian Maeir, who's high quality work filled storage units, but apparently we're no displayed in any public forum (that I know of).

We do no know if she thought her works were good or 'bad' but even today, that additude of frankness of her observations and photography that runs through each and every one of her frames still make a paramount statement, that she did no bend or compromise her vision to the will of a critic, only doing as she pleased.

IMO
 

BMbikerider

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Is this something you actually experienced, something you read about, or something you imagined? Being an amateur photographer during the period you describe, I had a much different experience.

Yes this was my experience without a doubt. In the early 60's when I started out there was not the plethora of new equipment that appears on the market month by month. My 1st decent camera was bought after a lot of saving up A Pentax SV and I used it for man many years and didn't need anything else. I knew of people who were using Rollieflexes and that was all they used for many, many years. I will wager their work was for better thought out before the shutter was fired. They didn't all change them over as soon as a new model appeared.

I bought extra lenses all for cash never on credit, a 2nd hand enlarger and lens. Yes of course over the years I bought more and more items. I still have the pentax, sadly the shutter and wind on failed which is when I changed over to Minolta and eventually to Nikon. But all these changes were not done at a whim of 'I must get this or that or the other because it will make me a better photographer' They were bought because I could see the real advantage in what they could provide.

The sales pitch presented by todays electronics used in a camera are so complicated that to be honest I could probably do without 75% of what they offer, that still would not affect my style of working. When I see adverts where they sensor offers so many millions of pixels more than the previous model perhaps introduced less than a year before, I think to myself 'here we go again'!

With film that has improved without a doubt and will continue to improve - but slowly. You learn to adapt to what it can and cannot do and if it cannot do what you want there are other options, The end of the line is the manufactures will have spent millions of £'s or $ 's developing there product and I am happy to use what they manufacture. Trying different developers will have been done by the likes of Ilford and Kodak and Foma, so in real terms there is little to be gained by trying them yourself.
 
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BMbikerider

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Yes MY technique which I learned by my mistakes (and I made a few) when I used it, not some algorithm devised by a search and development team to take away the fun by doing things for you.
Much the same as my car has a manual gear shift, I will never own an automatic car. (and don't mention electric ones!)
 

koraks

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Indeed, @BMbikerider - and this is not to be argumentative or anything: I just think your post illustrates very well that technique matters, we all 'fuss' about it to some extent and in different ways and all that is perfectly fine. As @Vaughn and others argued, it's inseparable from the act of photography.
Had technique not mattered much, or at all, your earlier post would have read something like "I don't care one bit how the image materialized as long as it's what I wanted to create". In your case, you have a preference for less automation, so you 'fuss' about technique as part of your photographic work. By the way, less automation of course is also a relative thing. You still rely on mechanisms that accurately time exposures etc. for you. There's no escape from it, and again, that's not problematic. It's just an inherent part of the art and/or craft (choose your pick!)
 

BMbikerider

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Indeed, @BMbikerider - and this is not to be argumentative or anything: I just think your post illustrates very well that technique matters, we all 'fuss' about it to some extent and in different ways and all that is perfectly fine. As @Vaughn and others argued, it's inseparable from the act of photography.
Had technique not mattered much, or at all, your earlier post would have read something like "I don't care one bit how the image materialized as long as it's what I wanted to create". In your case, you have a preference for less automation, so you 'fuss' about technique as part of your photographic work. By the way, less automation of course is also a relative thing. You still rely on mechanisms that accurately time exposures etc. for you. There's no escape from it, and again, that's You still rely on mechanisms that accurately time exposures etc. for you. There's no escape from it, and again not problematic. It's just an inherent part of the art and/or craft (choose your pick!)

Yes we do, but it ends there, a mechanical or electronic shutter is only a tool, it is how we interpret the scene matters the most . Full automation tends, so I believe make people lazy and less likely to 'do their own thing' relying upon the automation to get things right every time - which it doesn't.

By experience gained over half a century (since 1963) I can tell that if the metering suggests 1/60th at F11 for the affect I am after, I will know that 1/30th at F11 or 1/60th/at F8 will retain more shadow detail than where the meter suggested, possibly resulting in under exposed shadows. When I worked as a Scenes of Crime Photographer. if in doubt, I always metered off a grey card. (Actually it was the inside of a cornflake packet which gave more or less the same reading}.

There is an old adage used from well before I took up holding a camera, which still has to be proved wrong in negative exposure:- "Expose for the shadows and let the highlights take care of them selves! That has always stood me in good stead. The reasoning being if there is no detail (or in digital parlance 'information') in the shadows there is no way you can bring it back, but you can always with care, burn in over exposed highlights at the printing stage.

Of course for slide and digital exposure the reverse is the way to go.
 

koraks

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Full automation tends, so I believe make people lazy and less likely to 'do their own thing' relying upon the automation to get things right every time - which it doesn't.

Well, I see what you mean, but I do think it depends what kind of people we're talking about. If I think about the typical consumer wanting to make a pretty family snapshot, then yes, I agree - and I also don't see a problem there. Automation was made for that (large) audience and they're probably served well by it. At the other end of the spectrum I'd see the artist who happens to use photography as a medium. If they produce what they're after with or without a hefty dose of automation embedded in the process, it's still fine regardless where they choose to be at either end of the automation spectrum. They might either opt for full control, much like you do, or they will choose a hands-off approach that costs them as little time as possible on the technicalities of the process while focusing on the actual artwork created. There are quite a few artists who use several media, sometimes mixed, with photography being one of them. I often see them produce in a work that a 'true photographer' would probably balk at because it betrays little interest or aptitude at the technicalities of photography. I believe that if these artists would focus more on that side, their actual art would probably end up being less relevant, interesting or even non-existing because they wouldn't get to the point of making it.

In writing this I also realize the obvious issue that we're talking about different and distinct types of photography. For instance, the crime scene photography you mentioned is a typical documentary type that has as its purpose to portray as realistically and accurately as possible an actual scene. The requirements of such are different from creating socially engaged art, which again is different from snapshots for the family album etc.
 

Don Heisz

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f I think about the typical consumer wanting to make a pretty family snapshot, then yes, I agree - and I also don't see a problem there. Automation was made for that (large) audience and they're probably served well by it.

Most of the automation built into cameras was fed to professionals and embraced by them long before family-snapshooting-amateurs (who were fine with fixed-focus cameras with flashcubes for decades).

Autoexposure and autofocus and focus tracking are essential to pros with long lenses at the sports field.
 

Ian Grant

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So it IS about technique after all.

Technique is only half the equation, but it is the background to sound craft, there is also vision.

There is an old adage used from well before I took up holding a camera, which still has to be proved wrong in negative exposure:- "Expose for the shadows and let the highlights take care of them selves! That has always stood me in good stead. The reasoning being if there is no detail (or in digital parlance 'information') in the shadows there is no way you can bring it back, but you can always with care, burn in over exposed highlights at the printing stage.

Of course for slide and digital exposure the reverse is the way to go.

The old adage was always "Expose for the Shadows and Develop for the Highlights".

Ian
 

VinceInMT

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At the other end of the spectrum I'd see the artist who happens to use photography as a medium.
Thank you for that.

There are quite a few artists who use several media, sometimes mixed, with photography being one of them. I often see them produce in a work that a 'true photographer' would probably balk at because it betrays little interest or aptitude at the technicalities of photography. I believe that if these artists would focus more on that side, their actual art would probably end up being less relevant, interesting or even non-existing because they wouldn't get to the point of making it.

And thank you for that too.

I became passionate about photography in the very early-1970s, first attracted by the technical side and the range of processes. After a stint in the military I took a job in a medium sized-photofinishing lab, starting at the bottom and then climbing through all the positions before taking over as head of quality control. Paralleling that, I had my own darkroom and pursued processes while learning something about the compositional side of image-making.

Move ahead 40 years and my passion had gone into decline and my work was best described as “moribund.” I was dissatisfied with what I created and felt I was in a massive rut. Still feeling a need to create, I’d taken up drawing, something I’d always done as a minor pursuit and this led me to wanting to learn more, through serious study, about the world or art. I enrolled at the university and attained a BFA last May.

This is where your statement “…who use several media, sometimes mixed, with photography one of the…” resonated with me. Nearing the end of my formal studies, I decided to bring drawing and photography together in a series of works that relied heavily on the technical side of the former. For some of it I shot traditional 35mm, using architectural subjects, enlarged onto sheet film, contact printed onto other sheet film providing negatives and positives, and then cut these films up in pieces that I reassembled in what best might me described as a collage. After a fair amount of experimenting, I printed these assemblages onto a portion of a sheet of drawing paper (I like Stonhenge) using the cyanotype process. After processing (and the challenge of getting the paper to dry flat) I completed the rest of the image using graphite, charcoal, and/or pastels. This was some of the most satisfying work I’d produced in a long time and brought all the “fuzziness” of photography together with the freedom that drawing provides me.
 

BMbikerider

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Technique is only half the equation, but it is the background to sound craft, there is also vision.



The old adage was always "Expose for the Shadows and Develop for the Highlights".

Ian

Not the version I was brought up with. As I said it has always stood me in good stead. This was passed onto me by the late Ron Spillman, many, many many years ago. It would be difficult to do as you suggest with colour materials especially ones pre C41 because of the risk of crossed curves with the three different layers
 

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To be overly concerned about being fussy is being fussy.
 

koraks

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@VinceInMT I've seen some of your images I think; you posted one or two not too long ago, didn't you? Very interesting work indeed. I quite liked them, in particular because it added very explicitly to the immediately visible reality as captured by photography. Don't get me wrong; I think photography can and often does succeed in creating new worlds (at least visually) all by itself, but your mixed media approach is indeed a very good illustration of what I was referring to.
 

Ian Grant

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Not the version I was brought up with. As I said it has always stood me in good stead. This was passed onto me by the late Ron Spillman, many, many many years ago. It would be difficult to do as you suggest with colour materials especially ones pre C41 because of the risk of crossed curves with the three different layers

C41 has a much longer flatter curve than B&W films, so you don't have the same issues, it's also why XP1 & 2 have such mazing latitude.

Of all those old AP writers I guess from my POV Ron Spillman was perhaps the most populist but George Wakefield was the most authoritative, followed by Nevill Maude.

I would agree though that most of the time with our British weather your version works, the Zone System is essentially Expose for the Shadows and Develop for the Highlights, and a simple method of measuring when changes are needed. In reality that's not very often, in my experience.

Ian
 

Don Heisz

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the Zone System is essentially Expose for the Shadows and Develop for the Highlights

That's true for the zone system, but a more practical way to expose frames on a roll of film is aim for the shadow detail you want and not worry about highlights, since you are going to need to take an averaging approach to development, anyway.
 

Sirius Glass

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Most photographers that I personally know, understand the technical aspects and mostly concentrated on the composition. I hardly call that fussy.
 

faberryman

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I think this speaks to the heart of the issue. For some, and this could be the photographer or the viewer of the photograph, they might first dissect or evaluate an image purely on its technical merit. They will look at color balance, range of tones, sharpness in the corners, etc. and request data on equipment used and the methods employed. That is who they are. For others, photographers or viewers, they will look at the image and react to the composition and subject matter.
I think that accurately describes the extremes of the continuum, but the majority lie somewhere in between. I evaluate both. Don't you? Do you know any photographer who doesn't?
 
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