Creativity vs techicality; M vs P ... and film

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by jernejk, Aug 22, 2010.

  1. jernejk

    jernejk Member

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    I seem to have fallen into the trap of becoming obsessed too much with the technical part of photography (the right exposure etc.), neglecting the creativity and the artistic part of photography.

    I'm not too surprised by that since I'm a bit introvert software developer and I enjoy understanding (and controlling) machinery.

    So, for the last couple of years I've been mostly shooting on full manual with partial metering (mostly on digital, as I rediscovered film only recently), thinking it was very important (and it is to some extent, as digital is easily blown out).

    But then I found this book: "Photography - the art of composition" by Bert Krages. I quite like it, because it covers my weaker photography skills: visual skills, composition, creativity.

    So I've been doing the exercises from the book with BW film, at first my usual, full manual metering. But then I found out about the latitude of film compared to digital and I decided to try doing the exercises on full auto: P and A mode with average metering, no correction, just taking care that aperture / shutter suites my needs.

    Oh boy. I must say, it felt great. I was just letting my creative process take its way, photographing what I found interesting or waiting for the right moment. The latter is quite important, as I take a lot of photos of my little baby girl.

    So here's my problem :tongue:. Today I was shooting slides (my wife would kill me if I didn't take any color photos). It was frustrating. The clouds kept covering the sun, so I had to adjust exposure constantly; the child kept moving from sun to the shadow and back - so again, checking exposure, worrying about color temperature etc. - and missing the moment :confused: - which IMO is the most important thing in this kind of photos.

    I must say digital is much simpler for this - just keep your finger on the trigger and then pick the good shots, then color correct them.

    Well, I'm not going to do this (anymore). So what can I do to avoid this kind of problems? I could shoot color negatives (but I really like slides). I could also just switch to P and see how that goes (I don't really trust auto metering for slides). Any other tips and ideas?
     
  2. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    I think you should just shoot a roll of slide film on your program setting and I think you'll be surprised how well your camera meters. I sometimes think there's a bit of a bit of an aura around slide film and people can approach it with too much care and then miss the moment. No doubt this is a consequence of hundreds of internet discussions talking about how difficult slides are to shoot. Interestingly, back in the '50s most people shot slides on extremely basic cameras with no meters and maybe just a lever to move between 'sun' and 'cloud'. I'm sure they still got some great photos and I'm sure you will too.
     
  3. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Ah.... a fellow software engineer on APUG land! I, too, am a software engineer at a large database company. I also have the same tendency to get bogged down on technical side of photography and forget the fact that it is art I'm *trying to* create.

    To me, this is not one or the other proposition. It's mixture of both. One can not exist without the other. My current goal is to shoot for art with technical understanding and skills to make my art happen - not the other way around. It's not 50/50 yet but the ratio is slowly changing.

    I hate program mode... It take control away from me. I use aperture priority most of the time.

    Program mode is nothing more than combination of aperture and shutter priority - except it does both at the same time. If you don't trust priority mode, then P will be just the same - plus it will take both control away from you. I don't think your technical side will allow you to do that. :whistling::whistling::whistling::blink:
     
  4. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    yup !
     
  5. mike c

    mike c Subscriber

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    Take as many pic's as you can,its worth the extra effort.Kids grow up soooo fast.
     
  6. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I get too wrapped up in technical minutia too at times. My best shooting happens when I'm in the "zone" where the technical aspects of shooting is second nature like breathing. The creative part magically comes to me. When I'm not in that zone, I struggle with he shoot and I end up with work that is dry and technically well executed which is not satisfying. It's like playing notes and not making music.
     
  7. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I've also had rather good luck trusting autoexposure systems with slide film, as long as I keep my brain engaged enough to notice situations like backlighting that will throw off the meter. As tkamiya mentioned, though, I think shutter or aperture priority is to be preferred to a full-auto mode in which you really don't know what you'll get. You don't mention what camera you're using, but I think anything modern enough to have a "P" mode is likely to do OK. (Heck, I routinely get good slides out of an old Contax IIIa with a selenium meter!)

    Also, I think the people who insist that you MUST nail the exposure within 0.000142857 of a stop or the slide will be ABSOLUTELY WORTHLESS need to relax a little. Slides aren't *that* unforgiving...especially if your point is to capture the moment rather than to be able to say "Look at all the shadow detail I got, am I awesome or what?"

    -NT
     
  8. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    True.
    What I've done when shooting slides in interesting lighting is meter for the two extremes and get my general exposure for sunny and for cloudy and just switch between the two when necessary. Sometimes I've messed up and not switched, but I remember most of the time. Also, will your camera let you override the iso setting? You can use that to force it to underexpose by a little (which I've found to work well with slides).
     
  9. dehk

    dehk Member

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    If you decided to go fully manual. Meter your subject from sun to the shadow and back. And remember the corresponding f stop. Just remember how many clicks to all the conditions. Hope this helps.
     
  10. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    As for me, I tend to shoot too much out of insecurity. Shooting a lot "covers all the bases". I think I shoot less when I have more confidence. One exercise you can try is to shoot a 12 exposure roll in day trip. I think with limited exposures, you're slowed down and forced to see a lot more while help to cure the itchy trigger finger. Listen to the internal dialog with yourself to know your creative process. Seeing is 99% of getting a good image. Good luck!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 22, 2010
  11. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    When taking photographs of your young children, use the P mode and leave the M mode for other subjects. I highly recommend that you keep the camera set up indoors with an automatic strobe so that the camera can be picked up, turned on, strobe turned on, focus and shoot. You will get the best photographs of them that way.

    Steve
     
  12. hvandam2

    hvandam2 Member

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    Fellow software engineer: I run into the same thing; I need more compiler switches on my camera :laugh:, I've done several things to combat this illness, a few have already been posted:

    1) I bought one of those "toy" camera's, a Diana (don't shoot me people :smile:). It actually has been really valuable because you can't fuss with it too much. There is NO METERING!!!!I can spend more time looking at the composition, getting more "candid" photos, etc.
    Also, I've shot slide film in it, and I was amazed at how good it came out. Perhaps slide films are not that cranky after all.
    2) Pick up an interesting read "The Tao of photography" http://www.amazon.com/Tao-Photography-Seeing-Beyond/dp/1580081940 The authors have some interesting ideas and solutions to this problem being creative.
    3) Don't worry about the quality of each shot, like the shadow detail (as mentioned above) or anything else. I've got two grown sons and the last thing I think about when I look at old photos of them as children is the technical aspects of the picture; it really is not important 20 years down the road.
    4) Pick a subject and shoot a roll. I like to photograph old barns in my area; they are disappearing at an alarming rate. I'll grab a new roll, and burn it in a few hours and just see what comes out. I don't allow myself much time, see the picture, take it and move on.
     
  13. Maris

    Maris Member

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    Excuse this philosophical musing. It comes from a dinosaur that hatched in a world where cameras did not have meters.

    Eventually the technical side becomes part of you and takes care of itself. In particular your exposure decisions become instinctive and amazingly accurate.

    Ironically this blessed state comes more quickly when you stop the camera metering every shot and instead set the camera (focus, aperture, shutter speed) manually. This way a chain of causality builds up; what you see determines what you do determines what you get. After a few dozen, hundred, or thousand iterations of this sequence your judgement becomes seriously reliable.

    The worst obstacle to exposure assurance is a camera with exposure automation whether aperture priority, shutter priority, or programme. The causal chain fails. You know what you saw and what you got but at the moment of exposure the camera cuts you out of the process. There is little to learn that will help you with your next shot or your next hundred.

    Admittedly the best metering systems are programmed to reward hope and do so well enough to keep camera sales moving. But when I really want the shot and I won't get a second chance and I want to avoid the anxiety of "did I get it or did I miss" then I will use the manual settings that worked every time before.
     
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  15. Valerie

    Valerie Subscriber

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    Many of us have taken a ride on that Creative/Technical rollercoaster. Eventually you come to a place where the ride smooths out and each side does its part well. But the ups and downs are simply part of the journey.

    I second the use of a toy camera (or 3)... Holgas and Brownies are my instruments of choice. Loads of fun (if its not fun, why do it??)!
     
  16. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Sounds like digital on P mode works for what you shoot and what you want. I say have at it. Just realize that everything has its good and its bad. Very rarely will you get a technically ideal shot this way. On the other hand, the only thing you think about this way is composition, which is the most important and unique part of any photo, IMO.

    Personally, I tend to be disappointed by photos in which the composition is good, but the technical aspects are different than I would like, however. For instance, too much or too little depth of field, not quite the exposure that my manual mind would have chosen, too much or too little motion blur, etc. That is what you get on P mode. On the other hand, many technical flaws are easily excused if you have timed the shot just right, but would not have done so if you had taken the time to manually adjust everything.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 22, 2010
  17. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    the problem with today is that cameras offer too much control.
    get a box camera and just have fun. that is what they did for 100 years before now why not repeat history.
    who cares if the slides aren't perfect, things that are NOT perfect tend to be more interesting.
     
  18. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I did not say abandon operating in the manual mode. When you need to get that "Kodak moment" use P if that will capture it. When you are not under any constraints use the meter and the manual mode. Eventually you will incorporate getting the technical elements so ingrained that you will "automatically" shoot manually and get the photograph. We were all there at some point. No one is born as a photographer.

    Steve
     
  19. Donmck

    Donmck Member

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  20. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    Once you have figured out manual mode, that's great. Now you don't NEED to use it. Some film camera do a fabulous job automatic metering for slides. My Nikon f4s was one such. Other cameras with simpler center weighted metering can also do a great job as long as you are aware of what messes them up, like backlighting, etc.. I usually shoot aperture priority myself, using manual when I sometimes need to such as for flash. My first camera was an aperture priority only olympus SLR, so I learned to work smoothly with that. My wifes DSLR, I just leave it on P and it's good.

    Certain automatic features are great for the kodak moments. I like autoexposure AND autofocus for photographing kids activities. I don't depend on these things because other times I'm using 100% manual TLRs and LF gear. But I do like AE and AF for 35mm for times when I am not given extra moments to prepare for a photo.
     
  21. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Auto-exposure plus exposure over-ride works well for me.

    In most cases, I let the meter do its work. Sometimes though, it's obvious that I would want the result a bit lighter or a bit darker than "average", so I use the over-ride.

    It is quick and a bit more precise, without overdoing it.
     
  22. anon12345

    anon12345 Member

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    Some thirty years ago when using just Kodachrome/Ektachrome, I don't recall any bad slides. (Of course I may have tossed them and can't remember). My camera at that time only allowed for Aperture Priority. I still prefer that mode over all others. For me that's the creative mode on a camera. If the camera is selecting the correct exposure, all I really want to control is the point of focus, the depth of focus, and the composition.
     
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  23. Paul Jenkin

    Paul Jenkin Member

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    The great dilemma......technically perfect or flawed and interesting?

    It's nice if you can achieve both positive outcomes but I tend to find if I try too hard on the technical side I miss the light or scene I want to capture. I suppose this is the convergence of photography as a craft and photography as an art form.

    My objective (one I will probably never achieve) is to be so utterly confident with the gear I have that I can rely on my sub-conscious for the mechanics and concentrate almost 100% on getting the shot "right" in the frame...
     
  24. jernejk

    jernejk Member

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    Wow, thanks everyone, you got some very good points.

    To wrap it up:

    Just try and use camera on one of the auto modes but keep your brain active
    For kids, its all about the moment
    Use toy cameras (but I'm not really sure I'd do it with slides)
    Other
    I will try all of the above! Thanks!
     
  25. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I agree completely...except when I don't. I've got pictures of my son that work *because* the technical aspects fell into line: the light looks natural, the colour balance came out right, the depth of field is shallow enough to make the subject "pop" but not so shallow that parts of him are distractingly out of focus, all that stuff. The technical successes are there, but what they do in the image is get out of the way and let the image be about the subject.

    And on the other hand, I've got pictures of the same kid that work in spite of being technically awful if you stop to examine them. A few are serendipitous mistakes, but on the whole, I think 99+% of the photos I've taken would be more rewarding to look at if they were technically better. That doesn't mean that they aren't rewarding as they are, of course, but they'd benefit if I'd judged the exposure that little bit better or focussed more accurately or whatever.

    So even for this sort of "Kodak moment" photography, I think it's important to keep chasing technical successes, not as an exercise in showing off your skill, not to the exclusion of all else, but as a means of having the captured moment look like you meant it to.

    -NT
     
  26. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I'm one of those dinasaurs that grew up with cameras sans light meter. I fell into the trap of auto-do-it-all cameras years ago, and had thousands of average looking-once-in-a-while dynamic shots to show for that phase of my life. I have returned to fully manual bliss. I tend to keep track of the light as I wander through life, and can get the shot with less fuss by relying on my instincts.