pleasing photographers, or pleasing the general public (viewers)

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by rjas, Dec 11, 2006.

  1. rjas

    rjas Member

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    [​IMG]

    I had spent a considerable amount of time working on the print second from the top left (picture of the guy in the boat with the black dog in front, dont have a full scan), and when the guy in the boat saw the print washing in the water, he said it was a really good photograph, which meant alot to me, becuase he usually doesn't say much if anything about my work. A family member saw the print and mentioned that they liked the "light coming off of him", which was my unperfect burning.

    I showed that shot to a photographer and he said that the burning and dodging is so obvious that he'd be embarressed to show that photo to a client. I know thats really easy to say in this era of Photoshop HDR and burning and dodging tools at a mouse click, but it still hit a chord with me. I know the burning is noticeable, but after a certain point I accepted that I wasn't going to use up another package of paper just to try and make the burning less obvious because i didn't think it detracted from the overall image, i accepted that its just an inherent part of an analog print that its tough to burn and make it seem like you didn't.

    i was really happy with the owner being happy with the photo, but since the other photographer made that comment, im wondering wether i should be fine tuning everything so that people that are experienced in photography and printmaking can't find faults with anything. i know theres always room for improvement but i think im taking the side of making my photos / prints for the general public (regular viewers and people that buy books or prints for example) rather than other photographers. what do you say?
     
  2. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    Myself personally feel you have to be happy with it first, second would be the client, I don't normally pay to much heed to what another photographer says about my work, we are all at different levels and have a multitude of opinions about our craft. I can tell you this, I don't shoot to make other photographers happy..I shoot to make my client and myself happy.

    Dave
     
  3. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    You are the one who was at the scene besides the person in the photograph and most importantly took the shot! I think what you should do is to try to convince yourself first: If you think if you're done with the picture, you're done with the picture, period.

    I often dislike overly dramatized photos by some photojournalists that have so much burining-in on their skys and they are dark as sh-t, but if they did the whole process from the shooting to the printing, and those photos are truly their visions, I have no problem.
     
  4. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    I mean, your prints in the photo above look very nice. So, don't worry.
     
  5. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    Impressing someone is only important if you think it's important.

    What's the old line? No one can take away your self-respect without your permission?

    Most of the pictures I take, I take because I want that picture. Or I want to find out what that picture would be (a rephrasing, I think, of GW's "to see how a thing looks when photographed"). When you make a picture in that way, you give yourself permission to be the arbiter of its qualities.

    If you make a picture FOR someone (even for an unnamed future "the viewer"), well, be careful what you wish for. You've given up that much more control.
     
  6. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Perhaps you should use this as a moment to push yourself forward technically. There are other tools you can use to solve this problem, aside from the usual burning/dodging with a piece of cardboard. Though not easy to execute, unsharp masking will solve this problem for you in a straightforward fashion. Investigate this option if the burn/dodge issue is sufficiently bothersome that you want to make a "better" print of it.
     
  7. don sigl

    don sigl Member

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    You need to satisfy yourself if you're working at creating Art. I find that usually satisfying the general public is creating to the lowest common denominator. That is not meant to be a jab at the public, its just an observation that the public is not as knowledgeable, or at least is not aware or discerning of finer work - technically or aesthetically.
    I have spent many years in the professional field, working as a photographer, producer, and designer. I once worked on a job for a multi media presentation, where all the text slides had defaulted to a Courier face. For anyone that doesn't know, this is the face that many systems will print if the actual fonts are not loaded. The actual face was supposed to be Copperplate. There is a HUGE difference in these two faces. When the Account Manager saw the slides, he didn't even notice. When I pointed it out to him, and explained that the job would have to be rerun, he said, "Why, the text is fine, I can read it." Swear to God.
    The point is that the creation and execution of your work should be more than Customer Service. Whether other people recognize the difference in a finer quality piece is not half as important as your recognition of the difference.
     
  8. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    The client comes first. My client is almost always me. When it's not, I do not come first.
     
  9. don sigl

    don sigl Member

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    If the client wants me to make Sh$%%$t. I'll ask him to find another photographer. Generally, you can still satisfy the customer without compromising the quality of the work. Educating him in the process is not such a bad idea either. In the end, people get what they pay for. And I am not cheap.
     
  10. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    I agree with you completely.

    The client still comes first. Sometimes adjusting expectations is hard. Sometimes educating a client is hard. Sometimes turning down a client is hard. But once someone is a client...once you accept the job, the client comes first. That doesn't make the client god. It just means that satisfying my ego or winning a power struggle is secondary to meeting a customer's needs. If I can't, I've failed. I may have simply failed to turn down a job I shouldn't have accepted but I've failed, none the less.

    I don't confuse gallery owners, print buyers, teachers, critics, reception attendees or subjects...with clients, unless they *are* clients. I *always* come ahead of all those people.
     
  11. Stew Squires

    Stew Squires Member

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    Not being a 'professional' I couldn't agree more. I pretty much shoot for myself. If someone else doesn't like it, fine. Still, if the other photographer's comment was constructive, I think you should consider whether an improvement in some aspect of the developing is warranted and you can improve your technique. Telling someone he would be embarrassed to show your picture if it was his doesn't sound all that constructive to me. Still, there might be something positive to learn here.

    Stew
     
  12. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    The dodging halo is something that's pretty commonplace but that doesn't mean it's always a sign of bad photography if it's there for a purpose. I won't rehash the whole snapshot-aesthetics thing, but as a FlyingCamera said, now might be a good time to step back and think about what you do.

    If the halo is an annoyance and does not contribute to what you want to express by the print, then by all means try more advanced burning techniques, that's what they're for. But if you find that the halo can carry more than the derogative meaning of poor craftmanship, then explore it. The meaning of a photo (or any other work) is not something easy to pinpoint because it functions differently across audiences.

    Of course you should avoid doing like the hacks adding cheap effects in their portraiture so that the portrait looks more "artistic" (star-shaped dodging would be one!). But to go back to the snapshot-aesthetics thing, the difference between the Polaroids of Walker Evans, the drugstore prints of Stephen Shore, and the pictures everyone else is taking on their vacations, is the awareness with which the technical defects are exploited and loaded with signification.
     
  13. BWKate

    BWKate Member

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    Well said Michel!

    rsj: Your photos are great and you are so close to getting what you want from what you said. There are some people on apug that are really experienced printers, too many to mention all. I've already learned lots from Les McLean and his printing blog and also Roger Hicks and his web site lessons. Look them up.
    The fact that the subject really likes the photo of himself would please me more than another photographer's opinion.
     
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  15. Christopher Colley

    Christopher Colley Member

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    The halo in that print is not acceptable.

    Whether the artist/photographer likes it or not seems unimportant at times. In the end not many people make photographs or any image for NOBODY to see.. ( you showed us these images above, you might have been able to create this thread without them. ) So in that respect I think we should all strive to do our best work possible, as in the end we are making our photos for someone to see.. no matter how hard why might try to argue we arent making them for others..

    Here, I think you are rationalizing and giving yourself a reason to keep an obvious error:

    "I know the burning is noticeable, but after a certain point I accepted that I wasn't going to use up another package of paper just to try and make the burning less obvious because i didn't think it detracted from the overall image, i accepted that its just an inherent part of an analog print that its tough to burn and make it seem like you didn't."

    You know the burning is noticable and you know it can be fixed but you didnt want to fix it. You end up implying that a burn like this isnt possible.. It is! and without being noticed..

    I think a situation like this is not suitable for the "but I like it so it doesnt matter if you dont" argument.. You seem to imply that you know it can be made better (just gotta get out that new pack of paper) but resigned yourself to accepting the work in its current state, even when you know it is obvious and someone told you it is a glaring error.

    In this situation, if you showed me this print (you did, but online) in real life I would say the same thing as the photographer you talked to, I would be embarrassed to show this print and it is not as good as you can do..

    I think you can make a better print.

    As long as you can seriously make a better print (whether you can afford to or not) you should do it. Until that point you are cheating yourself and the general public.

    When you accept a print that could have been made better as a 'good print' merely because you feel artistic license to it and can declare it done at any stage whether 'good' or not (to a knowing photographer) you end up only pleasing your sense of being lazy or some sense of 'anything I do pleases me' which I do not think is good..



    I please myself first. And much of the time I am more difficult to please than anyone I show my work to.. I would rather not show a print at all if I know I could have done better had I just got out that one more pack of paper.

    Please yourself first but show how much respect you have for yourself and your work by never resigning yourself to believing anything you do is OK or good merely because you are pleased by it.... ( if that makes any sense)
     
  16. rjas

    rjas Member

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    Ok, so I've got a range of opinions.

    How can I do a better burn job? I don't have access to unsharp masking tools, and I found it incredibly hard to get an even burn without darkening the subjects head as much. Can anyone point me in the direction of a good read for effective burning and dodging? I usually just cutout the test print and use that as a mask, but obviously that is not working as well as I'd planned.
     
  17. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    Take a print of exactly the same size, and trim along the sky line. Then lay the “mask” over the printing paper as a dodge mask. Just like the “Stonehenge” print on pg. 223 of “Way Beyond Monochrome” by Lambrecht and Woodhouse
     
  18. DKT

    DKT Member

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    if you just want to add some tone to the sky--try printing a little bit harder (higher contrast) and then flash the paper just a teeny bit. it won't take much exposure to add some tone to the sky, enough to knock it down to just under the paper base white.
     
  19. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    In my opinion, gained from having been in photography for a few years. listning to comments like that and taking them to heart too intensely will dirve you, or anyone else, crazy.

    Your BEST work will be the work YOU "see" as the 'best'... and the key word here is YOU.

    You liked the photgraph. Your subject liked the photograph. That is ALL you need for it to be a "success".

    In Commercial work, the field is different. Here the client, or those hired as extensions of the client, dictate the end result, and emotional self-satisfaction (and "art") is NOT the goal - the work exists for one purpose - to SELL the product.

    Believe in yourself - and all else will follow. It WILL.

    I wonder - I think that as people become more experienced in photography and printmaking, they become much more tolerant of the individual characteristics of finished prints.
    After the last Juried Show I entered, the comment was made that it was the most difficult body of work that the Judge ever had to consider - ALL of it was so damned *GOOD*! - and that he commented that, at the end, he was reduced to searching for minor flaws in printmaking - something he DID NOT want to do.
     
  20. Early Riser

    Early Riser Subscriber

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    Personally I shoot to please myself and I find that I am far more critical than any client, collector or photographer that I know. With that said, If you see an obvious defect in your print that is repairable on your part, such as bad dodging or burning, it is a matter of how much pride you take in your work when it comes to making each print the best you can.

    While many non photographers will not notice print defects, you'd be surprised at how many do. They may lack the vocabulary to express what they see wrong, but they may not like your print because of the defects.

    Even among photographers there is a wide range of what defects or other print problems are acceptable. On the extremes there are photographers who do sloppy work and are not bothered by the sloppy work of others, and there are photographers who expect themselves and other photographers to come as close to perfection as humanly possible.
     
  21. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    You can mke that statement from viewing the image shown? I wonder what it might look like from a "flat - unscanned, REAL" print.

    Rather "quick" condemnation, in my opinion.
     
  22. rjas

    rjas Member

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    It seems so simple, I'll try this. I think if I cut it out precisely, do a burn, then remove it and do another burn along the edge to help blend it, it'll work well. Seems really simple.


    I'm really thinking of getting some contrast / unsharp masking tools, it seems like a very straightforward approach and it could help alot of my negs.

    I appreciate all of the responses. I was frustrated when I posted the original post but I'm having another go at the print. I actually sort of dread all that burning and dodging but it'd be nice to know I could do it better. If I ever make enough money from my photography, I'll be paying people to print for me...
     
  23. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    I agree.... masking certainly helped me. Check Lynn Radeka's site for a book and info on masking kits and how to modify your enlarger.
     
  24. Will S

    Will S Member

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    Other people's opinions

    I find that for me other people's opinions, while really wonderful to hear (even the negative) don't really influence me that much one way or the other and it is better to just ignore them. If I'm being totally honest I would have to admit that the positive comments probably do as much or more harm than the negative - for myself anyway.

    My wife, who I love and adore and who is one of the smartest people I know, cannot judge a picture of herself for beans. Anything that I took more than a year ago of her looks good to her because now she "looks so old" compared to then. (Note that this is a sliding scale - things I took of her a year ago that at the time she didn't like she likes now.) In general, I think that most people look at their portrait, compare it to the internal picture they hold of themself, and instantly judge it thereby. Aesthetics doesn't really come into play at all.

    Something I've found with photographing the few families that I have is that there is almost always one person (usually a young female) that all of the others think is "photogenic" and always looks good in pictures. If you make a really spectacular portrait of this child they are underwhelmed. After all, the kid takes good pictures, so yours is nothing special. Get a semi-OK shot of a different sibling though (or of a parent), and you'll have thought that you worked a minor miracle.

    I once made a portrait of a woman with her daughter in which I thought she looked damn good. I mean, it was an OK photo, but it really made her look good (and her daughter was OK as well.) As I was making the proof I thought to myself, "hey, at least she'll want to buy this one, she looks great." She almost rejected it. At the last minute she said "oh, I guess I'll go ahead and get a 5x7 of this one" and sort of gingerly moved it from the reject pile into the other. Modesty, arggh. She looked good in it and knew it, but couldn't bring herself to spend the extra money on something so vain. I should have shown it to the husband, but I never had the chance.

    Best,

    Will
     
  25. Daniel_OB

    Daniel_OB Member

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    A photograph is good or not You are the only judge. It is your work ultimately and made only for you. Other can like it or not. Tomorow they will change oppinion. Contacting other can just educate you to progress in some direction and change what and how you are doing.
    www.Leica-R.com
     
  26. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Man, if you're not happy with your work, then why are ya doin it? (Except for the fabulous moolah!) I mean, you gotta be true to yourself. Ansel Adams came back to a negative years after originally made and did it totally different and wondered why he didn't do that from the start. So don't get down by the words of others. It's easy to criticize someone else's work if asked, because you may not be aware of the BS&T going into the work. Much harder for oneself. Also much more valuable. Be your own worst critic. We should all push ourselves to improve ourselves whenever possible.