How do you know when you've made a bad photograph?
Blanksy made an interesting comment about overlooking old negatives. I've always been interested in the idea of swapping a set of negatives with somebody, to see what other people think are my strong images.
Is your judgement of a bad photograph aesthetic, emotional, subjective? Personally I find my best photographs are the ones that surprise me, which suggests I work best intuitively or in spite of myself. My pictures which are too introspective or considered often feel immature, contrived or short of the mark.
Something that can definitely happen is as we progress as printers we can get a lot more out of ours and other people pictures usually, than what was originally printed.
Also cropping can add a lot of impact to some people's work who haven't advanced very far on the composition aspect of things.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
Most of my photographs are bad. It's what I have to do to make good ones. I'm just blathering on film until I have something meaningful to say.
“We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness.
We are monkeys with money and guns.”
― Tom Waits
Usually as soon as I push the shutter button, I "know" if I've gotten what I wanted or not.
Pretty much they are all bad. Out of a roll of 36 I might get 2 "interesting" ones. I keep going over them trying to "find" more that are worthwhile, which is grasping at straws for the most part.
I know right away, just like when you judge someone's face as attractive or not. It only takes a split second.
I often find the ones I had high hopes for are the worst of the lot.
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My first clue of a bad photograph is when I look at my still wet negatives and say to myself "What was I thinking!?" I have revisited old negatives and found images which seem better after a period of time. I've heard of photographers who will wait awhile before developing their film so the excitement they felt when shooting the image has worn away by the time they see the result. Supposedly it makes for better editing (and possibly avoids huge letdowns as would be my case).
How about a quick story in place of an answer?
A few years abo I visited a local art gallery; one of the exhibits was historic photography of jazz, from about 50 years ago.
I went with a coworker who, on the side, is both a musician and photographer. At about the fifth print, he made the observation, "If it were me, this negative would never have even made it into the enlarger." I agreed with him; most of the images were horribly blurred and almost unrecognizeable.
On the other hand, they did give a sense of what it was probably like being there, in those dim, smoky clubs. We both thought the photos had this redeeming virtue, although none would have been usable for reportage of the day.
Perhaps the two of us are stilted in our thinking, due to being something of "purist" photographers. If I had blurry negs like that today, and someone printed them for me, I still would not have any interest in them. But perhaps someone else, with a different viewpoint would? I dunno. As the old saying goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure.
Aside from technical issues it can be difficult, at least for me. Unless unexplained and I can learn something from them I trash my negatives that are no good for technical reasons. Otherwise, I save them all. As I stated in the other thread, my ideas about an image can change when stripped of my initial expectations and become imbued with the filter of time.
And sometimes I think I just need to see them in the positive before passing judgement... A good reason to proof all your work, something I don't do but probably should.
I know when a bad photograph has been taken when I release the shutter. For those photographs I moved or the instance was not the right one.
I unanticipated exposure errors, composition messed up by something I missed I find out when the film is developed. Undeveloped photographs are by definition perfect, it is the processing that brings out the problems!
Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!
Nothing beats a great piece of glass!
I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.
Well there are rules of composition that actually pre-date photography. I'm not saying that they should be rigorously followed for every negative but they can change a bad image to a good one. An example would be the Rule of Thirds.
A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
~Antoine de Saint-Exupery