Critiques, how do you look at a photograph??

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by nomade, Jun 23, 2007.

  1. nomade

    nomade TPF Noob!

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    No I am not looking for a lesson and I'm not giving any lessons.

    Out of curiosity since I am new here, and since photography like any other art, have rules and guidelines that could be violated into something brilliant sometimes . The thing with photography is that we all have this toy. We all make shots, snaps or serious photography, it's up to us to decide which path is the right one for us. But one of the most important things is to learn how to look for a photo and express your opinion. How to see is everything, spending time critiquing photographs gives you some insights and important lessons.

    Since it's a big site, everyone should have a different way to look at things, this is the depth of humanity, this what makes this world have different dimensions, everyone is special, and has a particular way to see things.

    I want to know when you look at a photograph for the first time, how do you look at it, why would you decide not to look at it, what are the important factors for you, what makes a photograph for you??

    I'll start; first of all I'd give it a quick glance, if it's interesting, I'd look for details, and number one to me is the "feel" of it, this is what photography means in the end, what makes family and friends snappies the best art of all, it's the "feel", an image with good light usage will give me a good "feel".

    Getting to like the photograph I'd look for a minute for everything, the balance, the weighing, shapes, lines, centering, dof, different techniques that could have been used, colors, contrasts and all that.

    When i give away a critique, i'll talk about my feel or lack of feel, and i'll use the rules/lack of it to say why i like it or why i don't, it doesn't have to perfect, doesn't have to sharp or very contrasty for me to like it, but beyond that there gotta be something interesting.

    Some photos though, are good and there isn't much to say, but I always want to express that I like some photo when I do, this always helps.

    Some others could be perfect but has no feel. Who said that perfect was good??

    In the end, giving critiques is a gift, not everyone has it, the same way making good photographs is a gift, a different way of looking at things, that probably not everyone has it, but this is not a certainty to me since everyone has a way to look at things, just what would people appreciate the most?? It's all about people, isn't it!!
     
  2. jimiismydaddy

    jimiismydaddy TPF Noob!

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  3. nomade

    nomade TPF Noob!

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    I'm getting tired...:madmad:

    Sorry about that.
     
  4. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    Maybe we should, but in truth we all look at pictures in pretty much the same way.
    In terms of pure perception there is very little variation. If everyone saw things differently then optical illusions would not work, we would not think colour blindness to be a deffect and no one would bother with glasses.
    So given that we perceive things in pretty much the same way, the next step is to look at how we process what we see.
    Again, we all process our visual impressions in pretty much the same way. Some of this is 'wired' in to us and some of it is learned, but it all works towards giving us a similar experience of 'reality'. If we each interpreted things differently then language would have no common basis.
    So how about how we interpret what we see?
    Yet again we all interpret things in pretty much the same way. This comes from our social conditioning. There are many conventions that we are taught by our parents and throughout school, and the way we are taught to behave affects the way we interpret the world and react to it.
    It is this conditioning more than anything else that makes us all so similar - and it is the basis of Advertising.*
    The only way in which people differ to any real degree is in their personal tastes. One may like motorbikes (psychoanalysis would reveal why) where another might prefer animals. The 'bike fan would find images of 'bikes appealing and this would be preferred viewing, whereas the animal fancier would not.** The 'biker would therefore privilege pictures of 'bikes over pictures of animals and hold the opinion that a picture of a Kawasaki was 'better' than a picture of a kangaroo, even though both pictures obey the same compositional conventions.
    We all see things the same way, we just focus our attention on different things.


    * And it is largely advertising that has brought about this myth of us all being 'different' and 'special'. It hides the truth that we are all pretty much the same so we do not realise how much we are being manipulated.
    **A broad generalisation but I'm sure you get the drift.
     
  5. Rusty_Tripod

    Rusty_Tripod TPF Noob!

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    I tend to be simple minded. First of all, if it is clearly digital, I might close it immediately. If it has something interesting to it, I try to figure out what the shooter had in mind:
    Why did he take the shot? What was he thinking? Is this a "who cares...?" shot or a "been there, done that shot"?
    Did the poster think before he posted the shot? What does the shooter expect?
    So the poster comments that her are a few from the 900 shots I took this weekend, should I even bother looking or responding?
    Does it tell a story? Is the story universal or confined to understanding of relative only?
    How does the shot connect with a stranger?
    How is the composition? The color? The contrast?
    Is there something unique that stands out? location? composition? color? framing? depth of field? etc.
    What can I learn from this or could I do it better since I tend to be simple-minded?
    Is it the same old same old that I see on every website devoted to photography?
    What did the shooter say in the post? Is the shooter grasping at miracles instead of facing facts about the image?
    Is the shooter serious about improving?
    What could I give the shooter positive or corrective comments about? If I have comments, how do I think the poster might respond or feel?
    There are probably more, but these often come to mind first.
     
  6. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I don't think we all see things the same way. You just need to go into the critique forum to see examples where someone has posted some marvellous, magnificent, something that invokes feeling or gives a real sense of the person's character. Scroll down and read the replies I guarantee someone somewhere questions why the model isn't smiling. Or why there's a tiny bit of blown highlight, or the noise is a bit high.

    That's not critiquing an image IMO, that's complaining about the imperfections of the equipment. I learnt a lot of photography from books where the images were made early -> mid 90s. This has given me that perspective of it doesn't need to be noise free, perfect, with no blown highlights, opinion. An image simply must invoke feeling. Doesn't matter if there's a red distracting object in the distance. This is minor if you bought the subject out really well. Clipped highlights on the hair? Who cares the point of the image was the happiness of the little boy who just discovered the joys of jumping in puddles, and it's written on his face, not in his clipped hair.

    A case in point if someone wants to check this at their local library. Open up the TimeLife Photography series. e.g. Travel Photography. I just opened at a random page 118. A picture of a lonely police man in black and white standing at the end of an alley way. It's noisy, it's slightly blurry, it's incredibly dark, but it is fantastic.

    /end rant
     
  7. jstuedle

    jstuedle No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    If I may, I'll add to your rant a little. It seems the camera manufacturers have duped us into thinking all noise/grain is bad. Now I know I'm a Nikon snob, and the white lens guys like to show me how noise free there rig is, but I love taking an image to convert to B&W sepia and add a bunch of grain. The old Tri-X pushed had a great look that I still love. So, I don't think we all look at an image exactly the same way, but most of us do have a "wired in" sense of right and wrong in the majority of categories.
     
  8. Puscas

    Puscas TPF Noob!

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    @Herz: I can see how you say that our biological way of seeing things is the same, but how is the perceiving and interpreting part the same? If it's all conditioning, there would still be lots of difference, wouldn't there? Because conditioning is different for people. You and I are not conditioned in the same way (because the place where we grew up, our parents, our family, our experiences etc).
    @Garbz: I'm sometimes guilty of what you describe. But also, when I say 'it's too grainy' it's usely that I mean 'it's too grainy for what I think you're trying to get across'. But I admit, I'm not always that clear.



    pascal
     
  9. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    But we do! It is just our personal priorities that differ.
    I wish people would think about this a bit more.
    When we look at a picture we all (in general) see pretty much the same thing. To put it crudely, you don't look at a picture of a fish and perceive it as a house and neither do I. We all see the fish.
    Where we differ is what we consider to be important in a picture, what we are 'obsessed' with if you like.
    If you consider exposure to be the most important thing in an image then you tend to zero in on highlight, shadows and such.
    If you think composition important you will home in on that.
    If you like a particular subject then you look at the subject in those terms. "He/she is attractive"; "that's a terrific car"; "love that dress". And often you overlook faults in the image because you are far more interested in the subject matter.
    That's why the lighting and composition in porno is generally poor: who looks at that?*
    I have concluded that there is a broad trend for people to notice the things in other's images that they themselves have just mastered. And this is probably why beginners tend to think everything is 'awesome'. ;)



    *Sadly, I do. I have on several occasions worried people at stag nights when watching porno movies. "I can't watch this - the lighting is absolutely diabolical..." :lmao:
     
  10. nomade

    nomade TPF Noob!

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    There is some truth in what you say Hertz, the only difference is that my vague expression that you broke into pieces to get where I could be right on saying that we are special. every single person is special but not totally unique, in the sense that we would attribute some common characteristics to the human race, break them into groups with more common attributes and then to smaller groups and then to individuals, even if it's so slight, we are quite different in the way we look at it, whether that look was coming from the biological process of seeing, or the way we perceive things or how do we process them and at last interpreting them, and the slight differences that evolve in all these processes. Those slight things make the difference, we are not all the same, it's extreme to say that we are not similar at all, that no case matches the other, but it's also extreme to say we are all the same. It makes things flat.

    We could have different and in some way similar styles, but we are not a world of prototypes, we are humans and we are not all the same, we are all similar, we could have common backgrounds, but the world is in constant evolution on a log scale.

    The reason I am asking about how do you look at things, is because of those repeated comments about the lack of sharpness or the presence of grain, about how the photo should be better if we clean it up with photoshop to make it look neat, about how the photo is perfect with the shallow DOF or not so with the deep DOF, about anything other than the quality of the content aesthetically.

    I've been posting few pics, I know they are not all good, but some of these has been exposed for people critiques, photographers and others, so i know if at least i am biased for my own work, someone else have given me his opinion frankly, someone else have liked or disliked it, I posted different photos for different situations, and the lack of response is bothering me, and I don't get what people like here. And I look at other comments or the only comment that I could get and i find something about the existence of grain, I love grain, grain rich films, is why i worship film photography, about the light, about the imperfection of it.

    I may not express myself in the right way, but it's not difficult to take your time looking at a photograph, and express what you think, not what others taught you to think, not judging by commercial quality or digital measures.
    There are rules, but how much we know about these rules, rules only organize and give to viewers something that no matter how different they are they should be able to understand.

    But a photograph can break those rules and still be remarkable. It's interesting to read your views in here. And I hope more will share their opinions.

    @ Pascal, sometimes grain damage the content of the photo, too much grain could be good or bad, but the existence of grain isn't something bad, but as much as anything else it could be damaging if not used properly, some photos are solely made by grain motion when exposed to light, some others are brutally damaged by it, it depends on what you want to put on, like anything else. But don't tell me that the photo is not good because it has grain.

    Oh one final note: You may have grown up in a world with distorted definitions and values implied by ads and media.
    I've grown up in a world where I can speak the same language and would not be understood, in a world where I understand where I am different, and where I am all the same, in a way that I know I am them and they could be me, but our different conditions and social differences has stood in the way. I grew in a world where nothing in common could be between me and someone who live next door, in a world where even those who have common behavior and traditions would be different in a way, and in a world where I appreciate those differences in a wish that others would stop acting as if we are all the same.
    I grew up in a hypocrite world, and realizing that after growing up, because i had been in a cocoon of my private school and privileged friends, going to special clubs with certain people, realizing people are different but not as much as I saw it later.

    Now that I drifted away from the topic, I only want to say that we sometimes seek the truth degrading all everything to its origin and generalizing the common and implying our theory will apply to all...
    But this is not it.

    Having said that I want to add another note, I live in Egypt, my education with french, if you find anything wrong with my english (although I find in it the quality to be well understood at least), try to be forgiving :D
     
  11. The_Traveler

    The_Traveler Completely Counter-dependent Supporting Member

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    While agreeing with much of what is said above, I'd like to add another axis. What one knows is crucial to one's perception. Detailed knowledge about a subject inevitably increases its importance in the viewer's mind. I know a lot about the military and, whenever I see a movie any flaws in factual representation jump out at me and color my perception of the movie.

    As my knowledge of photography grows, flaws in technique become more apparent and it requires more of a conscious effort to look past them to the actual image.

    In the reverse, people who know and care little about photography can often focus on the content or subject to the exclusion of the 'photographic' elements. How many times have you heard something like "What a beautiful horse, I love all horses and all horse pictures."
     
  12. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Ahh Hertz the general sense comes out. True we tend to see subjects as the subjects. I am simply referring to some people who simply fail to see the beauty in the photograph because they can't get past their own sense of a perfect noise free blur free image. Mind you these are often the people who put their cameras away when it's cloudy, dark or rainy, and come on here asking is my equipment soft, which VR lens should I buy, how do I get razor sharp images etc.

    Traveller are the above really flaws of technique though? If the image conveys the emotion it should can it be judged in a mathematical way by "technique". Case in point in the pets forum. Someone took a photo of their cat using a reverse lens technique. 3rd post down "It's too soft" that is an error of technique, one could argue that it was by far the wrong lens / method for the photo. But I loved it. It breaks the rules, it is cute, looks nice, and is incredibly unique from other considerably more mundane cat photos.

    I guess the only thing that can really make a bad photos is a lack of anything substantial. If there's no interest in the photo the photo is bad. However and in a somewhat weird connection going back to what Hertz said about porn, no one critiques the photography there, they connect with the image or movie medium none the less in other ways. Though I can really appreciate how you describe prejudice and perception in movies. My BS metre goes into overdrive when some B grade movie clearly makes no effort into even considering that something said may even be remotely possible in the future even if it doesn't break the laws of physics.

    /asside this a fantastic discussion, kudos nomade.
     

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