Emotional Connection: Loving your subject vs. Losing subjectivity?

squirrels

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Some discussion on another thread started me thinking about how much emotional involvement plays a role in experiencing other people's photos and taking my own. I suspect this has been discussed before and I'm just not searching with the right terms.

When I approach a photo I am bringing all of my own experiences with me. Right now I'm spending a lot of time focusing on being a mom. I also have my own memories of being a little girl that roughly half the rest of the population has. So it is more likely that picture of a little girl playing on the beach is going to resonate more than it would for someone who is male with no children and didn't spend time each summer on the outer banks as a kid.

Similarly I've for the most part just found cars a way to get from A to B. So if I look at a car picture and say "Wow" I can probably think that there is something going on there other than the subject matter. Of course I do have a strong love for bright colors and shiny things, so if you show me a detail pic of a car with shiny bits and colors, I'm more likely to say "Oooooo!" I'm like a magpie or a raccoon. I don't just have mom goggles, I've got a whole suitcase of goggles all different colors shapes and sizes.

As I thought about this today and PR's post, I wondered if taking pictures of things I don't like would force me to become a better photographer or if I'd just transform the subject matter into something that has a pull for me ( "Ooo! Shiny! Hey, lines!").

In art class, more than once I had to draw or paint upside down to try to focus more on shapes than subject. I don't know if there is a photographic equivalent without standing on my head or hacking my camera.

I also think that many (all?) times the whole point of the photograph is to make you feel something.

So now I'm wondering if emotional resonance makes me more or less qualified to cc and photo or to take my own.:confused:

What do you think?
 

amolitor

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Photographers have a problem with being ultra-focused on "subject". There is the thing I am taking a picture of, and then there is a bunch of other stuff. As a dad I have precisely this problem, I am constantly taking pictures of my daughter, I am totally focused in on the Subject.

I don't have a good solution for this, except to push more of the composition process in to post. By THAT I mean "take a buttload of pictures, and pick out the good ones". I guess I also spend some time thinking about pictures I would like to take, and then attempting to make them happen. This is a lot easier with flowers than three year olds. I can pick 'em out, I can set 'em up, but:

spontaneously taking a "good picture" is just plain hard.

You have to internalize a whole bunch of material, and make it instinctive and automatic. I know a bunch about the stuff that needs to be internalized, but I don't know how to make it instinctive. My theory is "do it a great deal" should help?

Henri-Cartier Bresson wrote a bunch about how you have to make it all instinctive and automatic, but he did not offer any insight into how to accomplish this, and there's a lot of evidence that he did most of his composition at the contact sheet too ("pick out the good ones"). I'm pretty sure that if he didn't know, nobody does.
 

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I feel that there are basic concepts (developed primarily in other forms of art like painting and sculpture) that are useful in defining how an image impacts it's audience. Some of them are basic compositional rules.. and some of them help to make "contact" with a particular audience (or all audiences). If the image has something in it that evokes an emotional response in just a limited audience... then maybe it is a successful image on some levels. But if it can reach most or all audiences, then it is a much more successful image.

But not all images are going to reach everyone... no matter how well shot. There are a few images that really do seem to cross all boundaries, but they are few in comparison to the number of images that are cranked out.

If an image contains something one can relate too... than I think we may be more forgiving of other flaws in that image.

i.e. if you are a mom, you may forgive poor composition, or a lack of eye contact in a image of a child, because you can RELATE to that image)... but that image may be meaningless to someone without the same history you have. But shot properly... with good eye contact, proper composition, etc... it will reach a much wider audience in a meaningful manner.

Cars bore some people... but the artistry in a well shot automotive image can still attract a wider audience than just the car geeks! But will still put others to sleep.

Food... some people love to cook, and can relate to well shot food images... but those images will probably be meaningless to someone that thinks McDonalds is "haute gourmet"

Macro... my favorite... and yet it really reaches a minimal audience... who wants to look at gross bug pictures, no matter how well shot? The is where you need to judge the technical /compositional over the emotive content (which is usually negative)

Weddings / engagements... lots of potential emotive impact for anyone that has ever been married, had a divorce, or wants to get married... part of it is cultural as well. But poorly shot weddings seldom are popular... it doesn't translate the emotion like well shot images do.

When approaching C&C... I think trying to be objective is needed... not allowing the emotive content sway your assessment of the image you are looking at. (although yes, you do need to assess the emotive impact of an image also... part of the C&C). But when an image has technical / compositional flaws that overshadow everything else, the emotive impact is seldom enough to "save" the image!

When shooting... subjectivity is a good thing, also! It will help you to concentrate on things other than just the "cuteness" or the emotions you are feeling based on the subject... and allow you to concentrate on making better images for a wider audience, instead of images that are of interest only to the photographer (or a very limited related audience)
 
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skieur

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I also think that many (all?) times the whole point of the photograph is to make you feel something.

So now I'm wondering if emotional resonance makes me more or less qualified to cc and photo or to take my own.:confused:

What do you think?

"Emotional resonance" can be positive but it can also be a distraction. How you depict the subject or content by your photography and creative skills is just as important as the emotional impact of your subject.
 

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As usual, it's a little bit of everything. If a photographer is taking a picture of a non-emotional subject, there is no crime done by producing a non-emotional response. When you look at that kind of picture, you can just consider its technical qualities, and when you look at a picture that evokes an emotion, then judging it on the emotional connection is valid.
 
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squirrels

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Right on, you guys. Thanks for the insights.

I'm going to try to stop get my feathers ruffled on the whole "sorry it is just a mom picture" and "no interest to anyone else" tags when I see them. Maybe interpreting that sort of thing as "something is missing in this composition/execution that is keeping this from appealing to a less emotionally invested audience." Whew that's a mouthful. Or maybe just a "This doesn't do anything for me, because..."

So I'll read the comment that got me started as "This doesn't do anything for me with all the all horizontal format and lack of eye contact. It could use a little more "something" extra to connect with the viewer." Except, I wouldn't want to suck all of the personality out of it, so.. you know.. something similar but more cantankerous.:p

Is that fair to say?

Meanwhile I'll try to view everything with and without the emotional goggles. And hope that editing and pruning after the fact will train my mind better for when I'm pushing the shutter button.

Hmm.. I wonder if I see comments like "sorry, its just a macro picture" and totally skip right over them without batting an eyelash.
 

cgipson1

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The thing is... target your audience. If it is just you... then fine, shoot however you want... but don't get upset if it doesn't do anything for anyone else.

If you want a larger audience involved, shoot in a manner that will interest them.

Just pick your audience... and shoot in a manner consistent with what that audience expects or wants.

If someone says it is just a macro picture.. that is fine. IT IS a macro picture! lol! Whether it is a good one in the Macro Genre??? That they can comment on if they choose to... and why. One is a dismissal, the other is a critique... there is a difference.
 

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Photographers have a problem with being ultra-focused on "subject". There is the thing I am taking a picture of, and then there is a bunch of other stuff. As a dad I have precisely this problem, I am constantly taking pictures of my daughter, I am totally focused in on the Subject.

I don't have a good solution for this, except to push more of the composition process in to post. By THAT I mean "take a buttload of pictures, and pick out the good ones". I guess I also spend some time thinking about pictures I would like to take, and then attempting to make them happen. This is a lot easier with flowers than three year olds. I can pick 'em out, I can set 'em up, but:

spontaneously taking a "good picture" is just plain hard.

You have to internalize a whole bunch of material, and make it instinctive and automatic. I know a bunch about the stuff that needs to be internalized, but I don't know how to make it instinctive. My theory is "do it a great deal" should help?

Henri-Cartier Bresson wrote a bunch about how you have to make it all instinctive and automatic, but he did not offer any insight into how to accomplish this, and there's a lot of evidence that he did most of his composition at the contact sheet too ("pick out the good ones"). I'm pretty sure that if he didn't know, nobody does.

Thats funny most expert say that no cropping was done in the darkroom
 

paigew

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Well obviously (since this pertaining to my thread) I do not think you need eye contact to make a great photograph. For a portrait yes, eye contact is nice. But for a fine art image no eye contact is needed. Its about the feeling of the image, the emotional response. What story do you want to tell in that photo? I think about every time I click. How to make the viewer feel as I am feeling right now.

The more I think about it the crazier the notion is. Seriously...no eye contact is a deal breaker? How boring and cookie cutter can we get? Everyone isn't sears portrait studios. Some of us treat photography as an art form, and way of expression.
 

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The OP is pretty broad, and there are so many areas one could address. Not sure if thee title "losing subjectivity" was what was intended.

One thing I think a lot of people are doing these days is losing objectivity by processing and posting their images wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy too soon after the images have been taken. I honestly think that the biggest issue with so much crap on the web and in social media is because today, many peopole are geared toward shooting images, running them through Lightroom or Aperture, and then immediately uploading them. Why is this a problem? Because the immediacy of the picture taking situation is affecting the judgement of the photographs; a person who has a great time on a photo shoot will often post their "favorite(s)" from said photo shoot, or vacation, or photo outing, and will be confusing their own,personal fond recent memories and recollections with the actual photos being selected and shown.

Time and distance from the picture-taking situation itself helps to judge the quality of an image, and its ability to withstand the test of time. This excitement about the moment also shows up a lot on first-of-its-kind photos...one's first photo of _____________ being ___________, for example. Many times we see these firsts being shown, and we think, "Hmmm, not that good."

A second, unrelated thing: putting "eye contact with the viewer" as a criteria for a successful picture is a load of horsepuckey. Eye contact is nice, but listing it as a requirement for a good image is facile. Posture, gesture, gestalt--all of these things can easily override "eye contact" in making a successful photo. Harping on the presence or absence of a single criterion, as a way to dismiss somebody's photos, is juvenile. Who can forget the FAMOUS photo of two small kids, walking away from the camera in The Family of Man Exhibit? One of THE most-famous kid pictures ever made. ZERO eye contact with the viewer.

cs11122.jpg
 

cgipson1

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Well obviously (since this pertaining to my thread) I do not think you need eye contact to make a great photograph. For a portrait yes, eye contact is nice. But for a fine art image no eye contact is needed. Its about the feeling of the image, the emotional response. What story do you want to tell in that photo? I think about every time I click. How to make the viewer feel as I am feeling right now.

The more I think about it the crazier the notion is. Seriously...no eye contact is a deal breaker? How boring and cookie cutter can we get? Everyone isn't sears portrait studios. Some of us treat photography as an art form, and way of expression.

Depends on who you are trying to reach, how it was shot, and whether or not there is emotional investment in the image. Many people try for "art" and fail... some don't try at all and succeed.... a very subjective thing....
 

cgipson1

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The OP is pretty broad, and there are so many areas one could address. Not sure if thee title "losing subjectivity" was what was intended.

One thing I think a lot of people are doing these days is losing objectivity by processing and posting their images wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy too soon after the images have been taken. I honestly think that the biggest issue with so much crap on the web and in social media is because today, many peopole are geared toward shooting images, running them through Lightroom or Aperture, and then immediately uploading them. Why is this a problem? Because the immediacy of the picture taking situation is affecting the judgement of the photographs; a person who has a great time on a photo shoot will often post their "favorite(s)" from said photo shoot, or vacation, or photo outing, and will be confusing their own,personal fond recent memories and recollections with the actual photos being selected and shown.

Time and distance from the picture-taking situation itself helps to judge the quality of an image, and its ability to withstand the test of time. This excitement about the moment also shows up a lot on first-of-its-kind photos...one's first photo of _____________ being ___________, for example. Many times we see these firsts being shown, and we think, "Hmmm, not that good."

A second, unrelated thing: putting "eye contact with the viewer" as a criteria for a successful picture is a load of horsepuckey. Eye contact is nice, but listing it as a requirement for a good image is facile. Posture, gesture, gestalt--all of these things can easily override "eye contact" in making a successful photo. Harping on the presence or absence of a single criterion, as a way to dismiss somebody's photos, is juvenile. Who can forget the FAMOUS photo of two small kids, walking away from the camera in The Family of Man Exhibit? One of THE most-famous kid pictures ever made. ZERO eye contact with the viewer.

cs11122.jpg

Again, depends on the image... did you see the example I posted? No eye contact there, but that one works....
 

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No eye contact = automatic fail. No bare breasts = automatic fail. All subjects must be on rule of thirds intersections. All landscapes MUST be horizontal. All portraits must be shot vertical. Only older,white men can shoot good professional grade photos. Film photos are better than digital photos. Nikon is better than Canon. Leica pictures have "that Leica look". Kodachrome was the best color slide film ever. Light from ProFoto strobes is better than that from other brands. European enlarging paper is better than American-made paper. German lenses are better than Japanese lenses. Pictures shot hand-held are inferior to those made tripod-mounted. Newbies never produce any work that's any good. If she's a mom and has a camera, she's an MWAC.

I have heard all of these nonsensical theories put forth,at one time or another. Some are funny, while others are downright offensive.

The fact is, when you photograph things, YOU, the photographer, make choices about what to include, and what to exclude. Normally, people have at least 'some' connection to their subject matter, at least if they are allowed to choose what they photograph, and are not simply given assignments by an editor or boss. And even on assigned stories, you have to decide where to stand, what lens to use, what to aim at, what to avoid aiming at, and when to press the shutter button. I believe this is called the Heisenberg Principle.

"Every photograph is a little bit of a lie." ~ Me
 

amolitor

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Photographers have a problem with being ultra-focused on "subject". There is the thing I am taking a picture of, and then there is a bunch of other stuff. As a dad I have precisely this problem, I am constantly taking pictures of my daughter, I am totally focused in on the Subject.

I don't have a good solution for this, except to push more of the composition process in to post. By THAT I mean "take a buttload of pictures, and pick out the good ones". I guess I also spend some time thinking about pictures I would like to take, and then attempting to make them happen. This is a lot easier with flowers than three year olds. I can pick 'em out, I can set 'em up, but:

spontaneously taking a "good picture" is just plain hard.

You have to internalize a whole bunch of material, and make it instinctive and automatic. I know a bunch about the stuff that needs to be internalized, but I don't know how to make it instinctive. My theory is "do it a great deal" should help?

Henri-Cartier Bresson wrote a bunch about how you have to make it all instinctive and automatic, but he did not offer any insight into how to accomplish this, and there's a lot of evidence that he did most of his composition at the contact sheet too ("pick out the good ones"). I'm pretty sure that if he didn't know, nobody does.

Thats funny most expert say that no cropping was done in the darkroom

HCB didn't crop that I know except in one photo. Where did I say anything about cropping?
 

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