How good is good enough?

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Pete A, Aug 15, 2011.

  1. Pete A

    Pete A Guest

    I will never be able to achieve anything resembling Gianni's
    photography. If you are reading this, Gianni, thank you very much for
    sharing your images with us.

    Recently, I was given a photography assignment (voluntary work). I have
    received much praise for my images and they will be used. However, I
    rate my best shots as poor and the rest as too embarrassing to ever
    submit for critique.

    That's the background to my question "How good is good enough?"

    I've tried to learn photography via my ancient Kodak books and more
    recent on-line tutorials. Colour, composition, thirds, etc. etc. My
    images that get the highest praise have too many colours, hopeless
    composition, horizon in the wrong place, etc.

    For my images that get most of it right, I have received "Great, but
    they are too artsy for us to use. Can you also do normal photography
    because that is what we require."

    I'm very interested to learn what the heck is going on with this
    because I want to be successful in my voluntary work.

    Pete A, Aug 15, 2011
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  2. Pete A

    David Kerber Guest

    [This followup was posted to and a copy was sent to the
    cited author.]

    IMO, the main thing you're running into is that the definition of
    "good", "great", "crappy", etc, will vary depending on the intended
    audience and what the customer expects. You cannot expect "artsy" pics
    to do well in a corporate product sales brochure, and ones you take for
    corporate executive photos won't do well in a photography show.

    IMO you have to adjust to what the customer wants, or turn down jobs
    that don't fit your style.
    David Kerber, Aug 15, 2011
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  3. Most business stuff I've seen follows generic templates. I hate it as much
    as generic wedding shots but that's what people seem to demand.
    Charles E. Hardwidge, Aug 15, 2011
  4. I suppose the problem is that the composition is more prominent than the
    subject matter, making them look like artistic works when the client wants
    documentary images in which the subject (rather then the treatment of the
    subject) dominates the image. The answer is that the technique needs to be
    more subtle, it needs to give the subject a lift rather than push it into
    the background. It should be possible to make images with strong compostion
    but the strength needs to be perceived by the viewer as coming from the
    subject matter itself, not an easy skill to master to be sure!

    Probably the best thing is to look at images produced by photographers
    famous for their documentary work and see how they differ from fine art
    photographers. Eg. contrast Dorothea Lange's work with Ansel Adams, or Don
    McCullin with Cecil Beaton....
    Gordon Freeman, Aug 15, 2011
  5. (Mind you, Don McCullin's war photography has been compared to Goya, yet
    for some reason no-one ever thought to point out to him that his images
    were too "artsy"!)
    Gordon Freeman, Aug 15, 2011
  6. Pete A

    PeterN Guest

    For critique put up the images that you are having issues with. If I was
    selling images, or submitting for a real competition I would put up my
    best. Here you are seeking advice on improving. since I haven't seen any
    of your images I am free to speak. Your best images are the ones that
    satisfy you. If people like your images enough to buy them, you are one
    of the fortunate few. there must be something good about them. Ether's
    have shown some pretty lame images and don't seem to improve from our
    for improvement go to art museums, either virtual or brick & mortar.
    Study the images n the style you like and try to do a photographic
    interpretation of that style.

    PeterN, Aug 16, 2011
  7. Pete A

    tony cooper Guest

    Pete's images have been in the Shoot-In. He submitted 3 to the "S"
    group including which I
    liked very much.

    He's done some good night images of the Maersk line freighters. His
    better ones of that subject were in an earlier Shoot-In or posted
    earlier. I know I saw them.

    If forget where he shoots...near some port in the UK.

    Pete has a self-confidence problem. He's his own severest critic.
    He has some physical problems that impair his ability to photograph.
    CFS, I believe.

    He works at improving, but I don't think he'll ever appreciate his own
    stuff. When you are unsure of your own work, it kinda leaks over to
    the viewer.
    tony cooper, Aug 16, 2011
  8. I figure, most biz shots are simple subject, non-busy background, and good
    even lighting. If it works as an icon it will probably work as a biz

    Business likes stuff you can quickly grab that doesn't scare the viewer.
    Like films there's a standard language people have learned to get quickly
    without controversy or explanation. This can and does change as fashion, or
    the whim of the client demands but the end goal is the same.
    Charles E. Hardwidge, Aug 16, 2011
  9. Sisker was the king of bluster with his superzoom on-the-go wife riding
    shotgun crap but his pictures were still shit.

    The image of Pete's you linked to could be bettered but I got it and it
    didn't chew my eyes out. A pleasing attempt at an "artsy" shot.

    A biz shot of the scene would probably shoot face on to the coloured shed
    doors, or focus on one shed door. Maybe, a close up of a kids toy with the
    sheds in the background with visible sky. At least, that's the sort of thing
    I've seen in biz shots.

    So Pete found the scene and rolled up. That's 99% of success. If he can
    compose for a biz shot there's nothing stopping him taking the artsy stuff
    as well or vice versa. Heck, if you're there.

    Been thinking of going out and shooting some graffiti and coloured buildings
    like that. There's enough around if I can drag my ass out. Seeing Pete's
    photos is an incentive (in a good way) so that's another plus.
    Charles E. Hardwidge, Aug 16, 2011
  10. Screw Gianni. His wannabe magazine photos bore the shit out of me and his
    conversation is even shittier.

    Not a very Buddhist or subtle opinion but if Tone's link is representative
    and you haven't swallowed your tongue it's great to have you back.
    Charles E. Hardwidge, Aug 16, 2011
  11. Pete A

    tony cooper Guest

    The problem with graffiti is that it is not the work of the
    photographer. These are great examples, but not because of the
    photographs taken of them:

    All I did is stand in front of them and push a button. The creators
    of the art work are the artists.

    Had these views been worked into a setting of some kind where the art
    was the background, they might qualify as a photograph. As is, they
    are just digital reproduction of someone else's effort.
    tony cooper, Aug 16, 2011
  12. Pete A

    Pete A Guest

    It was taken on my first day out attempting wide-angle shots; didn't
    notice in the viewfinder that I wasn't holding the camera correctly.
    Thanks, that's given me some ideas for my next attempt.
    My assignment gave me the incentive to go out (despite having to find a
    photographer's assistant for two of my four sessions). The task was to
    photograph Felixstowe "as it is", which was hard because most of the
    area looks awful as you will see in some of the 11 images I've uploaded
    to myPicturetown (the server is very slow):


    These 11 images are from the set of 43 I submitted and are the ones I
    like the least. I was persuaded to include them by non-photographers
    who live in the area because they found the images to be very realistic

    I've been asked by a local magazine to submit "Docks_Sunset" and
    "Beach_Sunrise" for front covers of future issues, which is nice :)

    I've mentioned in the past that daylight ruins my photography and that
    wide-angle lenses are only useful when I can't decide on a subject so
    I've finally produced some evidence for those claims.

    Many thanks to everyone else who took the time to reply, I've found the
    comments very useful and encouraging.

    Pete A, Aug 16, 2011
  13. Pete A

    otter Guest

    You have a leg up on most of us in that you are actually doing
    something with your pictures. One thing I've learned from posting
    here, is you can't please everyone. In fact, it is real hard to
    please anyone. Bringing "clients" into the situation only complicates
    matters. I think you need to develop a "style" and be true to your
    artistic vision. Screw the "client". They get what they pay for -
    which is nothing in this case.
    otter, Aug 16, 2011
  14. Pete A

    Pete A Guest

    I had a suspicion that I was way off base with my definitions/ratings,
    especially with my own images as Tony pointed out "He's his own
    severest critic."
    That has crystallized my thoughts. It seems I was hoping to become a
    good photographer (meaning good at capturing anything and everything),
    which has caused me to berate what I'm already quite good at - my own

    I enjoy the challenge of adjusting to what the customer wants; learning
    new things is great fun. However, there's a danger that I will revert
    to being only a people pleaser, which is my huge ongoing battle because
    it fuels my lack of self-confidence: pleasing everyone else, but never

    You are completely right: sometimes I must turn down jobs that are
    completely divorced from my style. My recent assignment has served
    mainly to undermine my self-confidence even though it was incredibly
    useful in getting me out of the house to take photos. In retrospect, I
    should've refused the assignment per se yet performed it in private as
    a learning experience.

    As to my style of photography, I have big dreams (probably unrealistic)
    of creating images that evoke powerful emotions. I can clearly see some
    of the images in my mind, but I will need to find a suitable
    photographer's assistant before I can attempt capturing them.

    David, you have kindly shown me the decisions I need to make, for which
    I thank you.

    You and others have answered my question "How good is good enough?" My
    friends and acquaintances have albums full of photos that they enjoy
    looking at and showing others. When those same people give me praise
    for my inadequate photography I need to learn that it's good enough for
    the intended audience. My burning ambition to do better is only a bonus
    and not a prerequisite.

    Pete A, Aug 16, 2011
  15. Pete A

    PeterN Guest

    Ah! Yes I forgot about his submissions. As for CFS, AFAIK lack of self
    confidence is not a usual symptom of the disease. I can think of three
    examples: one an attorney who now has passed away; The second is my
    younger daughter, who is a a creative director and an ego centric
    photographer; the third is a former British Prime Minister. (I don't
    think it's well known that he suffered from CFS and the fact of his
    treatment was accidentally leaked by his physician.)
    PeterN, Aug 16, 2011
  16. Pete A

    Pete A Guest

    Excellent points, thanks Otter.

    I'm extremely lucky because my client is paying me invaluable rewards:
    sharing a great sense of humour during difficult times; accepting and
    valuing me for who I am; and genuine appreciation of my time, which has
    opened a door to do some very interesting voluntary work that has
    nothing to do with photography - it will really help my self-confidence
    and communication skills.

    Despite that good stuff, I must not lose sight of my dream: I will
    continue to develop my style and be true to my artistic vision because
    that is the only ambition I still have.
    Pete A, Aug 16, 2011
  17. Pete A

    PeterN Guest

    I think that being your own severest critic is a good thing. It shows a
    lack of complacency and an ability to draw from your environment and
    learn. It is also good to hear some honest comment from others.
    PeterN, Aug 16, 2011
  18. Pete A

    tony cooper Guest

    My comment was not intended to link the two things: lack of
    self-confidence and CFS. A person can have several conditions,
    physical and/or mental, that are not linked to each other.

    I don't think of self-confidence, or the lack of it, to be a symptom
    of any physical condition. A physical problem may affect a person's
    mental attitude, but it's not a symptom.
    tony cooper, Aug 16, 2011
  19. Pete A

    PeterN Guest

    OK My short comment on them:

    In General -
    All are very well composed. I don't see them as fine art either.
    However, they would be interesting to people who have been there or want
    some record of the area: Some levels adjustment would eliminate the
    overall hazy look, and get rid of the blocked shadows. Not too much,
    because I understand you still want some haze in the images, for
    realism, not idealism.

    1. I would apply a tad of a curve adjustment to eliminate blocking in
    the shadow area;

    2. Nicely done. the street lamp is distracting to my eye. I would either
    gt rid of the top completely, or try to achieve some separation of the
    post from the shrubbery.

    3. I wold like the people to be walking towards me.

    4. the red on the first pole is distracting. I looks like a wide angle
    shot. I would have tried to get closer to the people on the right. the
    part of the image to the right of them seems wasted.

    5 - 10. what don't you like about them, except perhaps a bit off level in 7?

    11. I like the concept. the color variations in the sand are very
    interesting to me. Perhaps moving the horizon line up to about 2/3 of
    the way up to show more of the sand and cropping to the right end of the
    breakwater. If you can take the shot again I would try to show a tad
    more sea to the left of the breakwater.
    there is a very good book on treating the color variants in earth, as
    well as many other color subjects. I have it and recommend it to anyone
    doing serious color work.


    the above is just my opinion. Others may very well vary.
    PeterN, Aug 16, 2011
  20. Pete A

    Pete A Guest

    Once a year I look-up the latest findings on CFS. It's not nice for me
    to read, but at least I've discovered why I'm suffering my third bout
    of tonsillitis this year - no antibiotics are necessary therefore I can
    enjoy my favourite remedy: a can or two of fine Belgium lager
    accompanied by some modern jazz music.

    I was surprised recently to discover that my lack of self-confidence is
    probably a symptom of the disease rather than a separate issue that
    I've been wrestling with for decades.

    Having wasted thousands of £ on private treatment over three decades of
    trying to recover, I have finally seen the light that I should've seen
    a long time ago. To prevent others from wasting huge sums of money on
    similar "quack" medicine I highly recommend a book co-authored by the
    first professor of complementary medicine: "Trick or Treatment?
    Alternative medicine on trial" by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst. This
    book has rattled many cages, but I can testify it ain't no bullshit!


    I had developed an uncanny insight into the underlying principles of
    alternative/complementary medicine before I read the book. My insight
    was clearly not uncanny, it was simply my acknowledgement of plain
    Pete A, Aug 16, 2011
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