What good Photography is about


fevernova

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#1
I've been pondering again and again over this....so in essence, what exactly makes up a good photograph? Is the photographer/the scenery an important point of consideration to be taken into?

Is a good photo one that tells a story? Or is it simply a capture of an already beautiful scene? Is it supposed to show the mood of the photographer or the atmosphere of the scene?

Take for example Steve Mccurry's Afghan girl photo that garnered world wide acclaim; no doubt it is beautifully taken and captures the essence and atmosphere of a war torn country and its people.

However, does the difficulty or probably lack thereof of the photo actually count into making that photograph so good? Some may argue that a good photographer is able to see things in different perspective and also able to capture the moment much better than amateurs. But does that mean most amateur shots are to be discredited?

I personally don't think so. After-all, a camera is simply a medium for us to express our feelings,emotions, etc...and I tend to see photography as a form of art. Painting with light in other words....and I've seen great works from alot of people whom aren't even photographers by profession....

However, many times when viewing amazing photos, this particular thought always comes across my mind...and that is: "Am I able to capture such shots given the right conditions as well? Or is this shot amazing simply because of the scenery?

Aside from the mood, setting, photographer (and of course he's equipment), how often are good photographs excellent because of the photographer's exceptional skills in capturing the moment? And how often are shots amazing simply because of the scenery and all it does for one is to press the button?

Please share your comments folks....
 

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Jed

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so in essence, what exactly makes up a good photograph?
Sadly, there is no short answer to this.

I wrote a thesis on just one small aspect of this and that probably only scratched the surface :)

Is the photographer/the scenery an important point of consideration to be taken into?
Yes, yes.

Is a good photo one that tells a story? Or is it simply a capture of an already beautiful scene? Is it supposed to show the mood of the photographer or the atmosphere of the scene?
Yes, it could be, it might, it might.

However, does the difficulty or probably lack thereof of the photo actually count into making that photograph so good?
It generally shouldn't although it frequently does. Although there are exceptions for example when the difficulty translates to there being next to no alternatives of the same situation. But this is down to rarity more than the difficulty in obtaining the shot per se.

Some may argue that a good photographer is able to see things in different perspective and also able to capture the moment much better than amateurs. But does that mean most amateur shots are to be discredited?
Absolutely not. A photograph should be judged on its merits, not whether AA or HCB took it, or Jed or fevernova took it, or your gran with a 15 year old point and shoot took it. Again, it's frequently not, so something take by AA or HCB is more likely to gain acclaim over one you or I took (although frequently it is also more deserving).

There are exceptions of course, to the famous photographer is better theory, but I'll not list names!

However, many times when viewing amazing photos, this particular thought always comes across my mind...and that is: "Am I able to capture such shots given the right conditions as well? Or is this shot amazing simply because of the scenery?
It will be a combination of factors, really. Dealing with landscapes specifically, without the setting in front of you, anyone would struggle. But put the same stunning landscape in front of a bunch of people with cameras and you will get different results. You, taking the picture now, wouldn't get as good a result as you with 5 more years of photographic experience behind you. Probably anyway.

Aside from the mood, setting, photographer (and of course he's equipment), how often are good photographs excellent because of the photographer's exceptional skills in capturing the moment?
Probably a little bit in all types of photography, but some genres more so than others. In landscapes you need to understand light and sometimes that can be fleeting, but capturing it is not just about timing but understanding it and being able to translate it to film/pixels. In sport you need to understand the game and have decent reflexes and hand to eye co-ordination. In all genres, you need to be there when "it" happens.

And how often are shots amazing simply because of the scenery and all it does for one is to press the button?
Occasionally, because there is stunning scenery out there. But frequently you'll find that a good photographer would make that same scene better on film/pixels than someone with little to no photographic experience.
 

night86mare

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#3
I've been pondering again and again over this....so in essence, what exactly makes up a good photograph? Is the photographer/the scenery an important point of consideration to be taken into?
it depends. some people can see beauty in nothingness, mundanity, others need something else - a sense of grandeur, something majestic.. individuals are different.
Is a good photo one that tells a story? Or is it simply a capture of an already beautiful scene? Is it supposed to show the mood of the photographer or the atmosphere of the scene?
either or, take your pick. why think so much about what a good photograph is? when you know you will know. there are only good photographs, and not so good photographs.. and maybe bad photographs.

i have seen good photographs that tell stories, i have seen good photographs of simply beautiful scenes. tell me, with a rock and a sea, what story do you hope to tell? any story at all, is at best contrived, a one-liner description of what is seen, it's how you underline it that counts.
However, does the difficulty or probably lack thereof of the photo actually count into making that photograph so good? Some may argue that a good photographer is able to see things in different perspective and also able to capture the moment much better than amateurs. But does that mean most amateur shots are to be discredited?
i think anyone can produce a good shot. it's just that good photographers tend to produce good shots more often. take enough machine gun shots, bound to have one that will work, but 1 out of a million is understandably much more miserable than 1 out of 10. if it is not a hobby, and you are running say, a trading company, where you make only one win out of a million, compared to an overall winning trend, it is not hard to see the difference when thought of that way.

However, many times when viewing amazing photos, this particular thought always comes across my mind...and that is: "Am I able to capture such shots given the right conditions as well? Or is this shot amazing simply because of the scenery?
well, there are 80000 shots for the cbd, of the merlion. yet some capture it better than others. what do you say to that?
 

night86mare

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anyways, if you are interested in landscapes and are asking these questions,

this book was available in the library a while back, i enjoyed reading it immensely, because there were beautiful pictures and most importantly , there were loads of thoughts when it came to vision versus style.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Developing-...Photography/dp/1902538498/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b

after this phase you might start thinking which is more important - is it important to develop a consistent style, a signature to your works? does a good photographer necessarily do that? or is vision more important? i read the book and it gave me no direct answer, because there is no right and wrong. but thought is important to developing one's self as a photographer, whether we care to admit it or not.
 

fevernova

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Thanks for the great feedbacks! I've often wondered, since photography is art, and there are natural born artists, some people tend to do it better than the rest. Say if I know and already can envision what I want to capture, that's already an idea in mind. As to how the image turns out, I'll have to understand the equipment aspect of it in order to achieve what I want.

This is akin to an artiste who's used to painting with brushes. When he/she moves on to pencil drawing or ballpoint pens, he'll need to take on a slightly different approach to achieve results that he probably already has in mind....

Am I right to say that? JED and Night86mare both have great points!

Also, do you think how good a photograph is also dependable subjective views by different individuals? Sometimes, a simple shot makes a huge impact and I for one think this particular photo is beautiful. But how many others out there think this way too?

P.S this photo wasn't taken by me...
 

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Jed

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this book was available in the library a while back, i enjoyed reading it immensely, because there were beautiful pictures and most importantly , there were loads of thoughts when it came to vision versus style.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Developing-...Photography/dp/1902538498/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b
Hmm, I have that book on my bookshelf downstairs. I enjoyed it slightly less than you, I expect possibly because I found the various opinions a little short and sometimes a little abstract, rather than it being a coherent whole.

But yes, it has lots of impressions on vision v style so I guess it is highly useful in that regard ^.^
 

night86mare

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fevernova, maybe better to link and credit the picture.. ;)

yes, of course photography is subjective.

take for example a father taking a picture of his daughter. the daughter might not necessarily be beautiful. it might not be a decisive moment that showcases some child-like innocence or joy that most popular child portraits do. but it is special to the father, to the people who know that kid, because it is of her.

that is one fine example where the broad masses may not understand the appeal of the photograph. they might see it as something mundane, well-composed (assuming the father is a good photographer)... but it will not speak to them as loud as it does to various people.

take for example the photograph above, there are loads of takes on this:

1) to a zoologist/biologist this may be judged on merit based on showcase of traits of the species

2) to some it may be a statement on how animals too, take care of their kids, a heartwarming moment.

3) some may see this as a contrast between the towering adult lion and the cute cub.

4) or simply gush over the cuteness of the baby lion.

one should also remember that sometimes, when we read about all these composition rules, etc, they aren't just rules. they are guides. many a time people just happily tell you about the rules of thirds and how everything cannot be centred, but there are so many instances and examples where centred compositions work. sometimes it is *that* simple, you like what you see through your viewfinder, and people like it too, breaking the "rules" or not.

p.s. i would crop the right of that picture some what, but perhaps it's just me. ;)
 

night86mare

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Hmm, I have that book on my bookshelf downstairs. I enjoyed it slightly less than you, I expect possibly because I found the various opinions a little short and sometimes a little abstract, rather than it being a coherent whole.

But yes, it has lots of impressions on vision v style so I guess it is highly useful in that regard ^.^
i guess for me i wasn't really looking for an answer when i read it - i just wanted to know what these people who had probably tossed and turned about it before thought. and they were all great photographers no doubt. ;)

i guess in some sense - it isn't really vision versus style, they probably go hand in hand somewhat. even the preference for particular subjects can be considered a style, if we break it down into its simplest form.
 

fevernova

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Also, I feel that one doesn't have to be able to know how to taken good photos to be in the position to critique one. I'm not good, I admit it. I don't have the keen eye or ability to capture that magical moment. But when I'm viewing works by others, alot of thoughts run through my mind and its often easy to distinguish between keepers and non keepers....
 

fevernova

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fevernova, maybe better to link and credit the picture.. ;)

yes, of course photography is subjective.

take for example a father taking a picture of his daughter. the daughter might not necessarily be beautiful. it might not be a decisive moment that showcases some child-like innocence or joy that most popular child portraits do. but it is special to the father, to the people who know that kid, because it is of her.

that is one fine example where the broad masses may not understand the appeal of the photograph. they might see it as something mundane, well-composed (assuming the father is a good photographer)... but it will not speak to them as loud as it does to various people.

take for example the photograph above, there are loads of takes on this:

1) to a zoologist/biologist this may be judged on merit based on showcase of traits of the species

2) to some it may be a statement on how animals too, take care of their kids, a heartwarming moment.

3) some may see this as a contrast between the towering adult lion and the cute cub.

4) or simply gush over the cuteness of the baby lion.

one should also remember that sometimes, when we read about all these composition rules, etc, they aren't just rules. they are guides. many a time people just happily tell you about the rules of thirds and how everything cannot be centred, but there are so many instances and examples where centred compositions work. sometimes it is *that* simple, you like what you see through your viewfinder, and people like it too, breaking the "rules" or not.

p.s. i would crop the right of that picture some what, but perhaps it's just me. ;)
I found it online randomly and there wasn't any source to it...:sweat:

Anyway, yeah, you do have a point here. But then again, beautiful artwork will always be beautiful artwork and there are numerous photos I've came across that most if not all people agree that its simply a beautiful shot. Anyway, I love your shots!
 

Jed

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But when I'm viewing works by others, alot of thoughts run through my mind and its often easy to distinguish between keepers and non keepers....
To be honest (and assuming you're being honest ;p) that's a big part of the battle won; after that you just need to learn to translate that when you have a camera in your hands.
 

night86mare

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Also, I feel that one doesn't have to be able to know how to taken good photos to be in the position to critique one. I'm not good, I admit it. I don't have the keen eye or ability to capture that magical moment. But when I'm viewing works by others, alot of thoughts run through my mind and its often easy to distinguish between keepers and non keepers....
yes, of course.

if the photograph can only be appreciated by the "highest of highest" photographers, then something has gone sorely wrong with photography.

of course different photographs necessarily have different appeals. one branch of photography where you might see a particularly high brand of what might be termed as elitism is street photography.

take a look at this, by nick turpin:
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4008/4365260252_c43552c65c.jpg
 

fevernova

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To be honest (and assuming you're being honest ;p) that's a big part of the battle won; after that you just need to learn to translate that when you have a camera in your hands.
I don't know about that...I often find myself not pressing the shutter because when i look through the viewfinder, its simply not nice....:dunno:

Another thing is, does good photography include post processing an unimpressive shot into something impressive?

Or should it be a shot that needs minimal PP as it already looks great? It seems that there are two school of thoughts on this matter...
 

fevernova

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yes, of course.

if the photograph can only be appreciated by the "highest of highest" photographers, then something has gone sorely wrong with photography.

of course different photographs necessarily have different appeals. one branch of photography where you might see a particularly high brand of what might be termed as elitism is street photography.

take a look at this, by nick turpin:
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4008/4365260252_c43552c65c.jpg
Having said that, I love your "and they said the streets were paved with gold" series....:thumbsup::thumbsup:
 

night86mare

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I don't know about that...I often find myself not pressing the shutter because when i look through the viewfinder, its simply not nice....:dunno:

Another thing is, does good photography include post processing an unimpressive shot into something impressive?

Or should it be a shot that needs minimal PP as it already looks great? It seems that there are two school of thoughts on this matter...
i don't know, i never found unimpressive shots worth keeping.

it's from these few times when i tried to save those shots when my mind was screaming "trash them! trash them!" and i went ahead thick-headedly, worked on them for 3-4 days, and trashed them anyways.

it's pretty hard in certain scenarios - take for example landscape photography. if the lighting is flat and uninspiring, then you can't simply add shadow and light to make it into something it's not.

i think there will be shots that look great without PP, just as there will be shots that need that extra touch to make it better than it is.

my take has always been that if we do not add too much fantasy into the picture, for example - making it a clean horizon when there is garbage all on the other side, or happily removing elements, it's more or less a free for all. of course this isn't the word of the law, and i can always appreciate the result when someone does it (well enough, anyways) and it turns out good.
 

night86mare

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Having said that, I love your "and they said the streets were paved with gold" series....:thumbsup::thumbsup:
oh that...... i got tired of hipshotting, i guess.

anyways, maybe a bit of an OT but i think eikin, if he were around would be more than happy to join in.

http://www.pbase.com/eikin/photography_works

well, it's kind of sad that he doesn't come here anymore.
 

Jed

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I don't know about that...I often find myself not pressing the shutter because when i look through the viewfinder, its simply not nice....:dunno:
That's why I said, you need to learn to translate :)

Another thing is, does good photography include post processing an unimpressive shot into something impressive?
Personally no, I'm a bit of a traditionalist although I might be thawing ^.^
 

fevernova

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i don't know, i never found unimpressive shots worth keeping.

it's from these few times when i tried to save those shots when my mind was screaming "trash them! trash them!" and i went ahead thick-headedly, worked on them for 3-4 days, and trashed them anyways.

it's pretty hard in certain scenarios - take for example landscape photography. if the lighting is flat and uninspiring, then you can't simply add shadow and light to make it into something it's not.

i think there will be shots that look great without PP, just as there will be shots that need that extra touch to make it better than it is.

my take has always been that if we do not add too much fantasy into the picture, for example - making it a clean horizon when there is garbage all on the other side, or happily removing elements, it's more or less a free for all. of course this isn't the word of the law, and i can always appreciate the result when someone does it (well enough, anyways) and it turns out good.
True true....

Anyway, I've seen friends who took up photography versus friends in the arts design media stream take up photography and needless to say, given the same amount of time to develop the necessary basic skills, the ones with the keener artistic skills always came up with greater photos.

It seems that they already have what they want in mind. So am I right to say, photography is about practicing, learning but sometimes, there are exceptions? I know a dude who spent thousands on equipments and still produces lackluster shots after a couple of years of shooting.
 

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