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Philosophy of Photography Taking pics is one thing, but understanding why we take them, what they mean, what they are best used for, how they effect our reality -- all of these and more are important issues of the Philosophy of Photography. One of the best authors on the subject is Susan Sontag in her book "On Photography."

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Old 02-20-2012   #51
sevo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anjoca76 View Post
. Proper exposure and bokeh aside, it looks like a quick snapshot on a cheap digital camera. It looks flat to me. Had I been told it was instead captured with an expensive camera and expensive glass, I would have been very surprised,
Well, no, I would not. The snapshot character of the picture is through its flaws in composition and lighting (plus some mushyness, but that may be due to postprocessing or even web downsizing), not through obvious camera flaws in the original take. I've seen enough M9 shots that were quite similarly flawed - perhaps even worse, as the very close flash on that compact has almost the looks of a professional "shadow killer" ring flash where the offset hotshoe flashes on a M9 tend to produce ugly amateurish killer shadows when similarly abused.
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Old 02-20-2012   #52
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It's an unappealing photo, to my eyes, and the addition of some PS help does nothing to change the essential "meh". That flood-flash interior portrait look is not one I enjoy, and no amount of fake bokeh will help that. Of course, it's possible that someone could show me a flood-flash interior portrait that is awesome, but I haven't seen one yet.

Good digital photo retouching is, to my understanding, equivalent to good processing and printing was for film. Good photos with errors can be saved, but bad photos cannot be transformed into good photos, for the most part.
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Old 02-20-2012   #53
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I maintain there is nothing wrong with this portrait technically...

1. it is sharp, corner to corner
2. there is no pin cushion, no barrel distortion
3. colors are perfectly accurate
4. there are no blown highlights
5. dynamic range is not an issue, is acceptable for the content
6. there are no flash-produced hot spots.
7. the bokeh is perfect. If I didn't point out that it was non-optical, few if any would notice.

I detect some taking umbridge that I would use the word "perfect" to describe something I shot. I was refering to the technical aspects of the picture. Contrarily opinion on this thread - pointing out "over-sharpness of hair" is just so much pixel-peeping, and "Perfect is it? Well I show that OP what for..." - ism. As for the softening/glow effect - I like it. It's far more subtle that diffusion filters I've seen (more on that in a moment) which, "my guess" would be acceptable since that was applied optically, rather than in post.

Thus, there is nothing technically wrong with the image. The softening applied suits my tastes and - unlike using a filter and adding this optically? I can take it out and/or adjust it dynamically. I find this level of softening (slight) to be more natural than doing so optically, which is overkill to the point of visual cliche - typically.

Similarly, the amount of background blur (starting to hate the term "bokeh" for some reason") is a variable, whereas optically it is fixed - married to the camera-subject distance and aperture selection. I can shoot f8 and blow the background to smitereens if I so choose. I can select the number of virtual apertures... and if I do it correctly? Indistinguishable.

I stand by my original statement. The advances in the back-end technology are taken for granted and many of said advances negate the need for high-end gear on the front-end. I don't need filters, I don't need reflectors, I don't need to be concerned with barrel distortion or pin cushioning. I don't need to be concerned with color temp.

So, let me turn the question around. What would shooting a woman sitting on a sofa with a $3,000 portait lens have added?

As I see it, it simply doesn't matter all that much anymore - or certainly anywhere near as much as it used to. The attributes that imparted value to certain gear are being unrealistically coveted, while the incredible and amazing contemporary mature technology - a computer processor, ram, video... alla dat is being undervalued/taken for granted. And there is a refusal to acknowledge what - to me, is obvious.

... Just my take. Agree, disagree.

Carry on.
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Old 02-20-2012   #54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NickTrop View Post
I maintain there is nothing wrong with this portrait technically...

1. it is sharp, corner to corner
2. there is no pin cushion, no barrel distortion
3. colors are perfectly accurate
4. there are no blown highlights
5. dynamic range is not an issue, is acceptable for the content
6. there are no flash-produced hot spots.
7. the bokeh is perfect. If I didn't point out that it was non-optical, few if any would notice.

Thus, there is nothing technically wrong with the image. The softening applied suits my tastes and - unlike using a filter and adding this optically? I can take it out and/or adjust it dynamically. I find this level of softening (slight) to be more natural than doing so optically, which is overkill to the point of visual cliche - typically.

Similarly, the amount of background blur (starting to hate the term "bokeh" for some reason") is a variable, whereas optically it is fixed - married to the camera-subject distance and aperture selection. I can shoot f8 and blow the background to smitereens if I so choose. I can select the number of virtual apertures... and if I do it correctly? Indistinguishable.

I stand by my original statement. The advances in the back-end technology are taken for granted and many of said advances negate the need for high-end gear on the front-end. I don't need filters, I don't need reflectors, I don't need to be concerned with barrel distortion or pin cushioning. I don't need to be concerned with color temp.

So, let me turn the question around. What would shooting a woman sitting on a sofa with a $3,000 portait lens have added?

As I see it, it simply doesn't matter all that much anymore - or certainly anywhere near as much as it used to. The attributes that imparted value to certain gear are being unrealistically coveted, while the incredible and amazing contemporary mature technology - a computer processor, ram, video... alla dat is being undervalued/taken for granted. And there is a refusal to acknowledge what - to me, is obvious.

... Just my take. Agree, disagree.

Carry on.
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Old 02-20-2012   #55
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I don't think the OP was as serious as everyone is taking him. This was clearly a joke. Post a bad point-and-shoot picture with some horrible post-processing to the board, and attention is gained. Of course this wasn't serious. I think he just meant to get us all out of our hibernation and formulate why good photography still relies on good equipment.
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Old 02-20-2012   #56
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Originally Posted by NickTrop View Post
So, let me turn the question around. What would shooting a woman sitting on a sofa with a $3,000 portait lens have added?
A portrait lens might have changed some thing or other - blur in a three-dimensional field is different from postprocessing blur. However, the best portrait lenses (Imagons) in that domain tend to go for $300 or less. And if we ignore that potential for a "soft focus vs. blurred" difference and look at generic high end lenses, you may well be right in that postprocessing away the advantages of a expensive high resolution lens could leave you with the same results as any budget kit - but that is more of an argument against bad postprocessing than for bad lenses...

In any case, images of the own spouse/lover/children are bad examples in debates on technical merits or deficits - unless you are the kind of photographer that marries models for a purely photographic relationship, your images will be biased towards the personal aspect, and your own pick tends to be the essence of family snapshotness.
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Old 02-20-2012   #57
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jippiejee View Post
I don't think the OP was as serious as everyone is taking him. This was clearly a joke. Post a bad point-and-shoot picture with some horrible post-processing to the board, and attention is gained. Of course this wasn't serious. I think he just meant to get us all out of our hibernation and formulate why good photography still relies on good equipment.
Oh, I don't think it is a joke, but it should not be taken literally either, i.e. it is not about gear. it is a challenge thrown down to us to define in what way, if at all, photography is about the subjects we photograph. Has photography become an exercise of applying formal computer-generated parameters to images, thereby creating them out of the machine's stylized version of our collective imagination as opposed to creating them through our experience?
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Old 02-20-2012   #58
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Originally Posted by NickTrop View Post
I maintain there is nothing wrong with this portrait technically...

1. it is sharp, corner to corner
2. there is no pin cushion, no barrel distortion
3. colors are perfectly accurate
4. there are no blown highlights
5. dynamic range is not an issue, is acceptable for the content
6. there are no flash-produced hot spots.
7. the bokeh is perfect. If I didn't point out that it was non-optical, few if any would notice.
No disrespect meant but, in all honesty, 'technically' it is an awful portrait and I do not know in what universe this would serve as an example of good retouching. The skin on her face has no structure at all. It's just a blurry mess. You should never blur skin in retouching. That's a cheap trick to save time and it never looks good. I don't know if you did it or it happened in-camera but it looks awful.
Secondly, there's no separation in skin tones at all. The face looks completely flat.
No flash produced hot spots? Well, there are those two spots dead-center in her eyes. Sometimes the snapshot look works. Here it doesn't.
The 'bokeh' doesn't look right. It seems to me that, for the window in the background to be that blurry, the sofa cushion behind her head should've been slightly more out of focus. Does it matter? Not really. There's little point in blurring the window as the main background for her head is the sofa.

But if you don't see it, you just don't see it.
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Old 02-20-2012   #59
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The right camera helps you get the shot, simple as. This seems to be something people forget or overlook on a regular basis.
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Old 02-20-2012   #60
igi
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NickTrop View Post
I maintain...

1. it is sharp, corner to corner
2. there is no pin cushion, no barrel distortion
3. colors are perfectly accurate
4. there are no blown highlights
5. dynamic range is not an issue, is acceptable for the content
6. there are no flash-produced hot spots.
7. the bokeh is perfect. If I didn't point out that it was non-optical, few if any would notice.

I detect... I shot. I was refering to...

...suits my tastes... I find this level of softening (slight) to be more natural...

I stand by my original statement...

As I see it, it simply doesn't matter all that much anymore...

to me, is obvious.

... Just my take. Agree, disagree.

Carry on.
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Old 02-20-2012   #61
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Starting with a loaded question (assumption that people would rally to the inherent superiority of Leica), repeatedly stating opinions ('dynamic range is not an issue,' 'the bokeh is perfect') as facts, and refusing to accept criticism as anything but equipment-related hostility...
I hope this is just some quality trolling.
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Old 02-20-2012   #62
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NickTrop View Post
So, let me turn the question around. What would shooting a woman sitting on a sofa with a $3,000 portait lens have added?

As I see it, it simply doesn't matter all that much anymore - or certainly anywhere near as much as it used to. The attributes that imparted value to certain gear are being unrealistically coveted, while the incredible and amazing contemporary mature technology - a computer processor, ram, video... alla dat is being undervalued/taken for granted. And there is a refusal to acknowledge what - to me, is obvious.

... Just my take. Agree, disagree.

Carry on.
It depends on the audience but I tend to agree but perhaps for a different reason. Most of us who are photography hobbyists or professionals could argue your point but the iphone and its cohorts dominate the conversation right now. The Facebook crowd don't care so much about blown highlights and won't even bother with post production. Why bother?

So yes, I think there is still a need for good camera gear amongst photo enthusiasts but most people in my circle of friends and family are mostly interested in looking at snap shots taken from their cellphone. And the sooner they see the photos the better.
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Old 02-20-2012   #63
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Quote:
Originally Posted by celluloidprop View Post
Starting with a loaded question (assumption that people would rally to the inherent superiority of Leica), repeatedly stating opinions ('dynamic range is not an issue,' 'the bokeh is perfect') as facts, and refusing to accept criticism as anything but equipment-related hostility...
I hope this is just some quality trolling.
it's a spoof...
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Old 02-20-2012   #64
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Old 02-20-2012   #65
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Has anyone ever read American Cinematographer magazine? The holy grail of cinematographers is depth in an image, usually through focal length and lighting. It's not about using a Panaflex body, or an Arri because Panavision sucks and is overpriced. They go into tremendous detail about lighting...even if it's supposed to look like natural light.

Translate this to still photography.

I think the reason I use more professional equipment for personal photography is because I think it's easier to add depth. This frequently has to do with sensor size (notice I'm not talking about image noise...I really don't care about that...I've used fast film before) but mostly with the glass. My favorite vacation photos have depth, and even though I've taken wonderful images of my family with a p&s in a dark restaurant, they're wonderful because of the subject...not the merits of the photo itself.

I think you can make images technically better by lots of post-production, but it won't make up for the depth you can create with gear that allows separation and control. We're not talking snapshots, we're talking portraits or other planned photography.

So, for Nick (and by the way, your wife is a beautiful woman, so understand we're talking about your posted subject), the image seems kind of like all the stops were pulled to salvage a snapshot. Please don't take that as a personal or professional attack. I'm just talking about the technical act of capturing images with two different tiers of equipment. I happen to think that it would have looked much better (more organic) with a better lump of glass, larger sensor, less compression, and maybe (though not specific to the camera) more depth through lighting.

So, long-winded opinion...yes, the gear CAN matter.

Family snapshot with decent sensor and lens combo (it's not art, just a snap):

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Old 02-20-2012   #66
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Hi,

I'm coming to the conclusion that technically correct is a variation on politically correct. Both of them change with time and fashion and, more often, who you are talking to.

Vaguely in focus is what suits most of the ladies; I've spoken to lots of them some born in the 19th century and others born in the 20th or 21st. None of them like razor sharp pictures, a lot object to retouching (or whatever it's called this week) and most of them are happiest when it's flattering and the recipient likes it.

Funnily enough not one of them has made a comment about the camera.

And a lot of people have asked for copies of one I did that's badly out of focus, in my opinion, yet works well. The young lady (3 or 4years old) didn't want her picture taken and had exasperated me. I gave up, put the camera back on auto everything (its normal restive state) and tried to stand up and fell apex over base. The picture I grabbed of her laughing at me was focused on the chair as it was a grab shot and you all know what AF does now and then. But everyone loves it...

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Old 02-20-2012   #67
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What makes it a point-n-shoot shot is the on axis flash that washes out the face - no modeling. Of course, fashion photogs have started using ring lights for the same effect. Camera matters a bit, but planning a shot (ie the photographer) matters more. In the old days the masses used non-adjustable cameras so their shots were out of focus and badly exposed, while advanced amateurs and pros used better equipment that largely took care of the technical issues. Now, the equipment is so good that any one can take a technically perfect shot, but what appears (or doesn't appear) in the frame is still up to the person pressing the shutter.
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Old 02-20-2012   #68
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Gear matters only if the photographer's need requires it.

The reason people become gear-heads is because they feel limited by their equipment, attributing blame to it rather than to their own lack of ability... or perhaps they spend too much time on forums.

Most enthusiasts overcompensate with lenses, cameras, and what have you when searching for the look they want in their photos. Once an individual finds what works for them they are able to develop their own "look".

Nobody needs a $15,000 three lens kit to accompany them on a walk to the bakery.

Still, playing with all sorts of different gear may lead the photographer to find their perfect camera combination, and allow them to start focusing on photography rather than photography equipment.

Software is similar. Some people are content with little post-processing, some require more. It entirely depends on style and the need.
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Old 02-20-2012   #69
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete B View Post
Check out these photos taken on a 4mmx5mm sensor in an android phone using a Kodachrome plug-in.
Pete
I find these to be technically and aesthetically superior to Nick's "photograph".

And Nick, joke or otherwise, who are you kidding?

:-p
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Old 02-20-2012   #70
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I think of it in systems terms. (Any one with systems training might understand this instinctively - but others may not.)

Put simply, photography is a system made up of the Photographer, the camera (and any other hardware) and the post processing in a computer using relevant software.

The three are integral to the whole.

Having said that, I could not imagine publishing a photo on Flickr or anything of this sort without post processing. But that is not new - Ansell Adams (to name one photographer) spent a huge amount of effort in the darkroom.

As far as I am concerned its the same game - new technology.

So I think its not correct to say the camera does not matter. Just as (for me) its wrong to say that post processing does not matter.

However, I accept that some people do not feel this way and who have a view about "purity" of image making - they like to "edit" their image "in camera" and then let the results speak for themselves. These people tend to be from the "reportage" school of photography.
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Old 02-20-2012   #71
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I recently went to a Leo Kottke concert where he told the story when his guitar was stolen years ago. He got a new one and while doing several concerts at a single venue, he kept complaining onstage about how bad the guitar was and how difficult it was to play. He was visited by a famous guitarist backstage one day who took the guitar and proceeded to play some wonderful music with it. Handing it back to Leo, he remarked that the problem was maybe not with the guitar.
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Old 02-20-2012   #72
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I recently went to a Leo Kottke concert where he told the story when his guitar was stolen years ago. He got a new one and while doing several concerts at a single venue, he kept complaining onstage about how bad the guitar was and how difficult it was to play. He was visited by a famous guitarist backstage one day who took the guitar and proceeded to play some wonderful music with it. Handing it back to Leo, he remarked that the problem was maybe not with the guitar.
Did he ever get the guitar back?
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Old 02-20-2012   #73
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Did he ever get the guitar back?
Not to my knowledge. That was back in the 70's I think. All of the times I've seen him in the last 15 years, he was usually playing 6 and 12-string Bozo's, probably custom made.
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Old 02-20-2012   #74
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Yes, it is only about software/software skills. I don't even use a digital camera anymore. I just hold up a disk with the latest version of Photoshop and capture away. Seriously, can we move on?
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Old 02-20-2012   #75
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The camera doesn't matter, and the software or processing skills either.

That, if we talk about photography as a way to communicate feelings.

Jobs and the "Academy" are another story... A great photograph can be or not of high technical quality: that's precisely just another one from all the qualities a photograph can have, and it is not an important one...

Cheers,

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