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Business / 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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Are YOU satisfied with YOUR images?
Old 07-31-2008   #1
dcsang
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Are YOU satisfied with YOUR images?

This question is, I guess, a corollary to Joe's thread here:
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...ad.php?t=59485

Here's the reason for asking the question in the subject line.
Many times, when going through a roll or two (or images on a card) I have a handful of "keepers" - images I like and I think are "good" to me. I am happy with them. I don't necessarily show them to everyone or such but I like the image. This does not mean I'm not going to try to get better by continuing to learn from other folks' techniques, images etc. but I know I like the images I've kept.

The others are "throw aways".

So, with that in mind, do you find that you have to look to others to validate your images? Do you see a need or desire to have other people "like" your images? That is, a desire to have others see your images and say "this appeals to me" in order to feel that you're doing well in your photographic endeavours?

I'm curious how others feel about this.

Cheers,
Dave
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Old 07-31-2008   #2
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Dave – for me it’s a mix of both. It’s great if someone else appreciates an image I like, it’s also interesting when they like an image I don’t particularly.
However, one thing I wrestle with (usually unsuccessfully) when evaluating my images, is separating the image per se from the emotional tags that often relate to the subject &/or the circumstances when I took the image.
All that said, my bottom line is that I show and display images that I like, not those others like.
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Old 07-31-2008   #3
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Well no. There always seems to be improvements to be had or an "instant" missed.

yours
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Old 07-31-2008   #4
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Taking photos of my children always give me keepers because I love looking at my children. I am content with what I am capable to accomplish [and what I am lacking] in photography. There are more important issues in life [for me] than lifting my photography to higher levels.
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Old 07-31-2008   #5
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Yeah, I usually get 1-3 images on a roll that I just love. That's why I get such a kick from photography. The thing of it is tho, is that me liking one of my photos does not mean that it is any good. So... it's nice when other people sometimes like them.
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Old 07-31-2008   #6
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Same as you Dave.
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Old 07-31-2008   #7
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I definitely get a charge when someone understands one of my pictures as I do - or as I don't. If someone compliments one with a shallow "ooh, that's pretty" or whatever I'll thank them, but it doesn't really do much for me.

I'm confident in my photos and don't feel the need for validation from others. You don't have to like them. They probably don't match your drapes anyway.

I *do* like hearing feedback on how people interpret and respond to photos, but that's something very different than looking for validation.
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Old 07-31-2008   #8
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If I was "satisfied" I'd stop making images.
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Old 07-31-2008   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YrDdraigGoch View Post
I know what I like and I know what I want, I'm very strict, which means that about 30 out of 37 slides go straight into the bin. A few more may follow a little later.

So I wouldn't know if anybody likes the images that I don't, no one sees them.

I don't need any "validation". I do this for me, though it can be amusing to hear the interpretations that others may put into my images.


Taliesin.
If you are so strict, why do you shoot so many failures?

(This is not a personal attack of any kind. I do the same thing. But I'm interested in your reply.)

Cheers,

R.
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Old 07-31-2008   #10
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Roger, that sounds just like my wife who asks me, why don't you just shoot the good pictures and not all those bad ones!
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Old 07-31-2008   #11
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I actually have a need for people to dislike my photos.
Even if it's a picture I think is the cats pajamas, having a rough critique gives me a challenge to improve BEYOND where I am today....it's what keeps me going out and taking pictures.
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Old 07-31-2008   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YrDdraigGoch View Post
My dear fellow,

I don't "shoot" failures.

Though there are numerous reasons as to why I don't have a 100% "hit rate".
Primary factor is the fact that I shoot slow speed slide stock, intolerant of exposure error so only the best exposure is kept from any bracketing I do in difficult light.
There are sometimes DOF issues, not altogether previsible while using rangefinder cameras.
And then, compositional misjudgements, one is always "learning" n'est-ce pas?

Would you care to share your "hit-rate"?


Taliesin.
Dear Taliesin,

Clearly you do shoot failures, or you would have a 100% hit rate.

I specifically said that this was not a personal attack, because I do the same thing; I was interested in your analysis of why it happens.

My hit rates? I increasingly wonder if this means anything. Pictures I keep? Pictures I like? Pictures that are published? For keepers, at best, maybe 30/36. At worst, not 1/36. For publication, much the same -- but I'll rarely use 30/36 except for pack shots and step-by-steps.

I'd hate to average the 30/36s and the 1/36s, but as a rough guess, I'd say 30-50% good publishable, the same again usable in desperation, the remainder effectively scrappers.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 07-31-2008   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Dear Taliesin,

Clearly you do shoot failures, or you would have a 100% hit rate.

I specifically said that this was not a personal attack, because I do the same thing; I was interested in your analysis of why it happens.

My hit rates? I increasingly wonder if this means anything. Pictures I keep? Pictures I like? Pictures that are published? For keepers, at best, maybe 30/36. At worst, not 1/36. For publication, much the same -- but I'll rarely use 30/36 except for pack shots and step-by-steps.

I'd hate to average the 30/36s and the 1/36s, but as a rough guess, I'd say 30-50% good publishable, the same again usable in desperation, the remainder effectively scrappers.
Cheers,

R.

See, I'd be screwed here, I always wind on the first 5 frames of a 36 roll so that when it comes down to sleeving them i don't end up with those lousy orphan negs. So for me...even if every single frame I shot was perfect I'd end up with an 83% hit hahaha.

oh well, i'm off to get a burrito....mmmmm
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Old 07-31-2008   #14
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To me, photography is a reflection of what I see through the limitations of the camera and my ability to capture a subject to my desired feeling or intent. With that said, I always start by taking a picture of something I like, and once it is produced, it takes a life of its own. Invariable, of the few people who do look at my pictures and like them, many times it is for reasons I never even noticed; and that is a bonus.

But I think it is this process of the dance between the subject, the creator, and the observer, that gives a picture its soul.


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Old 07-31-2008   #15
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Yes, I like my work. Yes I know my limitations.

Others often love my pics, even if I know they are not that special technically nor artistically. It doesn't matter. I take the Bob Ross view really: 'The moment you are 100% satisfied, you might as well quit'.

And if I think one of mine is brilliant (rare), and all of RFF says it' s*cks, I still think it's brilliant.
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Old 07-31-2008   #16
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Dave - interesting question ...

my photography fall into three general categories...

1. those I shoot for myself (vast majority);
2. those I shoot for others (usually for famliy or friends);
3. those I shoot to share with others (some of my travel, candid and 'street' photography falls into this category)...

the above aren't mutually exclusive and may overlap...

I couldn't care less what others think about photos that fall into the first category.

For those images that fall into category 2, I only care what the intended audience thinks or likes about those photos because I make those images for them.

I do care what others think about images that fall into the third category, not for personal validation, but because it's important to me to see what others perceive as it may in some cases help me to see differently... and for me, this last category of photography or image making is all about different perspectives on neutral subject matter, while the first two are about personal perspectives on personal subject matter...
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Old 07-31-2008   #17
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"I never have taken a picture I've intended. They're always better or worse."

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Old 07-31-2008   #18
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I am...except when I'm not.
I often like what I do but I always think I can do more/better.

Yes, I like positive feedback from others. If I didn't, I wouldn't bother to post my shots anywhere.
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Old 07-31-2008   #19
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forgot to add, I don't think about photos in categories 1 and 2 as 'keepers' or 'throw aways'... all of those photos are usually 'significant' to me and I keep them all... what is perhaps not that significant to me at time x may become extremely significant to me at time y...

images in category 3 are rarely 'keepers' - (for me, defined as something worth spending lots of time and energy to produce the best print possible)... for cat. 3 images, the process is usually more important that the image... i enjoy travel photoraphy, walking around town 'shooting stuff', taking random candids etc...
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If you had sex
Old 07-31-2008   #20
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If you had sex

Would you know if you came?

Of course.

But now that I'm older I have the Universal Dying Man's Wish that I close my eyes for the last time remembering the best I ever had.

If one can't figure the keepers from the culls, I very much doubt that he can differentiate self abuse from The Real Deal, much less the Really Good Deal.
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Old 07-31-2008   #21
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The vast majority of my photos end up in the trash. But then I take lots and lots of photos when I'm seriously shooting. When i was a photojournalism student so long ago, it was hammered into my head that film is relatively cheap, particularly when you consider that it is impossible to recreate an event/trip, etc.

That's just hard-wired into my brain now. I shoot heavily and edit heavily. I may only keep 1 out of every 40 or 50. It's not that all the rest are junk, it's just that I like others better.

And I do get a great deal of satisfaction when others like my photos. That is, after all, one of the reasons I like to shoot. To show others what I see.
Sometimes the opinions of others have convinced me to rethink my own feelings on a picture. Other times, I will continue to love or dislike a photo, regardless of what someone else thinks.
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Old 07-31-2008   #22
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Generally yes but sometimes so not so!

The gallery here fascinates me ... sometimes you can put a pic in there that will be viewed forty or fifty times but not evoke a comment and another image will be viewed a third of that amount and garner two or three appreciative remarks? I personally won't put an image in the gallery that doesn't give me some sense of pride or satisfaction but I agree with what someone said before that your own peception of your pics can be heavily influenced by an emotional tag.

Sometimes I have to stop and remind myself that my interest in photography started with my join date here on this forum ... particularly when I'm trying to do too much with the knowledge I have. At these times I have to take a breather and just slow down and let the learning process happen naturally and quit forcing it!
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Old 07-31-2008   #23
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Old 07-31-2008   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by monochromejrnl View Post
forgot to add, I don't think about photos in categories 1 and 2 as 'keepers' or 'throw aways'... all of those photos are usually 'significant' to me and I keep them all... what is perhaps not that significant to me at time x may become extremely significant to me at time y...

images in category 3 are rarely 'keepers' - (for me, defined as something worth spending lots of time and energy to produce the best print possible)... for cat. 3 images, the process is usually more important that the image... i enjoy travel photoraphy, walking around town 'shooting stuff', taking random candids etc...
Ken,

I think, (after reading both your posts), you and I are very much alike in this respect.

Cheers,
Dave
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Old 07-31-2008   #25
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I would like to think I'm my worst critic. But it still has been very useful to get feedback from all sorts. Other photographers, friends, relatives etc. have all given me tips; some painful, others helpful. I have rejected some, especially when one of my friend's wife said, 'It's in Black and White!'
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Old 07-31-2008   #26
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Family photos... always happy - as mentioned already, I love taking photos of loved ones.

However I can't say the same for the personal photos I've been taking lately. I'm presently photographically frustrated (if there is such a term). Everything I've been shooting lately seemed to "suck" in my own mind - or to elaborate a little: boring, cliche, thoughtless...
Regarding validation through others' approval, I don't seek it but do appreciate it when someone enjoys a photo. This doesn't change my opinion of a [email protected] photo even if someone liked it though...
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Old 07-31-2008   #27
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Dave, you asked two separate questions.

First you asked "Are you satisfied?" My answer there is that I am reasonably satisfied. But I am always working on improvement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dcsang View Post
So, with that in mind, do you find that you have to look to others to validate your images? Do you see a need or desire to have other people "like" your images? That is, a desire to have others see your images and say "this appeals to me" in order to feel that you're doing well in your photographic endeavours?
The answer there is an unequivocal "NO". I do have about 6 friends who I discuss my work with. They are all very accomplished photographers as well as good critics But they don't say "good" or "not so good". Instead they offer their straight forward thoughts about what I am doing. Sometimes I agree with them, sometimes not. But I do cherish and retain every thought they utter. You can certainly say they are not ones to go to for a ego boost.

I've pretty much given up posting images on line for comments. I found for the most part the comments were subconsciously pushing me to the middle of the road and discouraging of those photos that may be really really strong because they did not fit the norm.
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Old 07-31-2008   #28
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I am satisfied with my work, but it took me many years of practice to get to the point where i considered my self a mature artist with something to say and the means to say it.
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Old 07-31-2008   #29
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I like some of my pictures, and I want people to like them: but that does not mean that I am satisfied with my work as a whole.
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Old 08-01-2008   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YrDdraigGoch View Post
I see. "good publishable" and "usable in desperation". I thought we were talking "art".

We clearly don't share the same criteria.
Dear Taliesin,

Very true. The majority of what its authors call art isn't publishable. After excluding pack shots and step-by-steps for my own work:

Art: 100%

Good art: <1%

Cheers,

R.
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Old 08-01-2008   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pitxu View Post
Roger,
You can hardly regard frames used for bracketing, experimenting with different compositions/angle of view etc as "failures".
I would consider them as "tools" used for learning much like notes or sketches.
An experiment can never be a failure as long as it gives a result.
Interpreting the result is the basis of learning.
Dear Richard,

You are of course exactly right -- but I was being as selective about my use of the word as T. was. He reserves the right to set his own narrow definitions; I reserve the right to challenge them. Also, as I pointed out, I shoot 'failures' too: I was interested in how he defined 'failure'.

Reacting to challenges can also be a useful learning tool. He wants to define 'success' as 'art'. If I could get 15% really good art from my 35mm pics (after excluding pack shots, step-by-steps, etc.) I'd think I was doing unbelievably well.

How do I define 'really good art'? Well, dare I say that one criterion is 'publishable', i.e. art that someone else is willing to pay to see?Another is 'saleable' -- someone else is willing to pay to have it on their wall. I shoot lots of pics I like, but I am all too aware of the possibility of the 'fine art' photographer suffering from what a Californian friend called 'recto-cranial inversion' or 'head up his own bum'. I grow increasingly suspicious of 'fine art' -- and ever more so as I go to Arles every year.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 08-01-2008   #32
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Quote:
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How do I define 'really good art'? Well, dare I say that one criterion is 'publishable', i.e. art that someone else is willing to pay to see?Another is 'saleable' -- someone else is willing to pay to have it on their wall.
Then you would agree that the best artist in the world is Thomas Kinkade...

http://www.thomaskinkade.com

because he publishes and sells millions of prints.
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Old 08-01-2008   #33
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Then you would agree that the best artist in the world is Thomas Kinkade...

http://www.thomaskinkade.com

because he publishes and sells millions of prints.
Aaaarrrgh!

I didn't say it was the only criterion, nor that it was infallible.

How had I never seen his work before? And how is he on green-skinned oriental maidens, large-eyed children in the Montmartre fashion, and ink-jet prints of Elvis on velvet?

I am not sure whether to thank you or curse you for bringing his work to my attention.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 08-01-2008   #34
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Quote:
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Dear Richard,

someone else is willing to pay to have it on their wall.
Cheers,

R.
for me..this is how i look at what are the choice pictures.

interesting the talk on the amount of keepers though. once upon a time i used to take weddings and i thought i was over the top with having ten rolls (35mm film) in my bag--sometimes i used them all and others i didnt. i'd like to think the customers were always happy with the results and number of good shots (or portfolio, whatever you want to call it) and always a number of excellent shots (at a guess well over 50%). at least my impression was they were always very happy with the results. other times i used the hasselbald and 120 film and still only used 10-15 rolls with a great majority of good shots. now i only take pictures for leisure but i find the larger the format the greater the number of good shots.

interestingly i was in the shop a while back (buying film) and a wedding photogragher was there buying a new card for his nikon ,4 gig or something, and he was saying on average he takes thousands (frankly i forget excactly how many he said but i was blown away with suprise) and only keeps around a 400 with but a fraction of them that are good 'per say'. i was stunned! i thought was wasteful but i guess thats the advantage (or disadvantage depending how you look at it) of digital for ya...the larger the format (because of price etc) forces one to put more thought into each shot...which kinda reminds me when i was a a kid and learnt to shoot (guns wernt polictically incorrect or frowned upon then) i was only ever given one shot rifles or shot guns to learn with...it forces you 'look' and to take aim with few misses eh
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Old 08-01-2008   #35
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It takes time to be able to really honestly critique my own work and be satisfied (or not) with it. My pattern is usually to process and print a week or two worth of film at once, then make prints of all possible negatives that I hope to be able to call "good photographs." I find I often print some images because I was SO SURE they were good images when I snapped the shutter, and I simply expect to have something worthwhile. Then I look at them on the light table and think "oh no - not as good as I thought," but stubbornly I still make a print, and if it survives the wash and evades the trashcan, it will be one I simply bury in a stack in the future. I am a much more selective editor of my own work once I forget the subjective context of the photograph and personal meaning the photograph had for me when I made it. It is easier to see the image for what it is as the memories of making it fade. It's like viewing someone else's work at that point, and critiquing others is a lot easier for me than critiquing my own.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about what I want to show, and how paring down what goes on the wall or online can really strengthen the overall portfolio. What I've really been wanting to work on lately is a photo essay, which is the ultimate discipline in photographic story telling. I've been doing a project loosely held together by the location in which Im shooting it, but thus far it amounts to a bunch of disjointed images that don't really work together at all, and can't be considered an "essay." It's so difficult to figure out what I'm doing - why I'm shooting - what does it amount to? I am not satisfied with "Art" as an answer. As much as I enjoy looking at Art, I am after something less academic and more accessible than Art - I want to use photography for its strength and draw from life to make a point - to use the camera to tell stories artfully. I am absolutely frustrated as to how to go about this while maintaining a day job. Sorry for the tangent maybe it wasnt a tangent Dave, put me down as NO for being satisfied with my own work!

Last edited by williams473 : 08-01-2008 at 11:28.
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Old 08-01-2008   #36
Roger Hicks
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. . . once upon a time i used to take weddings and i thought i was over the top with having ten rolls (35mm film) in my bag--sometimes i used them all and others i didnt. i'd like to think the customers were always happy with the results . . . and a wedding photogragher was there buying a new card for his nikon ,4 gig or something, and he was saying on average he takes thousands . . . i thought was wasteful but i guess thats the advantage (or disadvantage depending how you look at it) of digital for ya...the larger the format (because of price etc) forces one to put more thought into each shot...
Dear Andrew,

This is why I am ever less inclined to ask anyone their 'hit rate'. Everyone has their own criteria -- and mine are a bit different from what they were 40 years ago (or 30... or 20... or 10...)

The thing is, I know mine aren't the only criteria, and I know that I'm a good enough writer to double my 'hit rate' (or better) if I press the 'Auto Adjust Bull****' level in my private writing/photography programs: you have no doubt read Tom Wolfe's The Painted Word.

I have only ever shot weddings for friends, and then, only when I can't get out of it. They are also wedding presents: film, processing (proofs) and labour free, everything else is their probem. The last two or three, my wife and I have shot 500-1000 shots (mostly 35mm, plus a few 120 'formals') per wedding.

Depending on the photographer, it may be easier to get 10 good pics with 20 sheets of cut film or 200 frames of 6x7cm or 1000 frames of 35mm (or 10,000 digital images...) My own view, increasingly, is this: use the way that's right for you, and don't get too precious/pompous about what's 'good' and why.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 08-01-2008   #37
Roger Hicks
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In my first post I defined failure: It goes in the bin.



I did not say that. I define success as "staying out of the bin".

I would not consider a discussion of the publish-ability of "pack-shots" is
There's a wonderful old Royal Navy appraisal:

"He has always worked to his own entire satisfaction."

We all do it. Some of us recognize the fact; some of us also work to others' satisfaction.

"Going in the bin" is not defining failure; it is rephrasing it. WHY does it go in the bin?

And if you bother to re-read my posts, you will see that I do not equate the publishability of pack-shots with recto-cranial inversion. That is entirely your invention.

Edit, to take account of your finishing the post (the above is what you posted first): you are probably very wise not to attempt any further responses, as you clearly don't read my posts. Or if you do, you are incapable of understanding them. It was not you -- assuming that the picture is of you -- to whom I referred. It was 'Fine Art' photography and photographers in general. Of course, if the cap (or bum) fits...

Cheers,

R.
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Last edited by Roger Hicks : 08-01-2008 at 11:11.
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Old 08-01-2008   #38
monochromejrnl
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wondering if anyone here has moved from a predominantly a film workflow to a digital workflow for editing images... it has been a very long time since i regularly made and edited from contact sheets (high school year book days in the early 90s)... but back then i remember spending much more time (per image) when editing (for both personal or yearbook work) than I do now with a digital work flow (ie. editing scans of negs)... is suspect this transition is in part resulting in a lower 'hit' rate not because the quality is down, but because I spend less time considering it... i also distinctly recall going back to contact sheets for another look days, weeks or even months later, than I do now with the high volume of images...

wonder if others have experienced similar? different???

i look forwad to the day i have sufficient space in my living arrangements to have a small but dedicated darkroom for printing contact sheets and proofs for editing, rather than relying on quick scans and editing on screen...
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Old 08-01-2008   #39
Philippe D.
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Originally Posted by BigSteveG View Post
If I was "satisfied" I'd stop making images.
I would have said the same.
The day i'm satisfied with my picture(s), i'll cease taking photograph and sell all my equipment right away.
And go fishing.
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Old 08-01-2008   #40
williams473
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Mono,

I love contact sheets - it's so nice to be able to take them with you to various spots around the house or yard to go over them. I agree that I too find I go through old contact sheets much more readily than files and folders on a PC or MAC. I really enjoy making a mess of my contacts too - leave them all over the place, so that I keep getting glances of my images to remind me I have a lot more work to do.
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