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Whats with the overly glossy aesthetic?
Old 12-28-2015   #1
jojoman2
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Whats with the overly glossy aesthetic?

You guys know what I'm talking about. Extreme saturated color that would never occur in nature, too perfect black and white (leica monochrome), bokography, airbrushed photographs to remove every last imperfection from portraits, landscapes, and architecture. What is happening to the mainstream aesthetic? Do a lot of photographers just have bad taste, or is photoshop ruining honest, gritty photography?

I'm sick of bad photography. I know my definition of bad is simply that, "my" definition, that most subjective of interpretations--good or bad. But seriously people, airbrushed, glossy, alien looking color is one of my biggest pet peeves, and it seems to be the norm nowadays.

I won't pretend that I don't have a lot of improvement to make before I can even start to brag about my work, but I'm having serious difficulty finding GOOD street and portrait work on Flickr, or other portfolio websites, instead finding airbrushed, mass produced-looking crap. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place. Maybe the real street photographers have their own exclusive club that I haven't stumbled upon yet.

Ugh, I'm feeling frustrated today. It's because I just started a 500px account and all the recommended photographers work looked SO over processed and just weak, weak material, weak photography.
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Old 12-28-2015   #2
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Wassamattayou? More is better. :-)
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Thanks, but I'd rather just watch:
Mostly 35mm: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mdarnton
Large format: http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeldarnton
What? You want digital, color, etc?: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stradofear
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Old 12-28-2015   #3
aizan
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i stopped surfing the internet for good photographers many years ago. the good ones end up being published in print, and it's hard enough keeping up with that anyway these days!
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Old 12-28-2015   #4
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I agree with you.
Somehow I like crazy colors on paintings, but not in digital photography.

But. Here is no problem to find amazing portraits and street work on Flickr.
Plenty, in fact. Just don't follow tasteless crowd flow. Where are good individuals without +99 likes on every picture.

500px top was garbage for me years ago, for same reason you have mentioned.

And I didn't find Monochrome bw any good. Q BW is better for my taste.

Tastes are different, but I'll dare to recommend http://www.coltonallen.com/ (known here and on Flickr as well) for color photography. And check portrait groups for bw film.
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Old 12-28-2015   #5
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Well you and I balance each other out.
I like nearly everything, and appreciate people who have the moxie to make (let's say) adventurous images.
I've seen all the flower pictures I need to see, and all the cafe scenes I need to see, and all the red barns and ocean sunsets I need to see.
If you don't like something, that's just fine. Just say "I don't like this picture" and leave it at that.

I do know you were mostly blowing off steam, so don't read too much criticism into my wording.
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Old 12-28-2015   #6
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Yeah, most stuff has become homogenous these days. I think it has to do with so many people, even good photographers, using commercial actions with LR and PS. The quality of some of these actions is amazing, but the result is that everything, including street, looks the same.
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Old 12-28-2015   #7
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This argument has always existed...
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Old 12-28-2015   #8
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yeah I hope folks don't read too harshly into my initial post. I think it's great that everyone has access to high quality images. I think it's great that almost everyone is into taking pictures for fun. Hell I even think it's great that humans of new york exists simply to promote street as a genre with potential for mainstream exposure, even though I think a lot of his photography is generally pretty amateurish--but the stories are good, as are some of the portraits.

One of the main reasons I search out working street photographers is to eliminate the nostalgia factor that accompanies my adoration for photographers of yesterday. It isn't possible to make a lot of those images now, or those stories. I need to see the work of photographers today to keep me grounded in these streets, and to motivate me to try harder, be more daring.
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Old 12-28-2015   #9
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I'm looking at Winogrand's work, because I like it as geometry of coincidence and as art next to classic sometimes. Yes, not so many monkeys on the street these days for sure. And Oldsmobiles. But people are walking, talking and sun is casting the same shadows.

If you don't have motivation to go on the street to tell your story it is time to leave and take a break. The spring is coming.
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Old 12-28-2015   #10
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Not sure gritty photography is good either, but heavy post processing kinda prevails on the internet where you can't really judge print quality anyway.

One thing is that digital cameras have mucho resolution. I can print a lot bigger with my Monochrome than with my film Leicas. If too much resolution is in your face than you are just old school.

I have to laugh when people say Fuji Acros looks too digital and clean. I happen to like that look, but the same people who say that Acros looks too clean and sterile because it lacks grain and grittyness are people who probably dislike large format photography or fine art printing.

I would agree that there is mucho high contrast, exaggeration, and heavy handed post processing that gets mighty crunchy. I look at prints rather than a computer screen to fairly judge an image. A retina screen on a Mac Book Pro is definitely a heightened exaggerated reality and that most displays are way too bright. Unfortunately this aesthetic has taken root... and is actively promoted via bright computer screens that is not so tasteful.

Recently I learned that there is a lot more shadow detail on my Piezography prints than is displayed on my 27 inch EIZO. Realize that I dimmed down my calibrated monitor to 85 Lux so it resembles the amount of light reflected off paper and ink of a print, and this is in a darkened room.

Took me about 9-10 months of serious printing spending thousands of dollars in paper and ink to realize and utilize all that resolution, all that tonality, and all that IQ.

I thought that I might of overdone things, and I kinda mistakenly thought my prints have a HDR like effect, but it is really a higher level of resolution/perfection that one would experience in a larger format, and the resolution is something we are not use to in small format.

Anyways I can print mighty big and come pretty close to doing a Salgado, meaning print crazy big. We are at a point now where digital small format has to be considered a different medium: a very different medium.

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Old 12-28-2015   #11
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Some thoughts in response, in no particular order.

1) There's plenty of great street photography on Flickr IMO. There's just a TON of bad in there you have to slog through to get to the gems

2) 500px is not a great place to find street photos in my experience. It leans heavily toward vibrant landscapes heavily produced/lit portraits of exactly the type you're complaining about.

3) To each their own when it comes to taste.

I've seen a number of people (including on this forum) rave about the quality of a B&W photo based on the huge range of grays encompassed in it. But I personally detest photos without contrast and a clear black point and white point evident, and sometimes I'm heavy handed with a tone curve to create extreme contrast if that's the look I want in a photo.

There's no "right" and "wrong" way to practice photography. People use bright, saturated color because they like it. Underexposed Kodachrome was popular a long time before Photoshop and the saturation slider The photography you're seeing on 500px is popular right now, which feeds the image making machine two-fold. People are producing work that will get them acclaim, and new photographers are being inspired by the work they've seen and liked.

By the same token though you can also find pockets of people that follow just about any style. Folks who idolize Cartier-Bresson, or Robert Frank, or Alex Webb, or whoever and follow that path for their own photographic journey. Currently popular trends in photography change with every generation, but the death of any particular style or approach is usually greatly exaggerated.
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Old 12-28-2015   #12
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My early mentors in pro photography taught me several things (not necessarily right or wrong or the "best"):

Zoom with your feet (use prime lenses)
Compose in camera (don't crop in the darkroom)
Get the exposure right the first time
Film is cheap- when in doubt, keep shooting (sort of contradicts the last rule?)

That was the late 80's/ early 90's. When I was getting out of the profession, it was just starting to transition to digital....

Basically the idea was to let the negative stand (or fall) on it's own merit -- no excess manipulation after the exposure is made. Now I shoot for fun, not income, but I often default to those rules...

How does this relate to the OP observation? I think that the technology of modern photography is vast and exciting... but these are all just tools. They still require careful contemplation and skill to use well. "Glossy" "Perfect" images have their place when used in an appropriate context. All of which is SUBJECTIVE for sure
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Old 12-28-2015   #13
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I think it comes down to intent. Editing has always existed and IMO it's best used when it augments the subject matter of the image. Photographers have always altered, edited, or used certain equipment (ie: snapshot aesthetic) to help convey an idea, or help establish a feeling that they're trying to communicate through their images... It's kinda like the fourth camera control - shutter speed, aperture, iso, darkroom/lightroom.

We live in a pretty HD world right now and I think a lot of the images that you are seeing are a reflection of that. It's not bad, or good, it's just kinda what's happening right now.

Also, a lot of it comes down to laziness. Photography is so easy and just about everyone can do it. This is good and bad. The good is that it's become accessible and that there are a lot of amazing folks finding photography and expressing themselves and telling stories in super unique ways. The bad is that photography is so saturated and unfortunately folks don't take enough time to learn the history of the craft and create a context for their aesthetic.
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Old 12-28-2015   #14
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You need to select your contacts on Flickr according to taste - that's it. For example, I do not follow anybody who posts colour pictures - this is entirely my choice. As to photos that I dislike - well, I try to gloss over, but nowadays photography is so ubiquitous that it would be naive to expect people to only post masterpieces.
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Old 12-28-2015   #15
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There is no one way to do Photography right...
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Old 12-28-2015   #16
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The thing that makes me cringe is 'portrait pro' .... you don't even really need photoshop skills to work that software.
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Old 12-28-2015   #17
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People will always confuse color with colorful.
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Old 12-28-2015   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnny scarecrow View Post
...but there's a million ways to do it wrong. Am I right?
Subjective...
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Old 12-28-2015   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnny scarecrow View Post
...but there's a million ways to do it wrong. Am I right?

Actually there's a million ways to do it "right", but people generally have a tough time with that concept. (Oranges are wonderful, so avocados must be awful.)
Good to put these thoughts on the table, but it's silly to get too serious about them.
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Old 12-28-2015   #20
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I find most people's photography is pretty derivative and repetitive. I think its because most people follow the crowd and try to emulate what they think is fashionable (which they interpret as being desirable). Too few people set out to create their own "look". And too many people just take photos - they cant tell the difference between a good photo (i.e. its somehow interesting and engaging either in its subject matter or in its presentation) and one which is merely in focus. They don't know how to make real use of light and shadow create atmosphere. Which means there are are a lot of very ordinary photos on the internet. I cant pretend mine is much better but I do aim to create my own style, one which I like. I think this is to be expected and it takes a while to locate the work of photographers I really like and am willing to come back to. Here is one I located which appeals to me. He makes great use of weather (rain snow etc) and reflections. Which I find engaging

http://christophejacrot.com/en/portf...g-in-the-rain/

http://au.lumas.com/artist/christophe_jacrot/

I find good photography to be something like good poetry (not that I am much of a poetry fan). What I mean is that it engages the emotions, it is open to interpretation and the observer / reader has to work to interpret it.
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Old 12-28-2015   #21
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Like you said... your definition, your opinion.
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Old 12-28-2015   #22
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Just because you can does not mean you should comes to mind.

I think mostly it's a newbie phase.
As photographers gain experience viewing and presenting work, the overcooked look tends to give way to more subtle process.
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Old 12-28-2015   #23
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Not sure what your M.O. is but I find 500px intolerable. I checked out your Flickr account and think your stuff is pretty good. But most people are not that interested in black and white photos of old men. Nudes of 18 year old girls or waterfalls with rainbows do much better.

To gain any kind of following on Flickr you need to follow some people and comment on photos so people notice you are out there.
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Old 12-28-2015   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JayN View Post
[...]

We live in a pretty HD world right now and I think a lot of the images that you are seeing are a reflection of that. It's not bad, or good, it's just kinda what's happening right now.

[...]
Very well said... much the same point I was making about current trends, but better put
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Old 12-28-2015   #25
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There was an art historian, a Dr. Fenollosa, who wrote a lot of codswallop about cycles of excellence and degenerescence in art. Quite influential in his time.
But there was some truth in what he said. There is a phenomenon of artistic brilliance spreading across a generation, which is then followed by a generation of polishers. The first are raw, brutal, inventive, deeply moving. The second follow in their steps, try to make it look even better, but end up with dead aesthetics. Examples abound. The renaissance. The generation of Hokusai, Hiroshige and Utamaro was followed by ever slicker epigones. Rock 'n Roll shows a similar cycle, or even series of cycles. And Star Wars of course.

It isn't a bad thing to emulate the masters : one learns from the best. But trying to outdo them leads to bland, polished, hypercoventional stuff. Trying to please the masses produces shiny emptiness. I think it is best to shoot what you like, not what you think will do well.
At least, you'll like your own pictures. At best, an interesting way of looking at things will emerge. A style, if you will.

And Master Moriyama Daido taught us that it can be right for a photo to be wrong. Sharpness and tonal range can be beautiful, but a photocopy of a scratched, dirty and blurry print can be just as strong. What matters in a photograph is the emotion it evokes in the viewer. What doesn't matter is a long list, including photographers, cameras, dynamic range, glossy chrome, silky skin etc. The stronger a photograph is, the more technical foibles become irrelevant.
After a certain point, trying to better your technique doesn't make your photos any better : you can only make your photographs better through their content.
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Old 12-28-2015   #26
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It's not a *real* photograph unless it's in film, B&W, and glossy finish.

Just my 2 kopecks.

With best regards.

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Old 12-28-2015   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by photomoof View Post
So when "people notice you are out there" what happens?

Does Larry Gagosian call you for lunch?
A handful of people might click on the "star" to favorite your photo. If you are lucky someone might say "NICE!"
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Old 12-28-2015   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lukitas View Post
There was an art historian, a Dr. Fenollosa, who wrote a lot of codswallop about cycles of excellence and degenerescence in art. Quite influential in his time.
But there was some truth in what he said. There is a phenomenon of artistic brilliance spreading across a generation, which is then followed by a generation of polishers. The first are raw, brutal, inventive, deeply moving. The second follow in their steps, try to make it look even better, but end up with dead aesthetics. Examples abound. The renaissance. The generation of Hokusai, Hiroshima and Utamaro was followed by ever slicker epigones. Rock 'n Roll shows a similar cycle, or even series of cycles. And Star Wars of course.

It isn't a bad thing to emulate the masters : one learns from the best. But trying to outdo them leads to bland, polished, hypercoventional stuff. Trying to please the masses produces shiny emptiness. I thinks it is best to shoot what you like, not what you think will do well.
At least, you'll like your own pictures. At best, an interesting way of looking at things will emerge. A style, if you will
d
A most enlightening comment! Thanks
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Old 12-28-2015   #29
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Quote:
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You guys know what I'm talking about. Extreme saturated color that would never occur in nature, too perfect black and white (leica monochrome), bokography, airbrushed photographs to remove every last imperfection from portraits, landscapes, and architecture. What is happening to the mainstream aesthetic? Do a lot of photographers just have bad taste, or is photoshop ruining honest, gritty photography?
Sorry I like it glossy just fine. That's the nice thing about eyesight: no noise. At least in daylight. Kodachrome makes a bunch of contrast. More than nature. It's no "less natural" than BW.

I'm suspect of BW shooters crying about color shooters. I and many others find color more demanding, less forgiving. But BW is the rage. I enjoy it when done well as with some of your shots. But I respect color more.

There are little things I don't much like: Obvious HDR. Imitating film grain. Fuzzy water. But I at least I know that's like how I don't like peas. Peas are not evil. They are just peas, and I hate them. Unless very fresh.

If you can't find good photography on flickr you aren't looking or just can't see it any more. There is photography to every taste there. Obviously 90% is meh or worse. So what? People write alot of words, and most will not live long.

Of course most photographers are terrible. That gives you a chance to stand out.
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Old 12-28-2015   #30
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Quote:
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Sorry I like it glossy just fine. That's the nice thing about eyesight: no noise. At least in daylight. Kodachrome makes a bunch of contrast. More than nature. It's no "less natural" than BW.

I'm suspect of BW shooters crying about color shooters. I and many others find color more demanding, less forgiving. But BW is the rage. I enjoy it when done well as with some of your shots. But I respect color more.

There are little things I don't much like: Obvious HDR. Imitating film grain. Fuzzy water. But I at least I know that's like how I don't like peas. Peas are not evil. They are just peas, and I hate them. Unless very fresh.

If you can't find good photography on flickr you aren't looking or just can't see it any more. There is photography to every taste there. Obviously 90% is meh or worse. So what? People write alot of words, and most will not live long.

Of course most photographers are terrible. That gives you a chance to stand out.


Agree with everything you said here .... except for maybe the peas!
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Old 12-28-2015   #31
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I can't resist posting a glossy, oversaturated image with too much contrast shot at unnecessarily high speed:


Red Iron by unoh7, M9 50cron WO

Shoot me: I like it Shot for pure pleasure with no pretension to immortality which pleases the only critic I ever listen to: me

But it's looks like I forgot to hit the NR as the sky has a little grain. Damn.
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Old 12-28-2015   #32
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Quote:
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I can't resist posting a glossy, oversaturated image with too much contrast shot at unnecessarily high speed:

Shoot me: I like it Shot for pure pleasure with no pretension to immortality which pleases the only critic I ever listen to: me
I'm with Charlie on this... might as well shoot me too.

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Old 12-28-2015   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jojoman2 View Post
You guys know what I'm talking about. Extreme saturated color that would never occur in nature, too perfect black and white (leica monochrome), bokography, airbrushed photographs to remove every last imperfection from portraits, landscapes, and architecture. What is happening to the mainstream aesthetic? Do a lot of photographers just have bad taste, or is photoshop ruining honest, gritty photography?

I'm sick of bad photography. I know my definition of bad is simply that, "my" definition, that most subjective of interpretations--good or bad. But seriously people, airbrushed, glossy, alien looking color is one of my biggest pet peeves, and it seems to be the norm nowadays.

I won't pretend that I don't have a lot of improvement to make before I can even start to brag about my work, but I'm having serious difficulty finding GOOD street and portrait work on Flickr, or other portfolio websites, instead finding airbrushed, mass produced-looking crap. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place. Maybe the real street photographers have their own exclusive club that I haven't stumbled upon yet.

Ugh, I'm feeling frustrated today. It's because I just started a 500px account and all the recommended photographers work looked SO over processed and just weak, weak material, weak photography.
Define honest, gritty photography.

They even took the fighting out of hockey and the 'roids out of baseball.
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Old 12-29-2015   #34
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Quote:
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Shoot me: I like it Shot for pure pleasure with no pretension to immortality which pleases the only critic I ever listen to: me

B/W, Colour, Glossy, Gritty .... whatever the case may be, the above quote describes what I usually find to be the "best" photography with greater emphasis on the section in bold.
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Old 12-29-2015   #35
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By honest and gritty I mean a photograph that isn't afraid to show the imperfections of people in the photograph but fully embraces them. Obviously this is entirely about my taste in photography which you may or may not share. This is a pretty meaningless post if you're going to sit there and prod it until it unravels over it's lack of objectivity.

And uhoh--I'm not offended by your photo of the bridge with "no grit" or visible grain shot at unnecessarily high speed (I laughed when I got to that part, totally know people who do that). That's not what I'm talking about. If you were to upload 200 nearly identical pictures of that same bridge to your 3000 hypothetical flickr followers, gunking up flickr for people like me who appreciate variety in a flickr group, then yeah I would be a little peeved.
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Old 12-29-2015   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JayN View Post

We live in a pretty HD world right now and I think a lot of the images that you are seeing are a reflection of that. It's not bad, or good, it's just kinda what's happening right now.

I think this is pretty spot on
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Old 12-29-2015   #37
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Quote:
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I can't resist posting a glossy, oversaturated image with too much contrast shot at unnecessarily high speed:


Red Iron by unoh7, M9 50cron WO

Shoot me: I like it Shot for pure pleasure with no pretension to immortality which pleases the only critic I ever listen to: me

But it's looks like I forgot to hit the NR as the sky has a little grain. Damn.
Your image has considerable blue color caste, which sort of helps to make it feel calm and serene, but color caste always distracts from the subject.

And the first hurdle to good color photography is color correction skills.
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Old 12-29-2015   #38
RichardPhoto
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With all due respect, when I opened your flickr my first thought was: "oh great, more black and white 'street' photography - not seen that in a while!"

Sure, saturated 'glossy' colours don't exist in real life; but neither does grain and exaggerated contrast. To be blunt, your photography is no more 'honest' or real than that which you are criticising. If I were to fully engage blunt-mode I could even be so rude as to say your work is very much the epitome of 'mass-produced crap' like all the other B&W 'street' photography clogging up the internet of late.

Please understand I'm not saying this to offend - I'm merely pointing out that whenever we feel motivated to pick up a brick we ought to make doubly sure we're not stood in a greenhouse (which to a man we almost all usually are...).

I would also like to add that whenever I, in any aspect of my life, have felt the need to look outward with criticism and disdain it is because I have nothing within me of merit or substance. Conversely, during the times when I've been truly on roll - I never even paused to notice the others, let alone give a fleeting damn about what they were up to.

Last edited by RichardPhoto : 12-29-2015 at 06:57. Reason: grammar/spelling
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Old 12-29-2015   #39
jojoman2
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I understand what your getting at with my work, Richard. I've been taking photographs for less than a year--since last february. If I developed a distinctive, meaningful style in that amount of time it wouldn't speak well of how difficult the genre can be. Before 2015 I had only ever taken snapshots with a camera phone. Curious, though, I don't see a link to your portfolio in your signature--I'm interested in seeing the quality of your work which allows you to be so blunt with mine.

I think you are a little too harsh with the "Great, more black and white street..."
That's like me going to a movie and thinking--"great... more dialogue?" Black and white is a staple of the genre, and color doesn't work for everything.
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Old 12-29-2015   #40
Hsg
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichardPhoto View Post
With all due respect, when I opened your flickr my first thought was: "oh great, more black and white 'street' photography - not seen that in a while!"

Sure, saturated 'glossy' colours don't exist in real life; but neither does grain and exaggerated contrast. To be blunt, your photography is no more 'honest' or real than that which you are criticising. If I were to fully engage blunt-mode I could even be so rude as to say your work is very much the epitome of 'mass-produced crap' like all the other B&W 'street' photography clogging up the internet of late.

Please understand I'm not saying this to offend - I'm merely pointing out that whenever we feel motivated to pick up a brick we ought to make doubly sure we're not stood in a greenhouse (which to a man we almost all usually are...).

I would also like to add that whenever I, in any aspect of my life, have felt the need to look outward with criticism and disdain it is because I have nothing within me of merit or substance. Conversely, during the times when I've been truly on roll - I never even paused to notice the others, let alone give a fleeting damn about what they were up to.
But you're forgetting that b&w street photography post Robert Frank is a tradition rather than an aesthetic.

Robert Frank was the pioneer of this tradition because he deliberately selected images for The Americans that broke the form and geometry of what was then the most established aesthetic in candid photography, the decisive moment of Cartier-Bresson.

In other words you can't dismiss b&w street photography based on aesthetic terms, because that is not what those street photographer's are striving for. They simply see themselves as the children of Frank and Winogrand.
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