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Roger Hicks -- Author of The Rangefinder Book

Roger Hicks is a well known photographic writer, author of The Rangefinder Book, over three dozen other photographic books, and a frequent contributor to Shutterbug and Amateur Photographer. Unusually in today's photographic world, most of his camera reviews are film cameras, especially rangefinders. See www.rogerandfrances.com for further background (Frances is his wife Frances Schultz, acknowledged darkroom addict and fellow Shutterbug contributor) .


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Improvement
Old 06-29-2017   #1
Roger Hicks
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Improvement

This is inspired by Back Alley's resuscitated "zombie" thread about improvement. It's a question that is at once very simple and very hard to answer: what would "improvement" (in the sense of "taking better pictures") mean to YOU for YOUR pictures? And what do you think might be the best way of achieving it?

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Old 06-29-2017   #2
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In my opinion it's an important step to stop dwelling on good photographs you made in the past. yes study them for some time, but don't keep showing them around for for extended periods of time when you clearly can produce new material based on your experience and the influence of other artists and photographers
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Old 06-29-2017   #3
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Since all art is unequivically subjective, improvement can only be measured by the artist's intent. Did she acheive more or less of the objective? Did his circumstances change so that different methods and materials were used?

Artistic acceptance or commercial success is not a guide to real improvement.

What a relief, you can do whatever you like and call it improvement!
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Old 06-29-2017   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bike Tourist View Post
Since all art is unequivically subjective, improvement can only be measured by the artist's intent. Did she acheive more or less of the objective? Did his circumstances change so that different methods and materials were used?

Artistic acceptance or commercial success is not a guide to real improvement.

What a relief, you can do whatever you like and call it improvement!
I very much agree with the highlighted portion, but equally, I'm not totally sure that "unequivocally subjective" is a useful analysis. There is often considerable agreement about what constitutes "better", which argues that the subjectivity is not unique to each person.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 06-29-2017   #5
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One valid measure of improvement is financial success. In my opinion improvement in commercial photography can involve creativity and self-expression to the same extent as photography for the sake of art alone.

Obviously there are counter examples where only improvement in technical competence is important (i.e. photos of stamps in an auction catalog). Non-creative factors such as marketing and customer oriented business practices also contribute to financial success. So revenue is an incomplete metric for artistic improvement.

While artistic improvement that only satisfies the photographer is highly subjective, artistic improvement that satisfies the photographer and their clients has an objective component –*revenue.

The select few who make money selling their art often spend significant effort on marketing and productive business practices. But we typically don't consider them commercial photographers. So, even in the art world improvement can not be judged by revenue alone.

In my view technical improvement and artistic improvement are often co-dependent. Technical competence affects production, post-production rendering and printing. Some aspects of these activities have objective metrics. Technical improvement is relevant.

Photograph selection (editing) and sequencing are important creative tasks where photographers can strive for improvement. Unless the photographer is completely disinterested in impacting others, improvements in editing and sequencing skills are not purely subjective.
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Old 06-29-2017   #6
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Another good point, and a "difficult" question Roger!

I'm not so much interested in the "technical quality" of an image, like sharpness or "correct" colours or skin tones.
Photography for me has to do more with something which resonates inside me, there must be some autobiographical element.

And this happens more when editing and making sequences or combination of selected images. In this respect for me improvement means working on this a lot, trying different things, different juxtapositions, working on different formats...

When I get something which works, which let me say "ohh, here we are, this is!" I feel I'm improving my photography. It happens also the opposite, sometimes I say "Opps, this does not work, will never work "and I start something different, an alternative: this also means improvement.

How to achieve it? Working! Visiting exhibitions, photographers meetings (arles, sorry not to visit this year but we'll be in Reggio Emilia for Fotografia Europea), learning to edit, being critical, portfolio reviews...not easy ...

robert
PS: sorry but not easy to explain in a foreign language...
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Old 06-29-2017   #7
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For a hobbyist, I feel improvement mainly means one thing: stronger alignment of our creative work with our values. Or said a little differently, creating work that has more personal resonance and meaning.

BTW, Roger, I appreciate your raising this topic here on RFF, rather than pointing us to one of your external posts. That's as it should be, I feel, and a real "improvement."

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Old 06-29-2017   #8
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Improvement for me and my photography? Getting the focus, exposure, and timing more often where and when I intend them to be would be a start... Past that I have no idea, but I'll know it when I see it
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Old 06-29-2017   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willie_901 View Post
One valid measure of improvement is financial success. In my opinion improvement in commercial photography can involve creativity and self-expression to the same extent as photography for the sake of art alone.

Obviously there are counter examples where only improvement in technical competence is important (i.e. photos of stamps in an auction catalog). Non-creative factors such as marketing and customer oriented business practices also contribute to financial success. So revenue is an incomplete metric for artistic improvement.

While artistic improvement that only satisfies the photographer is highly subjective, artistic improvement that satisfies the photographer and their clients has an objective component –*revenue.

The select few who make money selling their art often spend significant effort on marketing and productive business practices. But we typically don't consider them commercial photographers. So, even in the art world improvement can not be judged by revenue alone.

In my view technical improvement and artistic improvement are often co-dependent. Technical competence affects production, post-production rendering and printing. Some aspects of these activities have objective metrics. Technical improvement is relevant.

Photograph selection (editing) and sequencing are important creative tasks where photographers can strive for improvement. Unless the photographer is completely disinterested in impacting others, improvements in editing and sequencing skills are not purely subjective.
Dear Willie,

Sure: I wouldn't argue with a word of that. But those were generalizations. I was wondering what individuals, on here, would regard as, or look for in, personal improvement.

For me, motivation is very important. Unless I have the pressure of an exhibition or an article or the like, I find it hard to do much.

Again for me, I suspect that the best way to get better pictures is to shoot faster; except in the case of still lifes. I find it very easy to lose the moment. Of course, I get a lot of dull moments. That's where selection comes in...

Also, I find themes central. Yes, I'm perfectly happy to take pretty pictures of almost anything, but that's a matter of luck. For consistency, I need a theme (or two or three...)

I think I've pretty much reached the stage of mastering technique (or perhaps more accurately, throwing out stuff that I don't think is good enough) and some of my compositions aren't too bad; but I'd like more good compositions.

Increasingly I believe that although you can learn a lot from analysis, you also learn a lot by sheer osmosis: looking at as many pictures as possible, preferably at real exhibitions, and letting a feeling for good work soak in to you.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 06-29-2017   #10
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I don't think where are "zombie" threads, those are resurrecting not by itself, but by alive users. Where are "monkey" and "beaten old horses threads". Especially "how to get better picture", "how to improve your photography" threads, posts, tutorials and even books.



The rest bellow is about my way to improved picture. My journey, my learning path, my failure:

Still, importance of "how to tutorials" is big. Just like Dali mentioned what you can't become surrealist painter if you did't learn painting technique in the classic way.
How to get better pictures tutorials where suggested in referred by OP thread. I think it is stage zero. You need to learn and understand how to control. How to get exposure right, how to control aperture, shutter speed, ISO and so on. This will give you visualization tools. I learned at original P.O.T.N. by the time it was Canon forum. I would ask how to get pictures of this and that and forum members helped.
It is stage zero and it is nothing but technicalities. "How do I get it sharp, how to WB".
And this is where border line approached me and divided from the internet crowd of gear forums geeks.

Stage two. What is better picture. How it is judged. And by whom. Worst case is ask to vote for pictures. Dead end in photography. Catching the wave on FB and Instagram with cheese sunsets, street close ups of people just walking and sexy ladies? Dead end as well, IMO. You are entering zombie-land of fast food eaters.

Stage three. Escape from masses driven by improved and good pictures posted in magazines. NG included.
Do I have something inside? Do I look at someone, something and it brings something inside? Do I have associations and visions? Dreams and thoughts? The question which arise next is how to bring it on picture.
Why I was looking at complicated textures and trying to find the hidden pictures since I was kid? Why I went to museums to look and Dali and impressionists?
It is actually simple on stage three. I have to read surrealist manifesto and get the picture. No, not how to, but how not to. I have to go to museums again and look at the pictures and photos I like. No, not to copy them, but to bring something inside me closer to the pictures I'm trying to create. And it is not about copying HCB and GW whom I like to study.

Stage four. Mission impossible.
Be unique artist. Cavemen never seen any other art. They just did their engravings on the rocks because, I guess, it was sitting inside as vision and impression and they can't hold it inside. Instead they did something as hard as beating of the rock. It is art and it is unique. Those with aerosol paint called as gratify artists are monkeys of original cavemen.

Stage one: As soon as I find something inside which is banging to get outside, this is it. Choice of photo technique... Did cavemen choose this method of visual art as only available method or was it the best method to match their insides?

Again, this is my way. BTW, the thread referred in OP was originated in 2011. The person referred in OP since started to talk about art awhile ago, not just how to tutorials.
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Old 06-29-2017   #11
ColSebastianMoran
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Excellent question, Roger. Improvement would be better images. To me, a quality image connects the scene, the photographer, and the viewer. A better image is more successful in making stronger connections.

Follow on question: How does one go about improving? How does one become more capable in producing the results one wants to produce? I doubt that just shooting a lot is the most effective way to improve for most of us.
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Old 06-29-2017   #12
Emile de Leon
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Find a reason to take photographs..a real reason...to get up in the morning...
Work on your weak points...
Figure out who you are in relation to the craft/art...as distinct from everyone else..."your" thing...
That all happens after you get the craft together..
Then you will improve automatically..
Some people repeat the same successes or failures ad infinitum..
Some never do the same thing twice..
Some are unique..
Some are same-y...
It really matters who you are top to bottom..as a total human being..
Your art reflects who you are..
Just look at it...and...see..
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Old 06-29-2017   #13
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Improvement? Using a good tripod (and a decent filter system) more often.
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Old 06-29-2017   #14
skopar steve
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Short answer for me would be to put the same physical and mental energy into my photography as I do in my trade. My employer nor i accept mediocre results at work, so why do I accept them in my photography?

A sign of improvement would be more time in the darkroom and fewer negs in the bin. Or fewer taps on the delete button.
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Old 06-30-2017   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
I was wondering what individuals, on here, would regard as, or look for in, personal improvement.
For personal improvement these were the my primary metrics:
  • For commercial work did I retain clients and recruit new clients who were willing to pay more than my current clients
  • Did I follow through on goals (improve composition, exposure, complete themed projects, etc.)
  • How was my work received in local juried shows?
  • Did I share enough photographs with family and friends?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
For me, motivation is very important. Unless I have the pressure of an exhibition or an article or the like, I find it hard to do much.
This describes me as well. I could write much more. I'll only say this. When I quit doing commercial gigs a few years back my motivation for any creative work ceased. Only recently I realized how much producing something tangible enriched my life. So my motivation is now personal enjoyment. Maybe that's that's my new metric for improvement? Is my life better?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Increasingly I believe that although you can learn a lot from analysis, you also learn a lot by sheer osmosis: looking at as many pictures as possible, preferably at real exhibitions, and letting a feeling for good work soak in to you.
I completely agree. I never worried looking at others work could backfire due to unintentionally adopting anothers' style or subject matter. It's all been done before by somebody else anyway.
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Old 06-30-2017   #16
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Quote:
what do you think might be the best way of achieving it?
Who/what helped me the most is when I found someone who was willing to be my coach and teacher, helping me get my business going and helping me with my people photography skills.
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Old 06-30-2017   #17
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Personally, I have been trying to "layer" my photos more. When I look back on some of my earlier work I notice that they don't have a lot of "layers", so recently I have been trying to concentrate on that and to me, that is what "improving" means to me.

cheers, michael
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Old 06-30-2017   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by michaelwj View Post
Improvement for me and my photography? Getting the focus, exposure, and timing more often where and when I intend them to be would be a start... Past that I have no idea, but I'll know it when I see it
Me too. Last night sitting on the porch with my camera along came some deer. I got hung up on shutter and aperture instead of dialing up iso (@ sundown. ) Result = camera shake and room for improvement...bad thing is I already knew that and knew it well.
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Old 06-30-2017   #19
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I'll probably never know what achieving it will be, but one thing I learned was to NEVER start thinking you are pretty good.
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