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tirsdag 12. november 2013

What Makes A Good Photograph ...take III....Ignoring the Technology...

I diverged a little into how an Olympus FT DSLR owner may approach this and so on, but now I want to come back to the real sense of what image quality and value is.

If you take the three ends of the scale then you plank at either pole right into obscurity. You cannot have excellent composition without any of the other two poles being in there. If you have a moment in time where you capture a message as a photojournalist but you fail to compose the shot and expose it correctly, then maybe post processing will give you a chance. Better off getting the settings right on the camera and reeling off high FPS bursts to capture that fleeting moment in the blink of an eye.

The one overlap you can get is where you get across a message or evoke an emotion, or render an atmosphere by having an element of good composition but not actually taking a technically correct , high "IQ" image.

Some very abstract images could convey a feeling or message, but if you consider these again then you will likely see a significant element of composition. Also some technical in camera settings may be consciously selected to then render the image in a way out of camera: such as making it fully out of focus, or high key or low key. The photo-artist may be fooling you into a false sense of loss of technical control!

As I hinted at above, we are really talking about in the field, street and studio with the camera and subject infront of you. I very often improve my composition by cropping or by using a mask and blurring the background to separate out the subject for example ( you can get Android and iPhone apps which do this at the swish of a finger now) . Occaisionally I will run a high contrast monotone "batch file process" to convert a whole shoot or gallery into black and whit: this lets me see the images which had good structure but siffered from colour noise for example, or often where a persons make up, complexion or articial light reflecting off them distracts from what was a good image. I like using grain effects and super heavy contrast, virtually two tone images which remind me of some of the TV and James Bond Title Sequences and the rough photo journalism of the 1960s and 70s.

Alternatively you can apply what ever effects or mosaics or colage you wish in post proc' and just work highly abstractly- but then you are judged little on the photographic merits- it no longer looks like something which came out of a camera perhaps being the dividing line between image art and photography, where the latter uses post proc to enhance the capture rather than use it as a sample in a wider digital construction.

So back to being out with your camera, and the first place to stop is knowing the limitation of your rig: older rigs like my Four Thirds DSLR will be technically challenged at high ISO so to speak. That could be as an example, overcome by shooting in high contrast mono, using live view to get the best in camera effects from the shoot for example as then you spend less time in post and also you maybe capture something with composition and message in a technically superior way, impossible to recreate in post'.

I now love using my android mobiles to take images, most of all because they are the camera I always have with me and therefore that makes them the best camera to have if the sky should fall on me or jesus walk on the Fjord. Also I want to share my images and I don't really want to be spending time batch processing the reduction in pixels to smaller file size, when the image is going to be viewed first as a 60x 60 pixel thumbnail and then only in say a couple of hundred to three hundred wide max.  Mobile devices of course by in large have a mega short hyperfocal distance, so a massive depth of field, and the fixed lens majority tend to be at the wide end , 35mm eq of 24-30'mm focal length. So they make pretty good landscape and street / architecture cameras if you know how to compose foreground or select panorama for example. Also they are best for capturing people surrounded by their context in focus, or where you use a figure-ground effect where the background is lighter, darker or monotonous thus making the subject stand out.

What ever the camera, when somethign or someone catches my eye I want to say- what is it I am taking a photo of? What do I need to capture to realise an image from what caught my eye? Where should I place the emphasis? How do i compose an interesting shot, which leads the eye to the detail in the subject ?

So really I start with feeling / message often: I then think about composition and only then do I think about taking my camera off Program, maybe running a series of bracketed shots, using spot metering, going over to mono in camera. I used to find the high ISO a really limiting factor, but now I know that I can get rid of speckle in the dark area in post quite easily, which then in the three quarter tones and shadows, cleans up the image so much in terms of what the eye and brain can render in as the 3 D queues or reality in tonal depths.

Other images are a no brainer for lens choice and for using say, shutter priority for sports, longer focal lengths for candid shots or achieving a better bokeh in the background within the limitations of FT: backing off to get a better portrait and maybe then getting an unwitting candid image as the subjects don't notice you so much.

Live view and play back both offer the great advantage of what you saw is what you shot: so now you can say - did I have the right composition? Did I take an image which truly reflects the message or feeling from the scene in front of me? Is the image technically good enough for the media it will be going to?

So you can see from my point of view that you can come into photography from any one of the poles, or aim to be a photographer in the sweet spot from day one but you still have to go round all the poles and learn from your results in terms of what you want to achieve with a photograph or the medium as an art form.

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