View Full Version : Introspective on photography, only a matter of techniques ?

07-28-2007, 10:36 AM

I saw and heard lots of guitarists, even some with no schooling, playing on a wrack of a guitar but making music, while others dream to play guitar, getting the most expensive instrument, learning all techniques and still not able to make music. That leaves us with two kind of guitarists, the ones who dreams about playing the guitar and the ones who simply make music.

Likewise in photography, is it only a matter of techniques ?

The tool Camera
high dynamic range, sharp ones, small or big, film or digital ...

The tool Lens
wide, fixed, zoom ....

Framing techniques:
POV or angle, perspective, structure(geometrical or organic), depth, layering (the 1-2 up to several), light, dark, colors or non-colors (harmony, monotone), bokeh, DOF, OOF, golden cut or extreme cut suggestive border elements, tilt, isolating (tight or wide, sober or filled out), scaling (with front or back plan) .... pleasant to tell more of compositional tehniques

Post Processing:
burning, dodging, light management, HDR, color-tone adjustments, sharpness .... and all their local adjustments, sepia and B&W conversions ... and others ?

Is it all about only techniques or is there something more to it to have music ?

what about the subject ?
graphical, involvement or engagement, beauty or dirty, joy or sad, sneaky or close, story, decisive moment, readable or suggestive, landscapes, portraits, environmental ....

Personal I prefer the story, the frozen moment, the telling before and after with a strong involvement, using techniques functional enhancing non-imposing in the background as a result of creativity at the spot on the moment with an open mind (no unnatural biased or predisposed limiting frame techniques in mind but you see it, you enjoy it, you try to get the magic of the moment, enhancing that magic by post processing)

What about you ?
Still concentrating on techniques or simply playing around with joy.
How do you get music ?

07-28-2007, 01:16 PM
good, good questions.
Subject; daily life, although I don't prefer it, it's just something I have an eye for and the patience. I don't mind taking a photo and wait 10 or more years until it gets a meaning. I'm jealous as hell to people who can make shots of other persons, I just don't seem to get the hang of it (any advice welcome). I'm good in buildings because it's my job.
Short, but usefull discussions with my father, have learned me that you have to know what you're doing before you take the photo, postprocessing for me is usefull to get the horizon straight, witch I consequently seem to tilt 1 degree.
Same discussion with a teacher/photographer have learned me to take time for a photo. 1 minute, 1 hour, time!
The only camera I ever loved was a Minolta X700, heavy, good lens, deep colors.
To get the music, I need to be alone, my subject needs to be alone and preferably fall apart with loads of history.
As soon as I start to think that this will be the best shot ever, I quit, because I know I'm concentrating on the wrong thing and the result will be utterly disappointing.
I don't play with the setting of the camera that much, only over- or under exposure.
Music Henk; time and crappy places :)

07-28-2007, 03:50 PM
Dear Henk a good musician needs a lot of exercise, a deep power of tecnique, and most of all culture, not only about music but general.
Well, I think that one should manage his instrument well, but this is not enough to get a real emotion and capture a photo enough good to share that emotion. One needs hearth and culture. Look to Diane Arbus work and think. Look to Cartier Bresson and think. But also read Naipaul or Pamuk!! (for example these two Nobel prizes: because I read books before travelling, and also after it) . Culture helps to understand reality and to get emotions looking at people and at landscapes.
If there is no emotion I think that the best camera is useless.
Tecnique should be nearly forgotten: when I drive I don't think every moment to my feet and to gears and so on! But I must be ready if something dangerous is happening. So I must study new photography tecniques to be ready when I'll met something moving my hearth.
When I started shooting pictures many years ago using a very simple cheap camera I discovered that I could be able to express something of myself, of the way I see the world. So I started to study and I never finished.

07-28-2007, 04:27 PM
Coincidence ? I had that discussion with a known reviewer of new Mozart excecutions on CD for an English Music Magazine with the thought, makes such high level the music of that rural authentic tribal song expressing their feelings of their life with sober instruments less valuable ?

If you drive a Rolls or an old rusty car, the aim is the same, to get there. Is art only the property of the rich, well educated man cause the simple can't understand it ? Are we talking about two kind of arts ? the one promoted commercialised by an elite and the rest not having this chance. You pull it on a quite subjective level, very disputable, at the end we all got the same aim: expressing your outmost personal experience with tools as a way to put it on a so called higher level, if there is still something more the only tools, thinking at the Mozart-Salieri discussion.

07-28-2007, 06:51 PM
When I got into photography, I thought it was to make better pictures of what I was taking for years already, with the equipment that could maybe, with application and luck, get me to get supplemental income as a retiree on a very low fixed income. Basically a craft (well fabricated object delivered to client), not an art (personal expression, constant striving and frustration towards an unattainable goal).

It did not last long, just as i discovered that Mozart wrote music with his soul, his blood, not just his genius for melody and harmony (as i thought as a teenager), photography got pretty complex and challenging, and absolutely nothing to do with technique (you still need it, just like you need a well-oiled engine to go far in a car). There is no escape. There may be some felicitous, crafty great photographers out there (Lartigue?), but most show us, their art is made of doubts, soul-searching (difference between Mozart and Salieri, BTW) and the realization they seldom dominate all the challenges the medium throws at them.

But then, what I love in photography is not in the finished image, but what leads to it, and the journey in between. That is why I am more indifferent what I liked before, the shot well taken, well edited, the souvenir of vacation posing as emotion. All of which I am still too capable of doing. Photography starts when you are not saying anymore "Oh, look, i have to take a picture", but your soul, lodged in the camera, thinks it for you. Long journey........

07-29-2007, 05:32 AM
Just because the rich are now buying Banksy, doesn't mean I should stop liking him :)

07-29-2007, 08:18 AM
I agree about the high value of tribals songs and music! But it is not possible to compare with a naive photography: that music gets out of a long rich history of a people. Of course it is high art!

But it would be strange that someone, who never heard nothing - Mozart, tribal songs, etc.. or the Beatles.. - taking in hand a guitar becomes a clever musician.

Do you remember Gombrich? When he wrote that a person is able to see only what he already knows?

Well, leaving music comparison, and speaking about photography, I am sure that many people shots pictures as if Mozart and Beethoven of photographic history did not exist; people who live in big cities where libraries are available, and they work as the one that take a guitar without having never heard any music.

Obviously traditional photography doesn't exist in the way traditional music exists! It needs a tool very different from an ancient traditional musical tool. But, coming back to Gombrich, I think that could be quite interesting to see and understand what tribal people see through observing their photographic work. It could be more useful than written language, perhaps.

07-29-2007, 10:05 AM
introducing level of art is a very relative approach and not really the essence of my question: How do you get music, is it only a matter of techniques ? reason I mentionned the Mozart-Salieri cause on every level this question will be crucial. Modern classic is valued by only a very small group with all other definitions but still here the same queston stands no matter how someone will try to convince me the technical value of it.

Ears, voice and eyes, we were born with and a mother will hear and see the music by the newborn and vica versa without any techniques. All we learned after is indoctrinated by our environment resulting in a very personal reordening that's called creativity expressed in art. You see the levels and the music here ?

Defenitions of values can take away the music paying too much attention to defined techniques. Like in photography you can see here on TE some very bad finished ones due to limitations like camera, PP or scans still having so much music in it while other high leveled technical photos with no more music aboard, a premature sign of the so called 'burned out photographer' giving attention to only techniques as he lost that music under the way? So are techniques the only walkable way to make a picture or is there something more to it to make from a picture a Photo ? How do you get the music ?

07-29-2007, 10:45 AM
I understand, Henk.
This is a problem of critics, often not able to feel the value of a work of art .
If art criticism often miss true artists... in TE very often good pictures are not noticed by us!! There are so many pics posted every hour, so it is difficult to open all of them and we can miss very good works.
When I started posting we were not so many, and you, Claude Renault and other friends helped me to improve tecnique, but now there are so many people facing TE and we can miss some good work.

Mind not only music, but also sculpture: Michelangelo's Prigioni are unfinished, but they are among the most masterpieces in the world. They were consciously left unfinished, could we let unfinished also a photograph? It depends from our intention, our choice, I think.
My experience was that a picture of mine, that I thought nicely done, after I posted it and after a good WS from a better PS manager I discovered it could be better! We are learning during all our life. But I think that the picture should have "music" also before postprocessing.
What I can't stand are pure tecnique without content! That's the worse. I hope that there are not critics so stupid to appreciate it! But ewxpensive cameras must be sold.... also if there are not so many thousands of artists in the world! - on the contrary a complicate camera often stops fantasy or imagination.
..and I stop here for now!

07-29-2007, 04:28 PM
Hi henk,

Let me be the devil's advocate here. I believe that anyone can pop out a great photo out of throw away scanned, no PP Kodak camera (whereas no one can play a Beethoven sonata just having bought a 100$ plastic electric keyboard), but photography is about using material and technique, and transcend those means. So if we talk one photo, here and there, yes, and yes again for people looking at a great photo or browzing thru a coffee table bbok saying "wow!" ". But if we talk about photography, the journey of someone putting himself in more than one photo, nore than one vacation series, these means are an integral part of the art, and in some cases might define it as much as the "music" one hears (think Gruyaert, shooting the 72 Games on TV, or exhibits/books made of cell phone photos, for ex.)

08-01-2007, 08:22 AM
To add my two cents, I do believe a certain amount of photography is simply down to technique, but what will seperate a great photographer from an average photographer, is the same as what will seperate me from mozart if I ever had been compared. One clearly talented, playing with his heart and obviously a natural ability, the other merely banging on the keys in a pattern learned from soom books he picked up in the past.
If I sit in front of Mozart's piano, I sit in front of the same keys from which beautiful music had echoed on many occasions, I sit in front of a piano which he wrote music on at the age of 5, No matter how much technique i have picked up in my many years I could never hope to match what he had done there. Same keys, Same techniques, I lack the natural skill's he was blessed with.
Likewise, If we asked 2 people from here, one talented with little equipment, one geared-up with all the right things to buy, to go to a certain place and take a picture and return for us to view we would see that the talented one has manoeuvered himself into the right position, taken the exact point of view which exposes the scene's beauty to us and the other had merely followed some rules and returned to us with a perfectly fine picture, but most likely he would have missed the real beauty of the scene which had been captured by the talented one. People will still like this picture but when compared to the picture taken by the talented subject it will pale into insignificance.
In the end I think that technique will help you to improve your pictures but natural talent will definitely shine through and seperate you from the pack.

08-01-2007, 05:22 PM
no disagreement, but I think the Mozart analogy has its limit. In a way, Mozart made up all his notes, his accents, his rythms and all type of psychological consonaces within it all.

in the case of the photographer, all the notes are there, in front of you, and for a few thousand photographers in the world, to be there with all the experience they gathered over years of craft, they might pull the pix of the century. Photography is often a bit of top 40 mixed to "grand Art". That is what reduces it for many to a craft, but also why quite a few many can pull a gem that can strike people for decades (centuries I am sure) just as a Mozart Symphony. Yet, after all, ask people to sing or name 3 mozart "music", and most (less every year, I am afraid) will only pull 2: turkish dance and little night music.....His top 40 hits!!!!!

ER....Did i shoot myself in the foot?


08-01-2007, 05:27 PM
Hi Herve,
I dont think you shot yourself in the foot at all, youve got a good talent for explanations.
what I do think is that youre maybe missing the simplicity of my mozart analogy, Im merely saying that he sat at the same set of keys I have access to but created a much better music than I could because he had a genuine talent. Maybe he learned it, maybe he was born with it. But how I relay this to photography is that if I were to see some of the things that some of the people on here have seen I would not have taken the pictures in the same manner or from the same point of view and possibly I would have lost the beauty of the scene they captured.

08-01-2007, 06:13 PM
I follow you. What I was saying is that in the realm of photography, Salieris and Mozarts are a bit closer to each other (save 1 or 2 "monsters", and there would probably more arguing over it than for Mozart). I tend to think that it has to do with the fact that a photo, its subject, is more instantly recognizable, in its whole and in a sec, than a piece of music (not top 40!). It can also strike you off the TV, a magazine, without you putting it in the CD player, so to speak.

Then, just like music, it does resonate for a long time inside of you, and you may learn to discern levels, dissomaces, rythms harmonies, etc... in it, just like music. Yet, I believe that this discerning is about deciphering all the richness that hit you during that first second it hit you. It was all there, just needed time to unfold at conscious level.

If you do that with music, you will indeed be stuck with top 40 shower whistling of the turkish music, but you cannot embrace Mozart, and even less Boulez (embracing Boulez? Pouahhh), with the kind of instantaneousness you do, watching a photo. I also tend to think that this instanraneousness duplicates in many ways, that of the photographer. Don't we interpret a photo as viewers, whereas we never interpretate music while listening to it.


08-01-2007, 06:36 PM
You make an excellent point Herve. I gather you wish Boulez had taken his chance at a career in Engineering rather than composing then?

08-01-2007, 06:59 PM
Great conductor, I think he is mistaken when he says he is asked everywhere for his composing. He is, because of his enafnat terrrible repuation from Darmstadt days, from being a mandarin in the french music establishment, and ofr having regal credentials as a conductor. His music, I have ni idea, I am just not that intelligent.

08-01-2007, 07:27 PM
I would agree, wonderful conductor, huge personality. sadly I dont know enough about him either though.
Best Regards Herve..

08-01-2007, 09:52 PM
My feelings? It's not just a matter of technique, but...

Anyone can make one great picture; just being in the right place at the right time and pressing the big button will get you that *once*, but you need a spectacular amount of luck; you know the kind, the kind of luck that suggests you should be buying lottery tickets ;)

I do think there is a spark in some people, I'm not sure whether it's talent exactly, drive maybe? Self belief perhaps? Not sure. The spark doesn't guarantee anything, but it improves your chances.

As to the subject; that's a matter of taste. There's no "right" answer, it's a matter of what works for you. Personally, I think the world is depressing enough; I don't need to wallow in it, so I try for the happier side. I photograph what interests me; and that's the beauty of nature, be it landscapes, wildlife or whatever. I prefer the great outdoors, so when I can, that's where I'll be shooting. That said, if I'm in a city I'm not going to ignore it, just because it's manmade.

Technique and equipment are tricky...

Techniques can help you get a shot which wouldn't be possible otherwise. I used to stop shooting landscapes in contra-jour situations because I knew the film/sensor wouldn't record the range of intensities I could see. Now I know that I can use HDR in those situations; that gets me shots that wouldn't have been possible before. Similarly panoramic stitching, if I didn't have a wide-enough lens for what I'd envisage, then I'd get frustated, and have to give up on that particular shot; now I have the skills and software, I can get that shot. A few minutes learning, and some cheap software, and I can work around limitations that were show stoppers in the past. It's liberating :)

I think you can make anything look better with the right hardware. However, someone with no interest in photography could have the best camera in the world and still take nothing more than snapshots. Similarly, you could teach a blind person the technical side; but they could literally never see the compositional opportunities in front of them.

At the end of the day you can't expect a Formula 1 driver to win a race against other F1 cars in a clapped out Ford Escort ;) Yes, they'd beat everyone else in similar cars, but that's not the point is it?

Technique is by far the easiest thing to critique though. Composition is subjective, technique isn't. If I ask my friends and family which of my shots they prefer; I get a whole range of answers, because there's no correct answer; there are only feelings. Where feelings are involved, egos usually follow. Bruised egos can get messy...

08-02-2007, 04:29 PM
I thought I would throw a professional photographer's point of view:

Anyone can throw a ton of money at equipment and schooling to become a better photographer. Everyone can learn technique and use of light, natural or otherwise. Everyone with the means to, can buy the best to get the sharpest lenses, and best film, or highest MP cameras. All of this is accessible to just about anyone who had the means and time. With this, they can all become good photographers.

However, one thing that you cannot teach is eye. Each photographer who raises above the crowd has ended up there because of the individuality of how they see things. I've seen some incredible photography taken with Dianna camera with plastic lenses. In each of these instances, its the POV, or the use of light, or the willingness of the photographer to share his/her insight with the viewer. On the other hand, I've also seen some extremely mediocre photography taken with a 4x5 view camera with the latest in film and lenses. Although you cannot teach "eye", you can develop it.

To use the analogy of a guitarist; yes, a great player can make wonderful music on a $20.00 pawn shop instrument. They have the ear to play, and can get the best out of whatever they are using. It can be wonderful to listen to. However, take that same musician and give him the latest, finely made instrument available, and his/her music will take that leap along with the instrument. But again, if you are down on a Bayou in Louisiana, listening to a little Cajun jam, that fine instrument will be sorely out of place. The $20.00 guitar will fit in much better.

I guess what I'm saying is that with out the born (or gifted) eye of a photographer, the best we can hope to achieve is goodness, not greatness. Please don't get me wrong though. Just because you don't think you have the eye, it may just mean you haven't found it yet. Try different lenses, different subjects, or different times of day. Don't give up. Also, don't rely too much on the opinions of others. Photography (& all art for that matter) is subjective. I'll walk the local galleries and wonder what people are thinking when they have some of their junk (my opinion only) hanging on the walls. Then again, when mine is hanging, I"m sure there are people who think the same about it.

Do what you like, find your niche, produce images, and enjoy yourself. We can't all be great photographers (or musicians, or drivers, or golfers, etc.), but we can all be good photographers (et. al.) and make ourselves happy in the process.

Just my 2-cent's worth....