Who Cares?

I do quite a bit of judging these days, and so I see both good and bad work presented to me for some critique, and opinion.

I also do personal critique sessions, and try to help photographers with individual images they are trying to make, or panels they are trying to put together – and sometimes a photographer might be insistent that one image or another is the one they want to use or put into a group of other images – and the reason is that they have an emotional tie to that image – whether it’s a good one or not.

It’s not always what the photographer wants to hear…. that an image won’t fit – or isn’t that good….. Reasons for inclusion are numerous, but usually on the grounds that it was a difficult image to produce, or acquire, or expensive to get.  My response these days is pretty much on the grounds of ‘who cares?’ – though maybe not quite so blunt.

My story is that many years ago, I photographed red squirrels in Liverpool.  Not only had I not seen one before but it was around the time that squirrel pox had decimated the population somewhat – so the photos I did get were few and far between.  I did get some, and the one I was most proud of, was a fat squirrel sat in in front of, and partly obscured by, the woodland undergrowth.

Proudly I put it into a local club competition, and it did very badly.  Not knowing protocol – I complained to the judge at the end – and I said to him ” Do you know how hard it was to get that picture?”  and his response was “Not my problem – it’s up to you to get a clear image with a diffused background” – I was taken aback, and said that it was nearly impossible to get that sort of background…. to which he replied “so go try harder then”………

Now – I understand what he meant – it wasn’t the judges problem, it was mine…. No one who views a piece of artwork or photography cares how long it took, how difficult it was to get, or  how much it cost.  No-one cares that you stood in an icy river for three weeks, or that you paid a fortune to a photographic  holiday company.

The pain and suffering that a photographer or artist goes through is irrelevant from a viewer’s point of view.  We always think it’s important, when we are the ones who  have suffered so much, or paid for a shoot.  It’s the painful truth though – If it’s a bad image, then no amount of pain and suffering or expense will make it into a better one.

If you want accolades and praise all the time, then photography or art isn’t for you.  Take the rough with the smooth, and accept that not everyone is going to like what you produce, and sometimes the reason they don’t like it, is just because it really isn’t good enough!

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A Lesson in Humility

I have brazenly stolen the title of this blog piece from another blog that I read – to remind me what photography is all about, and how we (as photographers) sometimes forget that a lot of the images we take can be  mostly due to the actions of others.

When we go out as a group – we have to remember that sometimes it was one person who organised the trip, and without them we didn’t get to do the shoot. It was maybe a different person who drove  you there, and yet another who suggested that rather good lunch in a cafe / pub.

There are the mentors, the friends, the people who just encourage you – the ones who are there for you no matter what.  The ones who don’t always tell you that your photographs are ‘amazing’, but actually tell you to get a grip, and realise you’re not as good as maybe you think you are.

Plus the ones who tell you that you ARE in fact better than you think you are, and push you on your way.

These then are all the people I want to thank for my photographic trip through 2018:-  I can’t name all of them, and besides if I forgot one name, I’d be eating more humble pie than I could comfortably consume – but I’m sure you know who you are.

So….. to all my family (they have to come first after all), the friends, the mentors, the groups, the naggers, the pushers.  The drivers, cafe finders, sweet suppliers, makers of phone calls, companions, and supporters.  Models, make up artists, dressers and lighters.  The photoshop gurus, lightroom experts, camera tutors and computer experts.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Without you I couldn’t be the photographer person I am today.  I certainly wouldn’t have achieved as much as I did during 2018.

So, as this year comes to a close – remember that without family, friends and naggers behind you – the world would be a pretty dire place.

Take care everyone, and enjoy 2019…. because it’s coming, whether you are ready or not……

I’m ending with probably one of my favourite images taken this year. One that helped me achieve my ARPS in October.

See you on the other side……..

Why not click on the subscribe button ?- I’d love to hear from more of you during the next year……

 

 

Please be Gentle – It’s my First Time

Please be Gentle – It’s my First Time

I’ve not blogged in an age – we moved house, I started to rebuild contacts in a new area, I neglected all sorts of things in an effort to re-establish my life in a new county – and when I look back, all these things are excuses for not concentrating on blogging, or on so many other things I needed to do.

What’s prompted me back into writing again, is the constant stream of excuses that photographers are coming up with these days, to explain their below standard work, which they are sharing on Social Media on an almost daily basis.  It’s driving me nuts……

That’s not to say of course that there are many excellent photographers out there, sharing some truly inspirational work.  The trouble is, there are so many more ‘photographers’ (and I use the quote marks intentionally) who feel the need to share a lot of sub-standard images, and who feel that people should be praising them for their trouble.

I’m a member of a few Facebook groups – and I’ve actually left a good number – trusting that the few I stuck with would be more ‘constructive’.  Some of these groups encourage members to post images for constructive critique, and this is where the whole thing starts to fall apart.

“Please be gentle, I’m only just starting with photography / photoshop / Lightroom / Elements – don’t be harsh”

I’m more than happy to give constructive critique to those who really want it – Telling people their images are good, when they are good, and offering (I hope) constructive feedback  to those whose images are not so good, but have potential.

However, if you are new, and just starting out, is it not even more important that you get honest feedback about your images?   If people constantly tell you that what you are producing is good – then of course you will keep on doing it – in exactly the same way, and you will continue to make the same mistakes, and I find that the poorer the image, the less likely people are to accept any criticism of it.

I also see poor advice being given, and explanations for poor technique being blamed on equipment.  A prime example happened today.  I was reading a post where someone had put an image up for review – there was so much noise in the image that you could barely make out what it was.  The image was scaled up to 200%, the ISO had been set at 6400 and the exposure time was just 1/200 of a second.  The usual explanations were offered.  The high ISO, and the darkness of the image – the upscaling, all contributed to the rather messy image.  

Later in the discussion – someone chipped in with and offered the explanation that it wasn’t the photographer who was to blame at all.  It would be a combination of a faulty SD card, and the fact that the Battery was nearing depletion that caused the ‘grain’ on the image.  A number of people tried to explain that a low battery would not cause this effect, but the photographer was relieved that it wasn’t anything they had done.  It was a ‘gear’ problem and so they could fix this by always taking with them a spare battery……..

I’m sorry, but this sort of thing is worse than useless.  Taking the easy way out, is not always an option.  Sometimes you just have to learn how to use your camera, and understand what the settings do, and how you can work with them, when the light is against you.

Understanding your camera, and it’s limitations are key to making better images.  All photographers need to know and understand the relationship between F/stop, shutter speed and ISO.  Adding in white balance, focus, composition and using a tripod where necessary.  There is a host of information on the net, and asking a question on a Facebook forum does not mean you are going to get good answers.  Check out the ones you do get – make sure the information is accurate.

You can’t work on the principle of “It was on Facebook, so it must be right”

So before you post images on the net, asking for critique ask yourselves these questions

Do I REALLY want other peoples opinion?

Do I really?…… because there are some images that we just feel are ‘right’ for us.  It won’t really matter what other people think, because they are personal to you.  It might not be a technically perfect image, but it captured that moment, which means so much to you.  But don’t forget, other people don’t know your circumstances, or your family, or your pets.  To them it’s just an underexposed image.

2. Is the opinion really about what you have posted

Opinions can be hi-jacked by other things happening in the same thread.  Some posters will ask questions that others will answer, and in the end the whole thing is not about your image any more, it’s about something different.  So be careful when you read the comments – it may not even be you they are talking about.

3. Are the comments actually helpful

Does “wow”, “amazing”, “beautiful work”, “incredible”, actually mean anything to you?  Or would you prefer comments such as “the composition works well”, “superb lead lines”, “nice and sharp”.  Even negative ones “the shadows are too dark”,  “you have some blown out highlights there”, “love the shot, but I see a couple of hot spots on the models face”.   Some of these things can be fixed in post production, and because you are so close to your images, you don’t see them sometimes.  It’s good and helpful to have them pointed out to you later on.

Hearing feedback about general things in your image can help you later on.  Ask yourself – can you take what’s being said, and apply it, to other images. If you can’t, I don’t think you should be asking for critique in the first place.   Is there a lesson to be learned in the feedback you are getting.

I encourage my students to take time looking at other people’s work.  Not just photographers, but artists and painters.  Ask yourself “why” is this person’s work so good – how does this compare to what I am producing.  Visit art galleries and photographic exhibitions and try to work out what is good about some of the images you see.

In summary then, if you are new to photography, photoshop, lightroom, whatever – then doesn’t it make more sense that people are absolutely truthful about your work?  There are ways of offering constructive critique without being rude or disrespectful.  If people ask for critique, then we should give it truthfully, and honestly, and expect it to be treated as such.  If we continually praise poor workmanship, then this will become the norm, and we will start to forget what truly great images look like.

The ‘Technology’ Wars

Thinking about buying a new camera?  Maybe getting a new one for Christmas?  A simple question, but one that assumes you know what you are doing.  Plus it assumes that you are not simply upgrading, for the sake of it.  How many times do people change their gear, because getting a ‘better’ camera will give you better images….

I’m using the Canon 1D MK4, bought in 2010 – but I see a LOT of people now who are more than happy with their mobile phones, or tablets for their images.  Does this mean the death of the DSLR?  I’d like to think not, but it is true that some newspapers have removed all their photography staff, and given the journalists an iphone or other ‘smart’ gadget.  Maybe the ethos of ‘better images’ is starting to vanish, and we are experiencing a new boom of quantity over quality.  The sheer amount of visual images on the internet now, through flickr, facebook, and so on, means that you are seeing far more poor quality images than ever before;  and the sad thing is that the more poor quality things you see, the more you get used to seeing them, and the more you accept that as a standard.

That’s not to say there aren’t the great photographers out there – they are there, and they are putting an enormous amount of energy and skill into producing some outstanding images. I use Google+ and Flickr to share pictures I have made, and they are great places to experiment, and see what sort of reaction there is to new stuff that I produce.  In the end analysis though, it’s still social sharing, and maybe it’s not as real as showing them in the ‘real’ world.  What is the value of strangers ‘liking’ an image if they are not prepared to explain what it is they like?

Has the ease with which images are captured actually devalued their credibility?  Have images become worth so much less since the advent of the mobile phone?

I ask myself this more often these days.  For example – at a dinner I was shooting the other month, a chap came up to me and asked why I thought I needed such a big camera – he himself had his ipad mini – and was more than happy to show me his ‘brilliant’ pictures that he had taken with it.  I’m not saying his images were bad, but he what he really wanted to show me was that I didn’t need the gear I had.  Somehow though I think that if a ‘professional’ photographer turned up at his wedding with an ipad, he might be just a little underwhelmed !

The whole value of images is reducing almost on a daily basis – I get asked to work for free all the time “for exposure”, and that I should be grateful to be asked, because, after all, they could have done it with their compacts, or phones.  (Try asking the plumber to come along for free – see how he or she reacts to that one…..)  On the other hand, with the better cameras, and powerful software, why shouldn’t they try it for themselves.

My own thoughts are that photographers have to move with the times.  I’ll confess to having taken images with my ipad, during a conference where the lens I had with me would not fit the whole lecture hall in.  My fault I admit, for not having the right lens with me.  The ipad image though was quite acceptable, and the client didn’t even bat an eyelid.  I just added that one shot in with all the others, knowing that the images were only going to be used on line.  The problems arise when a print is required and you can’t get the image quality.

I would say though that just because there are more people out there taking photographs, doesn’t mean that there are more ‘good’ photographers.  I think there are about the same number of people producing good images as there were before – it’s just that they are somewhat overwhelmed by all the other ‘stuff’.

It’ll be interesting to see in the next year or so, where we go with the new DSLR type video cameras, from which you can capture one frame as a still.  Why worry about taking individual images – video the whole event and pick your shot.

Next year’s technology could be worth looking at…..

 

 

Google vs Getty

The Google / Getty Stock Images Situation

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Over the last few weeks, I have closely followed the situation that currently exists between Google, and Getty Images.

It comes almost immediately after the problems with Instagram terms of service – which were re-issued to state that

“Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

“Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, except that you can control who can view certain of your Content and activities on the Service as described in the Service’s Privacy Policy.”

These terms have since been revised, Getty though has continued to broker a deal with Google that seems on the face of it to be totally unreasonable.  On the Google Drive Blog  they announced 5000 new images were to be made available free of charge to Google Drive users.  Create an image on Google Drive, and choose your image to illustrate it.  Whether for personal, or commercial use the images are free.

Where do these images come from?  Well, a lot seem to come from ‘i-stock’ , and others from the Getty/Flickr relationship.

This is a licence deal arranged with Google, through Getty images and iStock RF collections.  There was an initial pool of several thousand images licensed from Getty and iStock RF that are on the Getty platform.

What does this mean – well initially we have seen that some photographers whose images are sourced through Flickr to the Getty RF pool, have received around $12 per image, to have their images on the Google Drive search.  Images which have had the metadata stripped and can therefore not be traced back to the photographer.

So – initially, if you have photos on Flickr, which are currently in the Getty pool, you may find them turning up on Google Drive.. You will know if this has happened, as it will show in the October / November 2012 statements.  The main problem as I see it, is that you have images of people who have signed a model release stating that their image will not be used for certain purposes – but once out in the wild – they could end up anywhere – and the photographer can’t do anything about it.  The Getty contract is suitably vague, and even if you pull out of the programme, you can’t recover images already sold.

There has been another post on the iStock website

“We’ve heard you, and we’ve met with Google and are working with them to refine the implementation which we believe will address some of the concerns raised over the past several days–including copyright ownership.”

Maybe the agreement will be changed.  I’ll be watching to see how this one develops.

What do you do when someone steals your content?

As the number of websites and blogs grow, so does the demand for content.  Images are especially vulnerable, and are taken on a regular basis from websites, galleries, and blogs. What can you do?

I wrote about this months ago, following theft of one of my images, only discovered by accident, after another person had formally requested use of it.  Only this week, I have discovered images being used in two other locations – one a small site administered by an individual – on behalf of a community association.  This ended well, with not only the offer of advertising on the site, but a fee was agreed and paid within 48 hours of the image being discovered.

The other was on a much larger corporate site – where the site owner happily admitted to taking the image, thinking that it was copyright to the local authority, therefore it didn’t matter that the image was stolen.  Even after I explained that the image was not being used by the Authority in question, the site owner prevaricated and stated that they had no budget for images, so they had to take them where they could.  At the moment, I am still waiting for either the image to be removed, or a fee to be paid.

This site is a great resource (and from where I got these free red and blue buttons) LORELLE ON WORDPRESS I can only emphasise that it’s not a matter of ‘if’ your content gets used, it’s a matter of ‘when’.  So have a read, and when you get content stolen, you’ll have a better idea of how to deal with it.

The question is – do you want your images or content help someone else earn money without your permission ?  Think about it ?