Featured: 'What produces the best photographs?' by Clint

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Clint, Jan 4, 2015.

  1. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    Clint
    I don't know about you, but many of my best photographs are from some time ago when I was using equipment that is not near as technically good as today's equipment.

    It would seem as if some things that led to great photographs in the past are being lost in today's choices. Today's lenses are technically very good, yet in many cases are approaching a level of perfection that to some extent takes away from the character of photographs, especially as more and more photographers seem to be after a crispness, sharpness, and loss of distortion across the entire image.

    If we all could afford the technically best lenses, shoot them at the F Stop the produces the best technical image, and they were all easy to use - what would that do to the world of photography?

    The rule of thumb for decades has been 1-2 steps down from wide open will produce the sharpest results. This rule of thumb is starting to fade, but is it important to shoot at the F Stop that produces the crispest and sharpest image across the area of the image? Which often leads to - What is the best lens?

    While to some this is the way to photograph, I think it very important to get to know how each of your lenses work at various settings taking advantage of the lens characteristics.

    Lens characteristics of photographic lenses come from bending light rays and trying to focus the rays on the image plane recording onto a small area - hence lenses always produce distortions in the process of bending the light rays. The best a lens can do is to correct as many of these distortions as possible. The nearer to perfection, the more the cost and the larger the lens size.

    Image quality is largely a result of lens characteristics. Aside of the physical aspects such as size, weight, build quality, focal length, and maximum aperture lens characteristics include: astigmatism, barrel distortion, bokeh, chromatic aberration, clarity, color reproduction, coma, contrast, depth of field, field curvature, field of view, flare, ghost, light transmission (amount), micro contrast, perspective, pincushion distortion, resolution, spherical aberration, tone, vignette, and how all these play out across the image.

    The closer a lens gets to perfection of these characteristics, the less character the lens produces as the image becomes more pure and sterile. Some photographers try to produce outstanding images simply by procuring the best equipment - which is often the talk of many conversations based on what is the best lens.

    One thing a photographer can do to set their photography apart from others, is to best use lens characteristics to their benefit. Some lenses may take a considerable amount of experience with them to exact the best image possible from them, and in some cases that may mean that a lens is only great in certain circumstances. But asking what the best lens for X, is not necessarily the right question.

    Although this was written based on lenses, I think it generally pertains as well to the cameras we use. To produce the best images does not require the technically best equipment! The final photograph is after all based the photographers knowledge, and how that is used with the equipment they have.
     
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  2. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    Clint

    I think part of the problem is that the world of photography covers such a wide gamut of applications.

    At one end of the scale we have the emotionless, technically perfect world of scientific type photography, where the aim is to accurately record what happens or what happened.. think forsensic photography or astrophotography.

    At the other end of the scale we have the entirely emotional photograph, usually uniquely personal, in which the content is way way more important than the technical quality of the image, an old faded photo of a relative, or an iphone selfie of you and your first kiss

    in between these two extremes there is a big wide field.. and some naturally drift towards either end of that gamut.

    There is also the question of why you are taking a photograph?.. what is one try to achieve? is it a career?, a record of your life? art? solve a technical problem?

    I raised this in a thread 18 months ago

    https://www.mu-43.com/showthread.php?t=48639

    I get frustrated with all these what lens should I buy next threads, or indeed the rush to the next shiny thing body wise.

    Until very recently my 'most interesting' photos on Flickr were take by an e-p1 with a legacy lens and a shot taken with my first digital camera, an ixus 100

    The E-p1 shot is still top, yet over the 6 or so years since that shot I have been lucky enough to have shot with the best this format can offer as well as Leica, Canon and Sony full frame.

    Has my photography got better ?... yes I think i has...some of that is better equipment... but mainly I think its because circumstances allow me to shoot more, and I have become more comfortable/confident shooting.

    this is still a hobby... I have no illusions about making money from this. As I mention in the thread linked above, I think its important that when you fire that shutter you should be thinking of your audience... and that audience should be more than yourself... it can be just your close family... but it should always be more than yourself

    anyway its late here... this may not have been completely joined up thinking.. but bottom line is... forget chasing specs, understand the basics of photography, have an audience in mind... and shoot shoot shoot

    K
     
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  3. Itchybiscuit

    Itchybiscuit Photon Mangler

    512
    Dec 10, 2013
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Ivor
    From a curmudgeonly Scot to a fellow cantankerous Scot, I do think that simple, unpredictable luck can also play a part in a great image. The bird/animal/person/cloud that drifted into shot at the very point of exposure, being in the right place at the right time with a camera to your eye...

    I've said it often enough on these pages that I'm neither the most gifted nor the most affluent photographer in our wee group so I have to make do with what I CAN afford and learn the ways of those lenses which can be had for between £10 and £30 on the bay. And I'm lucky.
     
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  4. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    itchy

    there is the old arnold palmer line... the more I practice the luckier I get :smile:

    K
     
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  5. Itchybiscuit

    Itchybiscuit Photon Mangler

    512
    Dec 10, 2013
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Ivor
    Aye, good point pal. I grant you that if we're not out and about with our cameras capturing photons it's a michty sair chav to be lucky! :wink:
     
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  6. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing
    I'm in a bit of a quandary right now in that arena. With a milestone birthday coming up I have the opportunity to really beg for a camera upgrade (and my excellent wife will give in... Probably) and I'm starting to feel like it's time for one. But it is still a large investment and I know I haven't plumbed the depths of what my bodies are capable of. It's rather the usability constraints that are really getting in the way. The EP1 LCD is bad for composing due to low resolution. The GX1 files sometimes need color correction. My screen has developed the well-documented delamination issue. Both of these bodies have poor high ISO performance compared to the latest and greatest. But truth of the matter is, I could still get great images, probably better than I am able to produce, out of both cameras.

    There is a certain drive to replace what we're using because something new is marginally better, yes, but there's also a little matter of the gear that you love, that suits you to a tee. I think we always kind of look for it, but seldom find it. A lot of folks say the Fuji X100 series do this for them; I dunno, but I envy them the level of satisfaction they say they possess.

    Is there a M4/3 camera like that for everyone? Probably not. But something makes me keep looking. If I found a way to turn that off I think I would... But should I?

    GX1•EP1•GF3•9mmBCL•17mm2.8•30mm2.8
     
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  7. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    Bangkok
    rob collins
    This concept almost wants to make me give up photography altogether
     
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  8. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    Bangkok
    rob collins
    Personally I think the person who talks about all the different 'character' of his lenses is just as big a 'gearhead' as the person who pixel peeps at 600% to see how sharp his lens is.

    Cant you just add 'lens character' in post? I have a filter called 'P.O.S Lens'. Can you guess what the P.O.S stands for?
     
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  9. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Some of my best and most enjoyable photography that I ever did was with my E-1, before I started to work for a newspaper. Only now that I've given all of that up and just do photography predominantly for my own pleasure, I think that I'm regaining that early outlook. I'm still using the same lenses as before (even less of them) and using them now in different ways to often better effect. I gave up thinking that there was a Holy Grail a while back and I'm a lot happier as a result.
     
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  10. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    Bangkok
    rob collins
    I think photographers as a general species tend to be nostalgic. Just look at the designs of modern cameras. I have friends who can get incredibly excited and animated about aperture rings on lenses and how wonderful it is to have a wheel to set iso on a Fuji XT-1. And then there is joy film, dark rooms, manual focusing and light meters.

    Since I took up photography a couple of years ago, I have simply been in awe of the incredible capabilities of the cameras I have had as well as the software such as Lightroom and Photoshop. It is far easier to embrace the technology.
     
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  11. budeny

    budeny Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 4, 2014
    Boulder, CO
    I'm not really sure what's the point OP is trying to make..
    Best photographs as art, or science, or discovery, or whatever else?
     
  12. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Actually, it's still the photographer that produces the best photographs. Regardless of field, it's the understanding of the subject and how it needs to be displayed that's more important than the camera/lens used.
     
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  13. budeny

    budeny Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 4, 2014
    Boulder, CO
    Well, obviously, photographers are producers of all kind of photographs - from worst to very best. Also, automated systems are producing fair amount of great and interesting pictures too - e.g. astronomy, medical, micro(something), etc.
    May be it's actually the observing public that makes certain pictures the best and discarding the rest.
     
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  14. val

    val Mu-43 Top Veteran

    548
    Dec 19, 2013
    Australia
    William
    I took this shot on a basic 4mp point and shoot. The Canon A520.

    I still think it's one of my best shots.

    9086693161_f731d3be58_b. IMG_5399 by William Solis, on Flickr

    My photographs on the D610 are no different from the photographs from my GX7.

    I bought the GX7 because I would carry it with me always.and I've become a better photographer because of it.
     
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  15. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    What I meant by my statement was that whether it's an amateur or a professional, the subject matter, depth of interest in that subject matter, understanding the subject matter and what you want to display is what makes the photograph. Even automated systems are set by people, usually specialists in the field, to seek out specifics that they are interested in recording but can't stand by all the time or it may be too hazardous to take the photographs personally. The equipment is really only an adjunct to the outcomes.
     
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  16. bikerhiker

    bikerhiker Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 24, 2013
    Canada
    David
    Comes to the basics that we are competing against each other for the best images. Otherwise, you wouldn't say my equipment is better than yours.

    There are 2 ways to beat your opponent in terms of photography. Either you have good content in terms of a niche in your style or use brute force technology to out play your opponent. Option #1 where content is king is very hard to achieve. Sadly, only about I would say less than 10% of photographers worldwide would have the ability to generate new not yet done content that would wow anyone even with an iPhone or an Olympus E-1. Interestingly enough, most of these talents are using inferior equipment. It's called a cell-phone or a bridge camera.

    And then you have a majority of other photographers who basically duplicate every single styles they learnt from books, magazines or apprentice with the masters and then add a little of their own flair and call it theirs. They'll have to keep up with current events because really they didn't create the content. They just follow new content from the leaders who do. They'll use the same equipment because that's how they relate in terms of content creating. If leader X uses a full frame to create this style, I must use the same format to create this style from leader X. You don't have to look long and hard to see that even in technology, you have Android trying to copy Apple's every move. That's why the move to full frame and medium format, because that's where the trend and heavy promotions are from Pentax, Hassy, Nikon in particular and Canon as well as Sony. Sony had been busy in 2014 sponsoring a lot of these events with paid lunches to get people to use a full frame camera and in the economy of cutbacks, they are buying that 11% market share with money and muscle power to get you to use a full frame.

    Nothing wrong with that, because we associate a smartphone with an iPhone and tissue paper with Kleenex despite the fact that Kleenex isn't the only company that makes tissue paper.

    So let me ask you this. Are you a follower or a leader in your photography? Do you create your own content or you just follow what others do? I know following others is the easiest way; that's what Android and the PC world does. Just copy is easier than to create a new content.

    Using any format camera is fine as long as you know you need it to create good content. But facsimiling content is a fax. :biggrin:
     
  17. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I follow no one, that's why I use m4/3 (as well as 4/3s for the last decade), I make my own path. :)
     
  18. budeny

    budeny Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 4, 2014
    Boulder, CO
    There is, and always will be, the third component: the individuality of vision and imagination. Content is the king, but it is not frozen in its form - even with so beaten up subjects, everyone is still having a chance to produce a picture that will stand out of the flock. There is a guy that lives near my city and he makes his living out of pictures from Rocky Mountain National Park - he traveled every trail multiple times in any weather and time of day and he's not going to run out of subjects any time soon (http://imagesofrmnp.com/)

    So, answering your question, I think most people are creating the content even by taking pictures of same subjects. Though trying to reproduce the copy of someones great work is the good lesson too.
     
  19. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Some very, very, nice photos there, but I do wonder why there's a need to list the camera etc that took the photo. Do customers really care? I'm not sure that I've ever seen someone selling paintings, advertising the type of brush and paints they used (other than if the painting is a watercolour or oil painting).

    It's actually something that makes me chortle about Luminous Landscape, every photo has to be accompanied with a detailed description of camera, lens, focal length, aperture, shutter speed used and what not. Who cares? It's either a good photo or not and, most times nowadays, the tiny photos doesn't impress one bit.
     
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  20. budeny

    budeny Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 4, 2014
    Boulder, CO
    I care and many other people probably care too, at least for learning points or comparison of equipment.
    I also appreciate names of the places where pictures were taken.
     
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