difference between good and bad photographs

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by pawel_baranski, Mar 22, 2012.

  1. I'm trying to understand why some photos are bad, while other - even though are very similar - are good (or at least much better)
    This is white backround picture like many others. Even the girls is pretty - but this picture looks just like random snapshot.
    or these pictures:
    these are just little better than snapshots.
    another white background & pretty model snapshot. Composition is very awkward, but even after covering right part of picture with hand it's still bad.
    another one :
    even pose is not that bad, but picture turns out to be a snapshot.
    I know it's matter of composition/lighting/model/idea, but sometimes thigs just clicks in some amazing way, and sometimes they don't:
    I really feel like I'm missing something.
  2. Far too subjective a subject to speak on in broad terms.

    But your own standards appear to include disliking underexposed shots with a look-down camera angle and clumsy white balancing.

    Some of the ones you like seem to have benefitted from at least some cursory post-production work aimed at helping you to pay attention to the subject, rather than having the subject melt - via low contrast and poor light - into the background.

    You also seem to understand that a subject that doesn't seem to care about what's going on is less likely to make you care about what's going on. Even more so if the photographer doesn't seem to care. You're not interested because the person who made the photograph doesn't seem very interested.
  3. Pawel,
    You raise a very important issue which many of us are really to scare to mention in our reviews here. Personally, if I dislike a photograph a lot, rather than hurting the photographer's feelings, I would refrain from making a comment. I only make comments on photographs i like or where I feel that a minor flaw is letting the side down. In the latter case I would make a deliberate attempt to explain exactly what I did not like.

    Back to your original question. A photograph is essentially capturing of light. Whether this capture is art or craft is a different discussion but we can't get away from light. Portraits of human beings is all about achieving a subjective portrayal in the most suitable, flattering light of the photographer's choosing. The very first picture in your link was shot by someone who had eight not shot about lighting at all or did not care. The better pictures in your links certainly have much better light.

    Secondly, once we get away from the aspect of good light or have achieved it already, composition plays an important part on getting the best out of the model. A photographer needs to understand if they are trying to capture a model or capture that very same model within a particular scene. If it is the latter then careful thinking comes into the equation with regards to how it is that the scene is complimenting the subject or the subject is complimenting the scene.

    Thirdly, as a general rule, softer focus works well for family and event photography. Light does play an important role here, so does the sort of lens the photographer has chosen. I personally don't like the soft focused image so much but like the rawness of many a street portrait. For me the hard edged and hyper-real tends to add an added depth or character to the subject. There appears to be a story to tell rather than the bride's white dress soft pose.

    I actually believe that the competent photographer is unconsciously thinking about all the above in creating a good final image. Those learning might have to pay a little more attention. Thus, the camera is not wielding the greatest influence but the user of the camera.

    There are many other factors to be added to the points I have attempted to make above but I think representation and notions of reality plays an important part in the works of many experimental photographer. Within this site there is a prolific portrait photographer named John Peri. Peri is interested in the nude but his lighting usually demonstrate what can be done when abundant talent allows you to make the best out of natural or even controlled but very ordinary light.
  4. A good photograph is one which fulfills its intended purpose - no other factors are relevant - not equipment, technique, conformity to composition or other rules, nor anything else!
  5. Basically all the photographs are technically good.
    None are exceptonial
    What you must ask is "What message are you trying to convay?"
    Whether it is a snapshot or a studio setup, without the message understood it is a failure.
  6. you already have the only skill you'll ever need--the ability to tell the good from the bad. now exercise it daily for ten years. or twenty. the only thing you're missing is time
  7. Whether it is a snapshot or a studio setup, without the message understood it is a failure.
    Not strictly true, I don't believe every picture must have a message.
  8. I have to disagree with the claim that all the photographs are technically good. Even ignoring posing and/or lighting, there are a couple that look to me like even at the most basic level, simple things like exposure and/or focus weren't really what anybody would or should hope for.
    Beyond that, the lighting is highly variable. Several have extremely harsh lighting, in at least a couple of cases looking like the most basic on-camera flash, with no attempt at modification at all. In a couple of cases, those are even in portrait mode, leaving harsh shadows outlining one side of the model. Avoiding that isn't a matter of great artistry, it's just a matter of having at least some clue of the basics. At the same time, a couple have lighting so flat it makes the model look completely two-dimensional.
  9. It's partly a matter of layout and design. A good photo tends to be like a comfortable and well-planned living room. It's free of clutter and everything is in a sensible place at a sensible proportion. Looking at a bad photo is like sitting in a living room that's full of dirty dishes and a pile of unopened mail and where you have to view the TV from an uncomfortable angle.
    Good photos have appealing or interesting subjects in appealing or interesting settings.
    Good photos tend to have better lighting than bad photos.
  10. I just decide for myself If I like something or not. For me to look at it with some interest it will have to be in print form. But once I get that far I usually like most everything I see as long as it's not indecent. I like perfect photos and poorly framed snapshots. A story line or message is nice but not necessary for me. It can just be a random shot of something. However I am nobody and I just like what I like and I do not give a hoot for rules.
  11. Interesting question. Ok, here's my take on it. Just because someone likes an image does not necessarily make it
    good. Photography is a medium for capturing images, for various reasons, art, advertising, documenting, science,
    snapshot, fun etc etc. The key for me is to put that into context. What is the photograph and what is it's intended
    purpose. If it meets it's intended purpose with knowledge and technical merit then the image should be deemed good,
    irrespective of our preferences or predjudices. They key is to try clear yourselves of your prejudices and if able to put
    the image into context, sometimes this is achieved by relating the image to a body of work, or some text that gives you
    a clue, it can also be a stand alone image.
    Bad photographs are just that, they have no purpose, they just are! They are the creation of so called photographers
    who don't know what or why they are doing it, sometimes they get lucky and jag an image, the images are predictable
    and lack depth, they lack story telling.
    Here on PN we have a golden opportunity to educate those who produce poor images and lift the bar of photography
    by offering genuine informed critique. We should as a community of photographers strive for this.
  12. I find the majority of them to be rather poor. But, I believe this is a modeling website, where models are advertising themselves, not a photography website. A model trying to get started in the business may have used an amateur friend rather than a professional for the shoot.
  13. I didn't care for any of the examples you posted. Some were lousy, some weren't too bad, but if I'd come home from a client shoot with them they would have been quickly marked for deletion.
    It's just a matter of taste and what we are used to. Concentrate on doing what you like to do, and achieving results you are proud of, and don't worry much about what other people are up to. I would throw out cheese that the bugs have gotten into. Some folks will pay an arm and a leg for it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milbenk%C3%A4se or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimolette
  14. Yeah, I didn't particularly care for them either. However, this seems to be the new standard of photography. These photos look not dissimilar to the not-too-well lighted bridal photo at the top of the "Master Strobe Lighting" advertisement appearing on the righthand side of this web page as I type. Such a bland looking photo! At least it's "masterfully" shot with lighting from the side, rather than on-shoe. I guess that's something. Too bad the masters of strobe lighting haven't a clue how to use a bit of rim lighting (and/or turn down the background light) to keep the veil and bridal gown from disappearing against the white background.
  15. It's partly a matter of layout and design. A good photo tends to be like a comfortable and well-planned living room. It's free of clutter and everything is in a sensible place at a sensible proportion. Looking at a bad photo is like sitting in a living room that's full of dirty dishes and a pile of unopened mail and where you have to view the TV from an uncomfortable angle.
    Good photos have appealing or interesting subjects in appealing or interesting settings.​
    Wow. This is exciting. I love hearing this because I disagree with it completely, and that's what makes horse racing.
    Generally, "appealing" photos are like pablum to me. Completely uninteresting. I want to be challenged.
    I am much more challenged by a messy living room than one where all the ducks are in a row. I love walking into artist's houses or people who are really busy, always on the go, or somewhat disorganized, where their stuff is strewn all over the place and it looks like they are in the middle of something, not all fixed up and ready to go.
    I prefer sensuous photos to sensible ones. I prefer photos where things don't make the kind of sense I'm used to.
    I love photos that make me uncomfortable.
  16. Fred, I like to think of my photos as the gold nuggets of organization that surface from the cluttered disaster area that I call my office! ;-)
  17. Fred, you basically reinforced what I said, you spoke about what you like in a photograph. It reinforces the prejudices that people
    apply to an image. The fact still remains that just because one does not like a photo, that the photo is a bad photo.
  18. Fred, you basically reinforced what I said, you spoke about what you like in a photograph. It reinforces the prejudices that people apply to an image.​
    Richard, your words don't need reinforcing. I accept them as your individual ideas and respect them as I do other ideas put forth here. I spoke about what I like, not what I would deem good. There are many good photos that I don't particularly like. I'm able to set my prejudices and taste aside (to the extent that any of us are able to do that, which is NOT completely -- we operate under so many biological, personal, and cultural biases) and accept and appreciate many photos I don't like.
  19. Richard, I just realized that the OP and Dan's post were about good and bad and I responded by talking about the kinds of photos I generally like. Different animals.
    Good is not something I would use either absolutely or universally. My criteria for a "good" photo would not be specific,* and would not apply to all good photos all the time.
    *Composition should be appealing, highlights shouldn't be blown, contrast should be in the range Ansel Adams preferred. I would reject all these as applying to all good photos.
    It depends on the photo. Some compositions should be off kilter and off putting, some should be messy and full, others neat and sparse. Sometimes simplicity is good, sometimes complexity is good.
    So, goodness, in the above sorts of specific terms, can't apply to photos or the generic idea of photos. It has to be applied to individual photos.
    Two principles I look for when applying "good" to photos are 1) fulfillment and 2) internal integrity.
    1) If a photo fulfills its goal or the intention of the photographer or the perceived intention the viewer intuits, that is a good. Not all photos are made with intention or a goal. Some are accidents. So this is not a universally applicable condition for goodness. These are my guides, not my laws. There is almost a moral character to this idea of fulfilling perceived goals, which is fine with me in that I think "good" is a moral/value judgment.
    2) When the elements, subject, photographic qualities like focus, depth of field, contrast, texture, etc., narrative (if there is one), work together integrally, that is usually a good. That can mean harmony or discord, calm or anxiety, whatever. Sometimes, one element sticking out like a sore thumb can be effective and sometimes it can look like a mistake. So it takes looking at all the elements and at the whole to get a feel for how everything is working together. In one photo, a blown highlight will simply be a technical misstep. In another, it will be an expressive tool. A savvy photographer and a savvy viewer will usually be able to tell the difference. A depth of field that creates a very blurred background in one photo may work incredibly well but in another it could feel very much off. So, again, I wouldn't be specific as to these characteristics and qualities being good in and of themselves, but rather as each relates to the other elements of the photo and the photo as a whole.
    This is really a partial response, but will have to suffice for now. I hope it give you an indication of where I'm coming from.
  20. [Addition] I want to be clear that just because I think goodness is relative to each photo and criteria can't be assessed universally or absolutely DOESN'T mean I think it's subjective. I think there are objective notions of good and bad and I don't think we each get to decide. Subjectivity is the purview of taste. Good and bad should be able to be much more objective (or at least agreed upon) than matters of opinion and taste.
  21. I'm not a model photographer but it seems to me that if you're interested in presenting yourself as a model to get a job, you want the photograph to focus on you and not be distracted by complicated backgrounds that are also in focus, complex patterns, etc that distract the eye. It has nothing to do whether the photo is in your taste as a viewer or not. All the photos except this one http://www.maxmodels.pl/index.php?t=pokaz_foto&u=7997271 were cluttered and had no warmth about the person unless they're looking for a "grunge" model position.
  22. It's a hard thing to judge how good or bad a photo is. That is why photo contests are usually judged by many people and they don't really agree
    However, I would say the first and most important step for everyone is the ability to see how good and how bad his photo is so that he can improve
  23. >> Fred G: Generally, "appealing" photos are like pablum to me. Completely uninteresting. I want to be challenged. <<

    Fred, your statement doesn't make any sense. What's appealing isn't a standard. It's defined by the viewer. Appealing photos cannot be
    pablum to you, because such photos are not appealing to you in the first place. So you can't label them 'appealing'.

    Kittens are appealing to some. Lions tearing apart zebras are appealing to others. If a subject doesn't appeal to you it's not appealing by
  24. Dan, when I read, I do my best not to take phrases out of context because sometimes that can really prevent me from getting the intended meaning of a post or a paragraph. I responded to your post in its entirety and I assumed that what you meant by appealing was along the lines of what you had just said, and I've added emphasis below:
    A good photo tends to be like a comfortable and well-planned living room. It's free of clutter and everything is in a sensible place at a sensible proportion.​
    And here's what seemed would not appeal to you:
    Looking at a bad photo is like sitting in a living room that's full of dirty dishes and a pile of unopened mail and where you have to view the TV from an uncomfortable angle.
    In order to really understand what I'm saying and how I'm differing from you, you'd have to read my full post from yesterday at 1:46 p.m., which is not long or complicated, and not reduce it down to my use of the word "appealing." If you read it again and carefully, you should get the gist of the post and the ways in which you and I differ which, again, I embrace.
  25. My take on this thread is that 1) there are differences between photos in terms of lighting, perspective, processing, etc. and 2) there are judgement calls on how - based on these differences - photos are good, mediocre or bad. Sure we can debate the extent to which judgement calls are absolute, personal or relative to situations. For Pawel, I think that recognizing the differences and how these originate is the most important. Whether professionally or purely as a pastime, many of us are here to develop our ability to create these differences deliberately.
  26. I hope Pawel will determine for himself what he gets out of the responses here and what's important to him. I think it's wonderful that these threads provide a place for not only a variety of answers on specific criteria or specific answers but also for a variety of approaches in terms of how helpful or not specificity and direct answers can be for some questions. I generally find that these threads go beyond the particular purpose of talking only to the OP. The best threads can become discussions among members stimulated by the OP but not necessarily even directly responding to the OP. My opinion only.
  27. Fred, the passages that you quote above deal with the layout of the photo - organized and clear versus cluttered and
    random. Does the layout frame the subject effectively?

    The relative appeal of the subject is an unrelated factor.

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