good picture, how do you know?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by art_kramer, Jul 28, 2013.

  1. How do you know you got a good picture thru post processing? Everyone does it. I don't have that eye to say okay, it looks great.There are tons of pictures on here and other sites that look great. I can post process till the cows come home and the photos aren't that good afterwards. It's not all in the software either, you have to know when to say when. Thanks, maybe it's just a gift.
  2. Knowing when to stop is essential. When I get to the point where I think a shot just needs a little more tweaking, I make myself save it and go away from it for a few days. The time lapse helps to restore reality...
  3. Well, I can tell you there is no objective measurement of a "good picture". Some of the most wonderful images ever captured display rule-breaking flaws that would exclude them from consideration as "wonderful images".
    Forget the objective rules. It is the eye and the minds-eye that rule.
    Hope this helps.
  4. I don't think it is a gift.When you first start out there is thousands of different looks you can get from a single image in post processing.
    How do you know you got a good picture thru post processing?​
    There are certain elements that you should work on getting right to start with, Exposure, White balance and cropping but even then these can be pushed for creative looks. After that it is very much personal choice.
    Photography is an art form especially when it comes to post processing, what one person likes another might dislike, all these thousand's of possibilities will appeal to some and not others.
    To help simplify your post processing you need to start working on developing a style. Have a look on line and work out what style you like best and start working towards editing all your images to match this style and keep working towards fine tuning this style. That's not to say that you should try different styles once in a while. But processing the bulk of your images to one style will give your photos a consistent look and will make your post processing much easier.
    Hope this helps.
  5. "How do you know you got a good picture thru post processing? Everyone does it. "
    If it's not for an audience, then it's a good picture when I'm pleased with it. If I can't be pleased with it, then it goes in the archives and might find a life another day.
  6. How do you know you got a good picture thru post processing?​
    Mostly, you don't. Good pictures are made before any devices or software are used. They are made or recognized in the mind of the photographer. Post processing is to enhance the message of the image or direct the focus of the viewer or prepare the image to interface with various output devices like printers. It is not the place to make weak pictures "good". Many try and the result is often a heavy handedness of effects. As you approach post ask yourself "is what I'm about to do going to improve or support the message or theme of the image?" Even basic post moves like cropping, brightness and contrast, burning and dodging or deciding on a B&W or color rendition fall under this question. Also the endless ways one can change the tonal and color range through filtration also fall under this question. "is the center of interest enhanced or is the emotional strength of the image improved?"
    All of this is based on the image and your intent. As a creative opportunity to affect the image, no one else can decide but you. With great power, comes great responsibility.
    Start simply and do play with the controls to see various effects and understand what the various software tools do. And ask yourself the above questions before applying. After a while you should get a feel for it. There are plenty of good books and websites around that can help you understand the basic nuts and bolts of digital post processing.
  7. How do you know you got a good picture thru post processing?​
    When it satisfies you.
  8. stp


    Louis said exactly what I had in my mind when I read Art's question....especially his first two sentences.
  9. If I'm processing something and I do a certain thing and go "wow!", I then dial whatever I did back by sometimes more than half. I find if something grabs your eye straight away in a way you weren't fully expecting, the "wow" factor is probably overwhelming your judgement of what is the right amount of effect to apply. You see this being done wrong in so much amateur photography these days. Gaudy HDR, horrible overuse of the clarity slider, WAY too much saturation, etc. The problem is, that the general public seems to be captured by those intense processings, and in a way they are shaping what future professional photographers are going to put out. I try so hard not to oversaturate my images out of some sense of principle, but my images get left behind when compared to other images processed in a more attention grabbing way. If I go pro, I don't see that I would have any other option than to start kicking up the saturation and contrast on my images to match what the (arguably simplistic) public wants. It's a tough one.
  10. One thing you have to remember is that there are often many good versions of a shot - color/black and white, high contrast/low contrast, cropped/uncropped etc. So there is often no "right". It is a question of taste. Like anything else I think this cannot really be taught, but comes with experience. Even then not everyone will agree with you. I agree with Bernie as it happens about the wow factor - be very careful with these - they grow old very soon.
  11. If you don't know, then you need to have others review and critique you. is great for that, as are some other sites. Even some of the Flickr groups will provide constructive criticism.
    Look at lots of other pix in the genres you like. Usually, less is more, particularly with the Saturation slider. You'll develop your eye, but it may take months.
  12. I will disagree that flickr and are good places to get feedback. I generally think the opposite.
    I once asked a professor of mine - in a college photography class - this very same question about a portrait I had taken. He asked - who's your favorite portrait photographer? I had too many to mention but I had a Walker Evans book in my hand with those portraits of the sharecroppers in Georgia so I said how about Walker Evans.... He said, ok, go home tonight, put that book on the shelf with the portrait open and put your photo right next to it and see how it does. I said you don't mean I should compare myself up against.... and before I finished the sentence I stopped and realized that that is exactly what he meant.
    The answer to these and many other photographic questions can be found in the History of Photography. There are plenty of examples of images that have a lot more in them than simply what something looks like. If you look at Dorothea Lange's images you will see that she actually cared about the people in front of her. Same with Lewis Hine. Photographic expression comes down to how you approach your subject, a good photograph is one that will reveal your relationship to what (or who) you are photographing. To do that you have to be present and you have to have done the internal work to make your relationship interesting to others. It's easier to talk about in terms of portraiture, but it works the same with landscape.
    I think you have to ask yourself when looking at an image whether its something you recognize out here, that it looks like something, or whether it actually feels like something. I have an image here from the coast where you can feel the salt spray on your skin when you look at the image. This kind of effect comes from slowing down and being there...
  13. Answering a larger question, a buddy gave me the article below because that's what his photo club uses to judge competitions. It's a great start but I would add that the subject has to be interesting too. For example, there are two walls of photographs at an airport I pass through all the time. I know enough to know that the photographs on one wall are simply outstanding. The lighting, texture, contrast, printing, framing and so on are perfect. But they're photos of old, run down, wooden buildings. They're boring and nobody looks at them. Not even me anymore. The other wall has big, bright photos of mountains and streams and trees and animals. They aren't nearly as technically correct, but people walk backwards on the moving sidewalk to look at them longer. Even me.
    Elements of a Merit Image
    by Bob Hawkins, CPP, M.Photog.MEI.Cr.
    One hundred and fifty years ago, the science of photography was only available to those folks
    hearty enough to pursue the craft in horse-drawn darkrooms. The film of the era was emulsion
    slathered on glass plates, and the cameras weighed as much as many of the photographers. At
    that moment in history, esthetics was probably not uppermost in the minds of the practitioners.
    By studying the works of early photographers, it becomes obvious just how rapidly that changed.
    Those photographers weren’t content just recording a scene from eye level or letting the
    background be whatever was there. The men and women practicing photography in those early
    days showed an interest in arranging the elements of their photographs; showing ingenuity and
    creativity improved the impact of those images. Proper composition and print presentation
    evoked a style recognizable in many of the earliest photographers’ work. The choice of subjects,
    use of lighting, a defined center of interest, plane of focus and the balance of physical elements
    and tones in the scene often made the viewer see exactly what the photographer wanted to be
    noticed first – telling a story without a sound uttered or a word written. Since every photograph of
    this time was made by hand, photographers of the era had to be craftsmen. They were concerned
    with the final quality and technical excellence of their photographs, not to mention finding new
    ways to produce good work in varying situations.
    Today those large film cameras have been replaced by much smaller digital cameras that can be
    carried everywhere photographers go. Horse-drawn darkrooms exist only in museums, and except
    for those purists who love the process and qualities of film, the days of making each photograph
    by hand are gone forever. The modern darkroom lives in the virtual realm inside a computer the
    size of a small suitcase. Visual artists produce their images with high-end inkjet printers or send
    their digital files over the Internet to a retail processor for finishing. However, the earlier
    photographer’s desires to improve the photographs they made by attending to the details of their
    work still lives on in the modern image makers of today.
    Twelve elements have been defined as necessary for the success of an art piece or image. Any
    image, art piece or photograph will reveal some measure of all twelve elements, while a visually
    superior example will reveal obvious consideration of each one. They are:
    1. Impact
    is the sense one gets upon viewing an image for the first time. Compelling images
    evoke laughter, sadness, anger, pride, wonder or another intense emotion.
    2. Creativity
    is the external expression of the imagination of the maker by using the medium to
    convey an idea, message or thought.
    3. Style
    is defined in a number of ways as it applies to a creative image. It might be defined by a
    specific genre or simply be recognizable as the characteristics of how a specific artist applies light
    to a subject. It can impact an image in a positive manner when the subject matter and the style are
    appropriate for each other, or it can have a negative effect when they are at odds.
    4. Composition
    is important to the design of an image, bringing all of the visual elements
    together in concert to express the purpose of the image. Proper composition holds the viewer in
    the image and prompts the viewer to look where the creator intends. Effective composition can be
    pleasing or disturbing, depending on the intent of the image maker.
    5. Print Presentation
    affects an image by giving it a finished look. The mats and borders used
    should support and enhance the image, not distract from it.
    6. Center of Interest
    is the point or points on the image where the maker wants the viewer to
    stop as they view the image. There can be primary and secondary centers of interest.
    Occasionally there will be no specific center of interest, when the entire scene collectively serves
    as the center of interest.
    7. Lighting
    —the use and control of light—refers to how dimension, shape and roundness are
    defined in an image. Whether the light applied to an image is manmade or natural, proper use of it
    should enhance an image.
    8. Subject Matter
    should always be appropriate to the story being told in an image.
    9. Color Balance
    supplies harmony to an image. An image in which the tones work together,
    effectively supporting the image, can enhance its emotional appeal. Color balance is not always
    harmonious and can be used to evoke diverse feelings for effect.
    10. Technical excellence
    is the print quality of the image itself as it is presented for viewing.
    Sharpness, exposure, printing, mounting and correct color all speak to the qualities of the physical
    11. Technique
    is the approach used to create the image. Printing, lighting, posing, film choice,
    paper selection and more are part of the technique applied to an image.
    12. Story Telling
    refers to the image’s ability to evoke imagination. One beautiful thing about art
    is that each viewer might collect his own message or read her own story in an image.
    The Photographic Exhibitions Committee (PEC) of PPA uses the 12 elements above as the “gold
    standard” to define a merit image. PEC trains judges to be mindful of these elements when
    judging images to the PPA merit level and to be placed in the International Print Exhibit at the
    annual convention. The use of these 12 elements connects the modern practice of photography
    and its photographers to the historical practice of photography begun nearly two centuries ago​
  14. Knowing when to stop is essential.​
    While this is particularly true for post-processing, HDR and the like, it even applies to painters and artists in other media.
    The golden rule is that (barring intentional exaggeration):
    If you can tell it's been done, it's been done too much.​
    For a comparison, remember the first time your 8-year-old daughter got into her mother's makeup.
    In photography, that's the first time you fired up your Nik Collection. ;)
  15. I find the Bob Hawkins article that Dave posted - a little bit off. (No offense to you, Dave.) This is a very commercial view. My Dad was a commercial photographer and his first item would also be "impact." If we are talking about commercial photography, then these might be good things to consider.
    There are many genres in photography. Lots of us like to take pictures of our kids, some of us are entranced with nature, birds, etc. There is commercial work of all sorts from architectural to weddings. Then there is fine art, with its myriad sub-genres. Before one asks a question about "when is it good" (paraphrasing) one has to specify "good" for what, or for what genre.
    I am a modernist photographer. I am interested in the emotive qualities of photographs, and all the things we can learn about our humanity. The depths of our emotions, the many different emotions and the things that connect us all together. The deeper and more subtle the emotion, the more I feel like I am learning when I look at something. When I say I saw something I had not seen before in an image, it isn't about a tribe of aboriginals I had never heard of, for example, its a side of myself (or someone else looking like myself) that I had not seen.
    In this context, impact is flat. Lighting and composition are not worth considering. Personally, excellence in the process is a base from where one starts. But it is at the base, it needs to be learned and then left back in the darkroom so that shooting can be done about something more important.
    I think when a picture is good it will move you. That's the first indication. I want to learn something. My mentor in my college days, Phil Perkis, used to say, "At the end of the day do you have any wisdom to share with the rest of us? Have you learned anything in your time here on earth?" This is all opinion, of course. But i would rather have the answer to those kinds of questions vs what Mr. Hawkins was looking for.

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