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Thread: Views on technical image quality

  1. #1
    VladimirV
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    Views on technical image quality

    Having recently visited a photo exhibition by Michel Comte and from previous experiences I found that I always prefer the grainy and sometimes even blurry b&w pictures to the ones that are technically perfect.

    For some reason most technically brilliant pictures feel pretty lifeless and dull when I look at them. Yes, these are very sharp pictures with a lot of detail, well exposed and the subject is also interesting but I can't help moving by pretty fast and going back to the less perfect pictures.

    Reading forums and what people want it seems everyone wants less noise, more detailed and sharper images. But does this really make for better or more interesting pictures? I feel the more technically perfect some pictures are, the more artificial they feel, almost like a rendering.

    To illustrate what I mean have a look at this picture:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nrwforum/3244782427/

    It was grainy and had a lot of noise but had a bigger impact than these two had for example:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nrwforum/3244786581/

    What are you views on this?

    On a side note, I find the camera he is using interesting

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nrwforu...7613097761476/

  2. #2
    Subscriber Member Streetshooter's Avatar
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    Without a doubt content is always first.
    With content, intent is intertwined.

    Everyone has their own process and that
    process reflects on the above.
    One of the mishaps with digigraphs and
    that process is that it is to easy to get
    lost in the processing.

    It's very easy to find images that show
    process and intent but lack content.
    It's easy to get lost in that entire cycle.

    A good image should posess all 3 of the
    above and then it's up to the viewer to decide
    if it works for them.

    Take any of the 3 parts out and the viewer
    is lost and moves on.

    I could go on but it's some one else turn.....
    Don

  3. #3
    Subscriber Member TRSmith's Avatar
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    I'm not sure I agree. And I confess to being confused by the samples you reference. At first I simply looked at the photos (which include photo(s) being displayed in a gallery) and thought you meant to compare them using your criteria. Doh! Then I figured it out and wasn't able to really see the "flaws" and imperfections so it's a little difficult to really judge.

    However, the last major exhibit I was able to attend was Lee Freidlander at the SF MOMA. I remember being struck by just how effortlessly he was able to see and then capture a unique moment/person. Everything just seemed to fit and worked. Very often I would stare at an image for awhile and then zing! Something deeper would emerge, almost like a little time bomb of awareness going off and I would be even more amazed. What I don't remember is whether any of the photos were grainy, or contrasty, or dark, or in any other way imperfect. The images (for the most part) just plain worked.

    Making photos intentionally grainy, or contrasty, or somehow less than technically perfect on purpose is no substitute for vision. Nor is technical perfection a guarantee that a photo will succeed. But neither is a barrier to appreciation when the vision is clear.

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    Administrator Bob's Avatar
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    It has always been easier to move away from technical perfection through photographic processes, after all, it is the entropic direction. So it is better to begin with the best possible, then move perfection into whatever corner desired.
    -bob

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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    oddly, at the only big show i've had, people preferred these pics to all the clear, sharp, and unnoisy images! shot during a performance with a rather primitive point and shoot, it seemed to catch the spirit of the show and to evoke a certain mystery and desire for close examination.

    www.pbase.com/wwp/blue

    and i agree, subject comes first. here's a very famous novel from africa written in a patois english that fits a very bizarre story:

    http://www.amazon.com/Palm-Wine-Drin...0416565&sr=8-1

    ultimately, it's what hooks the audience and keeps them looking that matters. dickens and dostoyevsky certainly learned the trick.

    wayne
    www.pbase.com/wwp
    Last edited by smokysun; 18th May 2009 at 21:28.

  6. #6
    ddk
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    Quote Originally Posted by VladimirV View Post
    Having recently visited a photo exhibition by Michel Comte and from previous experiences I found that I always prefer the grainy and sometimes even blurry b&w pictures to the ones that are technically perfect.

    For some reason most technically brilliant pictures feel pretty lifeless and dull when I look at them. Yes, these are very sharp pictures with a lot of detail, well exposed and the subject is also interesting but I can't help moving by pretty fast and going back to the less perfect pictures.

    Reading forums and what people want it seems everyone wants less noise, more detailed and sharper images. But does this really make for better or more interesting pictures? I feel the more technically perfect some pictures are, the more artificial they feel, almost like a rendering.

    To illustrate what I mean have a look at this picture:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nrwforum/3244782427/

    It was grainy and had a lot of noise but had a bigger impact than these two had for example:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nrwforum/3244786581/

    What are you views on this?

    On a side note, I find the camera he is using interesting

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nrwforu...7613097761476/

    I think that I understand your point but don't agree that imperfections have a "jai ne sais quoi" quality to them. I feel that our reactions are based on our age, experiences and personal taste. I can't see the subtle qualities that you're talking about in these links but my personal favorite is girl in the red dress in the bath tub and not the bw of the man in the field.

  7. #7
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    It's all have to see with "content" as mentioned in an above post.

    So what is content ? It is made of feelings, emotions, story telling....And what is technic ? It is composition, light, rendering (which include grain)....
    You need both for a great picture, but you rarely get both in balance (which has to do with subjectiveness).
    In any case, we lean more to the content than the technic so if you think the balance favour the content, you'll definetly prefer it. Usually technical photos are less spontanous because they often need longer preparation and that shows into the picture.

    In the shots you presented here the last two seems to be fashion shots, pure plastician shots where the content is absent, obviously the first one is more interesting but I don't see any blur or particular default with it.

    Wayne's picture uses the technic to give content, in this case you don't really master the content, you have the idea and it is made of trial & failure. This one is pretty good but he probably took a bunch to get it, and he may never get what he thought of at first.
    So can you say this picture is technically imperfect because of blur & grain ? Surely not ! They are part of the content here.

    So think again about your criterias for a good or more accurately, "pleasant" picture.

    Michel

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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    i just watched this again:

    http://www.amazon.com/Annie-Leibovit...0466351&sr=8-2

    whether or not you like her style, i think it's important to know how professionals work

    or for somebody doing something mostly different:

    http://www.amazon.com/War-Photograph...0466523&sr=8-2

    wayne
    www.pbase.com/wwp

  9. #9
    VladimirV
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    Thanks for all your replys.
    I have re-read my initial post and see that I haven't made it really clear what I wanted to say.

    Basically it is just me questioning some people's demand for ever better image quality and dismissing certain cameras because they have too much noise or are not as sharp like other cameras. For me the aim of these people for ultimate technical image quality just seems pointless because I find that it robs the picture of any character and in parts it looks like a computer generated image if it's too perfect. I think sometimes a technical flaw can actually add to an image whereas technical perfection can distract from the image.

    The pictures I posted are not very good but there are no better ones available so my examples are not really showing what I wanted to. Having seen the prints however, the b&w picture had a lot of noise and was a bit blurry where the fashion shots were highly detailed and sharp without noise. Still, the content of the fashion shots was absent or completely uninteresting to hold my attention where the grainy b&w shot had content and also felt more real to me. At the same time, I think the b&w documentary shots he had would not work as well had they've been shot in the same high technical quality as the fashion shots.

    So what I want to say is that sometimes a technical limitation can benefit a particular image where technical perfection can sometimes feel empty. My observation is that on some photo exhibitions people tend to look at technically briliant pictures more to how detailed and sharp it is and how great the colors are but miss the content, where less technical perfect pictures are looked at for the content and people seem to spend more time in front of them. In the end it's all about the content though and an interesting image can be interesting no matter how the technical quality of it is.

  10. #10
    nei1
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob View Post
    It has always been easier to move away from technical perfection through photographic processes, after all, it is the entropic direction. So it is better to begin with the best possible, then move perfection into whatever corner desired.
    -bob


    So all of us poor buggers had better just give up and maybe buy a quality pencil ,............or just blink to store in our very empty heads and leave the creative stuff to our betters(am tugging my forelock)

  11. #11
    nei1
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    [QUOTE=smokysun;93583]oddly, at the only big show i've had, people preferred these pics to all the clear, sharp, and unnoisy images! shot during a performance with a rather primitive point and shoot, it seemed to catch the spirit of the show and to evoke a certain mystery and desire for close examination.

    wayne


    I think there are others sides to this observation Wayne.In an extreme case,for example setting off a motor driven camera and throwing it across a road ,where is the creative act?It could be said that the only artistic action was in the decision to throw the camera in the first place.I think intent has to be established and if an image was accomplished through chance its possible that this should be stated...best , Neil.


    I should add,just to confuse things a little more,that youre image of the fairground is great.
    Last edited by nei1; 23rd April 2009 at 00:10.

  12. #12
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    hi neil,
    i guess you're not a follower of john cage! or 'chance favors the prepared'? there's often a moment when the unconscious breaks through and combines things in a new way. our conscious choices very often cliches without it. and every artist takes advantage of what at first seem 'accidents.' did you take a look at the whole gallery? a lot of photos didn't work and were rejected. this is always the case with photography, is it not? i think we have to judge by the results, not by the processes which got us there, or probably no one would ever be a parent!
    ah, you do like to play the devil's advocate. try looking at the whole gallery:

    www.pbase.com/wwp/blue

    wayne

    or take a look at other galleries using the same technique:

    http://www.pbase.com/wwp/tech06

    this wasn't just guesswork. i set the settings. reviewed what i was getting on the lcd. constantly made choices, when to push the shutter button, for example, what to keep and what to reject, and most of all the technique appropriate for the nature of the show.
    Last edited by smokysun; 23rd April 2009 at 08:58.

  13. #13
    Super Duper
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    Technical perfection has its own, chilly quality. However, IMHO, the images that have most impacted me have transcended this; I am unaware of their techical quality or lack thereof. The gestalt of these images is far beyond that.

  14. #14
    nei1
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    Cages introduction of chance is a very deliberate act.If Id thrown the camera because I wanted a photo of the middle of the road from above and kept throwing it or another one until I got the photo that I wanted then this is a deliberate act and the event and the photo can be applauded as having the same source.If however I throw it once the resulting photo is pure chance and can not be attributed to the photographer,only the initiation of the process can be attributed to him.We are all dependent on one anothers honesty,without it we are lost.
    Youre photo here is excellent,it suggests a life and emotion that is not present in the other photos taken,youre creative act "if you like"has been in the selection and presentation of the image,many would argue that this is a more important act than the taking of the photo.Then the arguement questions wether we can change roles at will;I guess we can.
    Wayne ,I hope this is being taken as a general discussion as Im not accusing you of anything nor do I think you are claiming anything,all the best............Neil.
    Last edited by nei1; 23rd April 2009 at 09:37.

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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    hi neil,, no problem. the general question does become metaphysical: how much does chance play in our lives. can't answer that, but in photography its role undeniable. the contact sheets of any great shot usually show it surrounded by many failed attempts. even setups bring unexpected elements and consequences. guess it depends on the number of variables. they can be limited but never wiped out.
    best,
    wayne
    www.pbase.com/wwp

  16. #16
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    here's an example. shot the equivalent of a roll of film as these young women crawled around on the rocks (didn't know them). here's a couple where the gesture/pose lasted only a few seconds.

    wayne
    www.pbase.com/wwp
    Last edited by smokysun; 20th May 2009 at 21:26.

  17. #17
    nei1
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    Wayne,if youre aware of the possibilities of a situation and react to them then to my mind that is what photography is all about.All Im saying is that if you take a photograph of a Lloyd-wright building,however beautiful that photo is;most of the credit should go to Frank.

  18. #18
    Bob Yanal
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    Quote Originally Posted by VladimirV View Post
    To illustrate what I mean have a look at this picture:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nrwforum/3244782427/

    It was grainy and had a lot of noise but had a bigger impact than these two had for example:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nrwforum/3244786581/
    Might it be that the Chinese Gentleman - the subject of the picture - has more human depth in his face, more than the two gals - the subjects of the other pictures? In other words, perhaps the reason you're drawn to the Chinese Gentleman photo is its subject, not the "technique".

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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    neil, now we agree! that's my feeling about most travel photography. taking pics in mexico seems like shooting fish in a barrel. so much is given to you. that said, a few pictures of the eiffel tower really stand out from others. kertesz, frank, hcb. and bravo and iturbe make the most of mexico. these days i'm feeling we do best in our native place. however, that may only be true for me, out of laziness.
    best,
    wayne
    www.pbase.com/wwp

  20. #20
    Senior Member pollobarca's Avatar
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder.

    rgds

    paul
    "I ruined my health by drinking to everyone else's." Brendan Behan
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/pollobarca/

  21. #21
    Oxide Blu
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    Quote Originally Posted by VladimirV View Post

    On a side note, I find the camera he is using interesting

    GRD/GRDII with optional 40mm lens?!?

    Tastes like chicken, shoots like film, and safely floats you face down.

  22. #22
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    Quote Originally Posted by VladimirV View Post
    Basically it is just me questioning some people's demand for ever better image quality and dismissing certain cameras because they have too much noise or are not as sharp like other cameras. For me the aim of these people for ultimate technical image quality just seems pointless because I find that it robs the picture of any character and in parts it looks like a computer generated image if it's too perfect. I think sometimes a technical flaw can actually add to an image whereas technical perfection can distract from the image.
    I'm not sure that a technical flaw is ever a virtue in itself. But I'm absolutely sure that technical perfection isn't either. Just for once I think that Neil and I will probably agree.

    I admit to being a dreadful equipment freak (and I'm not proud of it) . . . but when I'm taking pictures, that's a different thing, and I have a mantra which I try really hard to keep to:

    If it's interesting . . .then nobody cares if it's technically perfect.

    If it isn't interesting . . . . then nobody cares at all


    I think that this can be applied to 'lesser' cameras as well, if their limitations add 'interest' then of course, they are worthwhile, if they don't, well, then they aren't!

    A decent artist will make the most of whichever tool he happens to be using, and if he doesn't, then he may still be a decent artist, but his image isn't decent art.

    Just this guy you know

  23. #23
    nei1
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    Quote Originally Posted by smokysun View Post
    neil, now we agree! that's my feeling about most travel photography. taking pics in mexico seems like shooting fish in a barrel. so much is given to you. that said, a few pictures of the eiffel tower really stand out from others. kertesz, frank, hcb. and bravo and iturbe make the most of mexico. these days i'm feeling we do best in our native place. however, that may only be true for me, out of laziness.
    best,
    wayne
    www.pbase.com/wwp
    Ive always tried to discount what appears new to me but is normal to the locals,but it isnt easy and is possibly silly,and trying doesnt mean I succeed.Glad we agree Wayne,best to you,Neil.

  24. #24
    nei1
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    Quote Originally Posted by jonoslack View Post
    I'm not sure that a technical flaw is ever a virtue in itself. But I'm absolutely sure that technical perfection isn't either. Just for once I think that Neil and I will probably agree.

    I admit to being a dreadful equipment freak (and I'm not proud of it) . . . but when I'm taking pictures, that's a different thing, and I have a mantra which I try really hard to keep to:

    If it's interesting . . .then nobody cares if it's technically perfect.

    If it isn't interesting . . . . then nobody cares at all


    I think that this can be applied to 'lesser' cameras as well, if their limitations add 'interest' then of course, they are worthwhile, if they don't, well, then they aren't!

    A decent artist will make the most of whichever tool he happens to be using, and if he doesn't, then he may still be a decent artist, but his image isn't decent art.



    I think that the use of super quality has been the fallback of the unimaginative for centuries,it does have a passing interest but its just normal noseiness.
    This is also relative,my minox b gives superb unbeatable quality but only for its size and up to a 11x8 print.

    Jono,I think weve probably always agreed on life the univerese and everything,its just on the important stuff we have"discussions"but I enjoy every letter,all the best to you,Neil.

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    Senior Member Lars's Avatar
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    I've been staring at 8x10" trannies on the light table enough to feel that technical quality is important to me. It doesn't carry the image per se, but everything else being equal a technically perfect 8x10" capture of a great composition is immensely more valuable than the same composition captured on a 12 megapixel DSLR.

    Why? Digital, and smaller film formats, fall short on presentation. Even if the capture has the detail, it cannot be communicated to the viewer unless a very large print is made. Viewing a good 8x10" transparency on a light table is an immersive, often emotional experience. It's like looking through a very clean window. It's about presence, about being there.

    In digital terms, you are confronted with several hundred megapixels of resolution. Even with a MF or scanning back there is no way to communicate that to the viewer unless you make meter-sized prints. Best monitors today are four megapixels, and prints have crappy dynamic range and resolution is at best moderate.

    I can understand the argument that artistic style matters. And with most images being "consumed" on the web today, technical perfection is a different factor than it was ten years ago. But to say that worse is better, which - to me - the original poster implied, is something that I would have to take exception to.

    Perhaps it's the times we live in, where digital rendering technologies creating cleaner images than cameras, that is when is behind the original poster's remarks.
    Monochrome: http://mochro.com

  26. #26
    VladimirV
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    Quote Originally Posted by nei1 View Post
    If however I throw it once the resulting photo is pure chance and can not be attributed to the photographer,only the initiation of the process can be attributed to him.
    This is interesting and reminded me of the winning photo in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition:
    http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-...ory=54&group=4

    "But one freezing morning I checked my remote-controlled camera and found a snow leopard had triggered it the night before, in the frame I'd dreamed of "

    Can this really be attributed to the photographer and should this photo really be selected as a winning photograph?

    Then again, what about people who fire away with 10-20 shots per second on their dSLR and pick the best out of the hundred they get. Can this be attributed to the photographer?

  27. #27
    VladimirV
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    Quote Originally Posted by Oxide Blu View Post
    GRD/GRDII with optional 40mm lens?!?
    It was the GRD II with 40mm lens, they had a video showing where he was using it and you could see the green LED.
    That said, some of his b&w documentary pictures looked a lot like they could have been taken with the GRD I, had the same contrast and noise pattern.

  28. #28
    VladimirV
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    Quote Originally Posted by jonoslack View Post
    . . . but when I'm taking pictures, that's a different thing, and I have a mantra which I try really hard to keep to:

    If it's interesting . . .then nobody cares if it's technically perfect.

    If it isn't interesting . . . . then nobody cares at all
    This I fully agree with.

  29. #29
    VladimirV
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    Quote Originally Posted by Lars Vinberg View Post
    Perhaps it's the times we live in, where digital rendering technologies creating cleaner images than cameras, that is when is behind the original poster's remarks.
    This is what I wanted to say, if the images are too clean and perfect they look a bit artificial to me, even if they are printed very big.

  30. #30
    nei1
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    Re: Views on technical image quality

    "But one freezing morning I checked my remote-controlled camera and found a snow leopard had triggered it the night before, in the frame I'd dreamed of "

    Can this really be attributed to the photographer and should this photo really be selected as a winning photograph?

    Then again, what about people who fire away with 10-20 shots per second on their dSLR and pick the best out of the hundred they get. Can this be attributed to the photographer?[/QUOTE]


    Seems wrong to me,some one should find that cat and give it a nice man coat to wear as a prize for taking the photo.As for the motordrives,what is going to happen to reportage when a high resolution photo can be taken straight from video(already nearly there),no more missed shots.and possibly one camera per battle.

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