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Art Theory: Idea workshop. Warning, not the truth here, just a venture. Examining what makes an image worthy of saving and what it does for us.

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  #1  
Old December 20th, 2013, 09:39 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Lightbulb What makes for better photographic work? How do we raise the bar for ourselves.

Alain Briot raised the question today of how one improves "standards"" in photography. I translate this to the more formal inquiry, "What does it take to improve oneself and one's photography", as increasing standards means to me, a change in filtering methods and therefore, at least, some change in ourselves too. After all, if we keep behaving as we always have, we'll do as we've always done.


Bart Van Der Wolf shares a compellingly simple motto, "If you do what you did, you'll get what you got!"


Most photographic websites spend a lot of time on particulars of lenses and other gear, as if these are the necessary tools by which we will complete our journey. There are very detailed and nuanced descriptions of the "writing character" of dozens of 50 mm lenses that seem to have come from the folks who give numbers to wine!

So what of all this is important to us in getting ourselves to build better images and deliver finer photographs. Well "better" means what? Is there some set of standards we can apply by which we know we're doing better?

And of course, does it necessarily mean that we do something with our pictures other than process them, grade them and store them? Is there, of necessity another or multiple subsequent steps needed for us to be sure that we are indeed making better pictures?

I do hope I've framed this inquiry correctly. So even this question is open to modification in your responses.

Asher
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  #2  
Old December 21st, 2013, 12:07 AM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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Thank you for posting this discussion here.

Raising your standards is something I take very seriously. It has become my motto and it is featured on my business cards:



It means both improving your practice, both technical and artistic, and improving yourself. Your thinking, your philosophy, your vision.
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Old December 21st, 2013, 12:26 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Alain,

This is a complex subject and fraught with all sorts of pitfalls even in framing the discussion.

I think that in this quest, to advance one's standards, it must be that one has an active goal so actually advancing standards is just one of the means. One can have very advanced standards and stay in bed and just think about the whole matter and never take a bloody picture! That's a big danger in photography since the technology itself is so magic and seductive. Essentially, anyone who has a day job can buy, what would be the equivalent for an airman, (trained at a local flying school), ordering on line an F-22 Raptor, arguably the most advanced fighter plane ever built: a DSLR or a MF camera that can trounce anything that came before it. So photography seems to offer a seductive and seemingly easy path for anyone wanting to excel in an art where aces rule. The D800, Sony A7R, Canon 5DIII or the Phase One 1Q 180 are all the equivalent of the warplane of an ace! But, obviously, that is not the solution to doing great work as there's no obvious connection between the price of the camera and the quality of the work delivered once we get to a basic and competent system. So if that's true, likely as not, we can put aside detail of the camera and lens choice to last! This simplifies matters.

So I think what we are after is protocol to do better work that fulfills our long term goal, even if we don't really know why we must do this. It's to be considered, in my mind, just like the climber making it to the top of Everest or completing a Marathon. It's a task we choose for ourselves but justifying it, may be fruitless. The main thing is to recognize whether or not we have some idea of our person and our qualities and assets and what end point we're trying to reach. Are we aiming to make some money on the weekend as an assistant or do we wish to license our work to popular magazines or else perhaps make a living selling our photographs under the high class banner of "Fine Art".

So, first one has to know who one his, ones capabilities and resources, what one wants to do and some goal post to aim for. Otherwise, there are no signposts to tell us what kind of a journey we have. So I think it all starts with ourselves, not the camera. Who are we and where do we want to go?

The "why"s and wherefores" of our choices, might not be as important as these first two points who we are and where do we want to go?

Asher
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Old December 21st, 2013, 12:29 AM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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You can raise your standards at any level. However, at the highest level, raising your standards is closely tied to being a visionary and wanting to make your vision reality.
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Old December 21st, 2013, 09:33 AM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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Raising your standards is closely related with the goal of fullfilling your full potential. Helping students achieve their full potential is my goal when I write essays, publish books and eBooks, teach workshops and seminars and offer my work as example.
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Old December 21st, 2013, 10:06 AM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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'Reach your full potential.' Alain Briot
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  #7  
Old December 21st, 2013, 11:29 AM
Jerome Marot Jerome Marot is online now
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Quite frankly, I am rather puzzled by the question:

Quote:
BTW I'd like to start a discussion on the forum about how forum members raise their standards.
"Raising the standards" implies that there is a standard by which works can be judged and compare to one other. It is actually a sentence which originated in manufacturing. When one manufactures, for example, screws and bolts, they are manufactured to a given specification, for example, the force by which they break or the accuracy of their dimensions. "Raising the standards" in that context may mean higher specifications (for the products) or the same specifications but less rejects (for the process).

Applied to photography, that would mean that we produce comparable images (for example: on similar subjects), and that we can do so with more or less care. Applied to landscape photography (as Alain is doing), that might mean things like "how far I am prepared to walk for the interesting landscape?", "how long am I prepared to wait for the perfect light?" or "how heavy an equipment am I prepared to carry?". Obviously, I am simplifying things a bit, but I am trying to understand.
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Old December 21st, 2013, 12:04 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerome Marot View Post
Applied to photography, that would mean that we produce comparable images (for example: on similar subjects), and that we can do so with more or less care. Applied to landscape photography (as Alain is doing), that might mean things like "how far I am prepared to walk for the interesting landscape?", "how long am I prepared to wait for the perfect light?" or "how heavy an equipment am I prepared to carry?". Obviously, I am simplifying things a bit, but I am trying to understand.
I think we do apply these measures to out photography for each time we have a particular shoot. We look at the payoff of carry extra lenses, a full frame system or duplicate items or even flash and large light sources or a crew.

For some of my shoots, the "standards" have to be high to meet specifications for printing without rejects at high magnification for large, close to the viewer prints. Other times the end use allows for much looser standards as the specification for the quality of the final product, say for a web newsletter, are much much less stringent.

But these practical standards are not what Alain refers to, I believe.

Rather, as a translated his word, "Standards" at the top of the thread,


"I translate this to the more formal inquiry, "What does it take to improve oneself and one's photography"


So we I believe we move the discussion to that of "esthetics".


"How do we discipline ourselves, (what new skills do we need, what habits should we discard), to imagine, create, deliver and reap the benefits of photographs with a greater esthetic impact on ourselves and others who we wish to value, appreciate and use our pictures."

I think we should decide which meaning of "Standards" applies in this thread. I may not have framed the question erectly, but anyone feel free to improve it so we are not wondering and wandering all over the place.

The first task in getting any standards is knowing what the product is to be! So we need to agree on the question!

Asher
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  #9  
Old December 21st, 2013, 01:12 PM
Doug Kerr Doug Kerr is online now
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L'étendard sanglant est levée.

Best regards,

Doug
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Old December 21st, 2013, 02:50 PM
Jerome Marot Jerome Marot is online now
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All what I really wanted to say was that "Raising the standards" implies that there is a standard by which works can be judged and compare to one other...

Doug: it is "levé", without "e". "Etendard" is masculine.
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  #11  
Old December 21st, 2013, 02:54 PM
Cem_Usakligil Cem_Usakligil is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Kerr View Post
L'étendard sanglant est levée.
What does it mean in English?
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  #12  
Old December 21st, 2013, 03:41 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Originally Posted by Cem_Usakligil View Post
What does it mean in English?
The "standard", or flag to rally around is raised. So for a Roman soldiers in disarray in the middle of a battle, raising the Imperial Roman Eagle, representing the honor and might of Rome, would have the soldiers gather and defend it and regroup behind the raised standard, ie the Eagle on a pole for defense or counter-attack.

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  #13  
Old December 21st, 2013, 03:50 PM
Cem_Usakligil Cem_Usakligil is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asher Kelman View Post
The "standard", or flag to rally around is raised. So for a Roman soldiers in disarray in the middle of a battle, raising the Imperial Roman Eagle, representing the honor and might of Rome, would have the soldiers gather and defend it and regroup behind the raised standard, ie the Eagle on a pole for defense or counter-attack.

Asher
I doubt that this is what Doug meant Asher. If it is an idiom, I am not aware of it. Why is this standard bloody?
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  #14  
Old December 21st, 2013, 04:03 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cem_Usakligil View Post
I doubt that this is what Doug meant Asher. If it is an idiom, I am not aware of it. Why is this standard bloody?
Cem,

In a pitched battle, the army's rallying "standards", (their flags and decorated poles), do get bloody, LOL! That's what actually happens on the ground in war while the generals, perched safely on a hill high above, resplendent fine brocade-decorated uniforms, watch the battle unfold, sending signals by flag to their officers, as to who to send into the melée of slaughter in the battlefields far below them.

If I tell Doug the word PSA, (in the context of my medical test for prostate health), for example, he'd likely play with that word a little. So he could respond in relation to "PSA" as a "Public Service Announcement" or some other meaning of that acronym, even though he knows the true meaning in its intended context. That's Doug's humor, (more British and engineering-speak), parsing meanings. He was, perhaps, poking gentle fun at the idea of any "standards" in photography by declaring that someone had raised a banner for some "campaign", ie "selling things" to remedy any "lack of measurement standards" (that "would-be Fine Art photographers" actually selling their pictures as Fine Art might to have remedied by purchasing books and courses). That's the meaning that seems to be behind Doug's, (almost acerbic), humor!

Asher
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  #15  
Old December 21st, 2013, 04:05 PM
Cem_Usakligil Cem_Usakligil is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asher Kelman View Post
Cem,

If I tell Doug the word PSA, (in the context of my medical test fro prostate health), he'd respond in relation to PSA as a Public Service Announcement or some other meaning of that acronym. That's Doug's humor, more British and engineering-speak in parsing meanings, than American humor. He was poking gentle fun at the idea of "standards" in photography by declaring that someone had raised a banner for some campaign, ie "selling things" to remedy any lack of "standards". That's the meaning that seems to be behind Doug's, (almost acerbic), humor!

Asher
Again, why is the standard bloody?
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Old December 21st, 2013, 04:14 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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You answer to fast for me, Cem. Reread my post, LOL!
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  #17  
Old December 21st, 2013, 05:32 PM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerome Marot View Post
Applied to landscape photography (as Alain is doing), that might mean things like "how far I am prepared to walk for the interesting landscape?", "how long am I prepared to wait for the perfect light?" or "how heavy an equipment am I prepared to carry?". Obviously, I am simplifying things a bit, but I am trying to understand.
Or how much work one wants to put into converting, processing, optimizing, printing, matting, mounting, framing and marketing the final image. As an example, I have a student who refuses to purchase a calibrated viewing light source, because he is not that concerned with matching his print to his monitor image. As a result his prints exhibit significant color casts. In his case, raising his standards means purchasing an OTT light or a JustNormlicht light booth for example. Similarly, some shoot in jpeg mode because they don't want to go through the trouble of converting and optimizing a raw file. As a result their prints have a reduced dynamic range and color gamut. In that case raising their standards mean shooting in raw and learning image conversion and processing. Examples abound, including what Jerome mentions about field work, and continuing with marketing, because the vast majority of photographers are business owners instead of entrepreneurs, meaning they wait for people to make a purchase rather than actively market their products through events, promotions, ventures, etc. In that case raising their standards means becoming entrepreneurs.
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Old December 21st, 2013, 07:24 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Actually, Alain, one can advocate just calibrating the shot with a Gretag McBeth color card, using that profile in Raw and simply not altering color balance. That way, the printer colors will be pretty close to perfect. The error is to have a poor monitor and adjust to it. No way anyone is going to have light at one's own particular color temperature or intensity anyway! So while the fine obsessional detail of a hood for one's prints, which I use and measuring the light intensity, which I do, they have not much importance except when making reproductions of artwork for a client.

The first way to improve one's photography is to leave the camera at home and visit art galleries and museums and then walk around with a square to view and compose things in a way one likes from the most recent gallery tour. Imagining, seeing and hunting for point of view are the start for improving standards and the basis is the work our society has deemed worthy of securing for posterity.

Of course, a notch up is to have an accurate wide gamut monitor and keep it profiled.

Asher
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Old December 21st, 2013, 08:09 PM
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Having no standards to abide by means that everything is up from where I lay. Its a nice view. Reaching one's full potential is like finding infinity. Its a load of crock. I like the idea that engineers might decide to put a stronger bold in the wing of an Air Bus than is necessary. That sort of standard doesn't really apply to photographs, does it?
I'm sure someone will correct me.
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Old December 21st, 2013, 11:33 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom dinning View Post
Having no standards to abide by means that everything is up from where I lay. Its a nice view. Reaching one's full potential is like finding infinity.
I improve my standards by following my impulse; I see a woman waiting to cross the road and imagine composing with her. I photograph her, Kate, in the park on a carpet of Yellow leaves, and then along comes an older, weather-worn woman with her small cute shiatsu or some related breed, hair in its eyes...........

So I offered to photograph her and her dog on the carpet of yellow leaves and gave her my email and was thrilled that I could make her so happy. I told Kate I'd just improved my photography and, in truth, I had. When we were back in my studio, she blossomed and the work went fabulously. O.K., I'll post some to prove this is all true!

Asher
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  #21  
Old December 22nd, 2013, 12:41 AM
Jerome Marot Jerome Marot is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cem_Usakligil View Post
Why is this standard bloody?
The sentence is taken from the French national anthem.
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Old December 22nd, 2013, 12:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Alain Briot View Post
Examples abound, including what Jerome mentions about field work, and continuing with marketing, because the vast majority of photographers are business owners instead of entrepreneurs, meaning they wait for people to make a purchase rather than actively market their products through events, promotions, ventures, etc. In that case raising their standards means becoming entrepreneurs.
And how does this apply to someone who is not interested in selling pictures? You are presupposing that one desires to become a pro photographer. Then "standards" and raising them makes sense. Not everyone is interested in following that route.

Besides, quite a few businesses have become successful by cutting corners, i.e. lowering their standards (and costs).
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Old December 22nd, 2013, 01:36 AM
Cem_Usakligil Cem_Usakligil is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerome Marot View Post
The sentence is taken from the French national anthem.
Thanks for the explanation Jerome.
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Old December 22nd, 2013, 09:10 AM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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Thank you for your answers. They are both useful and insightful.
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Old December 22nd, 2013, 10:38 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alain Briot View Post
Thank you for your answers. They are both useful and insightful.
So, Alain,

Which of our ideas above do you see have special value for someone wanting to improve their photography standards?

Asher
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Old December 22nd, 2013, 11:50 AM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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Rallying around the flag, the raised standard.
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Old December 22nd, 2013, 12:45 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Seulement?
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  #28  
Old December 22nd, 2013, 12:49 PM
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L'étendard sanglant est levé (please excuse my error in gender in my original note) was a pun I first used when the first full ASCII standard finally emerged from an very ugly political fight.

Of course, the most literal translation is "the bloody standard is raised", and that was the premise of the pun.

With respect to my original source (in La Marseillaise), "étendard" is often translated as "flag" or "banner", often with the implication of "battle flag".

Some years ago, in D.C, a friend was at a technical society meeting where another fellow mentioned that he had read one of my papers. He commented, pejoratively, that in a few places, I used a term that could have two meanings.

My friend said, "When Kerr uses a word that can have two meanings, that's what he means."

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Old December 22nd, 2013, 12:53 PM
Cem_Usakligil Cem_Usakligil is offline
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I apologize but I really don't get what's been said so far. That's why I've been a bit recalcitrant about the bloody standard. Alain has announced in another thread that he wanted to talk about raising our standards. Asher has created this thread and gave us an extensive intro and a couple of in depth posts about the subject matter. Alain has only said a few one-liners. And the discussion has kind of derailed in a pool of miscommunication. No wonder I'm confused.
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Old December 22nd, 2013, 02:01 PM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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Originally Posted by Asher Kelman View Post
Seulement?
So far. I'm looking forward to more posts about how people raise their standards.
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