Hello everyone, this is Laurent Breillat for Learn Photographyand welcome to this new video!
Today, I would like to talk about a topic that was inspired by the posts I see on the Learn Photo Facebook group. I don’t get too involved in it for lack of time, but I do see a few pictures passing by, and the questions associated with them.
There is a rule about the group: you have to ask a specific question with your picture. The idea is to help you in the best way possible, because the aim of the group is to accompany you in your progressnot just letting everyone post pictures for no other purpose than to show them.
And I know that for many, it can be difficult to find a question.
As a result, many fall back on a somewhat generic question… “what are the flaws in my picture? Do you see anything that could be improved?”
And I understand that question, because I asked myself the same question when I first started. It’s only natural: we’re trying to figure out what we’re doing wrong, because we’re just starting out and we think we’re doing something wrong.
In absolute terms, this is not a bad question to ask. For people with a little experience, an obvious technical defect will be easy to detect, and you will be able to correct it easily.
But let’s put one thing in your mind: a picture doesn’t have to be “flawed”….
You don’t always have to look for the little beast: sometimes you’ve exposed well, made the focus where you wanted, everything in the frame has to be there, and you’ve done a good aftertreatment.
Still, that doesn’t mean your picture’s perfect: the notion of perfection in photography doesn’t make much sense..
Indeed, the definition of perfection is: “Quality, the state of that which has reached its fullness, of that which has been pursued to its completion, of that which has come to its completion.”
When can we say that a photograph has reached its fullness, has been completed?
You could say that as soon as it reaches the objective that the photographer had, it is completed, and therefore perfect.. But in this case, it means that a picture can be very easily perfect, because you just need a very modest lens at the base.
And on the other hand, the photos of many of the great names in photography remain imperfect, because their intention was not necessarily determined, and those who create with an artistic purpose know it : it’s rare to be 100% satisfied with one of his images..
Not to mention that they are sometimes technically imperfect (sometimes due to the technical limitations of the time), but they still function emotionally.
It is clear that this idea of perfection is not relevant to judge a photo.
Anyway, what I want to tell you is…a photo may be flawless FOR YOU, and that’s already the main thing. What you have to understand is that the defects or not are RELATIVE to what the photographer had in mind.
That’s why a perfectly sharp and well exposed photo can have flaws, because maybe that’s not what the photographer wanted…and a completely blurry picture having none.
And also that when you see people saying of a picture of a great master “it’s a bad picture, it’s not right, I don’t know what”, it has NO SENSES.
And that’s what makes it so hard to answer the question “what’s wrong with it, how can I make it better?” In general, we’ll assume that you want a technically good photo, and for leisure purposes, so we can apply a certain grid of criteria to this: is it sharp, exposed almost normally, are the tones and colours within what one would expect from an aesthetically pleasing photo, in general?
However, this is a very limited line of reasoning. And above all, beyond the first technical blunders, which you normally have to overcome pretty quickly, it’s not going to help you to progress in the masses: once your photos are technically good, what happens? You have nothing more to learn? That would be pretty boring, and no one would do photography for long.
For me, the progression starts especially when you start to know how to criticize yourself. Again, it’s understandable that this may not be the case at first, but at some point you need to be able to focus on yourself, and determine for yourself if your photos have “defects”, and how to correct them.
To start, you can list all the characteristics of the image (whether technical or more compositional), and ask yourself: did I want this, or was it an accident? And if it’s an accident, does it really take anything out of the picture? Is it just not important in that situation?
Because more often than not, the flaws are something that’s not thought through: “Ah, I didn’t see that there was any blurred movement. Ah, I didn’t see that there was something sticking out of the edge of the frame.” Anyway, it’s not a thoughtful thing.
It’s not even that it’s not what you wanted to do, is that you haven’t really determined what you want to do… at all.
Anyway, past the early stages where we’re technically sloppy, I want to encourage you to stop looking for the “perfect”, “flawless” picture, but rather to do your self-criticism on your pictures by asking yourself some questions :
Was everything you did intentional? Did you decide it, or does it happen automatically?
If it’s not, is it serious?
Why did you make the photographic decisions you made? Are you able to explain it? It can be one word or take more time, it doesn’t matter, but do you, do you KNOW why you did this or why you didn’t?
Is everything in the picture there because you decided to?
Anyway, I think after the debut, learning to be self-critical is important for moving forward, rather than relying on comments from complete strangers that we don’t necessarily know the relevance of. It doesn’t mean there isn’t one, but we don’t know it.
Then it’s useful to look for outside criticism from qualified people, but you have to ask yourself these questions first.
There, I hope that this reflection will help you in your progress. I suggest that you do this exercise publicly as a comment: put a link to one of your photos, and do your self-criticism! Don’t be afraid to say what’s right too, self-criticism is not just about saying what’s wrong :). It’s also about saying what you’ve done well so you can do it again afterwards.
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I’ll see you in the next video, and until then, see you soon, and good pictures!