Dec 13 2019

How to Take a Bad Photo

Photo by Zane Grant

I was going through old writings on here about making good photography. I’ve attempted to explain my thoughts about it and even set up some polls in order to come up with formulas but the data seemed inconclusive. (Referencing HERE and HERE.)(Actually this whole frigging thing is about seeking isn’t it?)

We have some ingredients but we don’t have the recipe. We can say there is a secret sauce of luck and magic when something turns out right. That’s what we are doing here is trying to define that sauce.

This speaks of universal truths in a photo that can transcend time and space. As well as transcend technical skill and experience, and emotional and mental conditioning. And most of the time the truth isn’t “good” or “bad” or is that simple to sort out. Which is why there are so many differences in taste.

If you pick any of the ingredients, let’s say “composition” for arguments sake, who’s to say how good it is? To grade it with a percentage, 51% towards good would still be an F. So objectivity vs subjectivity is really the argument. And these things change over time and space.

That infers that the viewership of an image in a particular time and particular space is what makes makes it “good” or “bad”. It seems moot, but it is correct to say that a photo cannot be “good” or “bad” until someone sees it. Including yourself (the person who shot it).

I know it’s not super useful to say that a bad photo is a bad photo because you showed it to the wrong person at the wrong time. But assuming you nailed the timing lighting composition mystery and wonder, none of that will matter if the person seeing it cannot appreciate any of those things. And that will depend on their relation to you or the subject matter as well as their state of being at the moment.

I’ve said before that a good photo is about the presentation of either the shooter’s story, the subject matter’s story, or a combo of both. Now we can say that a bad photo is one that isn’t telling those stories in a universally truthful way to the right person(s) at the right time.

What if the story is pure fiction though? Is it all fiction! Photography is not real. That’s for another writing. Photography is a recording and I’ll order mine with extra truth gravy on top, otherwise I’m not hungry.

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