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Friday, April 10, 2015

Looking at Pictures

As if we needed more evidence that people don't actually look at photos. I happened across a thread in which some chap asked advice in duplicating some lighting and gave a link to a medical clinic's staff page. A glance at the thumbnails on the page showed that several lighting styles were used and that the commonality was the framing and a few other things.

This did not stop each of the self styled experts from clicking one of the thumbnails and declaring the lighting to be 'one softbox up high' or 'a beauty dish camera left'. Because each picture was lighted differently, a hilarious sequence of equally definite and completely different responses ensued. None of these jokers was looking at the pictures. They were all clicking in and looking at catchlights. All but one were too lazy to click more than one thumbnail.

The point is that people don't look at photographs.

Self styled photographers look at a picture and see technical details. Whatever details are foremost in their mind.

Regular people look at a picture and see the subject.

Only a few of us look and see the gestalt, the masses of tone and color, and the design, and the subject, and the technical details. It takes practice and interest to see a picture this way.

Most people, even most photographers, aren't interested. That's just how it is. Ours is a niche.

If you're really going to enjoy a picture, or anything else, the name of the game is to find the right mix of detail and overall sensation.

If you're tasting a soup, you could spend all your time trying to identify the spices, but that's not enjoyable. Better to pick out a few of the stronger flavors and then move on to the textures, the mouth feel, and so on. Better to savor it. The point is to discover your own reaction to the soup, to find your own delight (or distaste), not to analyze it to death nor to give it short shrift.

In the same way, we might look at a painting, a sculpture. We note details. We note larger design ideas. We note emotion and color. All this is in service of one thing and one thing only, to wrap ourselves around our own reaction to the thing, our own pleasure in it.

These bozos looking at catchlights are certainly having fun. They're spouting off and flaunting their tiny stores of boring technical knowledge, mainly for one another. While they're having fun, they're not enjoying pictures very much.

If taking apart pictures for the technical details is fun for you, rather than necessary work, you should consider the possibility that you're not all that in to photographs, but rather, photography.

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