Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"Technical Flaws"

If you look over on PetaPixel right now, you'll find sandwiched between the "1287 Tips To Make You Landscape Photos Really Pop" (leading lines! rule of thirds! THE LIGHT!) and "ZOMG SOME COMPANY RELEASED A NEW CAMERA" you'll find some jerkoff going on about balancing artistry and the technical nerd side of things.

In it he pops out the old chestnut, that you need to master the technical details because otherwise the viewer will "be distracted by the technical flaws" and not see the byootiful art shit you have made.

This one gets dragged out pretty often. If you're lucky and attentive, you will sometimes find the selfsame asshole who drags this thing out complaining, five minutes later, that people post just anything on Facebook, filled with Technical Flaws, and everyone clicks Like and it's the end of civilization.

Your viewers, if you had any, which you don't, would never notice the technical flaws. The fact that the earlobes are in focus but the eyes are ever so slightly out of focus? Nobody except some other douchey camera geek is going to notice that. Ok, maybe some serious portraitists might notice, but they're not going to care much. It's not going to make a good picture bad, any more than nailing focus will make a bad one good.

Getting the technical details under control isn't a bad idea. I work at it myself. But it's got nothing to do with whether or not my "viewers" will be "distracted". Indeed, it's as much or more for me than it is for anyone who might ever see the picture. It's about putting things into the picture, not about getting things out of it.


  1. Part of the problem seems to be that we like to explain why certain pictures work and others don't, and then transform these explanations into "rules". By "work", we generally mean "have an effect on the naive viewer". I, for example, am a naive viewer of cinema, but my daughter (a student of film) isn't. I don't actually notice a "long take" until she points it out to me, despite finding it pleasing to go smoothly from an aerial view of London, through an apartment window, to a close-up of a newspaper headline. But I expect that headline to be totally relevant to the film's plot, however, and not just some technical triumph, indulged in for its own sake, or because there's a cinematic "rule" that says "a long shot creates reaction X in the naive viewer".

    It was interesting to read in one of the Glenn Frey obits a comparison of the two Jackson Browne songs on the first Eagles album, "Take It Easy" and "Nightingale" (yes, that's how old I am). Both very similar, with all the same inputs using the same "rules", but one flies, the other doesn't.


    1. Yeah, a technical difference will, or at any rate might, make a naive viewer take the picture differently. Phrasing it as 'will be distracted' is both inaccurate and does the important job of casting the so-called flaw as an unalloyed negative.

      'Missed focus' or whatever still changes the picture. Just not always for the bad, and not always in overly noticeable ways.

    2. The curious thing, given how much scope for variation there is even in straight photography, is how narrow the conventionally accepted parameters of "technical correctness" are. But I think we're all guilty of rejecting good images because they are marred in our own eyes by a "fault" we cannot bear to show in public, though... In my case, blown highlights! Nooo...


  2. Two things I like about your blog, that keep me coming back:
    1. You question everything
    2. You don't pretty up your language and mince words

    (To prove that I have no real life, I start each day with: a-the weather; b-TOP; c-VSL; d-your blog.)

  3. Since I write VSL I don't need to stop there first, I just come here to see what you've cooked up to inflame the community. Loved reading this. A further distillation might be the different way men and women respond to "technical flaws..."