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Friday, August 19, 2016

How Did We Get Here?

PetaPixel recently published a link to a youtube video breaking down the lighting in some photo made by some guy, Karl Taylor. For all I know Karl Taylor is some huge deal, but I've never heard of him and his web site suggests that mainly he teaches people how to Do Photography. Anyways, this picture is sort of typical of a low-rent wanna-bee fashion photographer.

This is, of course, receiving accolades, and people totally wanted to know how he did it etcetera and so forth. And I dare say the breakdown is a good teaching tool for how to spot the light sources. But just look at this stupid thing.

There are three obvious light sources here, with three completely different characters (but all the same color), two of them are on the floor and yet, somehow, the result is still kind of muddy and indistinct.

It's time to come out and say it. Having light sources all over the goddamned place just looks stupid. Yes, yes, I get that you want to show off every little detail of the girl, or the chair, or the car, whatever. Figure out how to do it without looking like you just shoved lights in all over the place because, let us review, it just looks stupid.

How the hell did we get here? Is this just a plot by the lighting companies to sell more crap? Is it some sort of weird technical challenge to see how many lights you can stick in there? Are photographers too lazy to figure out how to show off the object without simply hitting it with light from every angle? Is it basically an easy way to make the picture look expensive and "done"? How the hell did we get here?

For the record, actual fashion photography looks nothing whatsoever like this except that it has hot girls in it. Car photography looks a little like this, possibly because it is very hard to show off both the lines and the wheels without lights all over the place, if you want that nighttime look, which sometimes you do.


  1. Oh, that is so bad, it's not true. Apart from the fact that the model is absolutely in focus, the photo looks like a moderately hamfisted attempt at long-exposure 'painting' with a low-wattage light bulb.

    But I do see commercial stuff of his that is much more competent (if not at all to my taste).

  2. We've been here since the dawn of the amateur photographer. The more gear you use, the better you must be, right? It's all just surface and visual noise about nothing.

    I'm surprised you even waste your time reading this crap, never mind writing about it. Most of the people with cameras who read PP don't care about substance or meaning, they are gear heads who love to diddle their stuff. You'll never convince them that what they read about or do is boring mindless crap.

    The world is full of so-called experts, so let them pontificate about whatever they want. Back in the old days Shutterbug filled that void, and to an extent so did Popular, Modern, Petersons, and many other photo magazines. Nothing changes really. Now there is just SO much more of it.

    1. Railing against things is my life blood. Plus, I am interested in photography as a cultural construct, hence PP and so on.

      And anyways, if we don't rail against the barbarians, the game is surely over and we may as well quit.

    2. Yes, I fall into the same trap, especially at work. Well, I'm glad you're around, fighting the good fight.

      I too often feel exhausted and defeated by the stream of crap that is often championed by the digital gatekeepers. I just put my head down and do the work that I do and say screw it to popular opinion.

      Even with the work I do for my employer and other clients, I try to just keep it simple and honest so the viewer sees the subject and not the technique.

  3. Hi Amolitor, it has been a long time since I came here, but it is always a pleasure, with sometimes quite mixed feeling (but this is good as it forces me to think about it when I disagree).

    About this specific post, I can only agree with mikepeters about the fact that paying much attention to sites like PetaPixel is just a huge waste of time and also a major source of discouragement for honest photographers.

    Look at one of their latest post : "http://petapixel.com/2016/08/22/underwater-portraits-people-diving-freezing-4c-dunking-pool/". What the fuck this has to do with the idea of photography ? Except that it relies on the same old lever that consists of showing technical feat, you will have no way to produce this yourself and it is also a production without a goal except for the feat itself. Even worse, it gives the impression to wannabe photographers that this is a goal they should aim to achieve in order to get out of the crowd and to be "outstanding photographer": taking improbable and freaky pictures like those. And as a consequence you will find these photographers mimicking what they have seen, without any imagination and personal input.

    Frankly, I feel depressed when looking at that. I am not reading anymore this site or similar ones and I feel happier since that time. I will may never become an "outstanding" photographer in the way they define it, but I will remain a deeply committed and honest one till the end, trying to do meaningful things. I encourage other people to do the same, at least if what they truly love is photography.