6.21.2010

Ten photo trends I am NOT fond of and ten that I AM fond of.....


Ten trends that I think are aesthetically unpleasing, or thoughtless or dumb..... Not that I've EVER been opinionated....


1.  Photo vests.  Isn't it time we lost the photo vests?  We don't have rolls of film rattling around nor little attachments that need cosseting anymore.  Zoom lenses have largely replaced the 20, 24, 28, 35 etc. lenses that used to sit, all lumpy, in our vest pockets.  Batteries last so long most of use carry only one spare.  Isn't it time to admit that, even if photographers wanted uniforms, that these would not be our top choice.  It's too hot for most of us in Texas to  even think of wearing them except as overcoats in January.  And who really wants to look like a greeter at Walmart?  If you need to wear them to shoot, well, okay.  But as around town wear?  Not likely.

2.  Giant camera bags.  Oh God.  You know the provenance of giant camera bags from Kata, Tamrac, Tenba and so on?  They were invented in an unholy collusion between chiropractors and camera makers.  Camera makers figure that the more pockets there are in a bag the more likely you are to stuff them full of new glass and bodies.  And that's a plus for their bottom line.  The chiropractors know you have a huge deductible on your real medical insurance so when your lower back finally gives out from carrying half of Sigma's inventory they'll suck you into weekly treatments.

3.  The guys who carry giant camera bags.  Ever covered a press event?  Most shooters have one camera around their neck and one over the shoulder.  The two cameras with complementary lenses cover just about anything.  Well.   So shooters can bunch together without knocking each other over and still get the shot.  And then, along comes the guy who doesn't get fashion cues or social cues but loves to bunch up the queue.  He's convinced that he'll need that 8mm fish eye and the 300-700mm zoom and they're all in the bag right next to something from Gary Fong and something else from The Endless Photo Gimmick Superstore.  He comes swinging the bag through the crowd like an elephant in an antique lens shop.  Takes up two places.  You can actually see his spine bending to one side.  People move away in case he snaps........Kinda like the guy on the two day trip who has a whole Samsonite Hard Luggage collection.  If it doesn't fit in the original Domke F1 bag it shouldn't be over your shoulder.

4.  Giant Prints.  Does crappy art get better when it gets bigger or is the new trend for big prints part of the aging process of the baby boomer generation.  Like large type and boxes full of colorful reading glasses.  If an image doesn't look good at 8x10 why would it look any better as a wall size thing?  Could we have a return to the idea of a hand holdable piece of art?  I think it's mostly a matter of wishing.  A lot of commercial guys bought wide carriage printers hoping the public wanted giant prints.  Turns out most of them just want the digital file.  Let's cap it at 17 by 22 inches unless there's a compelling space to fill.  And enough space to back up and take it all in.

5.  Smart Phones and dumb users.  This is the opposite thing.  The legions of people who come up to show you "this incredible shot" on the screen of their iPhone or the inferior windows equivilent.  It's what? two by three inches.  And they have it in their hands.  Which are shaking from caffeine poisoning.  And the sun is bouncing off the screen that you can't see unless you take your reading glasses out of your camera bag.  It looks like crap.  It will always look like crap.  And doing the thing with your fingers where you make part of the image bigger to show me just how sharp it is?  That's not working either.  Phone cameras are for you, personally.  It's a private thing.   Or, you could use the device to make phone calls.  (We don't encourage cellphone use.  most people are dumb enough without the risk of brain tumors......caveat added at attorney suggestion....getting ready for that class action thing).

6.  Technicolor vomit.  Doesn't sound good and it usually doesn't look good but they've at least cleaned the name up and now they are calling it HDR.  For some people being a photographer is just not enough.  They want to be artists.  As in painter type artists.  So they take their images and additional images of their images and put lace collars on pigs and glowering landscapes on the land of the Munchkins and gold foil on sunsets and call it art.   Now, just for  moment I'll admit that I've seen ten....maybe a dozen.... images made using "HDR" techniques that looked pretty good.  Amazing really.  A guy in Precision Camera showed me a small album last weekend that was great.  Very interesting stuff.  But that's a dozen out of the thousands.  Here's a new rule.  If it doesn't look good enough to take as a plain photograph puking color all over it really isn't going to help.  Nor is flattening out all the contrast.  (No, really, you are not increasing the contrast range.....honest.)

7.  Portrait bling.  This is an easy one and I'll admit, a matter of taste.  Not every portrait needs to be back lit, rim lit, and otherwise turned into a facsimile of a broadway stage show with can lights across the back of the stage.  If the light isn't motivated by the light we see in real life we get tired of it real quickly.  How many times was the "pull my finger" gag really funny??  Or the whoppee cushion.  neato.

8.  Gulliver's travels.  If micro-processors keep getting smaller and better then why are our cameras and lights getting bigger and heavier.  I like the smaller cameras like the Olympus Pens and the G series from Canon.  Can anyone explain to me why the D3 has to be so much bigger than a D300 or even a D700?  Why Canon's One series has to be bigger than any camera we ever shot with in the film days?  Do they really sell them by the pound?

9.  Open That Kimono.  Why are the big camera companies afraid of open standards?  Their raw converters have a tradition of sucking.  Not just sucking in terms of interface and operation but as in sucking away your life force as you wait for them to process.  Can't we all just get along?  Can't we all just use DNG?  My hard drive is littered with raw converters and no one has the time or budget to keep upgrading them all.  Maybe this is why so many people use Jpeg as their default.  By the time Adobe has their camera RAW profile ready they've already learned to use the camera and so don't need the "water wings for the unschooled" that Raw really represents.  Yes, yes.  Raw is so good for squeezing the most out of your shot......and you did use a tripod, a meter and mirror lock up, right?  Liar.

10.  Weird new camera straps.  One of my friends came up to me on saturday at Precision Camera (the book signing, remember?) and he had this big, black military looking strap worn bandolier style across his chest.  At the bottom of this one loop strap he had an Olympus EP2 dangling upside down by an attachment to the tripod socket.  As he stood there talking I stood there waiting for the screw to work free and the camera to come crashing to the floor.  It was basically a black, nylon web belt with one attachment point to the camera.  Of course you'd have to totally remove the strap to even use a tripod.  Great design, yeah?  Worn over one shoulder.  My friend looked faint as he stood there and I could see that the strap was digging into his carotid artery on one side, cutting off blood to his brain.  I wonder what cut off blood to his brain before he actually bought the strap?  Otherwise, why would he have bought it in the first place?

Why buy a better mousetrap if you aren't having a problem with mice???????

I'm too fatigued now to write about the trends I do like.  I'll have to do that later this evening while I'm processing those raw files.  The ones my friends told me to take because it would be superior to let the camera think about things instead of bringing a couple decades of experience into the mix and getting it right in the first place.......curses.

31 comments:

MyVintageCameras said...

I share you consternation on two of these poits in particular. And they are polar opposites:

#2: the giant bag that hits you in the back just as you are about totake the shot, and

#5: the smart phone photo-types that get up close, right in your picture frame, thinking that somehow they will capture the same detail as your 'real' camera.

#6: HDR is for people who want to spend all of their time in a dimly lit room reprocessing images. I use software for my color to clean up dust et cetera from the scanner. if its going to take more thatn that, I move on to another image.

For #1, I wear a vest on occasion to carry an extra lens when I don't want to carry a camera bag. I'm also a luddite still shooting film in spite of everything, so I need to carry film as well. Otherwise I might become one of those annoying guys with the big camera bag!

Looking forward to your favorites........

Tassilo von Parseval said...

Thank you for a hugely entertaining post! I particularly liked the bit about Gulliver's travels. Some time in the 80s camera makers begun this unholy trend of producing big bulky black monstrosities whereas a few years before a modest Pentax LX or Olympus OM-3 would pass as the pinnacle of a professional camera system.

It's embarrassing. I don't understand how people who strive to produce beauty with their photographs can at the same time use a tool so hideous and designed with blatant disregard of good taste. It's not difficult to produce a camera the size of a toaster-oven and call it professional.

I do hope you get the chance to write about the trends you like, too!

Cheers,
Tassilo

kirk tuck said...

Billy. Having a great day. I wouldn't say more vitriol than usual, these are opinions I've voiced many times. Just not on the visual science lab. But I figure with western culture spinning out of control we all have to step in and reset limits and boundaries. No sense letting people think it's okay to wear their underwear on their heads or talk on cellphones while ordering coffee or texting while weaving back and forth in front of my car at 15 mph.

If you haven't been to a gallery lately you misinterpret what I'm saying about size. Commercial photographers will always have situations like mine where a client wants to print in four color process at 11 by 17 but I should have made clear that I was referencing "art" photography where the prevailing trend is "Nothing to say so say it bigger." We're talking 60 inches big and more. Not motivated by clients. Just art stuff. Printed big because.........well, because we can print it big.

I tried to print with a 3 megapixel camera but it didn't work so I sent the file to my printer instead. :-)

Every once in a while I just experience so much weird and unnecessary stuff that if I don't write about it I'll give up. Surely someone out there agrees with me about a few of the points?????

If not, then the world is truly going to hell in fifth gear......

obakesan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ed Z said...

Hmm, I agree with pretty much everything except the big prints thing - I think it depends entirely on the end use of the print. I have *big* walls (loft, 18' ceilings) and small prints just look... weird... displayed on them. the print needs to stand up to the display venue IMHO, although I do admit that 16x20 is big enough for 95% of work. In fact I often print the same image several times,big and small for multiple uses (wall display vs. book etc...)

kirk tuck said...

No bad hair day. Big art can be good. Not all big art is good art. Not all art works will. As to HDR I don't do it at all but have been subjected to it almost non stop at every student show I judge and in all the magazines and in many, many portfolios. I made the point that I've seen some that is good and much that is very, very bad.

Please, no biographical fallacies if we are to discuss art on its own merits. Whether or not I choose to do it is not the point.

If you have links to good HDR's (and this applies to anyone who disagrees with my perspective) sending the links along and I'll stick them in a pro HDR post.... should be fun to prove me wrong. Won't be the first time....

Kyle Batson said...

The HDR thing is my biggest peeve as well. I think the same applies to people sticking a circular 'bokeh' texture on their pictures, making the colors look vintage and adding a very dark vignette, and somehow thinking it makes it a good picture.

Chops said...

Regarding the photo, one of my pet peeves is that if you're going to wear a tie learn how to tie a windsor knot.
Good day!

John Krumm said...

I just spend at day walking around the San Fransisco Museum of Modern Art, and the third floor is all photography, Brett and Edward Weston, Dorthea Lange and many others. Easy to see why some people still prefer film. The prints on average are not large, eight by ten being the norm, but often very very sharp. One exception was Larry Sultan, who had a couple huge and beautiful prints (perhaps 3x4 feet) of his parents at home.

Any HDR print, even a good one, would likely have just looked silly in the collection, though I have seen some subtle versions that work pretty well.

Jim said...

Fun read! Agree 100% on the camera straps--Why fix what ain't broken?

Best quote:"...something from Gary Fong and something else from The Endless Photo Gimmick Superstore."

Thanks for the honest opinions!

Anonymous said...

I think you missed a good one. Amateurs putting huge copyright watermarks on their 640px wide web photos. And even worse, every forum member digitally signs each photo "xxx xxx photography".

And what's with deleting the exif lately Kirk??? I use to enjoy seeing the exif of your photographs to see what focal lengths, f-stops, etc you are using.

Craig said...

I'm with you on several of these. HDR can be nice but it has to be used very carefully and the final image should not scream "Hey, look at me! I'm HDR!" Your phrase "technicolor vomit" is a good one, though I personally prefer "angry fruit salad," a term I remember being used to describe bad, overly-colorful software user interfaces back in the '80s.

Re the size of the Canon 1D models, yeah, they're bigger than I would want to carry around all the time (my Pentax 67 is brought out for landscape and formal portrait work, not for just walking around), but they aren't really much bigger than a Nikon FE with the optional motor drive. Then again, I never bought the optional motor drive.

If I can add one more modern photographic cliche to your list, I am getting tired of seeing shots of rivers, beaches, and waterfalls where the water has been smoothed out with a .25-second-plus exposure until it looks like melted plastic or something from a smoke machine.

neopavlik said...

Totally agree with 6 , 8 , and 9.

I'd add the slow pursuit of Dynamic Range for 35mm DSLR that got lost in the rage of High Megapixels and High ISO. Are we going to go up to 48 megapixels before we get that "soul" you miss from film ?

Poagao said...

I agree that HDR is the velvet Elvis wall rug of our time. But is an EP2 really heavy enough to cut into someone's carotid artery? A D700, yeah, that could hurt, but an EP2? I've got a GF1 that is similar and it hardly weighs anything at all. I wear it on a neckstrap and sometimes wish it even had a little more heft to it.

jefflynchdev said...

Hey. Nothing wrong with a photo vest. Half the folks that come to my workshops wear some sort of vest. It goes great with those Filson Tin-Cloth pants and Indiana Jones packer hats. Nothing like layering up for a hot Hill Country evening of shooting. Even had one poor soul from the west coast show up with a felt Stetson. Tough to shoot vertical without hitting the brim but it sure looks good to the ladies. At least that what he was telling us. (LOL)

Jeff

kirk tuck said...

Poagao, You're right, the bandolier and an EP2 wouldn't do much damage but I've seen the more macho among us use these straps with things like D3x's with heavy lenses. More than enough to stop blood to the brain.....

kirk tuck said...

Neoplavik,

That "soul" is random imperfection. I'm not sure we're every going to really get there with digital.

seldom-scene-photography said...

Amen on #6 -- I suspect (or at least hope) that over-the-top HDRing of photographs is just a fad, like neon colors were in the poster art of the 1980's. My take is that HDR as a photographic technique is like makeup on a pretty girl -- if I can tell it's been done, it's too much (my $0.02, anyway).

As for #10, I swear by a lanyard (don't know if this counts as a "weird new strap"). This way, I get the secure feeling of always having a solid grip on my camera, while still having protection if it gets knocked out of my hand.

Argos

Dave Jenkins said...

If memory serves, the big camera thing really began with the Nikon F4. One day around 1989 or '90, the guy with whom I shared studio space brought in his new F4. I hefted it, thought "hmmmm," and put it on the UPS scale on my desk. It weighed within an ounce or so of my Pentax 6x7, with normal lenses on each. I thought to myself "It will be a very cold day in a very hot place before I carry that kind of weight to get only a 35mm negative!"

As for HDR and other post-processing gimmicks, here's an excerpt from an article I wrote some time ago: "The art of photography is primarily the art of seeing. A photograph is created at the instant of exposure, and nothing done to it afterward will make it art if it was not well seen to begin with. Throughout the history of the medium the works that have had power, the works that have lasted, have been straight photographs. Their power and their art are in the photographer's ability to see and to present his vision in a tangible form."

Dave Elfering Photography said...

All good observations and opinions. I didn't take it negatively at all and while I read it was reminded of Any Rooney from 60 Minutes. Here's another irritation with regard to over processing bad photos. Putting a canvas texture into a bad photo along with a digital "frame" does not make it classic art.

At any rate, thanks for sharing your peeves! We all tend to hold back on what we see as bad taste in the political correctness of our age.

kirk tuck said...

I am amazed that people could have read my previous postings on the blog and surmise that this is my one non-Pollyanna post of the year. I feel like each of us has a responsibility to try and keep modern culture from spinning out of control into a voracious vortex of bad taste and apathy. We need, from time to time, to say that some things just aren't right. If we as a society had had the spine ten years ago to set rules and apply them we wouldn't suffer thru so many stupid and thoughtless cellphone calls by the people at adjoining tables in our favorite restaurants and coffee shops. If we applied more rigorous standards of behavior we wouldn't be playing "dodge cars" with texting mindless drivers. If we said no to inappropriate use of photo vests we wouldn't have to suffer the visual pollution. If we tell people honestly that we don't like to see their photos on the screens of their "smart" phones instead of smiling a nodding then maybe they would stop considering those tiny screens to be viable gallery displays. If we are honest about the vacuity of most (not all) HDR stuff maybe people would stop doing it. We could show them "Pictorialists" work from earlier eras.........

But it's not because I am in a bad mood or have had a "bad hair" day. It's because these are my opinions and that's basically what a blog should be. It's not an instruction manual its one person's constantly evolving vision of what he thinks the world should look like. And if I have to like everything then we're all done here and it's time to go do something else.

kirk tuck said...

David Jenkins wins with this remark, "The art of photography is primarily the art of seeing. A photograph is created at the instant of exposure, and nothing done to it afterward will make it art if it was not well seen to begin with. Throughout the history of the medium the works that have had power, the works that have lasted, have been straight photographs. Their power and their art are in the photographer's ability to see and to present his vision in a tangible form."

I'm just not sure what the prize is yet......

Dave Jenkins said...

An electronic viewfinder for the E-PL1 I have on order would be just about right. (Couldn't afford the whole kit in one bite.)

Rick Moore said...

I have owned a 44inch 9600 Epson printer since 2002 and only last week did I print a file that was 43.5 inches wide. My average prints are all under 24 inches on one side. The big rolls get used for gang printing for school and t&i work. I have never been really impressed with the large prints.

It seems like the wedding forums I frequent on occasion live for post processing. I still shoot jpgs and am called names because I don't espouse the wonders of raw. I hate post processing of any files.

I just returned from a 5 day out of town photo safari with 4 teen age boys. My total equiptment fit into the pockets of my jeans. The battery in the camera, the cf card in the camera, a fair multi-purpose afs zoom, a speedlight with only the batteries in it. I never in my career have gone anywhere before with so little equiptment. The trip is over, we are home, and the kids are tickled pink over their skatepark images. What do I own so much gear for?

My camera strap is a wrist strap, from China, and cheap.

I so much hate HDR that I cringe when I see even the semblances of it in a "normal" image.

I think I woke up today in synchronicity with you.

obakesan said...

Kirk

If you have links to good HDR's (and this applies to anyone who disagrees with my perspective) sending the links along and I'll stick them in a pro HDR post.... should be fun to prove me wrong.

Hardly proof, but this is a sample image I took for an interior with available lighting. I used a 10D and took both HDRI and stitching. It is of course subjective if it is good, but it is at least faithful to the situation and colours of the location. Given the mixture of tungsten (low temp not photo) and other lighting systems I think its quite reasonable.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2288/3533112426_9acfd7e788_o.jpg

here is another church interior done in HDRI + stiching ...

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2533/4144523380_a82a9361e7_o.jpg

I leave it to you to determine if this is good or bad. It is however a useful tool in interior photography.

Geir said...

I wouldn't agree with all your points, but behind the hilarious ramble there is wisdom to share with people. And I have an 11th point for you: Photographers who use Blogger to publish their images and texts. Why use something that complicates the reading and commenting process for the readers, when you can use something simple:-P

Ranger 9 said...

I like #7, but I'd take it beyond portraits -- there seems to be a trend toward lighting-bling EVERYTHING.

One of the most prominent of the Blogsmen of the Plugocalypse likes to refer to his acolytes as "lighting photographers," a concept which sounds weird to me (being so old-skool that I still think of myself as more of a subject photographer!)

Back in the '70s I did like everybody else and filed out my negative carriers so I could print my grainy Tri-X-in-Acufine negatives with big jagged black borders to proved I had used the whole negative. I had a few of those prints out the other day, and the look still worked on about five of them. For the rest, it was a case of smacking myself in the forehead and asking, "WHAT was I thinking?"

I suspect that in not many years we'll all be doing similar forehead-smacking as we look at our garishly overlit strobistic "masterpieces." Sheesh, leave your eighteen speedlights in the rolling case and just stand the girl next to a window, maybe lean a white card on the shadow side, and then expend your effort concentrating on her mood and expression -- what a concept...

Charles said...

I agree phones aren't the best way to display photos, but I do enjoy taking photos with my iPhone 3G. Yeah, they are blurry and not all that great, but Apple has done a pretty good job of getting an image no matter what you point it at. The fun part are the apps though. Besides just normal editing apps, you have all sorts of effects, panos and I like some of the apps that apply old style filters automatically. Quad cam is also great. I find it much more fun to shot with than a digital compact now.

Raianerastha said...

Vests, bags et al...I've chuckled about this for over 30 years, as I have seen camera club outings populated by so many people who are more concerned about looking like a photographer than they are about photography.

I remember many years ago reading an article by a photo instructor in which he said he could tell at first glance which students at one of his excursions would take the best photos. "The ones with old clothes and the smallest bags" he said. Why? Because he knew they were the ones who were ready to get down on their knees or climb a tree or whatever else it took to get the shot. Meanwhile the nicely dressed people with all the gear they could manage to carry would gather around in the same spot taking the same photos.

Kirk, you DID leave off one treand..."creamy bokeh for the sake of creamy bokeh". Since when is the quality of a portrait assessed based on how out of focus the background is? Well, some people do just that, as you well know being an Olympus user. LOL

aniemann said...

Have to totally disagree about the vests. I've been shooting for some 30+ years and always used bags because I thought the vests looked idiotic. Finally tried one on a job (couple lenses, batteries etc) and it was SO much easier on the back and SO much easier to get around without this weight swinging off the side. I think I'm the idiot for not using them just because they didn't look good.

kirk tuck said...

as I wrote, "If you need to wear them to shoot, well, okay. But as around town wear? Not likely."