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on Aug 4, 2014 in Friday Thoughts

Changing Our Measuring Stick?


Why do we go click? Why do we go click after click after click?

We all, thank goodness, answer this question differently. But no matter where we are in our photography, so much goes into every click seemingly having the weight of the world on it. And because we are all different and because we are all in different places in our photography, we all measure the success of our clicks differently. But measure we do and from that rating, we make judgment calls. We might simply change exposure or lenses at the point of capture. Or later, we might delete or print the photo. What is the stick you measure your photos against … perfection?

“It’s Sharp!” “The Exposure is good!” “I like it!” These common measures are all very valid reasons along with a long list of others to measure our photographs as successful. These are the best reasons to keep clicking and to share those clicks. But are these measures enough, are they the starting point or the ending point we should shoot for in our photography?

The Falling Soldier by Capra, Life Magazine calls it an iconic photograph. Do you know the photo? I ask because it’s a photo that well, isn’t sharp, not truly a good exposure and as I understand it (and I’m not expert here), he only, kinda liked it. I’ve gone back and looked at this photo and its power for decades, never seeing it quite the same each time. And as Life states it so bluntly “the photograph was, in fact, just that: a photograph in a magazine. Period.” But it’s, iconic.

I’ve seen a whole bunch of fine images of late, ones that the photographers should be very proud to share. By every modern standard, they all measured up just fine. But is that good enough? I’m not saying that bad exposure and out focus is always acceptable, I’m also not saying that perfection is the best measure. In telling a visual story, perhaps those basic measures of exposure and sharpness aren’t the only marks? In telling that story, what if we measure with a higher standard such as the heart? We might just fine photography just got more difficult, but success is much sweeter. So I just raise the question in the desire to improve our photography, can we do it by changing our measuring stick?