When it comes to photographic quality, maybe you have a peeve pathology. Or maybe you know someone else who does.
Peeve, n., a cause of annoyance; back-formation from peevish, adj., easily irritated, esp. by minor things.
Pathology, n., 3. mental, social, or linguistic abnormality or malfunction.
In a private email conversation among the TOP brain trust that I'm listening in on but not really participating in, one of my friends admitted to a heightened sensitivity to gloss differential in digital prints. "I always detested any darkroom print that had the slightest hint of it, color or black-and-white." quoth he. Of course, most digital prints have at least a little gloss differential, because the surface of the ink where it's laid down heavily is always going to be a little different from the surface of the paper where there's little or no ink. So our friend has tried to learn to tolerate it, but only because he has to. He's had to force himself to relax about it. It's not always easy for him. He's working on it.
Gloss differential? I seldom notice it. Except when it's so massive it slaps me across the chops like a dead carp.
Another TOP contributor hates so-called blue replacement (color-replacement, which, when it happens, is usually blue). Ever noticed that? It's when a narrow line like a electrical line or a slender branch is rendered in a digital picture as blue or purple or green instead of whatever color it should be. This friend hates that effect, notices it whenever it's present, and is probably frequently on heightened alert looking out for it.
Me? Don't really much care.
I'm sure you know people who detest "noise." They are ever vigilant, rooting around in test pictures looking for the slightest trace of noise and, upon discovering it, trumpeting its presence like an avenging Zola. Me? Water off a duck's back. I kinda like a little noise. Those folks should get a clue and a life.
The darkroom equivalent of the noise police were called "grain-sniffers," so-called because of the close proximity of their noses to the prints when they were peering eagle-eyed at the image attempting to root out the slightest trace of the never-quite-banished evil.
I remember one hobbyist I was trying to help with this. He had gone to great lengths to devise a grain-free technique using specially selected materials and all sorts of darkroom tricks, like holding a piece of translucent plastic under the lens for part of the exposure time. Finally, he showed me a print representing the culmination of his efforts. It was so overpoweringly creamy and grain-free that it looked downright weird, like the subject of the picture was carved out of pudding. I remember thinking, well, this should satisfy him.
But no. "I can still see grain," he exclaimed, with no small measure of anguish, pointing to a small shadow area. A slight bit of film grain could indeed be detected—if you looked.
If you looked hard.
I'm way above such pettiness, in my own mind. I catch myself shaking my head and thinking, jeez, dude, get over it. Relax. Of course I can be troubled by particularly coarse, mushy grain, but I actually like grain, if it's nice. I'd go so far as to say I actually prefer a little grain to none in conventional B&W prints. I'm very relaxed about that.
But what I'm talking about here are pathologies—not intentional, sober, evenhanded, objective evaluations. Sometimes, ya just can't help what ya hate. Me, I see a perfectly nice picture I took, and my eye zooms right to whatever's most out of focus—how's the bokeh?!? Omigawd.
I don't do this with other peoples' pictures, and I'm trying to relax about it with mine. But it's my peeve pathology, fer sure. I just hate nasty bokeh, and I have to struggle to let go of obsessing over it.
I'm mostly over it. I've worked hard to care less. But still, when I catch a trace of ni-sen I find myself thinking, what aperture was this? Gotta avoid this aperture with hard-line contrast twenty feet behind the focal plane...then I take a deep breath and think, easy, big guy. Nobody notices this sh*t but you. Let it go.
That's what defines a peeve pathology, I guess. It's whatever little peeve you have to work to let go of.
Because—well, you know how it is. There are a hundred things like this. Another friend hates any trace of haloing caused by oversharpening. If he can detect it, it's too much for him. Online, I've come across perfectly adequate rectangles of blue sky presented as evidence of lens vignetting. Vignetting? I sometimes add it to my pictures. You can probably name a few more yourself. They go on and on.
Gloss differential, blue replacement, noise, grain, haloing, vignetting, or any of the other tiny technical faults that people obsess over in photographs—those people are just being a little crazy, y'know?
Featured Comment by Dogman: "I really hate perfection."
Featured Comment by Bob Cornelis: "Great discussion! I've been a professional fine art printer (and photographer) for many years now so I've observed first hand how every client focuses on something different in their images. Many of the things they obsess about would never, never be noticed by anyone else. Often these obsessions cause them to lose sight of what the image is all about. Have you ever thought about how many great shots have never seen the light of day because the photographer had some idiosyncratic hangup that caused them to abandon them? Over the years, I've somehow learned to let go of most of these 'tics' in my own work. About the only thing that drives me crazy when I look at a photograph is if it doesn't tell me anything about the photographer."
Featured Comment by sean: "I'm thinking hard here and I'm struggling to come up with something. Over-cooked HDR and 300mm lenses for street photography bug the life out of me, but those are a matter of taste and easily avoided. Noise, vignetting, iffy bokeh and the like, seem to go under my radar. I tell myself that's due to a high level of tolerance rather than low standards. It's the same philosophy I used to use for dating."