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Wednesday, 03 May 2017


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What you're talking about here is really a good way to go through your whole life.

There's a a typo in your title, Mike.

I laughed out loud at your title. Good job!

I'm not sure about persnickety. Could be. It is a good word, much better than the fussy word fussy. It does hold a note of snobbery though. Are you a snob?

Then there's the etymology of the word. According to Merriam-Webster:
Persnickety people like things neat and tidy, but the etymology of persnickety doesn't provide the kind of clean, clear explanation that appeals to the fastidious. "Persnickety" was first documented in English in 1892 as an alteration of "pernickety," a word that has the same meaning. "Pernickety" goes back to the early 1800s, but from there, the word's "history" gets messy. Some say "pernickety" might be from a child's version of "particular"; others, that the "nick" part came from association with "knick-knack." Or perhaps the Latin prefix per-, meaning "thoroughly, played a role. But it's all pure conjecture-no one knows for sure.

Isn't that a conundrum for pernickety personality?

Personally, I'm OCD about level horizons. I even go around and straighten other people's paintings and photos when I visit. Their walls thank me, though my wife never did.

Hah! I didn't even notice the typo in the heading the first time I saw it!

And actually, is an intentional misspelling a typo?

If anyone accuses you of being too persnickety, remember the wise words of the great Peter Egan: "If people want to be dead wrong, that's their business."

Just shoot wet plate for a while.

With a personality prone to persistent persnicketiness I have developed a 3-step program that works for me:

1) Be it a photograph or a piece of writing, PUT IT IN A DRAWER. Look at it after a week, a month, or —ideally— a year. My first fresh glance tells me if there's anything glaring that needs to be fixed … or tossed.

2) USE A CAMERA WITH AN OPTICAL VIEWFINDER. I can't see the persnickety details until I open the image on my computer or view the film through a loupe. I'm currently using a Fuji X-pro for landscape photographs — when I use the electronic viewfinder and a tripod I get better technical results and have a higher proportion of "keepers"; when I use the optical viewfinder I get more surprises and have more fun.

3) GROW OLDER. As time and acuity of vision become increasingly limited, it is easier to weigh the importance of finicky details.

"Hwo to Cure Perfectionism"Well I guess you'll let Allah correct the typo!
You'll have to deal with all the comments you'll get on this one ;^>

"Hwo", eh? I see what you did there...

On the other hand ... I recently came to wish I had a little bit more perfectionism in me. Two years ago I bought a moderate wide angle lens for about $300 — refurbished with a warranty. I intended to use it as a knockaround street/travel lens, and so, embracing un-perfectionism, I gave it only a cursory test. It seemed okay, and okay was all I aspired to. The first few times I used it, I did get a couple of weirdly unsharp results, but, reveling in my loosey-goosey air, I dismissed these shots as no big deal to a sensible guy like me.

I didn't use the lens all that often, so time passed without any cause for alarm, and the warranty expired. Recent bad results in pictures that mattered to me caused me to look more closely at the lens, and sure enough, it's significantly defective when used in a specific way that I use it about 30% of the time.

Now for the kicker: the manufacturer, who I won't name, does not provide any spare parts for the lens. It can't be repaired. (The first time I've encountered this in a new, still-on-the-market lens in 35 years of photography.) It's out of warranty, so I have no legal right to a replacement. I'm out $300, which I am hereby writing off to the bitter wages of un-perfectionism.

Thanks a lot for that post, Mike. I do find myself overtaken by one worry, then another, then another. Lately that post mentioning that absolutely all of the, ah, flower or whatever is in focus before I glory in the bokeh had me worried: are any of those macro shots OK, or should I dump them? Well I got over that, and now I'm worrying about sharpness ... again. But on the other hand (I say to myself) I make most prints on A4 paper, so what's to worry? And since the main critic in my tiny circle of viewers is a painter, I really don't need to worry: when was her stuff ever in focus, huh?

A short deadline can be a cure for extreme perfectionism. Can perfectionism be extreme? Or is it extreme by definition? Is that redundant? Let me look it up. I'll check and get right back to you. Hold on, I think I found it. No, let me look at another source. I don't like that one. Just a second, I'll Google it. Darn, Google is supposed to be so smart but it's wrong. Maybe Bing ...

And on into the night.

Hwo... yes indead!

I don't wish to appear picky or fussy, so I will gently suggest that your spell checker is under the weather. I'm not sure hwo you can fix it.

If the photographic offerings on sale in touristy cafes here in the U.K. are anything to go by, we're in the middle of a slider anxiety pandemic. I'm not sure whether this isn't simply conformity to aesthetic fashion rather than a sub-species of perfectionism though?

I have mild symptoms myself, but can at least point to the mitigating circumstance of selective colour blindness. This can induce a gnawing sense of the impossibility of knowing whether I've committed an elementary howler that will be glaringly obvious to everyone else. Aaagh! The solution? Enlist a colour consultant, ask other people what they think of your photos, and/or Stick with Fuji's widely acclaimed JPEG's :) -but that's another story .

I hope that this doesn't count as OCD on my side - but Alter is not a fitting translation of that dude. What you wrote is more like a salutation - hey, dude would be ey, Alter in (colloquial) German. Suitable to greet an old friend, or to address someone you don't know but whose driving style you don't appreciate, you name it. Addressing police officers this way is discouraged, though.

In your context, (that dude), I'd rather use der Kerl (attention: mildly pejorative).

[Fixed, and thanks. --Mike]

Best, Thomas

I use the opposite approach to "slider anxiety" -- I say "You never know if you've gone far enough until you've gone too far." So I'm not left wondering; I know that further out is definitely too much.

(This doesn't of course protect me from choosing personal preferences that other people will think are "too far". But I can't see how anything really protects me from that.)

Good and helpful advice.
Anyone who does creative photography seriously wrestles with the
"when to stop tweaking' demon. There is always more (or less) we can do. It was true in the darkroom, and is more true with digital (because there are more tools and it is easier)
I think Printing helps because it forces the issue. When you sign a print, there is a finality, it says this is the best I have to offer at this time and date.
It helps me to think about Steve Jobs' remark that "Real Artists Ship"
Learning to let go and move on is as important to growth as vision and technical skill.
David Vestal & Stephen Pressfield (The War of ART) both admonish "Do the Work"

Having learned the trade a a commercial Photographer where one is forced over and over to Deliver and move on was in retrospect good training.
To this day, each time I shoot seriously, I push myself to deliver (to myself) at least one finished print. I can't say I'm always successful, but the discipline has resulted in a body of work of which I am proud. I find it satisfying to have evidence of productivity.
And knowing that I have to produce something also sharpens the intent when I'm out shooting.
Does it always work? Of course not, but over time, it works better than you might expect.

I think you've simplified things a bit. OCD has an interior part -- nagging concerns about contamination and the like, and an exterior part which is the ritualistic, compulsive response to deal with the interior concerns. The O part, nagging concerns is familiar to your perfectionist photographer, but perhaps not as severe or quite as distracting. And medicine can help both sufferers.

Persnickety is the perfect word. ;)

There's a saying "Perfection is the enemy of good".

Don't know why, but when I decided it was time to try digital cameras an attendant compulsion took hold, the need to be very careful of composition. Well, wanting to get perfect compositions while doing street photography was a lesson in frustration that kinda shook off that dust from my brain. Out-of-focus pictures have a kind of charm to them, no?

“This post needs an illustration..”

(..I’ll not rise to the bait of your typo..)

Here’s an illustration: when Mr Maitani was obsessing - sorry; exercising his perfectionism - while designing the Olympus OM-1 and then OM-2, he was utterly emphatic that it must not be any larger than a Leica ..the Leica he had as a boy.

“I had started out using a Leica, and my enthusiasm for photography was such that I had even had pictures published in magazines. So I told the sales people that I didn't see any gap that needed to be filled, and that there was no need for me to make the [SLR] camera. They replied that the new camera could be just the same as those made by other manufacturers, but I thought exactly the opposite. I wanted to make something that didn't exist . . . Pentax SLRs were big and heavy, substantially bigger and heavier than the Leica . . .Ultimately, I realized that the real reason why I couldn't get enthusiastic about conventional SLRs was the problem of their weight and size. This is a major difference of 35mm cameras compared with the Leica.”

( Here on Olympus’ site: https://www.olympus-global.com/brand/museum/lecture/vol2/ )

The current Olympus engineers went, er, obsessively even smaller, with the remake of Mr Maitani’s PEN-F.


There, for me anyway, is an illustration of - appropriate - perfectionism.

I assume your misspelling of "How" is one example of how to cure perfectionism (in spelling, anyway).

"You're worried that people might think your picture isn't quite enough of something, and your anxiety and insecurity allows you gradually to creep over the edge of right reason into excess."

I feel fortunate to have had a friend/teacher in my early years of photography who stressed that the final image is our own idea of how we want the scene to look like, rather than what other people think it should be.

"Or, you find yourself fretting about whether your lens is sharp enough in all ways and in every situation."

It's amusing to me to read on the forums the fascination with sharpness. I'm happy not to worry about all of that!


"Hwo"...I see what you did there!


"Hwo to..." We see what you did there, Mike. Well played.

I know well what OCD can do. From the outside, one would think the person is possessed by demons. And, there's really nothing you can do to help, no matter how much you want to.

Pickiness: I bought a little smartphone stand, one that can also attach to a tripod. Did some tests when I got it, using a wireless shutter release that I bought at the same time. Major improvement over handheld. Haven't used it since. That much fussiness for a "snapshot" camera annoys me more than I can explain.

Two things: I've noticed that frequently when looking at great work, I'm more than willing to disregard the tiny imperfections- because the images are so damn good, and those little trivialities are just that, next to the overall enjoyment and appreciation of the actual experience.

Frequently, they can be the very same imperfections that I obsess about in my own work to no end. Perhaps because of the little voice of over compensation that says, "Yeah, but you're work isn't that g-r-e-a-t. Is it?"

The other is how digital has made me appreciate the small imperfections of film all the more. Digital can literally take your breath away with its super realism; after repeated viewing, it can also leave one with an uneasy sense of detachment with its hard edged, detailed perfectionism.

...and a perfect title!

The peripatetic Eric Kim recently said: You need less bokeh — bokeh is the lazy way to make photos. http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2017/05/02/antiphotography/ Today too many people are too lazy to do it right. They are cavalier about photography, but persnickety about saving poorly made pics in PhotoShop.

Mike said: I confess I've been guilty of this me own self. Misuse of words is common—some of these misuses are even trendy. Today many people say haptic, when they actually mean tactile. Haptic (from the Greek haptesthai, meaning "to touch") entered English in the late 19th century as a medical synonym for "tactile." ...Although almost no one today divides humans into "haptic" and "visual" personalities, ... https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/haptic

While OCD is obviously a problem, I'm not sure that perfectionism is, especially in the arts (as long as the perfectionism and the OCD are separate issues.) A person close to me is both, but his OCD takes the form of demanding perfection before the work is done -- that is, when playing the piano, if he makes a error, his OCD forces him to start all over again, only (usually) to make the same error at the same place, because that's the part that he hasn't been able to practice.

But perfectionism by itself...do you think that Ansel Adams, who traveled photographed constantly, and was a darkroom perfectionist, really was happy with more than 2 or 3 photos *per year?* Give the length of his career, I don't think I've ever seen that many photos of his published. (That would be ~100-150 photos per roughly 50 years.) That's a lotta art, and there's hardly a really bad one in the bunch. If you want to be an artist, why not go for that?

You misspelled 'perfectionism' - second sentence, fourth paragraph. :)

[THAT'S just a typo. "Typos never rest." --Mike]

While not necessarily OCD, the late Oliver Sacks (of "Awakenings" fame) has several books that go ever these kinds of cases such as "The Man who mistook his wife for a hat".

Hwo to cure .... :-)

I assume that "Hwo" in the title is your way of trolling for OCD proof readers.

The story of the Leica M4 reminded me of my brief career as an employee at a NYC camera store. I was always amazed at how obsessive some people were about only buying equipment that had never been touched by another human being.

All that to get to 'persnickety'. I like your sense of humour. (I'm an Aussie, so I'm persnickety about using the English, rather than American, spelling of humour.)

Living "underneath a woman" generally recalls more pleasant memories. At least for me, and given my age.

Bryan Geyer

Did you purposely type "Hwo" in the title as some sort of meta-reference to perfectionism?

I'm trying hard not to be a perfectionist, but I did notice you misspelled "How" in your title.

Reading your articles is always a great inspiration for me and I'm so amazed from your ability to find so many interesting arguments, not only strictly related to photography.
I find your "Hwo to" article very funny to read and inspiring. I will follwo your example and I will let my photography to be more forgiving to small deffects.

And then there are some obsessed with the notion of being underneath a woman.

Hwo, How. I see what you did there... ;)

Damn it, fix that typo in the headline, it's driving me crazy!

One man's typo is another man's Old Saxon:

I don't mind tilted horizons in general, but there is one photograph, that I happen to love, that has a tilted sea horizon and it drives me just a little bit crazy. It's by Andre Kertess, taken from a balcony in a hotel, probably...

Well, I'm certainly not a perfectionist. I just have a neurotic sense of precision.

Regarding slider anxiety: My photography professor (in the 1970s) always said "You don't know if you've gone far enough until you are sure you've gone too far."

The nature of the beast.

We perfectionists never make mastikes.

I love the "Hwo" in the title.

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