« Hand Me That 750-Page IB, Please | Main | New Baker's Dozen Call for Work: Object of Affection »

Wednesday, 26 January 2022


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

What about the roof or hood of your car and self-timer? Every flat surface is a tripod.

Well, this of course begs the question of "What is good technique?". I'd say that's got to vary according to the purpose of the capture and/or what the image dictates.In your case here how would tripod-ing this have actually made it better? Doesn't seem like an image that would be better sharper---has more of the Pictorialist vibe to it.

In my pro work my technique has to be vise tight. Sadly in some ways, my current artistic work also requires a similar ethos....but here there's much more room for variance, including deliberate variables in the accompanying technique.

One of the several bits of great advice I got in grad school(originally applied to my painting practice) was "Don't let the technique get in the way of the picture." Great, simple advice, and it cuts both ways.

Buy a Tilt-all tripod at B&H—still under $200 and keep that in your trunk.

Craftsmanship and good technique have always been a large part of the joy of photography for me. Back when I started, it took lots of meticulous technique to squeeze the best results out of a little 35 mm slide. Slow fine grained film, rock-solid tripod, mirror lock-up, cable release, careful attention to focus, waiting for the breeze to subside, waiting for perfect light...
Current digital SLR's and mirrorless cameras are far more forgiving. From great high ISO quality and image stabilization to automated correction of lens aberrations and vignetting, it's getting harder to see the quality difference between perfect technique and a grab-shot.
Which makes me a little sad. "No one cares how hard you worked", but it feels less virtuous somehow. In my mind it's also linked to the 'image fire-hose' problem. Getting that one perfect slide back from the lab after spending a morning photographing was always a delight. Scrolling through hundreds of similar digital captures on screen is more drudgery than joy. So I find it satisfying to photograph as if I were still spending money on slide film and processing; capturing that one perfect frame, rather than shooting hundreds 'close enough' and sifting for pearls later.

"...'always shoot it now; it won't be the same when you go back' came to mind..."

One of the neatest features of modern photography versus the old film days is the date/time stamp inbedded in each image's data. When I do luck into getting one of those shots where the light angle and quality are magic, I go back again and again for years sometimes hopeing lightning will strike twice.

Maisel's advice is well founded, but the technological changes to the capture can give you another attempt if you are patient and keep your eye on the calendar.

If possible, I always do two phases when shooting. First I look at the scene and light and then set the camera as I like. So long as I'm in the same lighting, I'm done with that. Shooting technique is composition, steadiness, focus, etc. Better shooting technique beats camera control, in my experience. Decades of experience helps, of course.

What you suggest could actually be accomplished with software. Why not have two or three options where certain features are locked out of the "simpler" version? (One company that does a good job with simplification is Leica. I like being married so that is DEFINITELY not a choice I would make.) At 71 I realize I may wired a little differently, but, I hate to pay $1000+ for a highly complex product that does not include a printed manual. (My Canon RP actually did ship with one.) I prefer a physical copy I can book mark or make notes on.

Certainly good technique is part of the fun! It allows me to slow down and refine my vision. Fine tuning the corners and edges etc. Possibly even more important, this slowing down also allows me to "see" deeper and enjoy whatever it is I thought important enough to set up for.

I always smile when the topic of a discussion turns to content v. technique.

YMMV, of course, depending upon the genre of photography you prefer. But for me and the type of photography I enjoy (urban and suburban street and alley scenes photographed late at night using long exposures), the two are effectively one and the same.

Because without good technique -- both pre- and post-expoure -- there is no content, just lots of black and dark shadows speckled with digital noise and/or white blobs of blown-out highlights!

As a related aside, I find the same to also be true of image quality v. content.

Because in my experience, image quality is a natural byproduct of using good technique, hence the two -- actually, all three: content, technique, and image quality -- are fundamentally indivisible.

Separately, good technique and creativity are each necessary but not sufficient.

Without the technique needed effectively realize an idea, creativity without more is mere dilettantism that fails to reliably deliver results.

Without creativity, strong technique is an otherwise useful skill wasted upon the bland and forgettable.

Formal studies into creativity at the University of Chicago strongly support the idea that effective creativity in any field arises in large part from a strong knowledge of the practical techniques of that discipline, the so-called "flow" state.

I suspect that the currently-fashionable disparagement of technique arises in part from a lowering of our sights with the shift to 8-bit 1920x1080 postings on the Internet, complete with canned skies added in post-processing.

Mike, you are two thirds of a tripod. Brace yourself against anything available—voilà you now are one.

Then shoot in burst mode multiple shots. Average in Photoshop—no stacking software needed.

For What It’s Worth, I do keep a tripod in the car (usually on the floor behind the driver’s seat). Additionally, I keep two orange traffic cones I bought at Home Depot, and a Hi-Viz vest from the same place. That way I feel much safer when I stop to photograph by the side of the road, or to change a tire.

Always use the right technique for the job—simple as that.

Neither portraits nor product shots are either landscapes or BIF. Each requires a different methodology—double-duh :-)

"Jay Maisel's admonition to 'always shoot it now;..." Definitely among the best suggestions ever offered for candid/amateur photography!

"Technique" is involved in nearly every image I make, even the most Maisel Moments. But Tex Andrews' leading query, "What is good technique?" is the bridge question...leading to the over-arching question: Towards what visual goal?

The sheer techie-ness of photography, since its birth, has relentlessly pressed toward fidelity of description. Is your image sharp? Is your exposure correct? How about the tonality and color...is it accurate? Billions have been, and still are, spent towards achieving some idea of perfect imagery. And in some cases it's warranted. Certainly wherever accurate documentation is the goal you'd better have mastered your "technique" if you hope to succeed.

But increasingly my own visual goals tend less toward fidelity of description and more toward creating an impression that invites the viewer to participate in the image through imagination. There is certainly technique involved there, too. Such work might sometimes appear haphazard or accidental but, at least for me, it usually requires drawing upon the same knowledge of tools and processes that precise descriptive photography would require. Like an old high school English teach was fond of crowing, "If you can't say what you mean, you probably won't mean what you say!" (I don't think she coined that phrase.) That coin, reversed, says, "Sometimes ya gotta know how to not talk so pretty so people get your picture."

Your winter night image looks lovely, Mike. There's just enough information in it to draw me straight across that lake to the warm lights. I don't gotta know where it is or when it is. Images like yours work by reaching beyond your optic nerve and into your heart for just a moment. You dood good.

Technique is something I'm always learning, while vision is inherent; although vision can also be improved with practice. Like any pursuit, time in the saddle matters.

I am told it shows your age when you worry about technique, something I have learnt from my students is that it can also be important to get the idea of the thing you had when you saw something, that idea that compelled you to want to make the image in the first place. That compulsion will not be there when you go back, then the light is never the same, your state of mind will have changed etc. So now I make the image and then think how can I use my technique to improve it. Then if I can I make a few more images. This freedom has improved my photography as I feel creatively free to make multiple versions and not be bogged down by my technique.

Good technique is gained through experience. Perhaps reading a photo book now and then helps with ideas. But practice makes for good technique. My wife uses a 10 (or is it 15) year old dslr with a kit lens. She does not worry much about technique but sometimes here images are better (more interesting) than mine because I try to be near perfect with most of my shooting. Content will almost always win out. No one cares about your technique only the shot. (photo nerds excepted)

Your picture, it actually looks like it was taken at night.YAAY!


The photo looks fine. The thin branches in the foreground are sharp enough on the screen in front of me. (17" x 10", 2-3 feet viewing distance.)

The thing that grabs me is the mood of the photo, rather than whether it's as technically as good as possible. A good, rich darker blue without magenta creeping in. Dark, but easy to see the distant "layers".

I'm glad you turned around to take that photo!
Geoff said, "Scrolling through hundreds of similar digital captures on screen is more drudgery than joy."

I have to use a computer every day at work, so I spend as little time as possible fiddling with my photos on the computer. Auto-correct and maybe some manual fine-tuning if the photo is worth it.

Luckily, most of mine aren't. :>)

The word "art" comes from the French language where it has the same meaning as in English. That word come from the Latin word "ars" which means "ability, craft, technical knowledge".

Henri Cartier-Bresson, in a video where he comments some of his contact sheets, says that we, photographers, are not artists but craftsmen. The original in French: "Artistes ? Quest-ce que ça veut dire ? Nous sommes des artisans". Google translation: "Artists? What does it mean ? We are artisans."

According to HCB's biography "L'art sans Art" (Art without Art), he spent three years perfecting his technique with the Leica. And at least as much training himself artistically in the Louvre.He didn't need to earn money, which helped the logistics part :)

Mastering technique allows to forget it while applying it, much like we take a turn with a car. There is technique involved in that but we only look at the curve and take it.

Technique for itself is sterile, but I don't think neglecting technique leads to great work.

In your picture I see at least composition and exposure technique.

[I don't read French, but in the interviews and bios I've read, it says he learned the Leica in three DAYS. Can you check that? I've never heard three years. --Mike]

Not HDR processing? I think the dark tones are somewhat compromised by exposing to avoid blowing the rare but highly visible light sources. Have to do some pixel peeping to be sure that's the cause of what I think I see, though.

There have been times my tripod lived in the car; I find I need to go out and haul it into the house fairly often then. This is probably an aspect of the three laws of informal thermodynamics (which are: you can't win, you can't even break even, and you can't get out of the game), and makes the idea of a second tripod to live in the car make a lot of sense. (But, I'd need to replace the mounting mechanism with something compatible with the rails on my bodies to be happy with it.)

I think that technique is always key to art. But not "sterile technique". Not believing that something is the right way to do it and doing it that way by rote, but rather understanding how your choices affect the appearance of the final work, and making choices in line with your goals for the work. Even on the things you rarely need to alter, try to have a little piece of your mind that checks whether this is one of those rare times before shutting up and staying out of the way.

It's true that many areas of photographic technique have a wider sweet spot these days. It's true that every work of art has imperfections of technique that a great enough master of technique could see and point out.

Perfect technique never happens across the complex process of creating any significant art, but avoiding errors which make the final result unsatisfactory or even notably compromised is still important.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007