Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Has the internet affected our appreciation of photographs?

Seaside, Whitby, UK. An invitation to discover the subtle details from the crack in the paving to the pink crocs. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Seaside conversation - interrupted, Whitby, UK. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Most photographs are viewed on screens at low resolution and quite small pixel sizes. Is this affecting the way we look at photographs in general and in particular our ability to appreciate the finer nuances in images?

The way we experience images in different media affects our perception. When viewing photographs on the internet we click through very quickly to the next image. Pick up a large beautifully produced photo book and you are likely to spend a lot more time looking at each image.

High resolution prints entice the viewer to look at the detail and explore an image. Large photographs hung on a gallery wall invite the viewer to spend even more time discovering every aspect of the image. Nothing beats a beautifully produced original print. Despite the proliferation of online images I still think the ultimate measure of a photograph is how it looks in print.

On screen with typical dimensions ranging from 500 pixels on the longest side to 800 pixels, and screen resolution at 72 dpi it is impossible to convey all the subtle details that a full resolution image holds. The images that work at small sizes are bold, dramatic and full of immediate visual impact. Subtle images are therefore not popular on sites which invite fellow users to comment such as Flickr.

I hope that this does not discourage those photographers with a quieter voice, who load their images with layers of detail and subtle nuances, waiting for the perceptive viewer to discover them.

I love looking at images and nothing gives me a bigger kick than to go beyond the big main statement to find a subtle element, carefully included to add wit, humour or a poignant statement that enhances the overall image.

For me a lot of the joy in photography and indeed the essence is the extraordinary detail, subtle colour and light we can capture with our extremely high resolution cameras and lenses.

On the internet I see an increasing tendency to produce highly manipulated images, using texture layers, high contrast, blurring and other filters to strip out the detail. And I understand this trend in the context of viewing images on the internet where bold images stand out. Sadly the initial impact often does not last very long. It’s fast food for the brain. Compare many of these images to a picture like an Ansel Adams landscape, which will keep you discovering new things for years because of the richness in detail and the subtle interplay of light on the subject.

We need both types of image, and like music there is a place for contemporary and a place for the classic.

I hope that readers of my blog will take a moment to think about, discover and enjoy the quieter images that go beyond the obvious, the images that reward the viewer who is prepared to take their time to discover and enjoy the tiniest detail. It is the discovery of these tiny details that ultimately helps the viewer to take the image into their heart and make it their own to treasure.


Paul Indigo,

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Photographer's need people skills

Leanne, actor and dancer, UK (click image to see large version).

In every walk of life the way you deal with people is incredibly important and can determine how successful you become. Photography is a people business. Even if you primarily take pictures of inanimate subjects – cars, food and architecture – you will still be dealing with a lot of people to make your shoots work.

When it comes to photographing actors and models your people skills are even more important.

I’d like to share a story with you that made me quite sad and inspired writing this blog. We’ve recently been doing headshots for actors, like Leanne above, and I kept hearing the same thing.

Most actors wanting headshots need them for a casting, for their book and their headshots have to be regularly updated. This means they experience different photographers. Sometimes they work with a photographer provided by an agency and other times they search for a specialist headshot or portrait photographer who knows what agents and casting directors are looking for and how to present the actor in an honest, useful way that will catch the eye of casting agents.

The actors we photograph all said the same thing; how comfortable they felt, how patient and easy going we are and how enjoyable the photo-shoot had been. You may think actors are comfortable in front of the lens but when it comes to stills and they don’t have a script and they are not acting, they can feel as vulnerable as next person.

The stories I heard were about how some photographers treated their models and actors as objects. They were often abrupt, rude and sarcastic, and in some cases reduced the models to tears. In particular this happened with photographers working for a modelling/acting agency. The photographer saw their client as the agency feeding them a conveyor belt of actors and models to photograph.

These photographers probably took very good care of their agency clients but forgot that their subjects, the actors and models are real people. I think this is appalling. Now I know that sometimes models and actors can be ‘difficult’ but there is absolutely no excuse for not treating people right.

Photography is a service industry, and like a hairdresser, restaurant or high street retailer we have to ensure our customers, the people we photograph, have a good and rewarding experience – before, during and after the shoot. And that goes for the whole team on the shoot too – make-up, hair, styling and assistants.

Treat people right and you’ll go a long way in this business.