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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre General Photography Talk 
Thread started 01 Apr 2013 (Monday) 03:01
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What is this thing called 'quality'?

 
ChrisSearle
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Apr 01, 2013 03:01 |  #1

And I'm talking about quality with reference to photographs specifically. I am prompted to ask this question because I am often surprised at peoples acceptance of horrible quality.

Example 1) A friend who is a 'wildlife photographer' uses a small video camera with huge zoom range and the ability to capture 2mp stills. He prints them at 8x10 and shows them to anybody who will look. He always says something like 'Look at this one, isn't it amazing? Isn't it incredible what can be done with digital technology?' I look at the blurred smeary mess of a picture and reply 'Amazing'. Not only does he ( and his wife) genuinely think these pictures are fantastic but both of them seem to see no difference between this type of shot and something done well with a 500/f4 EOS 1D mk 4 etc.
Example 2) My girlfriend uses an ipad for a camera, she prefers it to her 10mp Sony 'because you can see the pictures straight away and anyway they are just as good' ( they aren't, they are nowhere near as good.

I'm beginning to think that the vast majority of people are perfectly content with grainy over saturated, smeary photos and it's only the sort of fanatic that visits gear forums ( OK and maybe photography professionals) that care about quality.

As a part of my job involves technical assistance to newspapers I often see print managers getting very upset about (say) the colour of flesh tones being produced with a particular ink set when I know that 99.9 percent of the people who read that newspaper the next day will not even notice that they were, perhaps, a tad on the magenta side.

And I must confess that there are times when I look at two photographs, maybe produced by two similar but competing lenses, and I think, 'what am I missing here? Do I need my eyes tested?' Because although the images look pretty much identical to me there will be heated arguments that one has 'truly horrible' bokeh while the other has a 'strong green cast'.

So, back to my original question: What is this thing called 'quality'? Is there ever an ultimate 100% quality or is it like beauty, forever in the eye of the beholder?


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rjx
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Apr 01, 2013 05:29 |  #2

ChrisSearle wrote in post #15777774 (external link)
or is it like beauty, forever in the eye of the beholder?

Quality is subjective and we all have different needs, wants, interests, goals, etc.

We're in the minority, being that many of us are artists, intermediate users, pros, etc. I do think the majority of users are happy with their phones, point and shoots, Ipads, etc, for various reasons. Their needs / wants are different than many of us here at POTN.


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cdifoto
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Apr 01, 2013 05:35 |  #3

Quality is merely a noun with many definitions.


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DC ­ Fan
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Apr 01, 2013 05:45 |  #4

ChrisSearle wrote in post #15777774 (external link)
And I'm talking about quality with reference to photographs specifically. I am prompted to ask this question because I am often surprised at peoples acceptance of horrible quality.

Example 1) A friend who is a 'wildlife photographer' uses a small video camera with huge zoom range and the ability to capture 2mp stills. He prints them at 8x10 and shows them to anybody who will look. He always says something like 'Look at this one, isn't it amazing? Isn't it incredible what can be done with digital technology?' I look at the blurred smeary mess of a picture and reply 'Amazing'. Not only does he ( and his wife) genuinely think these pictures are fantastic but both of them seem to see no difference between this type of shot and something done well with a 500/f4 EOS 1D mk 4 etc.
Example 2) My girlfriend uses an ipad for a camera, she prefers it to her 10mp Sony 'because you can see the pictures straight away and anyway they are just as good' ( they aren't, they are nowhere near as good.

I'm beginning to think that the vast majority of people are perfectly content with grainy over saturated, smeary photos and it's only the sort of fanatic that visits gear forums ( OK and maybe photography professionals) that care about quality.

As a part of my job involves technical assistance to newspapers I often see print managers getting very upset about (say) the colour of flesh tones being produced with a particular ink set when I know that 99.9 percent of the people who read that newspaper the next day will not even notice that they were, perhaps, a tad on the magenta side.

And I must confess that there are times when I look at two photographs, maybe produced by two similar but competing lenses, and I think, 'what am I missing here? Do I need my eyes tested?' Because although the images look pretty much identical to me there will be heated arguments that one has 'truly horrible' bokeh while the other has a 'strong green cast'.

So, back to my original question: What is this thing called 'quality'? Is there ever an ultimate 100% quality or is it like beauty, forever in the eye of the beholder?

Of course, the general public isn't interested in the technical minutiae about which many members of this forum are obsessed. Your average person is more interested in the content of an image rather than in every last tiny detail. Even on this forum, most of the reaction to images posted in the picture sharing comes from the subject shown. That's always been the way that real people react to pictures.

The average person is not an engineer and is not a detail-obsessed gear head. That will not change. And for those who are obsessed with image details, it really didn't start to change until maybe 10 years ago, with the simultaneous development of affordable high-resolution DSLR's and higher resolution flat-panel monitors.

And widespread discussion of those details didn't become popular until the development of forums such as these,which give people a chance to express the skills at which they are best.




  
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tzalman
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Apr 01, 2013 05:56 |  #5

It is hardly surprising that we enlightened few, connoisseurs of photographic art and highly educated cognoscenti of photo technology, will be satisfied only by a far higher standard of quality than that accepted by the unwashed masses, immeshed as they are in a murky swamp of ignorance. But we cannot reform the world, we can only find comfort and solace in the awareness of our own superiority.


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Phrasikleia
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Apr 01, 2013 05:59 |  #6

This is the central question of the book, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert M. Pirsig. Defining quality in absolute terms is impossible, but it makes a great philosophical exercise.

For photography, perhaps it is better to think of it in terms of relative success: has a given photograph succeeded in communicating its apparent story, emotion, or mood? That is, judge the photo on its own terms. If a photo seems intended to display the particular beauty or behavior of a bird, and it's too blurry or poorly timed to do that much, then it falls short. If, however, it seems aimed more at evoking an intangible sense of bird-ness, asking the viewer to disregard the details of this individual bird, then perhaps a very blurry, stylized treatment might make it a very successful image. In other words, we have to judge a photo by how well it strikes its own chord.


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watt100
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Apr 01, 2013 06:14 |  #7

ChrisSearle wrote in post #15777774 (external link)
And I'm talking about quality with reference to photographs specifically. I am prompted to ask this question because I am often surprised at peoples acceptance of horrible quality.

Example 1) A friend who is a 'wildlife photographer' uses a small video camera with huge zoom range and the ability to capture 2mp stills. He prints them at 8x10 and shows them to anybody who will look. He always says something like 'Look at this one, isn't it amazing? Isn't it incredible what can be done with digital technology?' I look at the blurred smeary mess of a picture and reply 'Amazing'. Not only does he ( and his wife) genuinely think these pictures are fantastic but both of them seem to see no difference between this type of shot and something done well with a 500/f4 EOS 1D mk 4 etc.


And I must confess that there are times when I look at two photographs, maybe produced by two similar but competing lenses, and I think, 'what am I missing here? Do I need my eyes tested?' Because although the images look pretty much identical to me there will be heated arguments that one has 'truly horrible' bokeh while the other has a 'strong green cast'.

So, back to my original question: What is this thing called 'quality'? Is there ever an ultimate 100% quality or is it like beauty, forever in the eye of the beholder?

like others have said, "quality" means different things to different people and not everyone can afford $000's for camera gear. Sure, you could have told your friend his pictures are crap and direct him to buy a 5D3 or 1DX and 500mm lens to improve his wildlife pics. Or you could just continue to agree his pics are amazing and perpetuate this vast quality fraud that so many people subscribe to (non-POTN members excepted)




  
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Phrasikleia
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Apr 01, 2013 06:14 |  #8

Oh, and to address your point about people accepting "horrible quality"... As an April Fool's joke on another photography forum, I decided that I would post a truly horrible photo and announce that it's my new style. It seemed simple enough as an idea until I went about trying to create an image that I thought most people would think is truly horrible. If I couldn't come up with something wretched enough, nobody would get the joke. It turned out to be a lot harder than I expected it to be because I know how easily pleased most people are. No matter what I did and how horrible I thought it was, my experiments resulted in photos that resembled ones I've seen praised. I kept going back to the drawing board, thinking, "No, someone might actually like that." I finally came up with this masterpiece:

IMAGE: http://www.phrasikleia.com/phrasikleia/MyNewStyle.jpg

I'm happy to say that they got the joke! :cool: :D

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Apr 01, 2013 06:18 |  #9

Content and emotion frequently trump quality. A somewhat blurred image of a big cat taking down their prey is going to be more compelling to most people than a perfectly exposed, crisp rendition of a test pattern.


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Apr 01, 2013 06:19 |  #10

Phrasikleia wrote in post #15777991 (external link)
Oh, and to address your point about people accepting "horrible quality"... As an April Fool's joke on another photography forum, I decided that I would post a truly horrible photo and announce that it's my new style. It seemed simple enough as an idea until I went about trying to create an image that I thought most people would think is truly horrible. If I couldn't come up with something wretched enough, nobody would get the joke. It turned out to be a lot harder than I expected it to be because I know how easily pleased most people are. No matter what I did and how horrible I thought it was, my experiments resulted in photos that resembled ones I've seen praised. I kept going back to the drawing board, thinking, "No, someone might actually like that." I finally came up with this masterpiece:

http://www.phrasikleia​.com/phrasikleia/MyNew​Style.jpg (external link)

I'm happy to say that they got the joke! :cool: :D

The finger makes a good leading line! ;)


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Apr 01, 2013 07:12 as a reply to  @ Woolburr's post |  #11

Most of people needs mobile phone camera to Facebook thier regular or not so life.
It is overkill to use DSLR for it.
If they get married most likely they will ask photographer with DSLR or equivalent gear.
But for family portrait they could choose Walmart photostudio with funny cameras and simple light.
Publishers and billboard advertisers needs quality picture.


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Apr 01, 2013 07:26 |  #12

tzalman wrote in post #15777963 (external link)
It is hardly surprising that we enlightened few, connoisseurs of photographic art and highly educated cognoscenti of photo technology, will be satisfied only by a far higher standard of quality than that accepted by the unwashed masses, immeshed as they are in a murky swamp of ignorance. But we cannot reform the world, we can only find comfort and solace in the awareness of our own superiority.

Well said! I've considered joining a support group for those that are photographically gifted living among the 'ignorant'.

All kidding aside, Chris has asked an important question: how good does it need to be? I would say it needs to be only good enough to get the message across to the viewer. Yes, a technically perfect photograph can by itself create an emotional impact without any message at all. But for us non-masters, "just good enough" in the technical aspect is all we need.




  
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tzalman
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Apr 01, 2013 08:16 |  #13

The trouble is that we are ruined. Many years ago, when I was in college, I operated the lighting console for an amateur dramatic group under the guidance of a very gifted director. Ever since then, whenever I go to a play I find myself thinking way too much about the lighting, which should contribute without calling attention to itself. The same way with photographs; I find it very hard to separate the aesthetic experience from the technical analysis.


Elie / אלי

  
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cdifoto
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Apr 01, 2013 09:13 |  #14

Woolburr wrote in post #15777998 (external link)
Content and emotion frequently trump quality. A somewhat blurred image of a big cat taking down their prey is going to be more compelling to most people than a perfectly exposed, crisp rendition of a test pattern.

I dunno. I always get emotional every time I take a white balance reference.


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whuband
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Apr 01, 2013 09:33 |  #15

Quality is quite subjective. Some misguided souls like my photos enough to pay me, so we're both happy :-)


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What is this thing called 'quality'?
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