What is in the mind of great photographers

Messages
2,581
Edit My Images
Yes
#41
"What are the traits of a great photographer?" Seeing... and being able to translate that into a good image. Settings and assessing light may come to mind but I think like anything you do on a regular basis and are good at its instinctive.
 
Messages
11,037
Name
Hi Ho Silver away !
Edit My Images
No
#42
I always liked this

"The beginner thinks it's all about the camera
The enthusiast thinks it's all about the lens
The photographer knows it's all about the light"

I have no idea where I heard or read this or who wrote it originally, but I think it says a lot. As Phil stated earlier, good photographers just know, through experience, how best to manipulate the light no matter the subject.
I loved this saying the first time I saw it, and I was always thinking of 1 & 2 for me. Years later I`m still learning but now try my best to watch and read how the light falls on the subject before I take the image.
 
Messages
4,768
Name
Dave
Edit My Images
No
#43
None of which matter if there's no light, that's the point
Every time the 'it's all about the light' thing gets questioned someone comes out with the 'if there was no light there'd be no photograph' smart-arse b*****ks. :rolleyes:

'It's all about the light' refers to the quality and direction of light, and it's wrong because it implies that the light is the most important element in a picture. It's not.

What making photographs is 'all about' is everything you can see in the frame/screen/viewfinder. Light, shape, gesture and more.... And each element is as important as the next. That's what a Photographer knows.

Saying that without light you wouldn't see any of that is just being silly.
 
Messages
4,768
Name
Dave
Edit My Images
No
#44
Occasionally they tell us what was on their mind, as in David Hurn's excellent On Being a Photographer. Here he's discussing Miners' Week, Barry Island, which you can see here:

https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchDetail&IID=2S5RYDZUKYE5&FRM

'Let me first say that this image is part of a major series on the changing culture of Wales. A section of the Wales project is on coal mining. A subsection of coal mining is the one time of year when all the mines close together for the annual summer holiday. I was at the beach for a specific purpose: to depict a miner at play with his child during his vacation at the seaside. Everyone on that beach was a miner or a member of a miner’s family. So I already knew what I was looking for. That’s important. Having seen this miner with his daughter I was struck by the warm relationship between them. My initial reaction was to choose an angle of approach, to move into position from which I could clearly see the relationship - isolated from the confusing background, lit effectively so that the faces were revealed, and forming an interesting shape in and of itself. The next decision was: how far should I move towards or away from them? Too close and I would eliminate the idea that they were playing on a crowded beach; too far away and they would lose dominance and become just another small element. So the correct distance was quite precise. Then I looked for another element in the background which I would call a “significant other”; some small object or person or something, anything, which had visual appeal. I am now watching the relationship between father and daughter, and at the same time keeping an eye on the background element. I shoot pictures when a gesture, expression or whatever in the foreground is balanced by a shape in the background. I can barely control these two factors, especially if the secondary element is moving. I might have to shift six inches sideways or back and forth, shooting several frames in order to keep the elements in balance. What I cannot do is keep track of every element in the background. My eye is making rapid flips across all these details to check on the overall pattern but basically I’m centered on the foreground/background element relationship. I have to see the contact sheet to know what has happened. I know that the foreground is fine because that is what I have concentrated on but my choice of image to enlarge will depend on the geometry or pattern of the general background, which I cannot predict. A painter can compose the main elements and then add the significant details in precisely the right places. In photography, you cannot do that. You are hoping, almost by instinct, that the small details which make or break the picture are going to be in the right positions.'
An essential read IMO. (y)

One of my favourite quotes from it being: "...a photographer only really has two controls – where they stand and when they release the shutter..."
 
Messages
13,496
Name
Keith
Edit My Images
No
#45
Every time the 'it's all about the light' thing gets questioned someone comes out with the 'if there was no light there'd be no photograph' smart-arse b*****ks. :rolleyes:

'It's all about the light' refers to the quality and direction of light, and it's wrong because it implies that the light is the most important element in a picture. It's not.

What making photographs is 'all about' is everything you can see in the frame/screen/viewfinder. Light, shape, gesture and more.... And each element is as important as the next. That's what a Photographer knows.

Saying that without light you wouldn't see any of that is just being silly.
There's nothing smart arse about it, it's very simple , like the little ditty I quoted. Sadly every time I do some smart arse b*****ks has to try twist or upstage it. Arguing against it is what's silly, what's the point? It's a simple saying that I like, now I have to defend it because some uppity know it all on here wants to argue? I'll stick to my original post. You can pick whatever defensiveness about it out of your hole all you desire.

It is, very much, all about the light. I swear only on here would someone try to argue against light :rolleyes:
 
Last edited:
Messages
4,768
Name
Dave
Edit My Images
No
#46
There's nothing smart arse about it, it's very simple , like the little ditty I quoted. Sadly every time I do some smart arse b*****ks has to try twist or upstage it. Arguing against it is what's silly, what's the point? It's a simple saying that I like, now I have to defend it because some uppity know it all on here wants to argue? I'll stick to my original post. You can pick whatever defensiveness about it out of your hole all you desire.

It is, very much, all about the light. I swear only on here would someone try to argue against light :rolleyes:
:LOL:
 
Messages
13,496
Name
Keith
Edit My Images
No
#47
I loved this saying the first time I saw it, and I was always thinking of 1 & 2 for me. Years later I`m still learning but now try my best to watch and read how the light falls on the subject before I take the image.
It's simple, and effective, just reading it makes you ponder. Sadly there will always be those who have to p*** on anything that wasn't their idea. This what this place has become, dare anyone post something a little positive.
 
Messages
23,463
Name
Phil
Edit My Images
No
#48
and it's wrong because it implies that the light is the most important element in a picture. It's not.
It doesn’t
That’s an extrapolation made purely for the sake of point scoring.
Without a subject there’s nothing to point the camera at. It’s utterly ridiculous to take a photograph without the assumption that the subject already exists.
 
Messages
1,978
Edit My Images
No
#49
An essential read IMO. (y)

One of my favourite quotes from it being: "...a photographer only really has two controls – where they stand and when they release the shutter..."
Also:

'The extraordinary ability of photographers like Ian Berry or Sebastião Salgado is that they could shoot pictures in the same situation alongside many other photographers of lesser ability and not only clearly reveal the chaos but also produce images of power which so impress themselves on your consciousness that they are never forgotten. That’s what I would call good design, which is inseparable from good photography.'
 
Messages
4,768
Name
Dave
Edit My Images
No
#50
It doesn’t
That’s an extrapolation made purely for the sake of point scoring.
Without a subject there’s nothing to point the camera at. It’s utterly ridiculous to take a photograph without the assumption that the subject already exists.
And self evidently light is also required. Subject + light = photograph. So why the claim that light is what photography is 'all' about? :thinking:
 
Messages
4,768
Name
Dave
Edit My Images
No
#51
Sadly there will always be those who have to p*** on anything that wasn't their idea. This what this place has become, dare anyone post something a little positive.
Nothing's changed, it was just the same when I first found the place. :D
 
Messages
1,426
Edit My Images
No
#52
It's always worth remembering that the picture Paul feels is great may be a picture Peter will dismiss. All art is in the mind of the beholder so the term "great photographer" needs to be used with caution.
 
Messages
9,359
Name
Jeremy Moore
Edit My Images
No
#53
Nothing's changed, it was just the same when I first found the place. :D
I remember a couple of years ago exactly the same argument taking place with myself and possibly even you I think arguing with one of the big boys above about the importance of the subject in a photograph. We kept at it and suddenly he must have "got it" because he went very quiet. It looks like he's forgotten it again though........
 
Messages
13,358
Name
Toni
Edit My Images
No
#54
The "it's all about the light/all about the subject" just suggests that we see things we photograph in different ways, even when they're the same thing. However I also wonder if one wants to shape the light to fit the subject while the other wants the subject to fit the light?
 
Messages
4,560
Edit My Images
Yes
#55
I think it's very often subjective... I fancy my chances more of getting a good documentary photo in unsympathetic lighting conditions than I do a good landscape or portrait photo. I think for documentary and reportage style photographers, optimal lighting conditions are often a bonus; for most landscape and 'studio' photographers, appropriate lighting is pretty much make or break. However, there are always going to exceptions to the rule, and one genera usually has 'ecotones' with its neighbours.
 
Last edited:
Messages
13,496
Name
Keith
Edit My Images
No
#56
The "it's all about the light/all about the subject" just suggests that we see things we photograph in different ways, even when they're the same thing. However I also wonder if one wants to shape the light to fit the subject while the other wants the subject to fit the light?
It's just a simple way to put it, it's how we manipulate available light that helps us form the image - People can consider it hogwash or whatever they like, but they require light, any form of light or lighting, to produces images. It's as simple as that for me, but I'm not one of the "big boys" I guess
 
Messages
13,358
Name
Toni
Edit My Images
No
#58
It's just a simple way to put it, it's how we manipulate available light that helps us form the image - People can consider it hogwash or whatever they like, but they require light, any form of light or lighting, to produces images. It's as simple as that for me, but I'm not one of the "big boys" I guess
There are many things that each contribute to the final image, including the camera body, the lens, the light falling on the subject and the subject and its surroundings. All have varying levels of importance depending on the image. Phil's 3 line phrase is useful in isolation for giving some perspective, especially to novice photographers, but it's un-defendable because photography is a multidisciplinary craft form. If this were not so then we could use the most rudimentary of equipment like a camera obscura and get the same quality of results.

But it's a cool quote.
 
Messages
11,909
Name
Rich
Edit My Images
Yes
#59
To answer the original question, probably not that much.
Some people instinctively do things very well, imagine photography is the same
Sportsman like Roger Federer for example, can't teach that level of ball sense or racquet touch
 
Messages
9,359
Name
Jeremy Moore
Edit My Images
No
#60
The "it's all about the light/all about the subject" just suggests that we see things we photograph in different ways, even when they're the same thing. However I also wonder if one wants to shape the light to fit the subject while the other wants the subject to fit the light?

I do try and tailor the light to the subject and it works both ways. It all depends on what I'm working on at that point in time. For example i'm working on new postcards at the moment and for that I need bright and breezy. But if i was looking at post-industrial subjects I would probably choose overcast.

But I do think its a bit more fundamental than that. One's choice of subject matter tells the viewer so much about the photographers interests and concerns. For me the light is somewhat secondary.
 

StephenM

I know a Blithering Idiot
Messages
3,377
Name
Stephen
Edit My Images
Yes
#62
.....and photograph a red ceiling.
 
Messages
3,589
Name
droj
Edit My Images
No
#63
.....and photograph a red ceiling.
Lord, what happened?

There are many things that each contribute to the final image, including the camera body, the lens, the light falling on the subject and the subject and its surroundings. All have varying levels of importance depending on the image.
Granted!

... photography is a multidisciplinary craft form. If this were not so then we could use the most rudimentary of equipment like a camera obscura and get the same quality of results.
A fine speech, but what do you mean by quality? Please define your terms.

In image-making there is technical quality and what could be called cultural quality, with often little link between them, in that a technically 'perfect' image can be quite sterile emotionally. For photography to work as a communication medium, we should be considering gutsiness, intuition, an eshewing of mere aesthetics ...

This is complicated nowadays by the plethora of images available to view, which in addition to the above can soon lead to image fatigue.

But are we to be in the realm of interior decorators, or have we got something to say? And if so, what?
 
Messages
13,358
Name
Toni
Edit My Images
No
#64
You say this:

A fine speech, but what do you mean by quality? Please define your terms.
And then go ahead and do it for me. ;)

In image-making there is technical quality and what could be called cultural quality, with often little link between them, in that a technically 'perfect' image can be quite sterile emotionally.
In this case I used the phrase quality to mean characteristics, rather than whether it meets a numerical specification. However I disagree with this:

For photography to work as a communication medium, we should be considering gutsiness, intuition, an eshewing of mere aesthetics ...
Aesthetics are a part of the communication AS WELL as intuition and gutsiness. Would Rhein 2 work if it had been shot using a disposable camera? Would Bill Brandt's pinhole images communicate the same message if they were shot using a modern digital medium format camera and top quality lenses? You understand I'm sure, that expression generally makes choices about the tools used for expression.

:)
 
Messages
13,496
Name
Keith
Edit My Images
No
#65
There are many things that each contribute to the final image, including the camera body, the lens, the light falling on the subject and the subject and its surroundings. All have varying levels of importance depending on the image. Phil's 3 line phrase is useful in isolation for giving some perspective, especially to novice photographers, but it's un-defendable because photography is a multidisciplinary craft form. If this were not so then we could use the most rudimentary of equipment like a camera obscura and get the same quality of results.

But it's a cool quote.

It is a cool quote, that's why it stuck with me. Maybe I'm seeing things more B&W here, but without any light, doesn't matter what gear you use, you're not getting the image without the light. It's got to start some place.

It's amusing to me that people on a photography forum are arguing against light :D 'photography' literally means, drawing with light
 
Messages
3,589
Name
droj
Edit My Images
No
#66
And then go ahead and do it for me.
The bit was between my teeth.
In this case I used the phrase quality to mean characteristics, rather than whether it meets a numerical specification.
That reads as gibberish. Are you on intoxicants?
Aesthetics are a part of the communication
The communication of what, though?
Would Rhein 2 work if it had been shot using a disposable camera?
Yes, possibly (laughter).
Would Bill Brandt's pinhole images communicate the same message if they were shot using a modern digital medium format camera and top quality lenses?
Is it possible to shoot pinhole images with high-quality lenses? But of course you're right ...
You understand I'm sure, that expression generally makes choices about the tools used for expression.
Yes of course I do - my issue is the depth of expressiom.
 
Last edited:
Messages
4,768
Name
Dave
Edit My Images
No
#67
It is a cool quote, that's why it stuck with me. Maybe I'm seeing things more B&W here, but without any light, doesn't matter what gear you use, you're not getting the image without the light. It's got to start some place.

It's amusing to me that people on a photography forum are arguing against light :D 'photography' literally means, drawing with light
:rolleyes:

Nobody is arguing against light, they are arguing that photography isn't ALL about light (well, I am). That's always been my gripe with the trite little three-liner. As other replies in this thread have pointed out, there's a whole lot to making pictures than light - or gear.
 
Messages
13,496
Name
Keith
Edit My Images
No
#68
:rolleyes:

Nobody is arguing against light, they are arguing that photography isn't ALL about light (well, I am). That's always been my gripe with the trite little three-liner. As other replies in this thread have pointed out, there's a whole lot to making pictures than light - or gear.
Roll your eyes all you like, isn't going to make you right. Maybe once you realise that it is just that, someone liking a quote that makes some sense you might just drop the nonsense

It can very easily be argued that it IS all about the light, you're not getting this. It's like you argue for the sake of it. Show me some images you've taken with any gear without any light involved .... end of debate as far as I'm concerned.
 
Messages
23,463
Name
Phil
Edit My Images
No
#69
:rolleyes:

Nobody is arguing against light, they are arguing that photography isn't ALL about light (well, I am). That's always been my gripe with the trite little three-liner. As other replies in this thread have pointed out, there's a whole lot to making pictures than light - or gear.
There isn’t.
by ‘photographing’ we are literally recording the light reflected from an object.
In a photograph the object, scene, subject does not exist other than the capture of the light that has reflected from it.
Rather than taking the phrase too literally, you haven’t taken it literally enough.
when you paint or draw or sculpt you are using a pencil, paint, chisels, welding gear etc to create an interpretation of a subject.
when we photograph we use ‘light’ to create an image on a light sensitive material. If we’re not using light it’s not a photograph.
 
Messages
13,496
Name
Keith
Edit My Images
No
#71
If they are infrared images it's still manipulating available light, just because you cannot see doesn't mean there isn't any light

"Cameras are designed to work with light; the more light that is available for the camera’s use, the better video and still images it will produce. Invisible IR illuminators reflect and enhance the light that is present. The camera is set to record light images within a specific range, if the light is not robust enough to reach that range, you will receive blurred or hazy images."

If it's thermal imaging then sure, it's using heat as the source but still reflecting it back to the sensor as light

Either way, enjoy using that for all your images ...

I've already posted the literal definition of 'photography' earlier so it's even more amusing that people continue to argue against it.
 
Last edited:
Messages
9,359
Name
Jeremy Moore
Edit My Images
No
#73
I can't help thinking there's a misunderstanding here. Nobody is arguing that without light we would still be able to take photographs. So in that sense everybody is right!

What the discussion is about is whether photography is about either the camera, the lens or the light. And what is missing from that short list is the subject. In other words which part of the world the photographer points the camera and lens at and from which the light particles are reflected back to her/him. That just seems such an obvious and self-evident thing that I'm surprised so few people can grasp it.

What made Ansel Adams (for example) so great was that he fully appreciated the magnificence of the landscapes that surrounded him and the importance of showing them to the world. He used his camera, lens, and the light to show what was important to him - his subject matter.

Dave70D mentioned it here in his post above but without noticing it -

I loved this saying the first time I saw it, and I was always thinking of 1 & 2 for me. Years later I`m still learning but now try my best to watch and read how the light falls on the subject before I take the image.
 
Last edited:

Nod

Krispy and Kremey
Messages
33,162
Name
Nod (NOT Ethel!!!)
Edit My Images
Yes
#75
still light though ;)
Electromagnetic radiation, yes - light? Not so convinced, although it's sometimes (mis)called infrared light.
 
Messages
13,358
Name
Toni
Edit My Images
No
#76
That reads as gibberish. Are you on intoxicants?
I'd had a small shot of whiskey, but not enough. It's only possible to assess quality if you have a specification, and most quality assessment relies on measuring things and then seeing if they meet spec. In the case of something like a photograph you have your own test (did it move me, yes=1 no=0) and then compare results against that (photos pass quality assessment if they have a value >0).

;)


More generally, photography may be painting with light, but you'd better know when to use a fine brush and when a roller. If you can't find the tools to capture what you see light doing, you're no better off than the person who cannot see the light at all.
 
Messages
23,463
Name
Phil
Edit My Images
No
#78
Electromagnetic radiation, yes - light? Not so convinced, although it's sometimes (mis)called infrared light.
Well either it’s ‘light’ and it’s therefore a photograph, or it’s not light and therefore it isn’t.
 
Messages
1,426
Edit My Images
No
#79
Messages
517
Edit My Images
Yes
#80
Depends of the individual, they are not all the same or think the same.

Garry Winogrand and Joel Meyerowitz were in documentaries, interviews and such like where they talk about photos they took and what they were thinking.

Perhaps check those out because both had different way thinking, Joel was a much deeper thinker and Garry more not so much lol. In my opinion of course.
 
Top