#1038. Accuracy, naturalness and personal aesthetics

By pascaljappy | How-To

Sep 10

Philippe and I are reviewing a new camera that stands out from the crowd in many interesting ways, one of them being a perceived colour accuracy that seems to put most current manufacturers to shame. Perceived accuracy is a topic that doesn’t receive nearly enough attention.

A forest

So let me once again plunge into HiFi analogies to tackle it. John Darko (audio reviewer extraordinaire) has written a post and recorded a podcast episode on the topic of accuracy and neutrality. During the recording he stops and rushes out to his Berlin balcony to capture a stunning sunset, and uses the photograph as a visual illustration of his sonic arguments.

It’s interesting to see the numerous parallels between audio and photography described from the other side of the river. The more (intelligent) bridges we create, the more both hobbies benefit from rich analogies and metaphors.

In essence, John Darko, a lover of very high end gear driven by solid pragmatism over pseudo science, has this to say to audiophiles who (claim they) desire utmost accuracy from their setup : “accuracy with respect to what?”

John’s unassailable argument is that none of us end users have any idea what the recording engineer heard in the studio. Even during a classical concert, the sound you perceive will be completely different whether you sit front row central, back row central, front row left, mid field right …

There is no such thing as a single, authentic, sound in a live concert.

And there is no such thing as a recorded album that’s true to the instruments. While some studios have the good grace not to EQ madly or compress like most others do to satisfy the needs of phones, iPods and raves (henceforth collectively referred to as shitty audio 😉 ), the amount of work even they do to recordings often implies a real distance from the true sound of the set.

You could then argue that a HiFi system should aim for fidelity to the recording. After all, isn’t that what the Fi in HiFi means? Isn’t that why some spend the price of a small car on speaker cables? Isn’t that why we tear up our interior design to house vile-looking audiophile vibration-free furniture (and wave our better halves goodbye)? Not. So. Fast.

Cue ATC loudspeakers, my audio crush of the week. With a solid history in making both electronics and loudspeakers for professional studios, ATC have entered the amateur audio scene with both passive and active loudspeakers. Those are praised by audiophiles in search of the greatest accuracy and yet the designers have deliberately dialed in warmth and sweetness to the home audio line compared to the studio line, in order to make poor recordings (ie a majority of current recordings) listenable.

In fact, in another article, John argues that audiophiles who claim they want neutrality only want what they subjectively perceive to be neutral and really, really, don’t want “true” neutrality, which is often unbearable with real-world recordings. And we can all agree that black and white photography fails the accuracy test completely.

Instead, should we strive more for naturalness? A natural sounding system, a natural looking photograph? I’ve never seen a completely monochromatic landscape but the following photograph does convey the eerie light of that day very naturally.

Fuji colours aren’t neutral. By design, they’re bold and beautiful instead. Not everyone likes them but fans find them bold enough to be pleasing and natural enough to be believable and not tiresome. Colours from other manufacturers aren’t neutral either. And, often, I wonder whether that is by desing or lack of mastery (or interest). And what made me sell my Sony A7r wasn’t that it wasn’t neutral (my goodness, if anything ever strayed further away from colour accuracy, it deserves a special place in a museum) but because how it was inaccurate also made it very unnatural.

Hasselblad claim to painstakingly calibrate the colour science of their cameras but, as a user, I can’t attest to their accuracy. All I can say is how pleasingly natural they look (before I unleash savage post processing on them, that is).

Why should anyone care about naturalness and, in particular photographers with strong visual signatures or hefty post processing?

Walk on the wild side

I can think of many valid reasons.

For one thing, there is no possible measure for accuracy outside a lab. And even if you’re satisfied that your camera deals well with primary colours under 5500° lighting, there’s no telling what your lens is doing to that or how you camera reacts to very warm or very cool lights. Or what happens when the camera heats up or when it gets really cold. Or when the light is very strong. Or in the proverbial dark alley that has necessitated that immense surge in high ISO capability we have paid for so dearly.

No, tell yourself whatever you want, believe whatever charts the manufacturer’s marketing department has cooked up in ideal conditions, your gear ain’t accurate (bokeh, anyone?)

Shine

Whether we should strive for accuracy is a completely different topic, but let’s just say that, in real conditions, true-to-life photographs are impossible to create. And usually extraordinarily boring (because our minds are selective storytelling engines that don’t remember anything as true to life).

But natural? That we can do! Those of us with an ability to see/hear normally all share an in-built biological ability to determine what’s natural and what isn’t. We don’t need charts to know what feels natural and what doesn’t. We don’t have to be told or force-fed meaningless tech verbiage. We know. Instinctively.

And that acts as a natural guide that sets boundaries to our post processing, to the gear we chose to buy and use, to the artists we admire or not … Tasteful, that ugly word, doesn’t even enter the conversation. Natural is all we need.

Natural is a guide.

In my PP, however extreme it may sometimes look, I rarely use clarity (and then, mainly to lower it) because excessive amounts very quickly make a photograph look unnatural (see Walk on the wild side, above).

The same goes for the ghastly HDR wave we had to endure a few years ago. While there’s nothing wrong with well executed HDR, per se, the awful tone mapping foiled upon us by some software editors and youtube tutorials was the visual equivalent of adding a shoddy car subwoofer to a Focal Utopia standmount speaker. It doesn’t sound natural, and it most certainly doesn’t look natural.

The venerable MTF chart, that multifaceted technical tool turned into a one trick marketing pony, can tell you whether a lens is going to look natural or not. We’ve all been told to want everything bunched up at the top for suppa duppa detail, like one particularly harsh mini-otus lens that was distinctly more mini than otus … whereas what we really want is a natural decay of contrast as lp/mm rise, organic-looking curves that don’t swerve too badly, and very similar (and closely grouped) tangential and sagittal lines. The end.

To me, big pixels look much more natural than small ones. CCD looks more natural than CMOS. It’s only recently that (quite expensive) digital systems (DACs and digital preamps, eg) have sounded as organic and pleasant as a good vinyl setup. The fact it’s taken decades to get to that point (and then, mainly for a happy few) is probably largely due to the fact that manufacturers have been chasing the wrong metrics all along.

When the sun hits

Intuitively, we know when something is natural or not. If it is, it will sound and look good, rather than gouge your ears/eyes out and induce fatigue. Maybe because it’s intuitive (though not totally subjective), we haven’t looked for ways to quantify that naturalness, and lack metrics for it?

It’s interesting, though, that no amount of software massaging of an unnatural RAW image will make it good. But one that starts life as a natural one will withstand quite a bit of abuse. Likewise, a poor recording can be made tolerable enough to listen to the music and forget about the recording, but no audio gear in the world will make it good.

I’ll go as far – but it’s a personal non verified hunch – as to suggest that what draws us to the spectacular photographs found on some websites and forgotten in seconds, is how unnatural they look! Some of us have been discussing speakers that produce a detailed, laid back sound that can feel quite boring if you’re not actively listening to the music with intent. These are never fatiguing and never superimpose their own personality (on the music, usually small-scale classical, they were designed to reproduce). On the other hand, some very dynamic speakers display a strong signature – that some love and others cannot stand – but can be quite an earful over extended periods of listening.

Here, the parallels between audio and photography meet a fork in the road. In audio, there are 3 artists : the musicians, the recording artists, and the people building/assembling the playback system. As lovers of recorded music we are just consuming the work of the previous three (though we can be all four).

In photography, the artists are the photographer and the printer (or, today post-processor operator). Cameras and lenses, like recording studio gear plays a slightly secondary role, enabling the recording artist/photographer to record something well enough that it can later be used. I feel the photographer is the musician and the recording artist corresponds to the printing/post-processing specialist in this flimsy analogy. Your (calibrated or not) screen or inkjet printer is akin to the stereo in your lounge (though you can argue that the carbon or platinum printer who spends 4 days on your photograph is equally equatable to a playback system and recording pro).

However what the middle men in both camps (post processing / recording) do is largely a matter of personal taste, although directing an orchestra, choosing an instrument (Telecaster vs Strat, Zeiss vs Leitz, eg) and personal technique also are. And that can go really far out into deeply personal land. But others will still relate to the work if we manage to keep alive that common human thread that is naturalness!

It’s seriously ironic that most of us audio nuts are spending time and fortune trying to reproduce as faithfully as possible the sounds that people such as Jimi Hendrix have distorted in the most extreme and non-reproducible ways 😉 (does Naim sound more like a burning Strat than Hegel, I wonder?) Between the sound of Hendrix in a small London club, the sound of Hendrix at Woodstock and the sound of Hendrix remastered and remixed on DVD, there is little resemblance. What really ties these together is the performance, what makes Hendrix Hendrix. And what we want in our kit and mixing/post processing, is to preserve that essence, as that of a flaming sunset over a Berlin balcony 🙂

Fisherman’s blues

There’s an unavoidable layering of filters (technological or human) in all this that mathematically degrades the signal from the original scene to what our end user eyes or ears are perceiving.

At each level, we are losing some information, there is no way around that. And we can go deep into technicality to quantify that loss (MTF curves, slew rates …) but we can also, as end consumers and as amateur artists, trust our eyes and ears to preserve naturalness in all we do and purchase. That’s something that needs no fancy money, no special education, only the ability to trust our tastes over the accuracy-FOMO marketing of manufacturers …

What say you?

 
  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Right now, Pascal, I have to dash out. But I am screaming with laughter. I will return later & explain why. I wish I had had you on my shoulder when I had similar discussions & arguments with my idiotic brother, 60 years ago! – and all over again, when CDs took over from vinyl. And when I went with Zeiss, their Planar lens, and their Contarex, while the family idiot raged over the superiority of his Leica.

  • Jean-Claude Louis says:

    Pascal, this article touches at the core of what photography is, the ability to convey the natural qualities of a subject into an image. This will work for photographers who look for natural-looking colors and provides the best basis for those who post-process more aggressively.

    The human factor plays a critical role. There are vast differences in color perception, color discrimination and acutance perception between different individuals. For ex., I rate high on color discrimination and perception charts, average on acutance and lousy on resolution. My natural is, therefore, probably different from your natural. (I suppose the same is true for audition, an area I’m not very familiar with).

    Beautiful BW images, btw, particularly Fog and Roads 😉

    • pascaljappy says:

      Yes, and I hope my text doesn’t convey the sense of a “universal” naturalness. It really is about trusting individual taste rather than accepting a universal norm. Thanks for the kind words on the photographs. Those are my fave as well 🙂

  • John W says:

    Back before the Big Bang, in a previous life, I spent 10 years in the photographic industry; pretty much all of it selling cameras. Now this was the era of film, before digital; but the film world harboured its own variety of insanity. Generally, sales is an emotional process but given the technical nature of the medium in discussion, the technicalities inevitably crept into many of the conversations. The misunderstanding of the relationship between technical quality and the aesthetic quality of the final output (image or sound) is not new … it is just easier to debate and argue over … after all, there are immutable, unassailable, quantitative scientific qualities – aka “technical data” … to back up the arguments of contestants and pundits.

    In the end, the lessons of experience inevitably come down to the same thing … show me the pictures (or let’s hear the recording). Ultimately, good is GOOD, no matter what the technical short comings of the tools may have been; and bad is BAD no matter what the technical superiorities of the tools may have been.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Indeed 🙂

      Interesting comment about the film era. It must have been a lot more difficult then to brag about halide purity (if there is such a thing) 😉 😉 Today, we are spoilt for choise when it comes to quantitative metrics. And, yes, their corresponding capabilities have opened up areas to amateurs that were technically out of reach before. But the quality of the results is, as you say, a measure of human quality, not technicazl accuracy.

      • lestr says:

        I fully support that it’s about human quality, intent, execution and presentation, of the artist, and not of technical accuracy. For me it about the magical stroked for clicks that you made but was unaware and very often have no exact formula to redo it, u can just try and love the attempts too.

      • John W says:

        An interesting sidebar to the film/digital dichotomy is that in the film era we shot 3 rolls of 36 (108), and if we were really lucky, we kept 3. With digital, we shoot 300 … and if we are really lucky, we keep 3.

        The “ground” of the technical arguments about the tools has not changed much; just the subjects of the argument. The technical capabilities of the tools have long since surpassed our ability to utilize them any more productively than we did with the old tool set. While the fundamental issues of aesthetics and content have remained pretty much the same since the first photograph was made.

        • pascaljappy says:

          “An interesting sidebar to the film/digital dichotomy is that in the film era we shot 3 rolls of 36 (108), and if we were really lucky, we kept 3. With digital, we shoot 300 … and if we are really lucky, we keep 3.”

          That is a wicked thing to say 😀 😀 But so true. Sadly!

        • Ian Varkevisser says:

          Digital gives us the freedom to work a scene / subject cost effectively that is true. It does not however absolve us from editing our work ruthlessly and prudently I agree. In the words of David Yarrow “Plurality is the bane of photographers.” This holds so true especially in the digital era.

  • lestr says:

    I have always lived with the terms accuracy and naturalness as fairly relative terms. I consider whatever I do, as a natural organic specimen, as natural. Accuracy to me is rather loose and prescribed by sets of rules and orders made by no other, than humans such as ourselves, and we all know that the truth, languages, and humans change over time and their meanings and forms are adjusted to the present needs of the peeps.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Hi, again, Pascal.

    Well, all of your comments on music – and reproduction of music – are “preaching to the choir”. In this case, me. Because I’ve been saying exactly that, to anyone who was fool enough to listen – and at times to anyone who was such a fool that they wouldn’t listen! – ever since I was a kid.

    Consequently, on the one hand, I’ve always accepted artificial reproduction of music as what it is – and never tried to pretend that it was any kind of substitute for the “real thing”. However, as a passionate died-in-the-wool musician myself, I’ve always enjoyed it. It gives me the opportunity to “hear” and (anyway) to analyse all sorts of performances that I couldn’t possibly expect to attend in person, and improves my “ear”, my appreciation of what I like and why.

    But to be confronted by – and related to! – a nincompoop who blasted away as if he knew absolutely everything there ever was or will be, that has anything to do with music, with turntables & LPs, with tapes, CDs, loudspeakers, headphones, twin whistles or tubas, was completely and utterly insufferable.

    And then he turned his peculiar talents to photography. I simply walked out. You couldn’t print what I felt like suggesting to him at that point.

    “Intuitively, we know when something is . . . ” Those words speak to my soul. My “appreciation” of music is intuitive. I have encountered people at two different conservatoriums, trying to preach a whole different message. A message that music is a mathematical construct. EEEEEEEEKK!! Burn that man – he’s a heretic!

    And my heart warms to the suggestion that we should apply the same “intuitive” approach to determine what is good or bad in image making.

    Large pixels – TICK. More colour – more tonal range – less “difficult”. (Pros will tell you they love the D850 – but only if they can stick on a tripod. Because for their purposes they can achieve a result that’s just as sharp, without all those extra pixels – with around 24MP, instead of nearly double that – and without having to lug a heap of extra gear around). But I don’t have to tell you that anyway – because you have a Hassy! And you get extra bonus points for that – more detail in highlights, more depth in shadows.

    Lenses. I “choose” what I shoot with. Because it’s what I personally prefer. Some of my glass is “highly rated” by people who do those test reports – some perhaps less. I don’t care – why should I/? Why should Philippe? – he’s happy with his glass – and produces amazing photos. And the same seems to be true across the board in DS – all shooting with different glass, all producing wonderful images. There’s a saying in Australian slang – Texas isn’t the only place with lots of cattle, we have plenty too – so it’s not surprising that this saying derives from the cattleyards. It’s “bullshit baffles brains!”. And I rather think that says a great deal, about the perennial and constant arguments over which glass is “better”. My preferred choice is a champagne glass. À chacun son goût!

    Colour. Well – you could have gone for black & white – if you want it – plenty to choose from here – and NONE of it is “accurate” – because it can’t be. The technology cannot reproduce accurate colour. There are billions of colours in reality, and only three to choose from on the sensor (or film), and thereafter, a different three to choose from to translate those colours on your screen or printer. Bang bang – you’re dead. And to capture ALL of them requires – for a start – a sensor that has been invented, but is too expensive to get into production, which can capture ALL the photos that the camera sees. But beyond there – same problems.

    So colour photography is an approximation. Kind of like paintings – except paintings probably have a wider colour palette. At this point I can almost still hear the screams of my idiot brother ricocheting off the kitchen walls, as he tried to convince me of the superiority of his Leica, all six decades ago. But it’s non-negotiable. As photographers we must make do with what we’ve got.

    It does however vary slightly.

    I prefer Nikon’s sensors, a set of colour gamuts I’ve had created specifically for the printing papers that I use, and of course the glass I’ve chosen. Of course that’s what I prefer – that’s why I chose it. And yet?

    Well – Fuji is superb for astro photography. I used to use Fuji’s negative colour film, but these days I’ve drifted. There’s no customer loyalty any longer. I do like astro though – perhaps if I win Lotto . . .

    Then there’s Sony. Pascal, you’re the expert here – you’ve drifted too – you were once seriously enthusiastic about Sony, but now . . . Forgetting that for the moment – wasn’t it Sony’s richer colours?

    I could keep going, but that’s enough from me. I know I say too much at times anyway. Now it’s someone else’s turn. Hope you all have fun kicking this football around the pitch!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Ah Sony. Plenty to like there 😉 But colour science never was at the forefront of their priorities. At least not with the models I owned. Philippe’s Mk4 seems distinctly better, although he does have to keep exposure in very strict check to ensure best colours.

      That brother would have got on my nerves too …

      There can be maths at the root of music. Bach is the obvious example. But the man, a genius, produce thousands of difference pieces based on the same few mathematical formulas, so there was a lot of human intervention involved and plenty of subjectivity. The book “Gödel, Eisher, Bach” is fantastic to study this, and the link between maths and subjective consciousness, if you’re ever tempted (it’s a biiiiiiig book, you have been warned 😉 )

      Cheers

    • John W says:

      So, where did you bury the body?

  • Young Pehrsuhn says:

    Honestly, this is possibly the most boomer thing ever written.

  • Coming on to 30 years ago I addressed the question of “accuracy” in respect to home music playback systems in my essay “Are You On The Road to Audio Hell” some of which ideas might be applicable to the present discussion. For now I need to comment on just one point that Mr Darko makes. He writes “You could then argue that a HiFi system should aim for fidelity to the recording. After all, isn’t that what the Fi in HiFi means?” My answer is “YES!” Exactly. And for the very reason that he argues up to that point: that any recording represents the sum of the intentions, accidents and distortions that occur in the entire recording chain from the venue, to the musicians, to the recording engineer and his or her equipment and the recording producer and the mastering and pressing of the record. After which what is left is a marketable commodity that resembles what may have been heard in the studio or concert hall but does not equal it. Nor can it. Nor should it. If your playback system is accurate to the recording then you have the best chance of reproducing the intent of that recording, which is all you can hope for.

    More later.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Leonard, I think I read that ebook a long time ago 🙂 Do you have a link to it? I would love to read it again.

    • I want to continue to discuss the analogy of hi-fi reproduction to photography. The difference is more than a matter of degree. I think we will agree that images made by different cameras with a “normal” focal length shot at the same ISO will have have lots more in common than two recordings in the same medium made of the same musicians in the same venue by different recording companies.

      The reasons for this are several, but what they come down to are [1] the variety of devices made for the recording and their placement vs the differences in lens and sensor capabilities. [2] Intention: It is my experience that, except for classic jazz recordings of the 1950 and 60s and chamber music, especially Baroque chamber music — where there seems to be a kind of code of faithfulness to the performance as heard — the intention of the record producer is to put their personal artistic stamp on the final product, rather than to be faithful to the performance as heard. This is particularly true in the case of pop vocal music and rock.

      I think you will agree that camera or lens or film manufacturers are more inclined to have results faithful to what is out there than not. I don’t know this for certain, but I like to think that differences between Kodachrome & Ektachrome, or Tri-X and Panatomic-X, for example, are primarily the bi-product of other objectives, such as light sensitivity or processing requirements. This is very different from music recordings, whose results are intentional — if, paradoxically, unpredictable — rather than they are bi-products. This is so certainly to a far greater than is the case with the analogous reproductive chain in photography, where distortion is always present, more or less predictably, once we move in either direction from “normal” focal lengths.

      While I doubt that sensor developers seek more noise as they look to extend light sensitivity, a choice of this or that microphone is often made on the basis of its particular coloration as much as its ability to “hear” the aural field in a particular way. The addition of more microphones geometrically adds to distortion of the event — this to say nothing of the effect of mixers. None of which is an analogous factor in photography.

      That said, there is an important aspect both endeavors have in common: they both strive to create an aesthetic experience in the listener/viewer (similar to that which is heard or seen, such that the audience has something to relate to), which is an expression of the subjective experience of the artist. The artist is NOT the musicians in the case of the recording, it is the recording producer; nor is it nature or any subject in the case of the photograph; it is the photographer.

      It is not the typical aim of the artist to reproduce an event, but to interpret it.

      So, if your aim is to realize the expression of the recording producer, then accuracy to the recording itself — and nothing else — should be the objective. If your aim is to realize the expression of the photographer, you need a display that will do so, whether this be a computer or a properly lit wall for a print. The purpose of the photographer’s kit, then, is to offer tools sufficient for the photographer to manifest the interpretation of the subject as imagined.

      • pascaljappy says:

        I agree entirely. This is what I meant in writing that the sound engineer is, to me, like the person doing the post-processing. There is a lot of personal taste added in at both of those stages.

        And, in home audio, we are very very often conscious of the fact we are listening to a recording, not to a band/orchestra. Sometimes because the recording is lousy and compressed, sometimes because it is spectacular, sometimes because it is coloured (deliberately). Just like an HCB print isn’t only about what HCB saw but about HCB’s technique/style AND how the printer (someone like Voja Mitrovic) rendered the final print, an album isn’t about a score but about how the musicians play it AND how the recording artist went about his/her business.

        When we buy a print, it’s because we like it or not. There isn’t much more we can do to alter how we perceive it. But with the album, we might want to emphasize 3D or thunderous base or speed and rhythm or … That final choice of ours, which is the system we acquire, is all about taste and not accuracy. At least, in my case 😉

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      “If your playback system is accurate to the recording then you have the best chance of reproducing the intent of that recording, which is all you can hope for.”

      Something of that nature applies to our photography, too.

      Some would argue B&W is somehow “more accurate” than colour. I do see the point. But for me a “photograph” is a two dimensional image on some kind of surface – which limits the tonal range to “reflected light”. And immediately, even B&W loses out to “real life” – which can have an almost limitless tonal range.

      • PaulB says:

        Pete

        For those of us that have grown up in the film era, the idea that a B&W image is more accurate or more real is probably very common. B&W was the first film widely available, with color films not taking over until the mid-1960s. Plus, B&W was the standard for photos published in newspapers (remember those) until much later.

        For our kids and especially grand kids, color is the norm. They have always had color images. So B&W is different for them.

        Also, perception of color plays a big role in this as well. People in different parts of the world perceive color differently depending on where they live and the average atmospheric conditions there. This is why all of the film manufacturers “tuned” the color balance of their color films depending on where the film was being shipped for sale.

        As an example, 20+ years ago, during the transition from film to digital, a friend and I paid a visit to photographer Lee Mann who lived north of Seattle. While there Lee told us a story about a photo book we were looking at; the book was printed in South Korea and he and the master printer almost had a fist fight over the color balance Lee wanted for printing the book’s images. Lee, said the the printer kept shouting “colors don’t look like that”.

        Which brings us back to the point, “true to what?”

        PaulB

  • PaulB says:

    Wow! This is quite the discussion.

    If I may, I have a couple experiences from audio and photo youth that relate to the concept of “natural”.

    Back when I was a young engineer and a seriously chasing the myth of high(er) fidelity equipment. A friend of mine suggested that we should only be evaluating the “nature” of a recording by only listening to music that was recorded in front of a live audience. Because these are real performances in a real place by all of the performers at the same time. Studio recordings can be compiled over time, with the performers playing individually; there are several cases where several instruments in a recording were played by the same person. Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull is the first artist that comes to mind that has done this.

    Also, during this time, while I was trying learn and practice photography I participated in the local photography club. This was at the time when Fuji films were gaining popularity over Kodak films. Part of this change was biased by the perceptions of film users. Kodak was the “Great Yellow Father” and their essence was technical accuracy. They put a lot of science behind making sure that their color (particularly transparency) films reproduced colors accurately. On the other hand, Fuji was the “Green Machine” and they gained acceptance by asking photographers if the (transparency) images they were getting are what they remembered seeing when they made the image. This led Fuji to enhance the greens and reds their films recorded, which rendered a more pleasing image, and transparency photographers switched to Fuji in droves; print film users switched as well. This forced Kodak to introduce films with “improved” colors. Since, with the exception of fashion and scientific photography, everyone wants photos with pleasing colors.

    Ultimately, a pleasing result is all we can hope for. Otherwise, we will change hobbies and do something else.

    PaulB

    • pascaljappy says:

      Very interesting, Paul.

      I hate to admit this but, in spite of having amassed quite a few albums over the years, I tend to listen more to youtube than anything else, because of the millions of liveconcerts you can find there and because it’s great to see the artists playing. Even though the sound isn’t as pleasing, to me the global experience is fantastic 🙂

      Poor Kodak, always so excellent technologically and so out of touch with the market … to think they invented the digital camera, didn’t pursue it and then got wiped out by those who did … how sad!

      > “Otherwise, we will change hobbies and do something else.”
      Hear hear !

  • Sean says:

    Hi Pascal,
    I like this bit you’ve penned “… let’s just say that, in real conditions, true-to-life photographs are impossible to create …”. Just maybe Winogrand was thinking along similar lines when he alluded to an observation of his, in that, essentially, any photograph is not a truth – in sum, it’s a lie. Myself, I believe in myself enough to run with the constraints of the gear I feel happy with; and so, I trust my instincts knowing that my photography will look after itself – I’m not doing it to anyone else’s tune. The visual lies I craft and any satisfaction derived, are an end result of things touched upon in the piece you’ve penned above.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Very true. Which is why the whole “no photoshopping” craze drove me nuts. As if there was some truth to preserve in photography !!! The very act of choosing a 35 over a 50 is a subjective choice that will emphasize the foreground. The very act of framing excluse 90% of the scene from the frame … Photography is a lie. A personal statement about something the author perceived AND interpreted.

      • Sean says:

        Exactly, Pascal. As you say “The very act … is a subjective choice” and in doing so it also affects the viewer’s interpretation of the crafted image, irrespective of what the author intended. The choice in camera and lens used, for example, can, and probably does, capture the subject and or subject matter differently to what was intended by the author. A poor choice in camera and lens can inadvertently create unintended outcomes – adding to the lie.

        Having said that, it’s also the photographer’s conscious choice in camera and format, lens, and relationship to other environmental factors and circumstances that add to the lie – at the time a decision is taken, to press the shutter.

        All these factors and circumstances shape and frame, then go onto affect and influence how a viewer is informed and reads a final crafted image. A viewer’s reading of a crafted image can be influenced by these factors; due to them not being explicitly revealed when viewing an image – they’re there, just less transparent but just as relevant.

  • Adrian says:

    I always get very suspicious of amateurs who tell you about how calibrated their screen is, and how wide the colour gamut it can display, and how much time they spend calibrating their printer – partly because as an amateur it probably doesn’t matter and partly because it feels like another pursuit of the internet amateur like lens corner sharpness or MTF curves that doesn’t really matter as it’s not a measure of a great photographic composition. Colour accuracy is probably pointless as what many find attractive isn’t accurate at all – it’s why people used to like Minolta colour science, or still do like Fuji’s. What looks nice and what’s accurate isn’t the same thing at all, and for most amateurs, accuracy probably shouldn’t matter. Our pictures should look attractive and provoke emotion, shouldn’t they?

    • pascaljappy says:

      Adrian, what is the unit of measure for emotion? If it can’t be put on a colourful chart, it doesn’t exist. It’s fairy tales 😉

      I agree with you. All this “science” is nice to have but can never be a substitute for composition and the ability to actually create photographs worthy to be looked at on all that calibrated stuff …

  • >