Sunday, April 24, 2011

Which Shots are the Best?

Ever wonder which shots of yours (assuming you're a model, photographer, or other photographic arts participant) are the best?  Maybe there is some proven recipe that's documented between the covers of some photographer's bible somewhere, but that's still undiscovered by myself.  So, how do I, determine which are my best shots?  This entry is not an undertaking to answer that question, but rather an opportunity to ponder the question and muse about the factors that weigh in on the consideration.  We're all faced with the decision in one way or another, and it would be interesting to hear how others approach this question.

One of the things I've learned fairly early on is that rarely do people (observers, viewers) have agreement about what is "best", or even on what looks pleasing to the eye.  People are all over the map.  I have shown pictures to friends and acqauintances, usually some shot I'm pleased with in one way or another, and noticed that people's reactions are anything but predictable.  Some will say it's great, others will indicate they don't think the model is that pretty, some are bold enough to tell me flaws in the photo (ouch, but it is helpful to learn from), others don't say much at all.  The takeaway for me is this: I have to decide for myself what is pleasing in my own eye.

It coule be that art depicting human beauty is much more subjective than other forms. Photographing a woman, especially a model, involves so many variables.  Certainly one does have to satisfy the technical demands of proper exposure, ISO, composition, lighting, etc. In addition, there is a whole separate dimension of the model's facial expression, her pose, wardrobe, and even her mood.  All of these things come into play in the finished work.  No wonder it's no simple matter to separate our best work from the stuff that's a rung or two down the list.

The first undertaking for me after a photoshoot, once I've backed everything up, is sorting through the photos to delete the "mistakes", and create collections sorted according to the ranking I give each shot.  It is a bit of a tiresome task - I'm making a spot decision potentially relagating any given photo to a fate of obscurity or even deletion.  As I work my way up the pecking order and narrow things down further to get to the "best" shots, it becomes increasingly difficult.

I've found that I have a different perspective on qualifying the merits, or appeal, or a shot if I take a month or more away from the material and come back to it later. Maybe I'm just too close to the experience of having just finished the shoot, or I'm becoming fatigued with the material, to have that fresh eye. I've just found that I often find a "gem", previously overlooked when I go back over the full collection six or more months later.  Likewise, some of the shots I had previously chosen strike me as lacking something when I go back and look at it at a later time.

Maybe my taste changes?  Maybe my idea of what is better executed artistically or technically changes?  I'm not sure what it is, but this process of sorting out photos is a delicate task and can be just as important as any step in the process of producing a finished work.  Like bottling a fine wine, it just takes time.

I was recently exchanging some messages with another photographer I'd met through Flickr, and this person mentioned they had removed a lot of their photos because those hadn't received very many comments. I have to admit, it is tempting to apply some validity to this metric, but I think I have to be my own judge. We can easily get lost if we are in some way playing to a particular audience. We'll never be able to outguess the fickleness of such respondents. Besides, the joy of creation - especially with art - is unearthing something from within our soul, and expressing it for its own sake. It may or may not speak to others.  Hopefully it does, but it might be more important to achieve something that goes deeper, even if that only appeals to a small crowd.

1 comment:

  1. How true, Eric. And I have to admit that I'm at exactly the same point as you when sorting out, with one difference: sometimes I just think that all my photos suck. Just passed the 10,000 (digital) image mark some weeks ago, and I hope that things will get better. I joined the German as a photographer, and will join the German version of Model Mayhem as well soon. Let's see if I can improve...