Dunning Kruger Effect: Why Insecure People Can’t Take Good Photos

9VIII

EOR R
Feb 8, 2013
1,843
0
https://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2018/04/10/why-bad-photographers-think-theyre-good

So there’s this video doing the rounds right now, apparently a lot of people think it explains something about the psychology of photographers, and it may, but it doesn’t reveal what most of the commenters posting about it think that it does.
There’s no need to watch the video, the premise of applying the Dunning-Kruger effect to Photography is ludicrous.

At the core of the medium, photography is almost nothing but subjective opinion.
Yes, there are people who can’t get the right exposure, those people who lack the most basic technical familiarity with a camera may be frustrated by the methods of getting a decent exposure.
Beyond that, the whole of the medium is a level playing field. There is no right, there is no wrong, there is no best photograph and there is no photographer with any more or less talent than any other photographer.
A huge print that took dozens of hours of preparation and post processing and sells for a million dollars in a world famous art gallery has no more inherent value than the millions (billions?) of cat pictures flooding the Internet.
The satisfaction of the creator is the ultimate definition of success.

If you didn’t get it right, you may need a bit of practice reading the exposure meter, but looking at comments around the Internet today virtually no-one is talking about basic mechanical competancy in regard to the Dunning-Kruger effect.

What people are pointing out is how dependent they are on outside opinion for self assurance.

If someone else likes your photograph, that’s great, but it actually doesn’t change the value of an image. It may cost you money if you need to sell an image, but if you’re happy with something, it is good.
Consumers of your content will form their own opinions. Good, bad, or indifferent, the opinion of another person only tells you how to cater to the opinions of other people, it says absolutely nothing about the intrinsic value of a given image.

Intent and Execution is all that matters unless you let outside opinion influence how you feel about your work.
If you’re constantly looking for affirmation then you’re probably going to be constantly disappointed. Sooner or later every image will be criticized negatively.
“I think all your photos suck.” There, everyone reading this has had the whole of their work negatively criticized. Are you a worse photographer than you thought you were? If you let outside negativity influence your perspective of your work, then yes.
Trying to apply the Dunning-Kruger effect to photography is a self defeating exercise.
If you know what you like then no amount of criticism can change the quality of your photography. Your picture is perfect the moment you deem it so.
The most creative people will awlays have a thirst to learn and do more, it’s good to question what you know and how you do things, but your satisfaction with yourself will always be the ultimate test.
 

slclick

PINHOLE
Dec 17, 2013
3,158
686
Yet so many famous artists are depressed and socially awkward. Good points yet I agree to disagree.
 

stevelee

FT-QL
Jul 6, 2017
1,252
285
Davidson, NC
When I was in college I bought a Yeshiva rangefinder camera and started taking color slides. Slides are unforgiving, so you have to get the composition and exposure and focus right in the first place, so it was a good learning process for me, plus I took many pictures that I still think are among my best.

There was a group of five or six of my friends who compounded the unforgiving nature of slides by insisting to see every slide in the roll just as I first saw them. If there ever was any chance to cull rejects, I never took it as best I can recall. They were people who were from a variety of disciplines many of which required artistic sensibilities, anyway. They were merciless in their critiques, though some comments sounded more like compliments than the speaker meant: "We can see pictures like that in the National Geographic." Or they would say in one way or another that a picture was merely pretty. Scathing, right? I loved it, and they took my work very seriously. That made me learn and grow, and I felt that dabbling in a visual art was a bit like cross training for my real art, about which I felt more insecure.

Every now and then one of them will make a comment in email, like the recent one that began, "That reminds me of the picture Steve took of . . ." and then went on to mention a picture from more than 40 years ago that he probably hadn't seen more than once since, if then.
 

dak723

EOS 6D MK II
Oct 26, 2013
1,141
434
Didn't know there was a thing called the Dunning Kruger effect. Didn't know you needed a fancy name for something that is totally obvious for pretty much every creative endeavor. As the painter Degas is famous for saying, "Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do."

I didn't watch the video, but read the article. Seems pretty basic - when you first begin any creative activity, you don't have enough experience or enough knowledge to accurately critique your own work. Many, therefore think they are having better results than they actually are. Beginning artists are always ready to frame their latest work or are asking questions on how to sell, when more experienced artists looking at the work understand that it is still a beginner's work. Experienced artists notice this when looking at their earlier efforts - they see mistakes and aspects that could have been done better - but they couldn't see it at that earlier time because they just didn't know enough. Photography, creative writing, and other creative efforts should be no different. My guess is that pretty much every one with years of experience in a creative pursuit will experience that similar learning curve where their early work was well overestimated!

I didn't see anything in that article or the explanation of the Dunning Kruger effect that relates to insecurity or the title of this thread. Perhaps I missed something.
 

Orangutan

EOR R
Sep 25, 2010
2,140
3
dak723 said:
Didn't know there was a thing called the Dunning Kruger effect. Didn't know you needed a fancy name for something that is totally obvious for pretty much every creative endeavor.
Some things which seem totally obvious turn out to be false, or at least not entirely true. When someone who identifies as an artist observes some "truth" about the world, they may paint a picture, write a novel or chisel some rock to illustrate their view of this "truth." Science, though imperfect, takes the view that an observed "truth" is simply a hypothesis to be tested. Dunning and Kruger get credit for this not because they came up with the idea that this might be true, but because they did the scientific work needed to demonstrate the degree and circumstances of its truth.
 

9VIII

EOR R
Feb 8, 2013
1,843
0
dak723 said:
I didn't see anything in that article or the explanation of the Dunning Kruger effect that relates to insecurity or the title of this thread. Perhaps I missed something.
Most people confuse “saleable” with “quality”, when in reality the two are almost totally unrelated, and “quality” in this case is entirely subjective anyway.
There is actually no basis for saying that anyone “improves” as a photographer, you just change your opinion of things over time.
Fundamentally the only way to take a “bad photo” is to critique yourself. The rest is semantics.
 

BillB

EOS 6D MK II
May 11, 2017
1,152
387
9VIII said:
dak723 said:
I didn't see anything in that article or the explanation of the Dunning Kruger effect that relates to insecurity or the title of this thread. Perhaps I missed something.
Most people confuse “saleable” with “quality”, when in reality the two are almost totally unrelated, and “quality” in this case is entirely subjective anyway.
There is actually no basis for saying that anyone “improves” as a photographer, you just change your opinion of things over time.
Fundamentally the only way to take a “bad photo” is to critique yourself. The rest is semantics.
Well, the title asks why insecure people can't take good good photos. The Dunning Kruger effect says that insecure people don't think their photos are any good, or at least no better than anybody else's, which seems to me to imply that there is a meaningful basis for deciding what is good and what is not. You have been posting that the assessment of photographic quality is completely subjective, which seems to me reject a main premise of the Dunning Kruger effect.
 

unfocused

EOS 1D MK II
Jul 20, 2010
5,008
1,365
66
Springfield, IL
www.mgordoncommunications.com
The video is quite good, actually. What is really bad is the OP's rant

9VIII said:
...the whole of the medium is a level playing field. There is no right, there is no wrong, there is no best photograph and there is no photographer with any more or less talent than any other photographer.
A huge print that took dozens of hours of preparation and post processing and sells for a million dollars in a world famous art gallery has no more inherent value than the millions (billions?) of cat pictures flooding the Internet.

The satisfaction of the creator is the ultimate definition of success.
Sorry, but you could not be more wrong if you tried.

Indeed, you have epitomized exactly what is so wrong with so much of western culture today. The coddling, affirmation-obsessed culture that gives equal validity to all opinions and viewpoints, no matter how amateurish they may be. Where we are expected to reward effort rather than results.

The world is full of mediocrity and to suggest that the only judge of quality is the individual is just silly.

Sure, if photography is simply a hobby to you and you are satisfied with thinking your work is of equal quality to that of great photographers, that's okay. You would be wrong, but in that grand scheme of things, it's probably a harmless delusion.

But, the point of the video is that many people take photography seriously and view it as a journey toward achieving something of real quality. In every field, the best in the field constantly strive to improve their work. The video simply points out that beginners are programmed to think themselves better than they are because it gives them the boost they need at the start to keep trying and learning. As people gain more skills they become more critical of their own work, which in turn motivates them to improve. Finally, the very lucky and very talented reach a level where they are reasonably confident in their skills but still strive to outperform themselves.
 

Orangutan

EOR R
Sep 25, 2010
2,140
3
unfocused said:
The video is quite good, actually. What is really bad is the OP's rant

9VIII said:
...the whole of the medium is a level playing field. There is no right, there is no wrong, there is no best photograph and there is no photographer with any more or less talent than any other photographer.
A huge print that took dozens of hours of preparation and post processing and sells for a million dollars in a world famous art gallery has no more inherent value than the millions (billions?) of cat pictures flooding the Internet.

The satisfaction of the creator is the ultimate definition of success.
Indeed, you have epitomized exactly what is so wrong with so much of western culture today. The coddling, affirmation-obsessed culture that gives equal validity to all opinions and viewpoints, no matter how amateurish they may be. Where we are expected to reward effort rather than results.

The world is full of mediocrity and to suggest that the only judge of quality is the individual is just silly.
False dichotomy.

The fact that it's subjective does not mean we give equal praise to all effort. All works of art have context; consider, for example Orthodox Christian ikons: their poor anatomical proportions, lack of perspective, and idealized subject matter would be laughable today. Yet, in their time, they were something of great artistic value. What would happen if you were to show the work of Picasso or Dali, or even Monet, to Leonardo or Michelangelo? Can we possibly know how they would be received by those artists? Many people praised the work of Andy Warhol, but I see nothing of value there -- to me he is that mediocrity you disparage.

While there is too much mediocrity out there, we don't know where future generations will find deep artistic intent and value.

Just my 2 cents.
 

dak723

EOS 6D MK II
Oct 26, 2013
1,141
434
9VIII said:
dak723 said:
I didn't see anything in that article or the explanation of the Dunning Kruger effect that relates to insecurity or the title of this thread. Perhaps I missed something.
Most people confuse “saleable” with “quality”, when in reality the two are almost totally unrelated, and “quality” in this case is entirely subjective anyway.
There is actually no basis for saying that anyone “improves” as a photographer, you just change your opinion of things over time.
Fundamentally the only way to take a “bad photo” is to critique yourself. The rest is semantics.
Everyone, of course, is entitled to their own opinion. If you don't believe people improve at photography as they become more knowledgeable and experienced, feel free. I think you are trying hard to be really deep. That's OK, too. But, there seems to be no doubt among those of us who aren't trying to be philosophers, that experience and gaining knowledge leads leads to improvement in photography, painting, writing, woodworking, cooking, driving, or basically any activity.
 

9VIII

EOR R
Feb 8, 2013
1,843
0
BillB said:
9VIII said:
dak723 said:
I didn't see anything in that article or the explanation of the Dunning Kruger effect that relates to insecurity or the title of this thread. Perhaps I missed something.
Most people confuse “saleable” with “quality”, when in reality the two are almost totally unrelated, and “quality” in this case is entirely subjective anyway.
There is actually no basis for saying that anyone “improves” as a photographer, you just change your opinion of things over time.
Fundamentally the only way to take a “bad photo” is to critique yourself. The rest is semantics.
Well, the title asks why insecure people can't take good good photos. The Dunning Kruger effect says that insecure people don't think their photos are any good, or at least no better than anybody else's, which seems to me to imply that there is a meaningful basis for deciding what is good and what is not. You have been posting that the assessment of photographic quality is completely subjective, which seems to me reject a main premise of the Dunning Kruger effect.
No, there is no meaningful basis of deciding what is good, that’s made up by every individual first, and then social collectives.
 

9VIII

EOR R
Feb 8, 2013
1,843
0
unfocused said:
The video is quite good, actually. What is really bad is the OP's rant

9VIII said:
...the whole of the medium is a level playing field. There is no right, there is no wrong, there is no best photograph and there is no photographer with any more or less talent than any other photographer.
A huge print that took dozens of hours of preparation and post processing and sells for a million dollars in a world famous art gallery has no more inherent value than the millions (billions?) of cat pictures flooding the Internet.

The satisfaction of the creator is the ultimate definition of success.
Sorry, but you could not be more wrong if you tried.

Indeed, you have epitomized exactly what is so wrong with so much of western culture today. The coddling, affirmation-obsessed culture that gives equal validity to all opinions and viewpoints, no matter how amateurish they may be. Where we are expected to reward effort rather than results.

The world is full of mediocrity and to suggest that the only judge of quality is the individual is just silly.

Sure, if photography is simply a hobby to you and you are satisfied with thinking your work is of equal quality to that of great photographers, that's okay. You would be wrong, but in that grand scheme of things, it's probably a harmless delusion.

But, the point of the video is that many people take photography seriously and view it as a journey toward achieving something of real quality. In every field, the best in the field constantly strive to improve their work. The video simply points out that beginners are programmed to think themselves better than they are because it gives them the boost they need at the start to keep trying and learning. As people gain more skills they become more critical of their own work, which in turn motivates them to improve. Finally, the very lucky and very talented reach a level where they are reasonably confident in their skills but still strive to outperform themselves.
What is your basis in claiming the existence of mediocrity? You have nothing but your own opinion and common opinion!
The qualification of “Good” and “Bad” in photography is truly a mental construct.

In this case, the quest of the “expert” to better oneself is truly the delusion (barring the basic ablility to reach the desired exposure, which definitely can take some time to reach a feeling of natural proficiency).
 

9VIII

EOR R
Feb 8, 2013
1,843
0
dak723 said:
9VIII said:
dak723 said:
I didn't see anything in that article or the explanation of the Dunning Kruger effect that relates to insecurity or the title of this thread. Perhaps I missed something.
Most people confuse “saleable” with “quality”, when in reality the two are almost totally unrelated, and “quality” in this case is entirely subjective anyway.
There is actually no basis for saying that anyone “improves” as a photographer, you just change your opinion of things over time.
Fundamentally the only way to take a “bad photo” is to critique yourself. The rest is semantics.
Everyone, of course, is entitled to their own opinion. If you don't believe people improve at photography as they become more knowledgeable and experienced, feel free. I think you are trying hard to be really deep. That's OK, too. But, there seems to be no doubt among those of us who aren't trying to be philosophers, that experience and gaining knowledge leads leads to improvement in photography, painting, writing, woodworking, cooking, driving, or basically any activity.
The only activity you’ve listed that isn’t totally subjective is driving. We have speeding tickets and a wrecked car is a very objective definition of failure.
Again, there is “some” very basic amount of objectivity, if you drop your camera in the water, that is definitely a failure to take pictures.

Good composition in photographs is utterly subjective.

“there seems to be no doubt among those of us who aren't trying to be philosophers”
Exactly, you’re just in denial.
 

Tyroop

EOS 80D
Jun 30, 2013
124
12
Didn't know there was a thing called the Dunning Kruger effect.
Really? It's been all over the Internet for a while now, a term often used with the name of the current POTUS.
 

AlanF

Canon 5DSR II
Aug 16, 2012
5,758
3,111
Tyroop said:
Didn't know there was a thing called the Dunning Kruger effect.
Really? It's been all over the Internet for a while now, a term often used with the name of the current POTUS.
It is such a profound piece of science that Kruger and Dunning were awarded an Ig Nobel Prize in 2000.
 

9VIII

EOR R
Feb 8, 2013
1,843
0
unfocused said:
I’ll simply reiterate my previous points. The video is worth a watch. The OP’s rant is utterly without merit.
The reason we see so much backlash from people like this is that they spend years developing a "style" and justify their efforts by pretending the results have objective value, when in reality that is a self deception.
The idea of objectivity in Art is just another case of The Emperor's New Clothes.
And worse, when you have a bunch of "experts" pretending to pass on "expert" knowledge to beginners for a fee, what you end up with is effectively a Ponzi scheme.
"Experts" take money for their "expert" advice, only to justify and perpetuate that mindset in the newcomer that their advice will some day hold similar value, when in light of time and the inevitable change of culture, everything you "know" about photography now is ultimately meaningless.
 
Nov 10, 2016
32
13
This has been a fun thread to read and think about. Being a musician, I'm going to steal a quote from Igor Stravinsky and say that photographers capture photons, that's all.

A photograph is merely an insignificant number of photons captured over an insignificant amount of time. It inherently has no meaning or value, which is placed on it by the viewer. As an example, I showed one of the finalists of the Word Press photography awards to my family. Their response was a collective "so what" because it's a bland photo of a common bird. But we lived in Unalaska (Dutch Harbor) where bald eagles are as common as gulls. However, someone placed value and meaning onto the photograph, submitted it, and it became a finalist in a competition.
 

zim

EOR R
Oct 18, 2011
1,863
53
9VIII said:
unfocused said:
I’ll simply reiterate my previous points. The video is worth a watch. The OP’s rant is utterly without merit.
The reason we see so much backlash from people like this is that they spend years developing a "style" and justify their efforts by pretending the results have objective value, when in reality that is a self deception.
The idea of objectivity in Art is just another case of The Emperor's New Clothes.
And worse, when you have a bunch of "experts" pretending to pass on "expert" knowledge to beginners for a fee, what you end up with is effectively a Ponzi scheme.
"Experts" take money for their "expert" advice, only to justify and perpetuate that mindset in the newcomer that their advice will some day hold similar value, when in light of time and the inevitable change of culture, everything you "know" about photography now is ultimately meaningless.
That's how I feel about exams and qualifications for any of the 'arts' delusional and meaningless.

.... And camera clubs :)