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

Mikehit

EOS 5D MK IV
Jul 28, 2015
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9VIII said:
There is still no basis for calling the Mona Lisa a “masterpiece” other than if the artist claimed it as such. If he didn’t then it wouldn’t even be right to call it that.
WHAT?
The Mona Lisa was regarded as good but not a masterpiece until it was stolen in the early 20th century - the publicity catapulted it into the public consciousness.
How many times does the value of a painting increase or decrease while arguments of its provenance wax and wane?
How many artists died destitute but whose paintings now sell for millions?

The idea that it is the artist alone who defines it as a masterpiece is laughable.
 

AlanF

Canon 5DSR II
Aug 16, 2012
5,758
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As a schoolboy, I defended the motion in a debating contest that: "The value of a work of art becomes apparent only at its auction". The ensuing debate convinced me never to take part in such discussions again. So, to quote Sam Goldwyn, include me out.
 

Mikehit

EOS 5D MK IV
Jul 28, 2015
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415
AlanF said:
As a schoolboy, I defended the motion in a debating contest that: "The value of a work of art becomes apparent only at its auction". The ensuing debate convinced me never to take part in such discussions again. So, to quote Sam Goldwyn, include me out.
I remember a long discussion as a student on this, and one of my contemporaries was insistent that the 'worth' of an art piece was influenced by the suffering that the artist had experienced in his life.
I was reminded of this recently when I read an article on how there is a lot of computer-generated music the people don't realise had no human intervention other than writing the program, and it is getting to a point where they can press a button for 'rock' or 'blues' or 'melancholy'.

I wonder how long before they reverse-engineer face/object recognition to do the same with painting.
 

Talys

Canon 6DII
Feb 16, 2017
2,058
329
Vancouver, BC
Mikehit said:
AlanF said:
As a schoolboy, I defended the motion in a debating contest that: "The value of a work of art becomes apparent only at its auction". The ensuing debate convinced me never to take part in such discussions again. So, to quote Sam Goldwyn, include me out.
I remember a long discussion as a student on this, and one of my contemporaries was insistent that the 'worth' of an art piece was influenced by the suffering that the artist had experienced in his life.
I was reminded of this recently when I read an article on how there is a lot of computer-generated music the people don't realise had no human intervention other than writing the program, and it is getting to a point where they can press a button for 'rock' or 'blues' or 'melancholy'.

I wonder how long before they reverse-engineer face/object recognition to do the same with painting.
I agree on the basic premise that things are worth what people are willing to pay for them. However, the question, though, isn't worth. It's whether people overestimate their skill in photography.

It may be hard to reach a consensus among many great photographs the best among judges, because this is a subjective evaluation,. But if you take an equal number of random photos out of flickr and add them to the mix, it will be easy for the panelist to come to agree on which half is worse.

That's because the expression that a great photograph has good composition and lighting, and captures a moment isn't just tripe. Sure, there is a subjective element as to one's favorite photo, but there are many ways to objectively point out, for example, if a portrait is poorly taken. If one is an budding photographer, there are many ways to self-evaluate each work and ask, "how could this photograph be better?"

It's also the job of a photographer to understand things like what emotions certain shapes confer, how to use perspective, how to use field skills to position oneself, how to choose interesting locations, or how to work with the subject to create something special. The ability to do this sort of thing describes "skill" as a photographer, as in, the ability to consistently create great photographs.
 

9VIII

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Feb 8, 2013
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Talys said:
Mikehit said:
AlanF said:
As a schoolboy, I defended the motion in a debating contest that: "The value of a work of art becomes apparent only at its auction". The ensuing debate convinced me never to take part in such discussions again. So, to quote Sam Goldwyn, include me out.
I remember a long discussion as a student on this, and one of my contemporaries was insistent that the 'worth' of an art piece was influenced by the suffering that the artist had experienced in his life.
I was reminded of this recently when I read an article on how there is a lot of computer-generated music the people don't realise had no human intervention other than writing the program, and it is getting to a point where they can press a button for 'rock' or 'blues' or 'melancholy'.

I wonder how long before they reverse-engineer face/object recognition to do the same with painting.
I agree on the basic premise that things are worth what people are willing to pay for them. However, the question, though, isn't worth. It's whether people overestimate their skill in photography.

It may be hard to reach a consensus among many great photographs the best among judges, because this is a subjective evaluation,. But if you take an equal number of random photos out of flickr and add them to the mix, it will be easy for the panelist to come to agree on which half is worse.

That's because the expression that a great photograph has good composition and lighting, and captures a moment isn't just tripe. Sure, there is a subjective element as to one's favorite photo, but there are many ways to objectively point out, for example, if a portrait is poorly taken. If one is an budding photographer, there are many ways to self-evaluate each work and ask, "how could this photograph be better?"

It's also the job of a photographer to understand things like what emotions certain shapes confer, how to use perspective, how to use field skills to position oneself, how to choose interesting locations, or how to work with the subject to create something special. The ability to do this sort of thing describes "skill" as a photographer, as in, the ability to consistently create great photographs.
And none of that invalidates that the photographer is the final authority on what is good in their own photography.
 

9VIII

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Feb 8, 2013
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As was suggested by another member a few pages back, the summary of the majority of the "debate" seen to this point is very simple:
Those who criticize the Original Post are incapable of understanding it because the basic premise violates the critic's fundamental understanding of the world.
Thus, the critics refuse to actually debate, and instead, even to the last post, re-phrase the whole thing in their own terms, or use blatant ignorance to cut the OP into pieces that they can refute on their own terms.

Almost all of the debate in ts thread is actually just people rejecting the original premise and trying to avoid discussing the real subject because actually debating the subject would put them in a state of cognitive dissonance.

Refusing to actually address the basic premise of an argument is one of the most common tactics used by people who just want to win a quick argument without bringing their own views into question.

These people are actually scared out of their wits to actually talk about the merits of artistic work outside of value in a communal setting, it's really interesting to see, and again it reinforces my premise that people often seek out "advice" unnecessarily just because they can't decide for themselves, or worse when people are not comfortable functioning fully autonomously for fear of criticism.
This mindset of fear is prolific and harmful to beginning photographers.

The Original Post still contains all the answers to every criticism that has been posted thus far (I'm not infallible so I won't deny I might have missed something, but if there is a valid criticism it wouldn't have been in one of the big puffed up posts).
 

Mikehit

EOS 5D MK IV
Jul 28, 2015
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415
9VIII said:
And none of that invalidates that the photographer is the final authority on what is good in their own photography.
And again you missed the point of the video.
 

Mikehit

EOS 5D MK IV
Jul 28, 2015
3,227
415
9VIII said:
Refusing to actually address the basic premise of an argument is one of the most common tactics used by people who just want to win a quick argument without bringing their own views into question.
And the basic premise of you OP is precisely what we are debating. We are not simply winning a quick argument we are putting forward valid reasons why we believe your OP is flawed. You interpret that as us just wanting to 'win a quick argument' - in other words 'you are simply wanting to win a quick argument, therefore your points are invalid therefore my original assumptions are sound'.

9VIII said:
These people are actually scared out of their wits to actually talk about the merits of artistic work
I have no problem discussing the merits of artistic work. It is just that is not what the video was about.
You built a straw man then knocked it down - and when people point out you are tilting at the wrong windmill you accuse us of ignorance.

9VIII said:
This mindset of fear is prolific and harmful to beginning photographers.
'fear'. Really?

9VIII said:
The Original Post still contains all the answers to every criticism that has been posted thus far (I'm not infallible so I won't deny I might have missed something, but if there is a valid criticism it wouldn't have been in one of the big puffed up posts).
No it doesn't.
Your thread title bears no relationship to the video you aimed at criticising.
You concentrate on the artistic merits but that is not what the video is about
You reject any discussion about the technical merits of a photo - and that is what the video was about.

Perhaps you care to address those three points if you are intent on actually having a debate.
 

unfocused

EOS 1D MK II
Jul 20, 2010
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Mikehit, Talys, YuengLinger and Canon Fan Boy,

We've all tried to inject some rational thought into this discussion. Let's face it, we are being thwarted by a single troll who has no interest in an intelligent exchange of ideas.

I'm ready to throw in the towel or alternatively, if any of you (or others on this forum) want to discuss the original topic intelligently, or even the nature of art, value of images, etc., I'm willing to join in that discussion with you, but I'm going to try as hard as I can to ignore the OP.

I do think the Dunning Kruger effect is kind of an interesting topic, although it seems like pretty much common sense. In photography, initial success is fairly easy to achieve. That's especially true today with the improvements in cameras and the conversion to digital.

People who develop a passion for photography generally seem to move into the other stages, where they become dissatisfied with their own work and strive to improve it. That's a lifelong journey and one that many of us on this forum seem to share (along with a heavy dose of GAS).

One thing I find interesting though is how frequently great artists peak at a fairly young age (not everyone, for sure). Ansel Adams (I can't find the exact quote) once basically admitted that his work in the 1930s was his best and everything after that he was repeating himself (I know I've butchered the quote but you get the idea.)

I think of many great artists (not just photographers) and find that a whole lot of people accomplish something great in their 20s or 30s and then don't really achieve much in the way of groundbreaking work after that. I wonder how that fits into this Dunning Kruger theory.

Anyway, I'm mostly trying to test the waters for an intelligent discussion, feeling that the rest of us should not feel trapped because the OP is incapable of engaging in an intelligent discussion.
 

Mikehit

EOS 5D MK IV
Jul 28, 2015
3,227
415
unfocused said:
I think of many great artists (not just photographers) and find that a whole lot of people accomplish something great in their 20s or 30s and then don't really achieve much in the way of groundbreaking work after that. I wonder how that fits into this Dunning Kruger theory.
An interesting thought.
I think you need to separate 'creativity' from 'groundbreaking' but your comment still stands.

I wonder if there is a difference depending on when the person 'made their name'? I suspect that the ones who hit it young are someone who has a different way of looking at the world that chimes with other people: they are then followed by people who move into that area, copy it, develop it and move on leaving the progenitor stuck with their way of seeing the world which starts to seem old hat. I guess it is not a lot different to a scientist wedded to the theory that made them famous or the aging grandparent stuck in the days of 'when things were better'.

Then you have the people who hit the big time later in life. I suspect these are the real 'creative types' in that they are absorbing form different areas before something synthesis in the brain and comes out as something 'new' - David Hockney springs to mind with his portraiture, then his photo portraits ending up with photo collages and then moving into set design.

Of course, some hit it young and keep on innovating (David Bowie in music springs to mind) but they are truly rare.

How does this fit into Duning-Kruger? I guess it is hard to generalise but the problem with success at art is that it relies so heavily on other peoples' opinion. There are many artists (painters, musicians, photogrpahers etc) who struggled for years and were only recognised when 'the world was ready for them' - their art is no different to what it before that point, but one person in the right place at the right time in the right national mood got them noticed.
Even the person with the singular world view that informs their 'greatest hit/s' (see above) may strive for years to improve their technical skill in other areas but never quite make it - the D-K effect is not the reason they never hit the same heights, but things just don't pan out like they did before and are forgotten as the one-hit wonder. Fame is capricious like that.
I have read so many approaches from musicians - some bands are happy to keep playing their 'greatest hits' as a 'thank you' to the fans. Others grow to hate playing the same song time after time. Yet in both groups are those who manage to break new ground, others just don't develop.

I think the D-K effect is rather like the psychometric tests some companies are so fond of (Myers Briggs to name just one) - not really a guiding principle but a 'mental tool' to help analyse your own approach and performance and ask yourself how you can do better.
 

Talys

Canon 6DII
Feb 16, 2017
2,058
329
Vancouver, BC
9VIII said:
And none of that invalidates that the photographer is the final authority on what is good in their own photography.
I love my stucco ceiling photography collection. They demonstrate the infinite possibilities of the universe, because no two stucco ceilings are identical. They are the mirror of the universe, a true reflection of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle; all other photography... is just noise in comparison.

See how demented that sounds?

Frankly, the whole concept of, "only your opinion should matter in judging your own work and you should stop competing against others" harkens to elementary school, where some educators or parents simply don't want to hurt kids' feelings. When you grow up... sometimes, hurt feelings or not, the truth is, it sucks. Own it, and improve!

Mikehit said:
unfocused said:
I think of many great artists (not just photographers) and find that a whole lot of people accomplish something great in their 20s or 30s and then don't really achieve much in the way of groundbreaking work after that. I wonder how that fits into this Dunning Kruger theory.
An interesting thought.
I think you need to separate 'creativity' from 'groundbreaking' but your comment still stands.
It is an interesting thought. It is possible that as we achieve success, we come more conservative, or at least, more adverse to risk. Because the pressure to produce incredible work is directly proportional to one's success, it's possible that some creative types get in their own way worrying about releasing a flop, and as a result, produce what becomes perceived as mediocrity.
 

unfocused

EOS 1D MK II
Jul 20, 2010
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Springfield, IL
www.mgordoncommunications.com
Talys said:
Mikehit said:
unfocused said:
I think of many great artists (not just photographers) and find that a whole lot of people accomplish something great in their 20s or 30s and then don't really achieve much in the way of groundbreaking work after that. I wonder how that fits into this Dunning Kruger theory.
An interesting thought.
I think you need to separate 'creativity' from 'groundbreaking' but your comment still stands.
It is an interesting thought. It is possible that as we achieve success, we come more conservative, or at least, more adverse to risk. Because the pressure to produce incredible work is directly proportional to one's success, it's possible that some creative types get in their own way worrying about releasing a flop, and as a result, produce what becomes perceived as mediocrity.
Yeah, I also think it's possible that many people become known for one great work or one particular style and that's what the public expects and what they feel comfortable with. They may move on, but their fans/critics may not.

Of course, there are lots of exceptions. Some people are very good at reinventing themselves. Van Morrison, for example, has gone through a lot of genres and still remains a pretty good songwriter. But, as you say, there are a lot of musicians content to keep playing the hits they wrote in their 20s.

I often say that an early death spared Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix from having to release a duet album of 1940s standards -- the fate of far too many over-the-hill rock stars. :)
 

geekpower

EOS 80D
Feb 22, 2015
187
0
9VIII said:
Good composition in photographs is utterly subjective.
this is exactly the kind of thing that a person who couldn't tell the difference between good composition and bad would say; in other words, someone exhibiting dunning/kruger.
 

Orangutan

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Sep 25, 2010
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3
geekpower said:
9VIII said:
Good composition in photographs is utterly subjective.
this is exactly the kind of thing that a person who couldn't tell the difference between good composition and bad would say; in other words, someone exhibiting dunning/kruger.
Since you don't think it's subjective, perhaps you could share with us the objective standards of good composition.
 

privatebydesign

Would you take advice from a cartoons stuffed toy?
Jan 29, 2011
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Orangutan said:
geekpower said:
9VIII said:
Good composition in photographs is utterly subjective.
this is exactly the kind of thing that a person who couldn't tell the difference between good composition and bad would say; in other words, someone exhibiting dunning/kruger.
Since you don't think it's subjective, perhaps you could share with us the objective standards of good composition.
There are thousands upon thousands of good references regarding effective use of deliberate composition, and I'm not talking about the always mentioned and laughable 'rule of thirds'. To suggest there are not objective compositional techniques that make any image creators (stills, movie, paintings, drawings etc) work more compelling is laughable.

That doesn't mean every technique is as effective to every viewer or relevant in every image, but the core to the various compositional techniques is proven and sound. Artists have used these natural and balanced objective techniques for centuries, more recently artists have deliberately broken these innately 'balanced' techniques to jar our senses and add power to their work, all the while recognizing the underlying objective nature they are eschewing.
 

Orangutan

EOR R
Sep 25, 2010
2,140
3
privatebydesign said:
Orangutan said:
geekpower said:
9VIII said:
Good composition in photographs is utterly subjective.
this is exactly the kind of thing that a person who couldn't tell the difference between good composition and bad would say; in other words, someone exhibiting dunning/kruger.
Since you don't think it's subjective, perhaps you could share with us the objective standards of good composition.
There are thousands upon thousands of good references regarding effective use of deliberate composition, and I'm not talking about the always mentioned and laughable 'rule of thirds'. To suggest there are not objective compositional techniques that make any image creators (stills, movie, paintings, drawings etc) work more compelling is laughable.

That doesn't mean every technique is as effective to every viewer or relevant in every image, but the core to the various compositional techniques is proven and sound.
To summarize:

Wrong interpretation: "Every composition is good because everything is subjective." This is a meaningless straw-man argument.

Correct interpretation: "There can be images that violate currently-accepted rules of composition, yet are, nevertheless, artistically interesting."

People who object to the statement "it's all subjective" seem to be using the straw-man argument that this means all compositions are "good." This is not the claim! The claim is that any given composition could very well find one or more people who find it artistically interesting (and I don't mean people without any knowledge of art). In fact, future generations may find that non-conformist image inspired.

Ask yourself how Rembrandt would have reacted to Pollock?
 

Talys

Canon 6DII
Feb 16, 2017
2,058
329
Vancouver, BC
privatebydesign said:
Orangutan said:
geekpower said:
9VIII said:
Good composition in photographs is utterly subjective.
this is exactly the kind of thing that a person who couldn't tell the difference between good composition and bad would say; in other words, someone exhibiting dunning/kruger.
Since you don't think it's subjective, perhaps you could share with us the objective standards of good composition.
There are thousands upon thousands of good references regarding effective use of deliberate composition, and I'm not talking about the always mentioned and laughable 'rule of thirds'. To suggest there are not objective compositional techniques that make any image creators (stills, movie, paintings, drawings etc) work more compelling is laughable.

That doesn't mean every technique is as effective to every viewer or relevant in every image, but the core to the various compositional techniques is proven and sound. Artists have used these natural and objective techniques for centuries.
It's actually easier to make rules about what DOESN'T look good, than what does. It does not mean that these rules will always apply, but there are some pretty common themes.

To take some simple examples: if you cut off someone at joints, it usually looks bad, such as a crop at the knees; if you have a male subject turn so that his profile faces you, he will look less masculine (because of the diminished shoulder broadness); crossed arms on a woman will often make her look boxy and less flattering than if you can capture her waist and hips.

You can (and some people do) literally write books filled with such tips. But they aren't really so much "objective standards" as stuff you'd learn on your own if you asked people subjectively compare a lot of photos. People might not understand why a whole group of photos look off, but the commonality might be that the catchlight isn't positioned above the subject (thus not mimicking the sun, that they are expecting), or that they're cropped too close to the side that the subject is travelling towards.

There may not be any "hard and fast" rules, but generally, a trained -- experienced -- eye will try to avoid things which will ultimately be unflattering or simply look off to the folks in general. Photography is a message written in light, and a poor message is one that folks other than the author don't understand.
 

privatebydesign

Would you take advice from a cartoons stuffed toy?
Jan 29, 2011
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You.

Orangutan said:
To summarize:

Wrong interpretation: "Every composition is good because everything is subjective." This is a meaningless straw-man argument.

Correct interpretation: "There can be images that violate currently-accepted rules of composition, yet are, nevertheless, artistically interesting."

People who object to the statement "it's all subjective" seem to be using the straw-man argument that this means all compositions are "good." This is not the claim! The claim is that any given composition could very well find one or more people who find it artistically interesting (and I don't mean people without any knowledge of art). In fact, future generations may find that non-conformist image inspired.

Ask yourself how Rembrandt would have reacted to Pollock?
Me.
privatebydesign said:
That doesn't mean every technique is as effective to every viewer or relevant in every image, but the core to the various compositional techniques is proven and sound. Artists have used these natural and balanced objective techniques for centuries, more recently artists have deliberately broken these innately 'balanced' techniques to jar our senses and add power to their work, all the while recognizing the underlying objective nature they are eschewing.
What's the difference?

Anyway, I dispute your framing of the claim, unless you are talking about the extreme situation where the image creator is creating their work purely for themselves to view. What you are effectively saying is it doesn't matter how bad a picture is it has value because somebody out there might find it interesting, which is patently false.
 

Talys

Canon 6DII
Feb 16, 2017
2,058
329
Vancouver, BC
privatebydesign said:
What's the difference?

Anyway, I dispute your framing of the claim, unless you are talking about the extreme situation where the image creator is creating their work purely for themselves to view. What you are effectively saying is it doesn't matter how bad a picture is it has value because somebody out there might find it interesting, which is patently false.
There is a difference between "I think that's interesting even though nobody else does," and, "I don't care what anyone else thinks, because only my opinion matters."

The first can be attributed to eclectic artistic tastes. The second is simply narcissism.

However, either case will make for rough ride as a professional photographer :)