What makes a photo great?

jrista

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mkabi said:
Ok, now knowing the things discussed in this thread...
Lets revisit http://www.canonrumors.com/forum/index.php?topic=18061.0

Great talent trumps good equipment, yet that in no way diminishes the power of good equipment in the hands of great talent.

The notion that a great photographer can create the "Sistine Chapel" with a pinhole camera and expired film is a fallacy. A great photographer benefits, arguably even more greatly than others, from great equipment. A pinhole camera exposed on expired film can make a great, emotionally evocative photograph, but the chances that a 1D X with thousands of dollars worth of top shelf glass will create even more emotionally evocative photography on a more consistent and regular basis is still undeniable.
 

mkabi

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Mar 21, 2013
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jrista said:
mkabi said:
Ok, now knowing the things discussed in this thread...
Lets revisit http://www.canonrumors.com/forum/index.php?topic=18061.0

Great talent trumps good equipment, yet that in no way diminishes the power of good equipment in the hands of great talent.

The notion that a great photographer can create the "Sistine Chapel" with a pinhole camera and expired film is a fallacy. A great photographer benefits, arguably even more greatly than others, from great equipment. A pinhole camera exposed on expired film can make a great, emotionally evocative photograph, but the chances that a 1D X with thousands of dollars worth of top shelf glass will create even more emotionally evocative photography on a more consistent and regular basis is still undeniable.

But what if this great talent used the 1Dx, pumped the crap out of the ISO, smudged the glass up so that the image is so messed up, but still provides the most "emotionally evoquitive" picture as opposed a very clean and sharp picture. And still, you could've used a
sh!tty $50 P&S to do the same picture.

You're going to say its equipment still?
 

privatebydesign

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jrista said:
Same thing would go for that Nat. Geo. photo of the young afghan woman with those stunningly piercing green eyes:

This is considered one of the best photos of the last 20-30 years. It is an emotionally evocative photo. It is also a technically superior photo as well! It has EXCELLENT image quality...perfect focus on her eyes, creamy boke, great color, etc.

I don't think it matters whether a photo has good IQ or bad IQ, and neither do I think that a world renown great photo "has" to have crappy IQ. The key is simply that it has emotional impact. Any photo, of anything, can have emotional impact, doesn't matter if it is of a person, people, animals, landscapes, still life, whatever.

Whoa, I have been keen to stay out of this thread, but I can't. Anybody that has seen actual prints of not only this image of Steve McCurry's but many others of his, knows they are far from technically superior, there is even an expression "Steve McCurry sharp" that refers to compelling images that are slightly soft or out of focus.

Don't get me wrong, the guy is an amazing photographer, though his modern output and techniques are questioned by many, but the strength of his main body of work is not technique (and that shows in his prints), it is his connectivity and very strong use of colour.

Don't forget he shot most of his famous work, including "the Afghan Girl", on 64 iso Kodachrome, the fastest that went to was 200 iso! Oh and depending on who you believe, I shot shed loads of it, had around 7-8 usable stops of dynamic range. You could probably buy the film Nikon and the 50mm lens he used for most of his work for $150. Mind you, they are comments for a different thread ;)
 

jrista

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mkabi said:
jrista said:
mkabi said:
Ok, now knowing the things discussed in this thread...
Lets revisit http://www.canonrumors.com/forum/index.php?topic=18061.0

Great talent trumps good equipment, yet that in no way diminishes the power of good equipment in the hands of great talent.

The notion that a great photographer can create the "Sistine Chapel" with a pinhole camera and expired film is a fallacy. A great photographer benefits, arguably even more greatly than others, from great equipment. A pinhole camera exposed on expired film can make a great, emotionally evocative photograph, but the chances that a 1D X with thousands of dollars worth of top shelf glass will create even more emotionally evocative photography on a more consistent and regular basis is still undeniable.

But what if this great talent used the 1Dx, pumped the crap out of the ISO, smudged the glass up so that the image is so messed up, but still provides the most "emotionally evoquitive" picture as opposed a very clean and sharp picture. And still, you could've used a
sh!tty $50 P&S to do the same picture.

You're going to say its equipment still?

I never said it was equipment. Please read my post again.
 

jrista

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privatebydesign said:
jrista said:
Same thing would go for that Nat. Geo. photo of the young afghan woman with those stunningly piercing green eyes:

This is considered one of the best photos of the last 20-30 years. It is an emotionally evocative photo. It is also a technically superior photo as well! It has EXCELLENT image quality...perfect focus on her eyes, creamy boke, great color, etc.

I don't think it matters whether a photo has good IQ or bad IQ, and neither do I think that a world renown great photo "has" to have crappy IQ. The key is simply that it has emotional impact. Any photo, of anything, can have emotional impact, doesn't matter if it is of a person, people, animals, landscapes, still life, whatever.

Whoa, I have been keen to stay out of this thread, but I can't. Anybody that has seen actual prints of not only this image of Steve McCurry's but many others of his, knows they are far from technically superior, there is even an expression "Steve McCurry sharp" that refers to compelling images that are slightly soft or out of focus.

Don't get me wrong, the guy is an amazing photographer, though his modern output and techniques are questioned by many, but the strength of his main body of work is not technique (and that shows in his prints), it is his connectivity and very strong use of colour.

Don't forget he shot most of his famous work, including "the Afghan Girl", on 64 iso Kodachrome, the fastest that went to was 200 iso! Oh and depending on who you believe, I shot shed loads of it, had around 7-8 usable stops of dynamic range. You could probably buy the film Nikon and the 50mm lens he used for most of his work for $150. Mind you, they are comments for a different thread ;)

I have the national geographic with that photo somewhere. It certainly never looked out of focus, slightly or otherwise, to me. If he enlarged the photo to multi-foot dimensions, well, the photo was taken, what, almost 30 years ago? I think that was even before the advent of AF, I believe.

Also, when I say the photo was superior technically, with great focus, boke, color, etc. I was speaking relatively. RELATIVE to the tank photo, the Afgan Girl is indeed technically superior. Given the technology of the time, ca. 1984 film and manual focus, it's a damn good photo, both technically and emotionally. Is it as good as you could get today, with something like the 1D X with all it's AF autofocus impressiveness? Probably not, but it doesn't change the fact that it is still a technically superior photo compared to a majority of photos most people would consider "the greatest photos of all time", which, as the OP already stated, are often of the poorest technical quality, grainy, blurry, poor color, etc.
 

sanj

EOS R5
Jan 22, 2012
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822
[/quote]

Great talent trumps good equipment, yet that in no way diminishes the power of good equipment in the hands of great talent.

The notion that a great photographer can create the "Sistine Chapel" with a pinhole camera and expired film is a fallacy. A great photographer benefits, arguably even more greatly than others, from great equipment. A pinhole camera exposed on expired film can make a great, emotionally evocative photograph, but the chances that a 1D X with thousands of dollars worth of top shelf glass will create even more emotionally evocative photography on a more consistent and regular basis is still undeniable.
[/quote]

Of course yes! Totally agree.
 

Aglet

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Feb 26, 2012
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AB
Then some people spend piles of money and effort on filters to transform images into something that might have more emotional impact, often by rendering them down to poor IQ (excess contrast, crushed dark, blown upper shades, horrendous color exaggerations and-or shifts, etc.) that asks the viewer's imagination to make something more of it than it was to start with.

Seems all those great images have emotional impact AND they impact a majority of viewers in the same way so as to create a consensus.
Some images only greatly impact a small percentage of viewers; are they still great images?
 

lux

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I've been thinking about this one because it's fun to think about. I think the greatest photos I've taken capture the essence of someone or some event. How we'll they do this is usually improved by being well-exposed etc but not always.

Then I thought about the greatest photos I've ever seen and they do the same thing...just better than I do
 

jrista

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Aglet said:
Then some people spend piles of money and effort on filters to transform images into something that might have more emotional impact, often by rendering them down to poor IQ (excess contrast, crushed dark, blown upper shades, horrendous color exaggerations and-or shifts, etc.) that asks the viewer's imagination to make something more of it than it was to start with.

Seems all those great images have emotional impact AND they impact a majority of viewers in the same way so as to create a consensus.
Some images only greatly impact a small percentage of viewers; are they still great images?

Good question. Perhaps the consensus is what makes a truly great photo one for the ages...
 

Aglet

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lux said:
I've been thinking about this one because it's fun to think about. I think the greatest photos I've taken capture the essence of someone or some event. How we'll they do this is usually improved by being well-exposed etc but not always.

Then I thought about the greatest photos I've ever seen and they do the same thing...just better than I do

+1
IMO, the greatest images I've seen are ones that have a "human element" in them .. somehow. Whether or not someone is in the photo, or something man-made or otherwise "touched by man."
There are plenty of great landscapes without a trace of human presence but I bet even Ansel Adams best shots pale in comparison to those other iconic images that do contain some human element.
 

pdirestajr

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Mar 28, 2011
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Great talent trumps good equipment, yet that in no way diminishes the power of good equipment in the hands of great talent.

The notion that a great photographer can create the "Sistine Chapel" with a pinhole camera and expired film is a fallacy. A great photographer benefits, arguably even more greatly than others, from great equipment. A pinhole camera exposed on expired film can make a great, emotionally evocative photograph, but the chances that a 1D X with thousands of dollars worth of top shelf glass will create even more emotionally evocative photography on a more consistent and regular basis is still undeniable.
[/quote]

Of course yes! Totally agree.
[/quote]

I'm assuming when you refer to the "Sistine Chapel" analogy you are talking about the fresco by Michelangelo (and not the architecture or actual physical construction)? And if that is the case, aren't you saying artists now with better equipment would have a better chance at creating a masterpiece? I think those dudes back then were rocking super minimal "gear".

The 1DX doesn't know what "emotion" is. The advancements in tools have only made our jobs easier, so we can spend more time with our families.
 

jrista

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pdirestajr said:
sanj said:
jrista] Great talent trumps good equipment said:
The 1DX doesn't know what "emotion" is. The advancements in tools have only made our jobs easier, so we can spend more time with our families.

Certainly not, no gear knows what emotion is. But your missing the point. The photographer DOES, and the photographer also knows the exact moment when that emotion should be captured for the most impactful effect. Sure, you could get such a photo with something like the lowly EOS-M and its original lackluster AF. But, you might also miss the moment as well. With a better AF system, the changes of that same photographer capturing the perfect moment increase, thereby increasing the chances they might capture one of times greatest moments in the form of a photograph.

My POINT is that just because it's the photographer who makes the photograph doesn't mean that if you put better, more capable gear in the hands of a brilliant photographer, they won't make better, more emotionally impactful photographs.

The argument I am trying to debunk is that "It's ONLY the photographer that matters". That is a fallacy. The photographer matters most, yes, but what gear that photographer has in their hands also matters. The two together are what make a photo. A camera, or a lens, or a flash, or any other piece of photographic equipment MATTERS, which is in direct contrast to painting, where it really doesn't matter what brand of brushes you use or what kind of paint. In photography, gear is important, it is not meaningless...because without gear, you couldn't make a photograph at all. (And, in contrast, without brushes, you could STILL make a finger painting! :p)
 

zim

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Talent + love of the human condition gets my vote
 

IMG_0001

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Nov 12, 2013
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jrista said:
pdirestajr said:
sanj said:
jrista] Great talent trumps good equipment said:
The 1DX doesn't know what "emotion" is. The advancements in tools have only made our jobs easier, so we can spend more time with our families.

Certainly not, no gear knows what emotion is. But your missing the point. The photographer DOES, and the photographer also knows the exact moment when that emotion should be captured for the most impactful effect. Sure, you could get such a photo with something like the lowly EOS-M and its original lackluster AF. But, you might also miss the moment as well. With a better AF system, the changes of that same photographer capturing the perfect moment increase, thereby increasing the chances they might capture one of times greatest moments in the form of a photograph.

My POINT is that just because it's the photographer who makes the photograph doesn't mean that if you put better, more capable gear in the hands of a brilliant photographer, they won't make better, more emotionally impactful photographs.

The argument I am trying to debunk is that "It's ONLY the photographer that matters". That is a fallacy. The photographer matters most, yes, but what gear that photographer has in their hands also matters. The two together are what make a photo. A camera, or a lens, or a flash, or any other piece of photographic equipment MATTERS, which is in direct contrast to painting, where it really doesn't matter what brand of brushes you use or what kind of paint. In photography, gear is important, it is not meaningless...because without gear, you couldn't make a photograph at all. (And, in contrast, without brushes, you could STILL make a finger painting! :p)

Just a reminder that at in Michealangelo's time, the choice was not between the cheap and the quality item at the local artist furniture store. The artist was making his own colors from pigments and mineral oils and good chances are that he also made his own brushes.
 

IMG_0001

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I am surprised that the underlying element of the answer for the majority of replies is the presupposition of photojournalism. When looking arond in other media about photography, it often claimed that it is to be viewed as a visual art form in its own right, but I don't feel that photojournalism is the best representative of that claim. Strong and charged documentary images might have more of a narrative strength than of a visual strength I reckon.

I concede that as a viewer, I am deeply touched by humanist photography, but I imagine that the answer to the question should allow for !a purely abstract photography.

However, visual impact sounds to me just as subjective and vague as being good makes a good photo good.

To me, a good photo is an intemporal image for which the viewer is stirred but has a hard time putting the finger on the source of the emotion. It is even better if the emotion itself is hard to define because then, the image is really new and unusual.

Now let me say that this easier said than done... (edit: and still quite vague and subjective.)
 

jrista

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IMG_0001 said:
jrista said:
pdirestajr said:
sanj said:
jrista] Great talent trumps good equipment said:
The 1DX doesn't know what "emotion" is. The advancements in tools have only made our jobs easier, so we can spend more time with our families.

Certainly not, no gear knows what emotion is. But your missing the point. The photographer DOES, and the photographer also knows the exact moment when that emotion should be captured for the most impactful effect. Sure, you could get such a photo with something like the lowly EOS-M and its original lackluster AF. But, you might also miss the moment as well. With a better AF system, the changes of that same photographer capturing the perfect moment increase, thereby increasing the chances they might capture one of times greatest moments in the form of a photograph.

My POINT is that just because it's the photographer who makes the photograph doesn't mean that if you put better, more capable gear in the hands of a brilliant photographer, they won't make better, more emotionally impactful photographs.

The argument I am trying to debunk is that "It's ONLY the photographer that matters". That is a fallacy. The photographer matters most, yes, but what gear that photographer has in their hands also matters. The two together are what make a photo. A camera, or a lens, or a flash, or any other piece of photographic equipment MATTERS, which is in direct contrast to painting, where it really doesn't matter what brand of brushes you use or what kind of paint. In photography, gear is important, it is not meaningless...because without gear, you couldn't make a photograph at all. (And, in contrast, without brushes, you could STILL make a finger painting! :p)

Just a reminder that at in Michealangelo's time, the choice was not between the cheap and the quality item at the local artist furniture store. The artist was making his own colors from pigments and mineral oils and good chances are that he also made his own brushes.

I think that only serves even more to show that the tool is much less important in painting than in photography.
 

IMG_0001

Amateur photon abductor
Nov 12, 2013
364
0
jrista said:
IMG_0001 said:
jrista said:
pdirestajr said:
sanj said:
jrista] Great talent trumps good equipment said:
The 1DX doesn't know what "emotion" is. The advancements in tools have only made our jobs easier, so we can spend more time with our families.

Certainly not, no gear knows what emotion is. But your missing the point. The photographer DOES, and the photographer also knows the exact moment when that emotion should be captured for the most impactful effect. Sure, you could get such a photo with something like the lowly EOS-M and its original lackluster AF. But, you might also miss the moment as well. With a better AF system, the changes of that same photographer capturing the perfect moment increase, thereby increasing the chances they might capture one of times greatest moments in the form of a photograph.

My POINT is that just because it's the photographer who makes the photograph doesn't mean that if you put better, more capable gear in the hands of a brilliant photographer, they won't make better, more emotionally impactful photographs.

The argument I am trying to debunk is that "It's ONLY the photographer that matters". That is a fallacy. The photographer matters most, yes, but what gear that photographer has in their hands also matters. The two together are what make a photo. A camera, or a lens, or a flash, or any other piece of photographic equipment MATTERS, which is in direct contrast to painting, where it really doesn't matter what brand of brushes you use or what kind of paint. In photography, gear is important, it is not meaningless...because without gear, you couldn't make a photograph at all. (And, in contrast, without brushes, you could STILL make a finger painting! :p)

Just a reminder that at in Michealangelo's time, the choice was not between the cheap and the quality item at the local artist furniture store. The artist was making his own colors from pigments and mineral oils and good chances are that he also made his own brushes.

I think that only serves even more to show that the tool is much less important in painting than in photography.

It does show that mastering the tools you have is more important than having the greatest tools. However, I believe that some tools like color theory, graphic language and knowledge of arts in general are of high importance.