Pages: [1]   Go Down

Author Topic: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?  (Read 2797 times)

dreed

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1502

A few people have commented that my more recent photographs "look like postcards." Whilst that is perhaps as much a statement of the subject matter, I'd like to think that both my camera skills and editing skills have moved up to the point where I can create pictures that people like the look of as opposed to just "happy snaps."

However the challenge now is how do I moved beyond that?

Is this just a matter of finding less ... obvious subjects?
Is it a kitsch thing? Or...

Any tips on where to go with photography in moving from "postcard" to "art"?

As an example of "looks good enough to be a postcard" is the picture I posted in another forum here - Dolomites 2016
Logged

RSL

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 9477
    • http://www.russ-lewis.com
Re: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2016, 11:34:03 AM »

Hi Dreed,

The comments associated with "Dolomites 2016" tell me people already "like the look of" what you're doing. And it's a beautifully executed example of what I've long called a "tourist picture." It's very pretty.

How do you move beyond that? You dig out books by masters like Ansel, HCB, Weston, Strand, Doisneau, Evans, Lange, Gene Smith, Riboud, etc., etc., and STUDY them. When you find things you like you try to correlate what the link between them is -- what it is you like about them. Then you try to concentrate on shooting that kind of thing -- the kind of thing that gives you the same satisfaction you got from those pictures. Note that I used the phrase "kind of thing." You can't go out and re-do Dorothea Lange, for instance, because the United States isn't currently in a depression -- just a recession. But you can go out and shoot in surroundings and among the kind of people Dorothea did. They're still out there.

But just shooting among similar surroundings isn't enough. What is it about those pictures that grabs you? If you analyze your feelings carefully enough you'll probably find that it isn't the landscape specifically, and it isn't the people specifically. It's always something more. It's what I call a transcendental experience, but I'm not going to get wrapped around the axle defining that. The main thing is that that kind of picture moves you -- deep inside.

What makes a picture art is a subtle thing. There's no way to point somebody in a particular direction and say: there's art out there in that subject matter. Just go shoot it. Mountains like the Dolomites certainly can be the subject of art, but the picture has to be more than just pretty. It can be brooding. It can be joyful. It can contain questions. We keep joking about ambiguity, but ambiguity can have a powerful impact. To be art a picture has to contain something more than prettiness.

But when you find the thing that moves you and you make pictures that do that, don't expect other people to jump up and say "that picture moves me." Probably ain't gonna happen. You have to just move on and say "screw it." Shoot for yourself. Shoot what moves you. Enjoy that and don't worry about the rest of the world.

Zorki5

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 488
    • AOLib
Re: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2016, 12:35:46 PM »

How do you move beyond that? You dig out books by masters like Ansel, HCB, Weston, Strand, Doisneau, Evans, Lange, Gene Smith, Riboud, etc., etc., and STUDY them.

Better yet, study the images you really like and try to understand what is there that is (is it?..) missing in your shots. Reading also works, but only to a degree ("the picture is worth...")

But when you find the thing that moves you and you make pictures that do that, don't expect other people to jump up and say "that picture moves me." Probably ain't gonna happen. You have to just move on and say "screw it." Shoot for yourself. Shoot what moves you. Enjoy that and don't worry about the rest of the world.

+1

In the thread you linked, the two alternative versions of your shot looked (to me!) over-processed and worse than your original. And even the original was a bit over-processed and thus not quite to my (only my!) liking. But what do I know? Maybe you were going for that look; it is well justified if you wanted to convey the "impression", whereas I always cherish landscapes that are immersive, allowing me to pretend I'm there.

So Russ is right. I for one always listen to what others have to say about my images -- if they explain what exactly they do or do not like. But whether I agree with any of that (positives and negatives alike) is a completely, utterly different matter.
Logged

Zorki5

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 488
    • AOLib
Re: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2016, 12:39:02 PM »

Just realized I was "talking to" dreed while quoting Russ. Hope it didn't cause much confusion :)
Logged

Rob C

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 16598
Re: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2016, 02:24:03 PM »

Russ has written it as best it can be written.

In fact, I would apply the same reasoning even more basically than to your original question, which is already several rungs up the search ladder.

From the huge mass of material 'out there' one must look for the things that make it seem like a good idea to play. If that is found, the rest is easy. For myself, I can't believe that anyone can really do everything and be good at it all, or even enjoy it all to the same degree.

Rob

Rob C

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 16598
Re: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?
« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2016, 03:29:53 PM »

Look within.

I find the opposite approach leads to confusion.

IMO


And absolutely no satisfaction.

Folks can make their own Stones links for this one.

Rob

elliot_n

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 440
Re: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2016, 05:03:46 PM »

Logged

stamper

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 5120
Re: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?
« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2016, 03:54:23 AM »

What I am going to state is fairly obvious. You shoot what interests you in a style that pleases you. You get the technical side of things right and if you are happy then what is the problem? The problem starts when you show them to an audience for approval. If you get a response from someone who states his opinion in a fair manner then you are lucky and fortunate. You read the words of someone you trust and think about it. However some critics aren't very good themselves but it doesn't stop them commenting. Most give one liners - I am guilty myself - which isn't helpful and some are just spiteful. Some are jealous and won't comment fairly. The worst ones are the ones who critique regularly but you search in vain for images they have posted. Personally I am not very good at expressing my thoughts about an image because my liking or disliking is a gut feeling. I post a lot of images and get my fair share of likes and some dislikes and get regularly ignored but it doesn't stop me from posting. Most important is if you ever get to a stage that you are perfectly happy with your output then it is time you took up tiddlywinks? At the end of the day everyone who is interested in progressing feels like you at some stage. Worth a read.

http://luminous-landscape.com/vision-11-critiquing-photographs/

You need to have paid your 12 dollars to read it.

hjulenissen

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 2053
Re: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?
« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2016, 04:10:33 AM »

How do you move beyond that? You dig out books by masters like Ansel, HCB, Weston, Strand, Doisneau, Evans, Lange, Gene Smith, Riboud, etc., etc., and STUDY them.
As one that have (to some degree and a long time ago) studied music of others in the hope of becoming a skilled musician, I'd like to propose an alternate view. There is a significant danger that knowing the complete catalog of e.g. jazz music, knowing the terms for various traits, analyzing the reasons why one composition works and another does not, etc, will make you a "walking dictionary" perfectly suited to be a teacher in the field. But not a practitioner.

I am reluctant to say this, as I do acknowledge knowledge and theory. But (perhaps especially in arts), "not knowing what you do", just pressing on with your thing, seems to have some positive sides. Perhaps the trick is to be able to _selectively_ absorb the work of others, or to know when enough is enough.

Perhaps more so with photography than music, the basic technical skills needed for many kinds of photography can be acquired relatively easily, while the thing that makes your photography "better" than others is (?) mainly the ability to see possibilities where others see only problems (or nothing at all).

There are 88 keys on a piano. Western music tradition tells us that a limited subset of those keys should be used at the same time, or in sequence. To our ears, this is perhaps what makes "music" different from "noise" (following (un-)written laws). If you gave a piano to a man in the jungle who had never heard western music, he would probably just make (to us) strange noises on it. But there is a slight chance that he would do something unique. Find his own system. Something that I would never do because I am so locked into tradition.

-h
« Last Edit: June 30, 2016, 04:18:17 AM by hjulenissen »
Logged

Paulo Bizarro

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 4215
    • http://www.paulobizarro.com
Re: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2016, 09:19:14 AM »

To me, what works best is to stop trying to be good and/or proficient at "everything"; just concentrating on what I really like to shoot is very beneficial. Then study the work of others in the same sort of subjects that I like, to learn.

Rob C

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 16598
Re: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?
« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2016, 09:23:11 AM »


I am reluctant to say this, as I do acknowledge knowledge and theory. But (perhaps especially in arts), "not knowing what you do", just pressing on with your thing, seems to have some positive sides. Perhaps the trick is to be able to _selectively_ absorb the work of others, or to know when enough is enough.

Perhaps more so with photography than music, the basic technical skills needed for many kinds of photography can be acquired relatively easily, while the thing that makes your photography "better" than others is (?) mainly the ability to see possibilities where others see only problems (or nothing at all).

-h

I couldn't agree more, which is why l don't like the idea of people going on courses for 'creative' photography. Courses on technical issues are wonderful, and save people a huge amount of time, especially today with the madness that is digital: formats, file-types etc. et bloody cetera.

But, whilst books and magazines and Internet browsing are wonderful ways of opening the eyes to something you may like to try, that's where I think the value must be seen to end. Once you've found your taste(s), it's up to you to become you, not a faux somebody else.

Rob

RSL

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 9477
    • http://www.russ-lewis.com
Re: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?
« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2016, 11:00:52 AM »

I not only agree, I think that's what I said.

bjanes

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 3272
Re: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?
« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2016, 01:15:39 PM »

There are 88 keys on a piano. Western music tradition tells us that a limited subset of those keys should be used at the same time, or in sequence. To our ears, this is perhaps what makes "music" different from "noise" (following (un-)written laws). If you gave a piano to a man in the jungle who had never heard western music, he would probably just make (to us) strange noises on it. But there is a slight chance that he would do something unique. Find his own system. Something that I would never do because I am so locked into tradition.

There are many purists in music who regard the equal temperament of the modern piano as discordant and unpleasing. For details see this article. Some purists regard listening to such piano music as unpleasantly discordant. The music sounds fine to me, but then I am not a music aficionado. Perhaps the 135 vs MF arguments are analogous.

Bill
Logged

luxborealis

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 2418
    • luxBorealis.com - photography by Terry McDonald
Re: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?
« Reply #13 on: June 30, 2016, 02:40:01 PM »

It sounds like you're at an impass or a plateau in your creativity.

Continue to photograph what you love but, at the same time, explore...
  • Push boundaries by trying something new; a new technique, a new angle/point of view/perspective.
  • Think differently: how can I photograph what I love in a completely different way? e.g. If you photograph landscapes, try photographing only the details that make up the 'scape.
  • Stop photographing things and places and try photographing what you feel. Art, after all, is expression.
  • Try photographing concepts.
  • Ask yourself: what am I trying to say here? Work towards fully articulating your answer.
  • Try doing a short project of six to 12 photographs about something you know nothing about in a style you've never tried before (square, black and white images of ...).

The point is, you won't always like the result of these ideas, but they do two things: they will help you clarify what you like and what you don't like. Who knows, maybe you'll discover something about yourself. Secondly, trying new ideas just might lead to other ideas or combinations of ideas.

But, keep photographing what you love.

BTW, you're photos are far better than postcards!
Logged
Terry McDonald - luxBorealis.com.
Flickr Account;
PhotoBlog Read and subscribe!

Slobodan Blagojevic

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 10072
  • When everybody thinks the same... nobody thinks.
    • My website
Re: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?
« Reply #14 on: June 30, 2016, 02:53:29 PM »

I suggest to check Andy Ilachinski and his essay: The Eightfold Path Toward Self-Discovery Through Photography, about eight stages in developing your own style. Quite an enlightening read.

Camerajim

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 26
Re: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?
« Reply #15 on: July 01, 2016, 11:45:57 AM »

There are a lot of interesting responses on this thread, but I'll attempt to add mine. I don't have answers, mostly just questions.

What did you feel about the Dolomites when you took that photo?

Who did you mean to see it, and what did you want them to see?

Did you want to convey a particular story or pass along your feelings?

Photography can be completely personal, and you can keep your images to yourself. That's OK. But if you're trying to communicate with photography, what are you communicating?

If I were there, I would have moved in and featured just one foreground house, to tell the story of a small, nearly insignificant dwelling among that natural majesty. But, you may have had a different story in mind.
Logged

hjulenissen

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 2053
Re: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?
« Reply #16 on: July 01, 2016, 01:22:47 PM »

There are many purists in music who regard the equal temperament of the modern piano as discordant and unpleasing. For details see this article. Some purists regard listening to such piano music as unpleasantly discordant. The music sounds fine to me, but then I am not a music aficionado. Perhaps the 135 vs MF arguments are analogous.

Bill
Perhaps an even better counter argument would have 12-tone music, where the rules are to sort of randomize the choice of keys, to break up with tradition.

None of these are what I would consider mainstream or western music tradition, though. And both have rules of them selves. I think that "the entropy of art" would have been an interesting thesis title had I gone back to university. How many bits does it take to describe a set of music? A zipped score or midifile? An mp3 file? What does Shazam & friends need to distingush one song from 10000 others? How many pieces of information do you need to tell a highly skilled musician before she "gets" a song? Why is it that hit songs tends to stick to the formula (ie low entropy) in the verse but introduce novelty (high entropy) in the refrain? Are "postcard images" excellent execution of the unwritten rules, while masterpieces diverge from the rules in subjectively interesting ways?

Instead, I wrote on multirate audio signal processing.

-h
Logged

petermfiore

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1185
    • Peter Fiore Fine Art
Re: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?
« Reply #17 on: July 01, 2016, 04:00:48 PM »

Any tips on where to go with photography in moving from "postcard" to "art"?

Have a point of view in your narrative...

Peter
Logged
www.peterfiore.com

Canvas Colors Brushes  

A life in Art >  www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRsNaNM0ZeU

Rory

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 467
    • Recent images
Re: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?
« Reply #18 on: July 01, 2016, 04:19:03 PM »

I have not seen a portfolio of your images, but based on the mountain image, it is sort of postcardish, in that it is a nicely composed sunny scene with saturated colours.  A couple of simple things for you to try (if you have not already) are to find parts of a scene to shoot rather than the entire landscape and shoot in anything but sunny weather.  Next time it is raining grab your camera!

Lots of great advice above.  In my opinion it is threads like this that bring out the very best in LL.
Logged

alainbriot

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 749
    • http://www.beautiful-landscape.com
Re: I've reached "postcard" quality, but how to move beyond that?
« Reply #19 on: July 03, 2016, 10:17:19 PM »

"A few people have commented that my more recent photographs "look like postcards. (...) how do I moved beyond that?"

Create photographs that do not look like postcards.
Logged
Alain Briot
Author of Mastering Landscape Photography, Mastering Composition, Creativity and Personal Style., Marketing Fine Art Photography and How Photographs are Sold.
http://www.beautiful-landscape.com
Pages: [1]   Go Up