Do comments on the Internet make you a bad model or photographer?

Posted on February 14, 2012

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Photographer Kenneth Jarecke posted this blog post about if you suck. Understand that Kenneth is a great photographer in his own right, and creates some really inspiring photos. But, this article discusses that people who should really be told that they need to improve never get those comments. If they were, they would get furious with who we are to give those comments. Kenneth then asks, “If nothing is bad, can anything be good?”

I can personally say that that it isn’t just occurring on the Internet. This happens in real life, too. I have experienced this from judges in crits of the submissions they received. Not a single one wants to say something negative. Heaven forbid if you offend someone. And, seeing the few people who judge and take a stance — how people feel about them being judges the day or later after. This is why I stopped competing in photography contests. I never received valid and good critiques. I am not saying I expect a judge to rip a person down, but give valid criticism on what they didn’t like and why.  I have even been told by an internationally known photographer that by saying nothing, you are saying a lot. I disagree with this stance. I think if you are tactful, you should be able to tell anyone what you think. I believe that opinions are good as long as they aren’t attacks.

Taken to an extreme, you probably have seen American Idol. I have seen maybe three or four acts on it because so many people said that “you have to see” this show.  Then, look at the people who really stink. Their anger. Their frustration. They go on thinking they will be discovered and are really great — but discover they aren’t. How many of those people who leave in disgust ever make it back anywhere and show the judges they are really good at what ever they were doing?  Why didn’t they know they were that bad?

Part of this is because no one ever told them. People constantly are too afraid they would offend who they are, and soften their comments on who their talent. We have also grown into a world where negative comments are always an attack on who we are. So, even the most awful talent gets good comments or never told that they need to improve.

This is part of the problem I run into with models who use modeling sites. Many think they are the greatest models who are out there and they can do anything. Yet, they flake, demand exorbitant amounts of money to work with them, and often can’t model. I ask for a simple “T” pose to start off with, and they are confused. Sometimes, they are people who have modeled for two and three years… and they still don’t know what a “T” pose is? I see the same with photographers who think they are incredible. They believe they deserve gobs of money for taking their images. I was talking to one about a week ago who believes just this – but can’t take a picture with a flash or strobe to save his life – and he even admits it. Just look at how many people who put logos on their images to say “I am so good, here is my mark”. This isn’t to say there are those who deserve the praise they get, but there are many more who don’t. And, those people are clueless.

Let me also add that there is nothing wrong with being bad. Everyone starts there in some form. We then work and build our skills up creating better work. It takes training and structured criticism.

And I disagree with the Kenneth on animal and kid pictures. Yes, it is a quick way to be recognized. But, it is also talent if you can get some decent and artful images of them.

I have to ask everyone who reads this blog: is it all the positive comments on the Internet that make us believe we are so good?

Edit: A photographer friend who read this post commented that this is so true and that the only praise to him that means anything is the praise that occurs when they buy his photographs or his services. All other praise is meaningless.

Edit2: Another friend in the art community noted that it isn’t the responsibility of your friends to critique your work. You should be having someone who is a professional that knows. Your friends are there to encourage you to keep going and take more images, and they hope you will get better with that nurturing if you aren’t very good. But, comments by professionals who are highly skilled should be proper critiques.

<img class=”alignright” title=”Mariah bokeh image” src=”http://galleries.xoind.com/photos/i-qLhPhZC/0/S/i-qLhPhZC-S.jpg&#8221; alt=”Mariah bokeh image” width=”200″ height=”300″ />Bokeh is a word that many photographers use. But, are they using it correctly? It is a word used to describe the quality of the blur you get from a specific lens. Some people pay a lot of money for a lens with good bokeh – but is it really noticeable?  To me, it is. Take for instance, the image at the right. The blur on the image is created only by the lens – none of it is photoshop. What do you think of it? I have a bigger copy of the same image on my <a title=”Link to Mariah bokeh image – her face” href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/xoind/6894795999/in/photostream&#8221; target=”_blank”>Flickr</a>. If you look carefully, you can see the focus plane extends from the top of the model’s head to the bottom. But, that isn’t what we are interested. Instead, look at how the blur occurs over the skin closer and further away as it moves further out of focus. That blur is the bokeh.

The other type of bokeh is the type that talks about how bright light is rendered when it is out of focus. Most often, any lights that are out of focus render as spots based on the blades of the aperture. A few images are posted below. One of the interesting effects that you see with highlights or hot spots with mirror lenses is a “ring” effect bokeh (often referred to as a “doughnut” by those who own them).  An example of this can be found on Mike King’s Flickr page of a <a title=”Wind board surfer with doughnut highlights” href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikekingphoto/5394380056/&#8221; target=”_blank”>wind board surfer</a> on the ocean. But, this isn’t the bokey we will be showing how to photograph in this blog entry.

Instead, we will be working with a regular lens type of bokeh and how it reproduces dots of light. There are two things we will be doing to ‘create’ a bokeh.

The first is taking and bluring the lights, most often Christmas lights (or similar types of point source lights), in the background. You will need a relatively large aperture lens – something with F2, F1.8, or larger. The easiest way to do this  method is creating a setup with the lights in a dark area behind your subject about 10-15 feet. I recommend doing this at night when it is dark out. The second is illuminating your subject from the sides (maybe a 45 degree angle from the front) so that you don’t light up where the Christmas lights are located. Key to this is keeping the aperture wide open at first, and then play with the aperture of the lens to get just the right amount of blur you want on the Christmas lights. Depending on the focal length and the distance to your subject, the amount of blur will be different. A note on cheaper lenses, the shape changes from a circle to a shape with the number of blades (typically five or seven) you have making up the aperture in your lens because the aperture isn’t perfectly round at the smaller sizes.  Some examples of this are below.

The second technique builds on this one by creating a mask of a specific shape to put on the front of your lens like a filter. By doing this, the shape of the lights then becomes that shape. Some of those are below.

All information and images are ©2012 Don Krajewski on this post.

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Posted in: Modeling, Photography