What Makes A Photograph “Perfect”?

“Photographers – if people don’t like your work, find someone who does; this is a very subjective business.”  This quote was attributed to a photographer named Kelly Shipp when I saw it (couldn’t verify the origin for certain).  It’s truth is right up there with the saying “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

Some people love sushi, some detest it (I’m in the latter group).  Some love jazz, some think it sounds like noise.  Photography has a similar bipolar-ness to it.  Some months back I was shown some images from a very expensive engagement shoot.  These pictures were “so incredible” according to the ones who had originally pointed them out.  I was less than impressed. [Note to friends: It wasn’t one of your shoots; I don’t know this photographer].  To be sure the technical quality was excellent — very sharp, well-composed, and nicely post-processed.  What I didn’t like was the clothing, setting, and backgrounds.  They were taken in an urban area (which I rather like in general) but these backgrounds were noisy and distracting in my opinion and I simply did not like the end result.  The clothing was sloppy to the point of degrading the overall feeling of the images (maybe I’m just getting old).

When my daughter was married recently, we had 29 people staying at our house (Yep!).  We typically have an old Canon Rebel XT sitting on the counter so anyone can grab it and snap some shots of the latest happenings.  One of my younger daughters (who cares nothing about the technicalities of photography) took that camera out to the back porch and took all the shots in this blog post.  Here’s a family favorite:

Elaina, Ava, and Ezekiel

I absolutely love that picture and have gotten many comments on it (I’m always sure to give my daughter the credit of course). From a technical standpoint there are lots of problems.  However, the cuteness factor simply wins out for us over lack of focus.  The memory of the cousins together (they live 1100 miles apart) adds even more value to it.

The following picture violates the “rule” of never chopping the hands off…still a great picture for those who will regularly view it — our family and friends.

Ezekiel and Ava

Ezekiel and Ava

The next image really captures “a moment” in my opinion:

Ezekiel With His Great Grandparents

Ezekiel With His Great Grandparents

This is our son with his great grandparents (my grandparents).  It has tremendous sentimental value.  From an artistic standpoint it contrasts the 2-year-old baby face with the 85-year-old skin of his great-grandmother (sorry, Grandma).  I took the original image and cropped, rotated, desaturated, sharpened to accentuate the contrast between my grandma’s skin and my son’s.  The end result is what I — the “customer” in this case — would call a perfect photograph.  There’s a collective “Awww” in the house whenever it shows up on the desktop background.

Beauty IS in the eye of the beholder.  Remember to factor in more than the technical details when deciding if a photograph makes the cut.  I want to be clear that a professional must have a high standard for what is done for a client.  My main point is to encourage younger, inexperienced photographers to enjoy their early work and see the value that it does have.



© 2009 Michael Tuuk


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