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08-29-2018, 04:11 AM - 4 Likes   #1
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I called it "The Salieri Syndrome" - Some of you might relate.

Two words about myself first:
I am an Architect by profession who dived into Pentax cameras about 2 years ago by a contact with a ME super system. I fell in love with the film camera and starting shooting film for some time. then I wanted more, more frames, more pixels, more versatility and I got me a second hand k-x(digital one). After shooting with it for a year and a half I jumped to a k-30, the leap was huge, illuminated AF points, are you kidding me?!

Paradoxically, not only did I not see any improvement in my pictures, they seem to get worse, endless pictures of no value to me whatsoever. I had occasional views with people who weren't very enthusiastic about them. I am talking about people who take a couple of lessons about picture composition, learn the rule of thirds and think that's all photography is about.
(Now you have to keep in mind, In architecture school we had drawing classes and graphical representations of projects, hence my photography composition was waaay off at the begining.)

So my artistic side grew more insecure with the passing of time. I kept on shooting pictures, editing them, but rarely shared them. and in the meanwhile my own critique over my work begun evolving, I started deleting more pictures, I started taking the finger off the shutter more often, I started keeping the shadows low and the highlights high. all this in a process of overthinking throughout the whole process. I visited photo expos, and started unconsciously developing a critique side, this mostly on the pentaxians comunity, here and on the FB page. the more my critiquing side grew the more I hesitated to create my own work, over analyzing an pre-critiquing my shots... and then it hit me... "I AM SALIERI!!"

Salieri - for who might not know - is the main villain character in the classic movie about Mozart, "Amadeus". After spending his entire life in and about music, he realizes he has no talent for composing, but is cursed with the ability to spot a masterpiece of the kind, which is Mozart's music.

So here I am, shuffling through pictures posted on internet or galleries, analyzing composition, subject representation, metaphors, color tones, picture rendition, with an ever growing critique attitude and an ever shrinking artistic drive.

Anyway, some time ago, an old colleague of mine reaches out to me through instagram and tells me how in awe he is from my photography work in there, and asks me if I have taken photography seriously as a profession. this friend is an architect turned director. I was stunned, I rarely post on instagram and I dont take it very seriously. during the same period of time, a couple of friends of mine insisted on me making an exposition of my work in photography. At first I was delighted, but then I started thinking: I have to review my pictures... I have to edit them... I should choose e theme... I should choose a place... I should arrange this thing... etc etc... So the Salieri took over the situation. Here I am now, continuing shooting, randomly reviewing and editing, and not with any intention on opening that expo any time soon.

Bottom line is: At a certain point of my journey in photography, my critiquing side got bigger than my creative one, and is constantly choking it. But on the bright side, my creative self is fighting back and is coming out somehow stronger and better, because of my own self critique.

It would help me a lot to see if any of you has a similar experience!
(Picture for metaphor)

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08-29-2018, 04:22 AM - 1 Like   #2
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Interesting post. Like you, I dabble in Architecture so I am critical of my work, both Architectural and Photography!

The best you can do is post your photos. There's the critique section on this forum or you can use any other venue. You'll soon see what images of yours inspire others.
08-29-2018, 04:48 AM   #3
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When shooting film , each photographs come at a cost, therefore you may tend to think about that photographs you take. With digital, and especially with fast camera, we tend to think less and less before taking photographs, producing quantity over quality. If, before taking each photographs you would think about if you will make a large print and hand that photograph into a frame at home, chances are you will take a lot less photographs and each of those photographs will be a lot more inspiring.
08-29-2018, 05:01 AM   #4
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I like your post and your point. I think I'm quite a Salieri myself too, but when I review some of my pics I'm glad of what I've done so far and I try to get even better. For me the biggest problem is the lack of time (which rephrases as lack of opportunities) to get the pictures I want. When I've managed to devote time to photography and prioritize it over other amusing habbits, at the end I'm glad I did it and (usually) I'm rewarded.

08-29-2018, 05:21 AM - 1 Like   #5
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Quieting your inner critic is the key to any creativity. Different artists deal with it in different ways, some more or less legal or medically-advisable. While many of the most tortured artists resorted to everything from alcohol to hallucinogens, that's obviously a fairly life- (and work-) limiting choice.


Personally, I find the greatest inspiration from viewing the work of others. I probably spend as much on photography books and publications as I do on lenses. To find myself loving images that I myself would have thrown away is a great help. A second tactic is to go shoot freely, copy across the images, then leave them until you forget them - seeing them fresh a few months or years later helps give a new perspective. Another thing that has helped me of late is to listen to music while I shoot - nothing attention-grabbing, no pop or whatever - some classical or easy-listening, or something you love and know well. It can occupy a part of your brain that might otherwise butt in and allow your visual brain free-rein - I personally choose minimal techno, but it's up to you - try it, you might like it.
08-29-2018, 05:45 AM   #6
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While I find possible points of improvement for nearly every picture I take afterwards (there is only a handful of images in my collection I wouldn't wish for something different, be it something uncontrollable like something in the background, some movement of my subject or technical things I did, like shutter speed, focal length, ...) I am generally happy with my pictures.
I even sometimes tried to retake some pictures after looking at my results on the computer but while those pictures often where more perfect from a technical perspective they sometimes lacked an element of the original attempt (a cloud, a passing car, a leave in the water,...).
I learned that photography is often about being at the right place at the right time and not so much about doing everything right with the composition. Even messed up camera settings sometimes give interesting results.
I think you should talk about your pictures occasionally with someone, because you will get sometimes surprising feedback. When showing my pictures I am often surprised by the reactions I get. There are pictures I like a lot and I put a lot of work in them to get everything right in post and sometimes they get less attention than some snapshots that arn't bad in my opinion (or I wouldn't show them) but nothing special either
08-29-2018, 06:37 AM   #7
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Yes, I can relate. I got into photography before the digital era, and had a wonderful time taking photos of anything and everything that caught my eye.

However, I got involved with one of nature's true wastes of space. This waste of space was always criticizing my work, but not in a loud, harsh way. The criticism was more subtle, and hence, far more effective. This shot didn't work because of the framing. That shot didn't work because of the lighting. And on and on. The words "You lack talent" were never spoken aloud, but that was the constant theme.

This waste of space was also a photographer, and was constantly singing the praises of their own work. Look at this! Look at that! See how talented I am?

It took years, but I finally realized: This person is not particularly talented. I found the person online, looked at some photos, and - wow, these are supposed to be good? I can do better than that. I let someone else decide how talented I was, and it was a huge mistake. I am finally enjoying photography again.
08-29-2018, 06:50 AM   #8
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I believe that self-criticism can be constructive and helpful like all things in life the key is moderation. As for what other people think of your photographs unless you are doing commission work for the individual(s) it is less important. Remember that people have different tastes. I personally dislike much of the modern painting in galleries but obviously someone likes it because it keeps being on display. If you are taking photos for your own enjoyment then the only opinion that really matters is yours.

08-29-2018, 06:56 AM - 2 Likes   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Photogoof Quote
Yes, I can relate. I got into photography before the digital era, and had a wonderful time taking photos of anything and everything that caught my eye.

However, I got involved with one of nature's true wastes of space. This waste of space was always criticizing my work, but not in a loud, harsh way. The criticism was more subtle, and hence, far more effective. This shot didn't work because of the framing. That shot didn't work because of the lighting. And on and on. The words "You lack talent" were never spoken aloud, but that was the constant theme.

This waste of space was also a photographer, and was constantly singing the praises of their own work. Look at this! Look at that! See how talented I am?

It took years, but I finally realized: This person is not particularly talented. I found the person online, looked at some photos, and - wow, these are supposed to be good? I can do better than that. I let someone else decide how talented I was, and it was a huge mistake. I am finally enjoying photography again.
Back in my craft show days, I noticed maybe one in 10 people came into my booth. Of them maybe one in ten buys something. So your fans are going to be maybe 1 in 100. You can make a very good living from that. What the other 99 think is irrelevant.

The trick in craft shows is to go to the bigger shows that have say 20,000 or more attendees. A show like that can make your year, given a decent level of competence and variety of subject matter.

Personally, I don't even think about the other 99. Talk to you friends.

Tess once tried to talk a guy out of one of my prints taken with the old K20D. It was a sunset, in her opinion, too much black space not enough dynamic range. The guy eventually cut her off and said "I'm taking that one." Most buyers couldn't care less about your technical evaluation of the image. All they care about is "do I like the picture/" And 99 times out of 100 their opinion is irrelevant.

Then there's the people who make basic technical mistake, blazing the saturation and contrast so much they lose detail, posting images that are out of focus or not colour balanced, (I actually do that all the time.)

So you can listen too much, or you can listen not enough, with severe consequences (like getting on my ignore list) at either extreme.

There's a balance to be achieved there. My theory is, if I like it 1 in 10 will like it will like it enough to take a look, 1 in 100 other people will like it enough to buy, and that's good enough for me. It's mistake to think you can take an image that everyone will like, or even a majority, or even 1%.

When I was a cabinet maker, I made myself a coffee table with a beautiful birds eye maple. I wanted the most out of it, so I took it to one of the best finishers in Toronto, a personally friend who's work I would never even try to emulate. I brought it home a put it in the front room. A local self taught cabinet makers, was at a party we through. He came over and said "you should let me refinish that for you?" I'd seen Hans' work and there was nothing he ever did that remotely approached the job my friend did on that table. You really have to look at who is giving you advice and why. Some photographers are just trying to set you up to sell you something, and will try and convince you the way they do things is better than the way you do. So he's one of the 99%, ignore him.

But if you can get to 1% like your work enough to buy it, you can make a living from it if you choose to.

Last edited by normhead; 08-29-2018 at 07:13 AM.
08-29-2018, 07:22 AM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by othar Quote
I think you should talk about your pictures occasionally with someone, because you will get sometimes surprising feedback. When showing my pictures I am often surprised by the reactions I get.
This is why I put stuff up in the critique forum. I struggle on the creative side and find that I am not a real creative person. I need specific direction and specific advise so that I have goals to work towards. When things are open ended I kind of just flail around and produce meh results. I find that if given a direction to go in I can produce some good results but even there I will wander off and produce some odd things that make sense in my mind but are very out there. Add in that I am a very technically oriented person (an computer security expert by trade) and naturally have a mindset that is very much geared towards that and I struggle a lot with the creative side of things. I tend not to self censor and apart from technical self criticizm don't let that get in the way of taking a shot. As in there are shots that I know my gear cannot physically get so I don't try for those. This leads to me taking lots of pictures that are generally boring and occasionally stumbling into something that is good.

One of the pictures I have posted here that has done well was one of a micro chip still on wafter that was 4mm across on the long edge shot at a 2:1 macro and cropped to show 1 chip. Dry, boring, very technical shot, yet people like it and I have no idea why, other than I guess it is just something most have never seen.
08-29-2018, 07:27 AM - 3 Likes   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by MossyRocks Quote
This is why I put stuff up in the critique forum. I struggle on the creative side and find that I am not a real creative person. I need specific direction and specific advise so that I have goals to work towards. When things are open ended I kind of just flail around and produce meh results. I find that if given a direction to go in I can produce some good results but even there I will wander off and produce some odd things that make sense in my mind but are very out there. Add in that I am a very technically oriented person (an computer security expert by trade) and naturally have a mindset that is very much geared towards that and I struggle a lot with the creative side of things. I tend not to self censor and apart from technical self criticizm don't let that get in the way of taking a shot. As in there are shots that I know my gear cannot physically get so I don't try for those. This leads to me taking lots of pictures that are generally boring and occasionally stumbling into something that is good.

One of the pictures I have posted here that has done well was one of a micro chip still on wafter that was 4mm across on the long edge shot at a 2:1 macro and cropped to show 1 chip. Dry, boring, very technical shot, yet people like it and I have no idea why, other than I guess it is just something most have never seen.
Texture and repetition, one centre of interest.
I have no idea why people think the Rule of Thirds is the only rule,

Most photography enthusiasts know less about composition than one of my grade 10 students who had to produce 5 images incorporating at least one of the following composition techniques, and with each one fo them included somewhere in the five prints.



You can tell how ignorant people are, especially when discussing composition, when they fail to see that the strength of an image is not determined only buy the rule of thirds. To the point I'd say, if they aren't discussing all of these concepts, and also understand their are excellent photographs that break every one of them, they really don't understand composition. Mentioning the rule of thirds is almost a sure sign you're talking to the un-educated. It's not relevant to every image. Listening to many, you'd think every image has to incorporate the rule of thirds. And I've had the uneducated complain about the lack of use of the rule of thirds in my images, where the cropping was very heavily influenced by the rule off thirds, they just didn't have the training to understand how I employed it.

Listening to other people's opinions is as fraught with dangers as never listening to other people's opinions.

Last edited by normhead; 08-29-2018 at 08:03 AM.
08-29-2018, 08:29 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
I have no idea why people think the Rule of Thirds is the only rule,
Probably because it is the most repeated one and is easy to understand.

Thanks. Now I have something to read and learn from. I have known about the off center one and use it frequently when shooting flowers, as well as leading lines although I struggle with that one a bit as far too often I seem to unwittingly end up making the line the subject.
08-29-2018, 08:57 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by MossyRocks Quote
Probably because it is the most repeated one and is easy to understand.

Thanks. Now I have something to read and learn from. I have known about the off center one and use it frequently when shooting flowers, as well as leading lines although I struggle with that one a bit as far too often I seem to unwittingly end up making the line the subject.
Given that for every one of these "rules" there's an award winning photo that breaks it, I tend to think of them as more after the fact explanation of why I like an image , more than objective criteria that can be used to describe why an image doesn't work. Some folks focus way to much on the negative.
08-29-2018, 09:55 AM   #14
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I started out on a film camera as well, and I felt like every second shot is a hit.



When I upgraded to digital, I found it much more difficult, but there were still a few nice pictures.


Even though I still take photos that I think are ok, I still find it difficult to produce photos that I think are actually good. But what I really struggle with is being selective and restricting myself to those images that are actually done well.





---------- Post added Aug 29th, 2018 at 10:13 ----------

I think it's not always easy to strike the right balance of being critical and striving for better and being at ease enough to keep taking photographs. On the one hand you can drift off and become hyper critical and you cannot do any work because nothing will be good enough. On the other hand you can become lazy and so full of yourself that you don't develop and only produce the same old, boring shots.

The same generalises to many other areas in life. I'm a researcher by training, and I have to be highly critical of my own and other's work, but still be able to do research. Sometimes I find it quite liberating to do something imperfectly. I feel like that about cooking. It doesn't have to be perfect, but as long as it tastes ok, it's good. I think some people feel the same about photography. Sometimes I see someone's work and I get the "I can do this better!" feeling, too. But as long as it makes the creator happy (and no one is harmed), I think it's fine.
08-29-2018, 10:15 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
Given that for every one of these "rules" there's an award winning photo that breaks it, I tend to think of them as more after the fact explanation of why I like an image , more than objective criteria that can be used to describe why an image doesn't work. Some folks focus way to much on the negative.
True but understanding them and figuring out what one would work I think would help in increasing the number of not awful pictures. I have read articles that stating that sometimes not following the rules work but in general following them will produce better results with more keepers.
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