Thursday, October 15, 2009

You're about to get left behind...

There is, to use an abused phrase, a paradigm shift occurring in macro. More and more people want to see well lit, well composed images. Just like any other photographic discipline it's the composition that will make or break a photo.

Cataloging insects is boring...

You might still be in a clique now, might still have people telling you that they like your work. That's because they are shooting like you are, producing centered razor sharp images or photos that don't even remotely tell a story. Most of the compliments you're getting are on your technique, instead of what you're capable of producing with it. Or they're just telling you what they think you want to hear.

Your fan club is going down with you...

Those photographers who are concentrating on composition and story telling in their work, that are constantly sweating the lighting, will be the shooters in the upper ten percent of the discipline. They'll not only have the respect of the macro community, but photographers in other disciplines will admire their skill and art. They won't be "capturing" the creatures of the small world, they'll be photographing them.

Anyone can take a poorly composed razor sharp image; people on vacation take thousands of them every day. If your macro work looks no better than the average vacation point and shoot snapshot then your images will never stand out. John Q. Public neither knows nor cares how difficult it is to take a macro photo -all he cares about is what he can see in print or on a computer monitor. There has to be something about your work that's going to get the average viewer to stop and take notice and capturing a lot of detail isn't enough.

Time to stop making excuses and step up your game before you get left behind...

8 comments:

sean said...

John what happen to Dalantech?

sean said...

Hope all is going well.

MKMan said...

What an extraordinary rant! What's brought this on? John, I have enjoyed reading your posts in the past but I wish you hadn't posted this...

Dalantech said...

@MKMan: Tired of seeing people make excuses, or getting hung up on tecnique. Don't get me started on the lack of real constructive critique...

WelshWench said...

John Q. Public neither knows nor cares how difficult it is to take a macro photo -all he cares about is what he can see in print or on a computer monitor. There has to be something about your work that's going to get the average viewer to stop and take notice and capturing a lot of detail isn't enough.

Well said! I'm still very much a beginner with macro - and probably still over-fascinated with the detail in other people's shots! - but you're absolutely right. A classic case in point is the large bee portrait you feature on your next post about the show: if the rear/left hand side of the image was in as sharp focus as the centre/right, it wouldn't be such a good artistic shot because there would be too much "in your face detail".

The trouble with offering critique on composition, IME, is that because macro demands a good understanding of technique, people with a good artistic eye or art training, who have not yet themselves developed that level of technique, are not taken seriously.

Shame really, in the wider art world, no-one expects art critics to be able to paint/draw/sculpt ;) Then again, they probably aren't trying to do so either .....

Dalantech said...

@WelshWench: I think, to do your comment justice, would really require another blog post. But you hit on two things that I want to address now: Sometimes people ask for feedback when they really don't want it -and if you give them a fair critique they get bent.

As for the bee shot: I took it at 3x and F13 and yet there is an insane amount of detail - more than I need for a large print. The shallow depth keeps the veiwer's attention right were I want it to be, and you're right -getting more depth would ruin it.

PvR said...

A coincidence I suppose that I have recently been considering composition issues in macro images. Generally I have been satisfied if I manage to get the critter's eye(s) in focus, usually centered, with no consideration of background. And I don't think I am ready to move on from this stage yet, but when looking at my results I now wonder how I would improve the composition.

I think composition is more than just intelligent use of dof. In macro efforts, you can usually guarantee that some portion of your subject is out of focus, especially as your magnification increases and your light decreases.

I don't have the answer but it is good that you raise the issue. We need to consider it.

Dalantech said...

@ PvR: I plan on doing a post about composition, a sort of "Composition in Macro 101" to outline some of the basics.