When a Photo is Good to Me

I’m no expert at photography. I’ve only taken about 25,000 shots which sounds like a lot until you realize that most pros take millions–each year. In fact, I don’t really think that you can even call yourself any kind of a professional until you’ve taken at least 100,000 and sold some of them. Naturally, there are those natural born talents who don’t need all this practice, but they are far and few between those of us who do.
Even though I am still, for all purposes, a hobbiest when it comes to photography, I have developed a very discerning level for what I consider to be a good shot. This ultimately means nothing as photography is an art form and art by its very nature is completely subjective. So, a shot of someone’s family where the heads are cut off and it’s out of focus may be a masterpiece to them, while I think it’s garbage. But, being this as it may, I realize that I like photos where what they’ve photographed seems like it is artificial because it’s so good. When the scene is just hanging there and you can imagine what happened before and what will happen afterward, that, in my mind, is perfection. It doesn’t even need to be technically perfect for me to find it a perfect shot, just so long as there is an emotion to it.
A good example of what I’m talking about is a shot that is below. It’s from the San Francisco Chronicle’s website and is part of an article about the wildfires happening in Malibu currently. Skip down to take a look at it if you haven’t already. See what I mean? Those chairs sitting there and the still smoldering ashes in the background just make this a great shot for me. Sure, you could read all kinds of garbage art school stuff in to it like how it’s a statement of this or that. But all that is secondary nonsense. The photo stands on its own and just happens in such a way that it almost seems fake because it’s so real.
A good example I’ve seen recently of where a photographer goes too far and makes a work too artificial, was at the Open Studios in San Francisco. There was one photographer there who had photos of Burma, but these photos were ridiculous. While technically quite sound, they were so posed and so fake looking that they would have worked better as cologne ads, as opposed to a work of art for the home. Now, some people may be in to this, but for me, posed and staged photos are for the most part dull (portraits being an exception) and they feel so commercial that any hint of artistic depth is wiped clean away. But, this is ultimately just me two cents and that doesn’t really buy that much these days now, does it?
When a Photo is Good to Me