More is almost never better; more is usually just more

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All my tricks and gimmicks were nothing more than window dressing, but that was the seductive allure, the madness in the method. It’s fun to dress windows, and easy to get lost in them, and I did for a while. And in the commercial photography world, the urge to use tricks and gimmicks never dies. Technique for technique’s sake is more prevalent than ever, thanks to retouching and the ease of digital capture. Using the same “dramatic” lighting setup for everything and dropping a set of  curves on a mediocre shot won’t make it into something good, it will just be a mediocre shot in fancy, desaturated, over-sharpened clothes.

via planet shapton.

There Are 8 Comments On This Article.

  1. Using technique for technique’s sake is like a writer using big words from a thesaurus. It sounds fake, pretentious, and very amateurish. It’s worth remembering though, that those same words, in capable hands, can create masterpieces. Just because something is simple and easy to understand doesn’t automatically make it better or more authentic.

  2. Agreed… to a point. Style over substance is never a good thing. But simplicity with no real technique is often quickly forgotten. However, look at the work of Nadav Kander or Paolo Roversi and Solve Sundsbo. They all use ‘techniques’ ( interesting lighting or methods) to elevate their work from the ‘nice’ to the sublime. I’ll take that over the no technique look (e.g shoot everything at 1.4/1.2 and no lighting) any day of the week.


    • “I’ll take that over the no technique look (e.g shoot everything at 1.4/1.2 and no lighting)…”

      Well, even that, technically, is a “technique.” I mean, Sebastiao Salgado never does any lighting, but nobody would say that he doesn’t have technique. I think Shapton is pretty specific about the type of overwrought staging and processing that he’s referring to here. I think the bottom line is that the content has to be there first and foremost. And while it’s highly subjective, I agree with Shapton that a simple unadorned style is usually the best way to present good content. Give me a natural light f1.4 Salgado portrait over a Solve Sundsbo fashion shoot any day of the week. But that’s just me.

      • Salgado is a genius at what he does but he has his own technique as well. Dramatic chiaroscuro that was not done in camera but in printing. It is full of emotion and brilliantly composed. But comparing Salgado to a fashion shooter makes little sense. Totally different genre. I think you may have missed the point .

        • The comparison makes perfect sense within the context of defining “technique” as used by Shapton vs. your use of the word in your first post. Genre isn’t relevant.

  3. stanchung

    Subtle techniques are more acceptable IMO, take overcooked HDR’s. Hate those.

    I’d take f1.4 shots with lighting any day.

  4. the f1.4 look is just as boring as overcooked HDRs if there is no substance. the technique with the least bling is using a normal focal lens at a medium f-stop. if you make something with that and a photo editor will pick it from a pile of proofprints, then you are onto something.
    but trying to sell that to the visually oversaturated or uneducated masses and you will lose. bling is the thing that sells best; well, right after that other one..

  5. This is a funny discussion because we are always told to “find your style” which implies “techniques” whether they be HDR, 1.4 out of focus shots, desaturated, punchy and saturated or whatever it is. But then this discussion says don’t do that because your “non-technique” will soon become a “technique.”

    Just take some damn pictures and have fun with it!