Always Listen to Your Wife

My wife is my best photo critic. When she looks at an image of mine, all she cares about is if the image moves her. She doesn’t care about technical flaws unless they detract from her appreciation of the photograph. I never hear complaints about grad lines, HDR, inaccurate color, or skies being darker than foregrounds. She just wants the photo to move her. I’m sure she’s gentler with me than she may be with someone else’s photo, but she always tells me the truth — especially when it comes to cropping. She’ll sometimes find a tiny square in an otherwise mediocre image that she thinks will work. She doesn’t care how un-sharp, grainy or noisy the resulting cropped photo may turn out.

The above photo, from Eldorado Canyon, was originally a horizontal. When she looked at it she said that the vertical part on the left was worth keeping but the rest didn’t work with it. I didn’t want to end up using 5 megapixels of a 12 mp image so I went back and reshot the photo.

I don’t want to be blind to my technical flaws; I can always become a better technical photographer. However, most of the sites online where I post photographs are populated by photographers, and the picky technical police are always lurking. I’m lucky to have my wife who’ll tell me when photos don’t work but won’t tell me that I ruined it by an HDR blend.

I like the photo posted below but I’ll never post it to a critique site. I’ve made no attempt for this image to be believable. I wanted it to be dramatic. I probably could have blended the background better with the foreground but I like the uneven blend line. I even think it looks natural. Yes, there’s noise in the sky, but when I tried PS 4’s noise removal, it added blue to the sky. One day I’ll buy a commercial noise removal product. Are you guys too young to remember that all images blown up from film were grainy?

My wife loves this photo.

I’m Emily Baumbach and I approved this photo.

~ by danbaumbach on August 18, 2010.

7 Responses to “Always Listen to Your Wife”

  1. Dan
    What a blessing to have a wife that’s willing to be honest with you about your photography. I am a terrible judge of my own work and rely on my wife and daughter to give me constructive criticism. Neither are photographers but like you wife give good honest feedback.

  2. Hold on Dan. Some of us are simultaneously young and know through experience that film grain does indeed exist…

    Interesting read; I can certainly relate to some of what you have stated, though my opinions differ to some extent. It does certainly seem that online photo-critique is a sore point for quite a few photographers. You’re not alone there! Personally, I needed a break from forums and have steered clear for about a year now. Perhaps I’ll return at some point. I have less of an issue with the “critiques” than I do with the promoted culture of homogeneity. Different is good only so long as it applies to the accepted aesthetic of the given forum, or so it seems. The vast majority of forum critiques consequently strike me (more often than not) as a comparison of the photograph to an unwritten list of ideals (this list differs forum to forum) that define a “successful” image. Perhaps this is what we all do to some extent, but it can get pretty mindless. Furthermore, it’s far easier to mention technical details than it is to speak about the emotional/aesthetic success of a photograph, thus the phenomenon you mention. I have come to see the value of critique forums as being a networking tool more than anything, the “critiques” are honestly of little value to me at this point.

    As far as technical flaws go, we all have to decide where to draw the proverbial line in the sand. It’s a question of what one will accept as their own standard of excellence. Generally for me, if it’s flawed, it’s trashed; simple as that. I’m interested in being part of a tradition that historically has achieved an extremely high standard of craftsmanship. I see little room for accepting anything less than perfection. I want to honor the subject matter and the process with no less than my very best efforts.

    • I would generally agree with you about the aesthetic rules of on photo forums. As for technical perfection, I’m all for it. I’m against being sloppy technically. But technical perfection should only be in the service of producing a good image and has no use in and of itself. And, mistakes and sloppyness happen. Sometime the image still works and sometimes it doesn’t.

  3. What a blessing it is to have a wife that not only accepts your photography habit, but actively supports it. My wife goes one step further (she took a few photography classes in college) and acts as in the field photo director…seeing photo ops that I some times miss, she can describe it and i turn it into a captured photograph.

    My wife also helps with composition or selection. I think it’s the more objective viewpoint that helps. Even if she was there during capture she doesn’t have the emotional attachment that I sometimes develop to sub-par photos.

    I disagree somewhat on the technical perfection comments. All aspects of photography are there to help us create the images we see in our minds eye. Those images are not always technically perfect. Many times the technical imperfections add drama to a photo that a technically perfect photo lacks. The challenge is getting to the point where you are technically proficient but knowing when to not use it.

  4. Cool scene Dan. As for the noise reduction, I never use it to remove “grain” because that removes detail but use it to remove the red and blue splotchy noise that afflicts the shadow areas.

  5. It is ALWAYS good to listen to your wife! Ha, love this post and the image that your wife approves. Personally, like your wife, all I’m really interested is if an image looks good, is interesting, or moves me in some way. A photo that is severely tehcnically flawed is often distracting, but some people get all the techie stuff down perfectly and still produce uninteresting images. Is it about being balanced? Flexible?

  6. Dan,

    I can get Emily’s seal of approval on my photos? 😉

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