Not Perfect, But Not Bad

Not Perfect, But Not Bad

All those teachers who used to give you 95% on a test – even though you had answered the questions 100% right – and who haughtily announced that no-one could ever achieve perfection – were right. Of course the thing that they did not tell you was that they secretly felt that their pronouncement was 100% right, but that’s getting into psychology instead of photography…

For the image making thing – photography – the same deal applies. Nothing is ever 100% right. There is always a flaw somewhere in everything we do – whether it be retail selling, shooting the picture, processing it, or presenting it. But we needn’t feel bad – there are ways to mitigate this.

a. Best equipment. As you get better gear, the results can get better. But the operation of that gear can be more and more demanding. The flaws get smaller, but the resolution of the equipment gets better and you can see flaws more clearly. It can be a tail-chase.

Nevertheless, buy the best gear you can afford. And don’t begrudge the seller their profit – it’s that profit that will keep them there for you when  you next need them.

b. Seeing more flaws because the gear shows them more clearly? Get older. Your eyesight will deteriorate and between the floaters and cataracts your appreciation of the results will increase. Stop laughing. Its true.

c. Print smaller. A lot of the information that you pay big money to cram into a large file is discarded or smoothed over when you print down. This means that a lot of the mistakes get smaller. We’re not suggesting that you exhibit contact prints – as I once saw done in Melbourne at a Man Ray exhibition. A 35mm frame contact print of a locomotive – nearly unreadable – set into a 16 x 24 matt and frame does say something about you, but you don’t want to hear it…

The process of printing or displaying smaller can be taken down to 8 x 10, 5 x 7 or 6 x 4 quite legitimately. People can still see what it is that you’re on about without having to navigate through grain and flare – not unless you compel them to do that.

d. To cheer ourself up at this point, grab one of your favourite old negatives or transparencies and scan it at high resolution. Whack it onto a big screen, overlay a Photoshop gridwork, and grab a pad and pencil. Now count the dust spots, grain clumps, nicks, pieces of cat hair, and failed dye areas in the print square by square. When you finish and add up the impressive score, you can get your three dust spots on the recent digital image in perspective. Press ” S ” on the keyboard, steer the spot over the grey balloons and make them disappear.

The same cheerful philosophy can apply to the camera and lenses you are using. Google up ” weathered camera ” and see what some gear enthusiasts have done to perfectly good new cameras to make them look battered. It’s a window into the mind of the photographer. Yet they probably want the battered camera to produce that 100% perfect image.



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