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Are you a "pixel-peeper" or a creative and idea-rich photographer?


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Posted (edited)

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Hard to answer maybe. But if this thread is about to have any real meaning, it is important to examine yourself.
Not to answer in a way that may "promote" yourself.
Not in a way that rather tells what you want to be than what you actually are.
Not to give the somewhat boring and not so very plausible answer: "Both!". 🙂

Some of you might not see any meaning in this question at all - or something in the similar direction.

So, when I scroll around on the Internet, I notice that there is a lot of gear- and technical knowledge around, but at the same time that doesn't quite correspond to the abilities to produce good images or displaying unique and personal ideas.
Even som "well-regarded" pro- or semi-pro review-personalities on the Internet seem to make not much more than "gear-testing" images of not so much artistic value. And/or they have some tendency to make more or less every image slightly similar to each other.
Yes, of course, there are MANY really good images to see. (Both here and elsewhere.) But, I am rather thinking of the balance between "the two disciplines".

Me? Well my skill and creativity is what I am focusing on the absolutely most. That is of course not at all meaning that my focus on that results in so very much. But it is still my focus, not the gear- or in-detail-comparison-performace-focus.

My own experience with myself, is a general notice, that may can be summarized something like:

  • When I am in a creative and idea-rich mood - the gear, the focus on selecting different capturing-alternatives in menus, digging deep in analyzing flaws in the final photos at home by the screen, wondering about some purchase or some exchange or some "upgrade". Or reading reviews about gear - is of very modest interest to me. Even thinking of which of my three lenses i shall use is in this mood not so very important. Mount one - and use it for what it can be used to do!
     
  • When I am in a mood of no inspirational ideas (good or bad), no real creativity and the lack of things like that -  I tend to be more focussed on gear, performance-comparisons, contemplating on what to buy and such. Not so much "pixel-peeping" even then, because i don't have that patience needed to dig that deep, in the first place. If there are no visible flaws when watching the image as a whole -- the flaws doesn't matter. To me i.e.

PS
I am even in "Hifi": "Brothers in Arms", "Yello", Tracy Chapman... and playing that, with focus on gear-performance and to some degree even room-acoustics.
Exaggerated, maybe - but not so much that it lacks relevance.
🙂

Edited by Strmbrg
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For me the technical side of photography needs to be sufficient for the image being taken. Ultimately I see photographic gear and technique as a means to an end.

FWIW I would say that being as technically competent as possible is useful even if only to enable decisions to be made as to the application or reduced application of it when necessary. 

So it really all depends on the subject and my intention.

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Posted (edited)

I'm thinking if I'm using a traditional rangefinder camera and lenses without the power zapping electronics and "features" then it certainly isn't for pixel peeping - that sort of thing is for any one of the current mainly computerised mirrorless cameras which will provide unbeatable pixel peeping images.  In saying that I do put the M11 into that latter category but that's only my subjective view (I'm purely an ISO/Shutter Speed/ Aperture and little else guy, one of my main reasons for using a traditional rangefinder), YMMV.

Edited by Ray Vonn
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Another aspect - not at all related to ones personality or so - is about pure gear-issues. It at least distracts -  and forces you to focus on the troublesome equipment, and in some cases it makes photography impossible, if the gear refuses to work at all. I think it is more of this the more complex the gear gets. At least not the other way around (if we ignore some very bad cameras and lenses from long ago - stuck focus-ring or a release-button that falls off...).

Hm, a painter for example, is probably not so very focused on the brushes, and not reading comparisons of different brands of them, regarding flex-resistance when pressed by some fixed force to the canvas or similar aspects. Or "If i look trough a strong magnifying glass: Are there differences in the different tubes of black acrylic? Do some of them show some amount of red fragments, and how much do I have to magnify before I can notice that?

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Posted (edited)
8 minutes ago, 01maciel said:

Interesting leading question. "Pixel-peeper" has a negative connotation, creative and idea-rich photographer seems to me to have a more positive. Why does one exclude the other?

For me - I think "peeping" (regardless of "peeping" gear or photos) is absolutely more bad than good. This because I want to get rid of it. And the reason for the wish to get rid of it is that I think it distracts me in my creativity and that it makes me feel in a way I don't like.
For others - another view of it is of course possible and also relevant.
Or... maybe... "Pixel-peeping" may not at all be bad or negative. If one is interested in it and one feels good to engage in it - it is good.

Edited by Strmbrg
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With two lenses that were designed 60 years ago, I can't say that I'm a pixel peeper. Nor do I see myself as particularly creative. But I always surprise myself with a bundle of nice pictures when I come home from a trip where I didn't think I had achieved anything.

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Posted (edited)

Interesting question. I’m not a pixel peeper, inasmuch as I’m not obsessed with optical perfection. I long ago learned that, for me, it’s better to zoom out on my digital images than to zoom in; I always edit photos both on the computer and on my phone, to make sure that I have a “global” view of the image and its content and haven’t got sucked into the small details.

That said, I do spend a lot of time thinking about the total picture of my gear. Do I have the right combination of bodies and lenses? Are they the right balance of size and handling and performance and creative range? Do I like the rendering? Do I enjoy carrying and using them? Etc. I think this is somewhat natural with the M system, as it’s a hands-on system. Only with the M system have I done something like sell a lens because I don’t like the feel of the focus ring. With other systems I’ve been more focused on optical quality; with M I find that there’s more to consider.

As for gear vs. creativity: well, I am definitely not a creative photographer. I take “documentary” photographs of my family , and sometimes of notable people I write about for work, although those photos are just for my private use, for my own memories. I think of myself less as creative than as observant. I work to get better at discerning which moments and scenes have potential, and at anticipating them by thinking ahead about what is likely to happen and how I can capture it. I’m reactive, often, to what’s happening in my life, and aim to react better. And I think having ideal gear is part of that, although only a small part. I use the M gear because it makes anticipating and reacting into a more involving, intentional, fun, and rewarding process. 

Edited by JoshuaRothman
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In my perception, the dichotomy ""pixel-peeper" or a creative and idea-rich photographer" does not exist.

For one, there is a difference between "idea-rich" and "creative". A person with many ideas may or may not create remarkable work.

Creativitiy involves (obviously) the urge to create. It takes techniques or procedures to form ideas about what kind of work to make. If an artist is aware of the techniques and procedures he or she uses, is not always clear. In order to actually create the perceived work, you use tools and media. A master of his art certainly will know exactly how to use his tools, and which tools to use for the work at hand, so as to come as close as possible to the envisioned result.

Hence, a creative photographer certainly knows perfectly well which tools to use and what the tools are capable of. There is no conflict between being creative and peeping pixels and such.

One example which is frequently quoted is the author for whom the make of typewriter is irrelevant. The example suffers from several fallacies. Authors certainly depend on their keyboards having the proper arrangement of keys, and they ceretainly care about ergonomic issues. Further, the word processing app and the file sharing facilities become crucial as soon they try to cooperate with other authors or their editors. Hence, many professional authors spend an appreciable amount of time on thinking about their tools and how they support their work.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Strmbrg said:

Hm, a painter for example, is probably not so very focused on the brushes, and not reading comparisons of different brands of them, regarding flex-resistance when pressed by some fixed force to the canvas or similar aspects. Or "If i look trough a strong magnifying glass: Are there differences in the different tubes of black acrylic? Do some of them show some amount of red fragments, and how much do I have to magnify before I can notice that?

Perhaps some painters, these days, buying brand name brushes and paint off the shelf.

In the past painters and other artists had to be intimately familiar with their craft: selecting, grinding and mixing their own pigments (read 'The Secret Lives of Colour' by Kassia St Clair), casting sculptures (read Benvenuto Cellini's autobiography), and look at the failure of technique in Leonardo da Vinci's 'Last Supper' (arising from his pixel-peeping obsession with colours). I know some water colourists now who will happily discuss alternative papers, and anyone making ceramic figurines or coffee mugs has to be a bit of a nerd when it comes to clays, glazes and colour changes in firing. I doubt that Damien Hirst lacked interest in the technicalities and details of making/preserving his sharks etc.

So, my answer to your original question: both.😏

Edited by LocalHero1953
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49 minutes ago, JoshuaRothman said:

Interesting question. I’m not a pixel peeper, inasmuch as I’m not obsessed with optical perfection. I long ago learned that, for me, it’s better to zoom out on my digital images than to zoom in; I always edit photos both on the computer and on my phone, to make sure that I have a “global” view of the image and its content and haven’t got sucked into the small details.

That said, I do spend a lot of time thinking about the total picture of my gear. Do I have the right combination of bodies and lenses? Are they the right balance of size and handling and performance and creative range? Do I like the rendering? Do I enjoy carrying and using them? Etc. I think this is somewhat natural with the M system, as it’s a hands-on system. Only with the M system have I done something like sell a lens because I don’t like the feel of the focus ring. With other systems I’ve been more focused on optical quality; with M I find that there’s more to consider.

As for gear vs. creativity: well, I am definitely not a creative photographer. I take “documentary” photographs of my family , and sometimes of notable people I write about for work, although those photos are just for my private use, for my own memories. I think of myself less as creative than as observant. I work to get better at discerning which moments and scenes have potential, and at anticipating them by thinking ahead about what is likely to happen and how I can capture it. I’m reactive, often, to what’s happening in my life, and aim to react better. And I think having ideal gear is part of that, although only a small part. I use the M gear because it makes anticipating and reacting into a more involving, intentional, fun, and rewarding process. 

You write that you "are reactive and observant". I think I am more of some kind of not so reactive type, rather more of idea-active type. "Hm, what can I make with this object, view or context?" rather than "Wow! look what's happening here!" I'm probably way too slow-minded and introvert for the latter. 🙂
I am by the way often so involved in kompostion, angles object-placement in the frame and such that i don't even think of what shutter speed the camera displays in the finder. Maybe if '4000' flashes, I notice it. But if I want short depth of filed in bright light I shoot anyway and don't even think of the possibility to underexpose... 🙄

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This old 'Hoary Chestnut' again.

I am both ..... they are not mutually exclusive.

I also love gear, have a great interest in the optical, mechanical, firmware aspects of photography and how everything works. I strive to produce technically excellent images when I can and feel that the excuse for poor quality of 'because I am creative' just reflects laziness and lack of care. Musicians that can't play the right notes rarely get work just because they are passionate and creative. 

Photography can be both technically excellent and creative ..... and the very best is both. I peep the pixels but don't obsess about it and if the image doesn't cut the mustard as a creative endeavour it gets binned, regardless of how it measures on the technical side. 

 

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So, what "is" creativity? Or, what different things can it be? Often we just claim that this word means this and not that and so on, so even that can be interesting to think of.
As I look at it, creativity doesn't have to mean to be original or to make things no one else has done. It doesn't even have to mean that others look at it as some kind of impressingly creative work. 
Creativity can mean a creative way of getting things done the path down to the good end result. It can mean NOT to overcomplicate things. It can mean some maybe unusual but really smart ways to work with both gear and computer-post-processing. It can mean to back away to get different aspects in a good perspective, i.e. not to engage oneself too much in aspects with very small effect on the final result.
For me, creativity is more of something in myself and the way I think, than something meant to prove anything to others - or myself. Of course, positive reactions - if they are honest and not merely inflation-caused (because it is so easy to click on the "thumb") - is good to notice. But that's rather a consequence than a goal.
 

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36 minutes ago, thighslapper said:

This old 'Hoary Chestnut' again.

I am both ..... they are not mutually exclusive.

I also love gear, have a great interest in the optical, mechanical, firmware aspects of photography and how everything works. I strive to produce technically excellent images when I can and feel that the excuse for poor quality of 'because I am creative' just reflects laziness and lack of care. Musicians that can't play the right notes rarely get work just because they are passionate and creative. 

Photography can be both technically excellent and creative ..... and the very best is both. I peep the pixels but don't obsess about it and if the image doesn't cut the mustard as a creative endeavour it gets binned, regardless of how it measures on the technical side. 

 

I too "love" gear. But not so much modern gear. And "love" written this way then. These modern things are way too complex for me to be really interested in - other than because of the mostly good use and results of them. I never ever engage myself to learn everything my camera can do by means of menu-options, performance-figures and such. For me, it is much more interesting to read about old gear. Not because I want to use it, but because there was in a way much more modest things before and even more of quirks and in some ways less of the same-same-better-and-better-, and-faster-and-faster-launching of new models.

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Posted (edited)

 

Pixel peeping could simply be thought of as a generalised term to denote part of the process of presenting an image as effectively as you can. I 'grain peep' with film to see if I'm getting the effect I want or if I need to modify my technique a bit. It's just taking responsibility for your work should you audaciously expect people to look at it. If you don't care about your own work why should anybody else?

Admittedly there are people who exist to pixel peep and even get worried should the corners of the photograph be a bit soft, but for myself I rarely think the corners do anything important except connect the four sides of a photograph. But the polar opposite of pixel peeping is the tragedy of what you often hear on the forum, those dreaded words 'I don't do any post processing'. It's the apex of not caring, and yet somehow or other it's usually meant as a virtue.

Edited by 250swb
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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Strmbrg said:

Hm, a painter for example, is probably not so very focused on the brushes, and not reading comparisons of different brands of them, regarding flex-resistance when pressed by some fixed force to the canvas or similar aspects. Or "If i look trough a strong magnifying glass: Are there differences in the different tubes of black acrylic? Do some of them show some amount of red fragments, and how much do I have to magnify before I can notice that?

A teacher of mine, a rather famous painter, once laughingly told me about a student of his who was sad because, she said, “I wore out my favorite brush.”  That said, this teacher of mine made his own paint.

 

As for me, you lost me when you opined that “Both” is a boring, uninteresting answer.  It’s clearly my answer.  

Edited by erudolph
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Posted (edited)

Well. I wrote "Not to give the somewhat boring and not so very plausible answer: "Both!". 🙂"
To me such an anser is somewhat boring because it may not tell anything about any balance-point in ones mind. Regarding not so very plausible, as it isn't so very plausible. There must be some kind of preference or mindset, I think. I have discussed and noticed this more and for a much longer time in Hifi-forums. Maybe there is a somewhat different case regarding photographers. Photographers do create images, or at least take pictures. Hifi-buffs may not create anything and are just "absorbing" music or maybe mainly analyzing how the gear behaves when music-signals are sent into it. Some of them do not even rely on their ears, but mainly on measurements. And then only measurements done right. The latter they of course know how to execute. And maybe they actually do...

As I said in my first post, for me it varies over time between gear/technique/some kind of light-version-peeping - and a nearly obsessed focus on ideas of images to create. The latter may not be so very successful regarding the result of the obsession.
 

Edited by Strmbrg
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