So I’m sitting in my office yesterday talking with my buddy Brian Matiash from onOne Software. I showed him a photo that I took last week and asked what he thought. He was like “Hey, that’s nice.”. Not “great”, not “awesome”. Just… “nice”. Here’s the thing. It was the reaction I expected because I wasn’t really enamored with the photo myself. So if I don’t love it, how can I expect some one else to? This brings me to my topic for today. When I took this photo, I thought the location was awesome. But now that I see it on the big screen and process it, I’m not that happy with it. When I was setting up the shot I loved the location… when I framed the photo and took some test photos I loved it… when the sun came up and I actually took the photos, I loved it. Basically, while I was on location, I loved everything about the photo. I even remember commenting to some one I was with saying “This ROCKS!”.
Here’s a larger version of the photo that I’m talking about (click to see it big on screen)
Now that I have it on my computer, I’m not crazy about it. I’m not sure what I don’t like (and by the way, this isn’t an invite to tell me all the things wrong with it) 😉
And no. It’s not the composition, it’s not the fact that there’s a rock right in the middle, it’s not anything in the reflection. I just don’t feel the same about it now, as I did then.
A Possible Explanation?
I posted this on my Google+ and Facebook pages yesterday. I had a few people that made a comment that stuck with me. Probably because it’s something I’ve told people before too. See, when you’re out on location taking photos, you have this immersive experience. It’s 3D. Your senses are overwhelmed. You see the sun coming up. You feel the breeze. You feel the peacefulness that was around the morning I was taking this photo. But when you finally get it on the computer, you lose all that. Part of what we do in post-processing is to help our photo get back to that place. It’s kinda like why we retouch portraits… we notice (in photos) all kinds of things that we never notice when talking to a person. Same goes for landscapes and nature photos. There’s so much going on, that we take it all in. When the photo hits the computer, though, now it’s 2D and we lose all that.
Sadly for me, all the post-processing in the world won’t make me love this photo. I want to… but I just don’t and I don’t know why.
I guess I’m just curious at this point. Does this ever happen to you? You capture a photo and you think it’s gonna be great. But when you see it large and start editing it, you’re just not that psyched about it anymore? Let me know your thoughts. Oh… and have a great weekend!
I notice this happening quite a lot. The greater the moment and the feeling when you’re experiencing it, the more disappointed you can be with the photos you get. Although, on the other side, as was already pointed out in the comments, what I usually like or don’t like in a picture hardly ever is the same for other people I show the picture to. I guess because they didn’t have the experience themselves, they just see the photo are thus are not biased when looking at it.
Nowadays I often take a second camera and while waiting for “the shot” (with the complete set-up of the first camera), I snap some other shots of the surroundings. You wouldn’t believe how many of those “time-killers” eventually turn out as my favourites of that day.
This is why I have never watched my wedding video. I have my memories and know that the harsh reality of the video will ruin the memory for me. Same thing for music videos – nothing ruins the personal memories associated with a song like watching the video. When I hear “Surfin’ USA” I think of logging!?!
On the flip side I usually end up loving the picture I think at first didn’t turn out. One of my favorite all time shots is out of focus, too dark and not framed all that well. But… the expression I caught on the subject’s face tells a story that lasts forever.
I was in the broadcasting industry for 30 years and one day I was having lunch with one of our big sponsors. He told me that when he was on vacation in Florida, he saw a sound booth setup that he wanted to install at the country club he owned. He said he loved the way it looked and sounded and all the great feelings the music coming out of it engendered. He wondered if I would be willing to fly to the location, get the specs and oversee the building of it at his country club, and for this I would receive a handsome fee. I told him I could do it but wouldn’t. He wanted to know why. I told him that he was on vacation and in another frame of mind when he experienced the sound booth. I said that i could recreate it to the letter and something would always be missing for him, and I didn’t want that absence of feeling to be assigned to me. I think some version of my story happened to you.
All the best,
Hi Matt. It happens to me. All the time. But I know the reason: I just started taking pictures and all doubts about my photos are due to technical errors. This is why I read your blog, that of Bill Fortney and books by Scott Kelby (thankfully translated in italian language). And I continue to take pictures, because I wish to get to have your own doubts, in the future. As for the reason, you have come to the right: on the computer screen is not the effort of the backpack and tripod, the wonder of nature, the discovery of the “right” frame, cold hands on the controls of your Nikon and so on. I understand what you mean: it happened to me yesterday… http://www.sergiomarcheselli.it/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/SergioPhoto-33.jpg
If the whole image isn’t reflecting what you felt that morning is there any part of it that says it to you? Just a thought. Sometimes I lose the initial feeling because I didn’t isolate what in the scene hit the spot on my feelings.
I like this photo, but I do see what you mean! Your photos usually pop right of the screen. This one just sets there. I know you’re not and B&W man, but when I first looked at this photo … it screamed B&W to me. Also, with my visit to the Grand Tetons a couple of years ago I had the same reaction to quite a few of my photos. The ones I thought were going to be fantastic look blah on the screen. I have found, however, when I went back a year later they looked better to me.
This is a tough question to answer!
Don’t you think it simply happens to all of us? It’s part of the learn, or even more, the development process. Making great image every time would quickly be too boring and you would never challenge yourself finding more, finding different, looking deeper, longer… When it happens to me, I just watch it, swallow it and get to the next shot, simply taking more time next time in a similar situation, trying to imagine what it look like without the whole surrounding… 🙂
btw, I like your shot as much as the rest of you work 🙂
I had the same thing the other day. I did a portrait shoot, and on the back of the camera, I liked what I was seeing. When I imported them, so very disappointed (to the stage where I had to apologise to the model and suggest we do a future shoot to make up for it – which she’s keen to do).
I sometimes have similar feelings about a shoot at first, then look back in a couple of days and find some great shots that I’m proud of. But this one the other day was the first where I couldn’t find anything…. (turns out it was the wrong style of shoot for the model, but I should have picked up on that at the time)
I totally agree with you, the amount of times I’ve taken a photo in an amazing location and thought I’d got it stop on only to get back and look at it and go ‘actually that’s pretty dull’, I usually find it’s lack of scale, with landscapes you are out in amazing scenes that are often humbling when you look at the scale, then you see the picture on a (comparatively) small screen and you just loose all sense on scale and perspective that you had when you were there!
I really like your picture, but I bet it’d look better if you printed it out REALLY big, and I mean like the size of a wall big, you’d love it again then! 🙂
I also find I often take terrible pictures of amazing places where the picture’s rubbish because I did something stupid like blurred it, exposed it wrong or something and what would have been a great picture is consigned to the never-to-be-seen-again state of ‘2-star rating’. I do that less these days though fortunately!
Great post Matt… Btw, did you know that the Kelbymediagroup link at the bottom right corner of your blog has a mispelled url?
Sometimes we are just supposed to enjoy the moment which can be difficult as a photographer. I have taken many images that to this day evoke smiles, laughter, joy or bring me to tears. Most of these images are simply snapshots that I took, some of which were meaningful at the time and others held more meaning later such as family members and pets who suddenly passed away.
As for your question, yes, my hard drive is filled with images that while I was taking them, I was almost frantic trying to capture the moment, running to recompose and was so excited that others were going to see the beauty that I saw. All of those feelings were there until I opened the images in Lightroom. 🙁 mmmm maybe I just won’t bother showing these images to anybody else because there isn’t a preset, panel or slider that is going to bring “that moment” to life in the images that I took.
There are many times now that I will just enjoy the moment and make a conscious effort not to grab the camera because the camera will never capture the emotion, sound and smell that went with that specific experience.
PS: A big thank you for sharing your Lightroom, Photoshop and photography knowledge with us
I definitely agree that a beautiful place can be a compelling subject if the photo is totally immersive. If I feel like I’m there it works, otherwise its just another pretty picture. Its an intangible quality IMHO.
By the way, thanks for the never ending free education that you and Scott put out in the world. Your generosity is inspiring.
I don’t pretend to be anywhere near your level of proficiency, however it’s definitely happened to me a bunch of times. To me the toughest part of landscape photography is clearly identifying a subject. As you know all the post production in the world can’t fix a lack of an interesting subject.
See Chris, I actually disagree a bit. I know we’re “taught” that a photo always needs a subject. But I don’t agree with landscapes. Sometimes, the subject is simply a beautiful place. Just my take 🙂
Two things come to mind about searching for the why in the photo. First, let it rest. Let your subconscious mull it over for a month. Then look at it early in November. Let us know if you have different feelings or insights.
Second find a successful landscape painter. Someone who has to decide what to put in or leave out of a landscape painting to make it successful surely has something to tell us photographers. If you can find such a person, make a Kelby Training video. I’d love to see it.
I think it’s a beautiful, mellow shot.
It’s cliche suggestion, I know, but maybe the answer for these maybe-it’s-nice-maybe-it-sucks situations is to give it some time. If you can.
I’m a magazine writer by trade. Almost without exception, when the deadline comes and I finish a story, I’m disappointed. I look at the writing and see all the compromises, the army of little flaws that suggest I didn’t work hard enough or, worse, just wasn’t good enough. My theory is that it’s immersion fatigue and a bit of postpartum style creative depression. At any rate, if I go back and take a look at the finished work a few months later, I often feel much better. And every once in awhile, I’m really pleased. Not that I don’t still see all the flaws, but I can kind of peek around them. Of course, sometimes I realize that my fears were warranted, and the story really was a piece of crap.
One thing I’ve also noticed over the years is that what I consider to be my best work, and what others consider to be my best work, have seldom been the same.
Wow! Great points George. I’ve had the same feelings about many of my articles. Good to know I’m not alone 🙂
As Paul stated the cropping ration on the large version provides a better appearance. I thought there were too many eye focus points in the photograph that made it distracting for me. I’d try to make some “disappear” and see if it made a difference.
As I replied to Paul, that’s not it (to me at least). Personally, I don’t feel there’s too many distractions. I just don’t like the photo as much as I wish I did. But distracting elements is not one of the reasons 🙂
Happens to me all the time.The upside to this – a quick glance at the image will take me back to that moment in time – priceless.
I really like the image. When I looked at the large version, the rock on the left side jumped up and grabbed me. I think because the image is very panorama like, that having the rock, as promanent as it is, in the position that it is in, causes a “jolt” that keeps pulling you back to the rock. I would tone down the rock. I think that you would or could learn to love the image again.
Thanks Paul. Sadly, as I mentioned in the post, it’s not the rock. It’s not the composition, reflection, lack of something or too much of anything else. I simply don’t “feel” it like I did when I was there. Re-cropping or doing anything with the rock (which I actually like) isn’t going to help that. Thanks though.
Very timely. I’ve been processing photos taken in the Canadian Rockies in August (yes, including Moraine Lake) and have been experiencing a lot of what you’re describing. Great, overwhelming landscapes that just don’t reduce to two-dimensionality very easily.
I think ultimately that it is more important to enjoy the experience/location. If we can get a great picture out of it, that is just the icing on the cake!
I agree with Paul, ask yourself why yu’re doing this in the first place!? The experience, the people, the joy, the peace, all that alone is the prize!!! As they say in Texas, “some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you!”. For what it’s worth, I like the shot, seems the bear only gnawed on you a little, you got most oft the good bites in!
Happens. I put a lot of effort into learning Photoshop to make it happen less often. Sometimes trying to capture the spirit and feeling of a moment is like grabbing a handful of smoke.
I really actually love this photograph, you guys have some of the most beautiful locations for photography in the states, not so many in the UK. I have to agree with you that it is totally different going from taking photographs in a 3D Location to looking at your pictures on the screen.
I went to Loch Lomond in Scotland a couple of weeks ago, and out of over 150 images taken of the sunset, I ended up with just 7 images I liked but didn’t love. I think it was mainly over-shadowed with the problem with getting to the location… its a long story which can be read over at my blog if you so wish…
I just read your post. Yep, you’ve definitely been in the same situation. I left a comment on your post with some thoughts. Thanks! 🙂
It happens to me all the time. I chase the light then try to capture the “wow” feeling when I see & experience good light, and it’s *never* that simple. I usually end up rushing to capture the moment before the light changes, but rushing just introduces mediocrity in my images. Only when I can stop an think, or pre-visualize … both of which are rare for me … do I manage to make something decent.
Or, I get lucky. Rarely.