Decisions, decisions…

The photo above has split opinion at ‘GP Towers’. Every now and then we get this problem. Someone loves a photo and someone else hates it. This has led us to contact our resident photography teacher and contributor of all things awesome; Mr Alex Williams.

Mr Williams – we need your help on this one… I think the key thing about this shot is the reaction / point of view of each person – while one person likes it and states it’s a great shot, the other dislikes it.  Photographers (especially Music and Wedding photographers) can stress and strive for hours to control what they perceive the view will or won’t like. But, as shown with this shot, the view differs greatly!  It can open up the whole “trying to educate the viewer” or even “the customer is always right” discussions (which is not what I’m trying to do here) – all I’m trying to get at is photographers should be confident with their own style and quality of work.  Some people will like it, some people will not.

Photographically speaking – I agree that the composition and exposure are good to create a partial silhouette, with good light beams surrounding the artist. If I was editor at, would I upload it?  I’d upload it to open up the discussion (as we are here, however I wouldn’t use it as an example as a final shot. It does have potential (in my opinion), as a still shot I’d want everything completely out of focus (to create more of an abstract shot), or it would be part of video, just basics of going out of focus to pin sharp.

So, what makes a great photo, great? The same as what makes a great song – you don’t know until you hear a song and it grows on you. With images, there will be some that you keep going back to and that you’re proud of. If it’s an image taken by someone else, then it might be the aesthetics of the image, or how it connects with other memories (e.g. an album cover, a tour programme).

Technical issues aside, what’s the difference between a selected photo or a rejected photo? Again, it entirely depends if when you look at the image, you think, “that’s it!” – even if it is slightly out of focus etc. With photography, you need to know the rules and how to break them. Who would have thought that a grainy, soft focused image of Paul Simonon by Pennie Smith would have been such a classic album cover for The Clash, and voted by some as the best album cover image (I think it was Q magazine, but don’t quote me!).

Can a photo therefore be too perfect? Has today’s DSLR equipment, the accessibility for great cameras at ‘reasonably’ affordable prices and the influence of the media has influenced importance of getting a perfect shot? Amazingly well exposed and awesome lighting can sometimes lack energy, despite ticking all the boxes for a magazine editor. I agree that some images can become “too perfect” – this is live music, not a Ken and Barbie plastic doll factory!  Sometimes we need to see some grain and noise, we need visuals that aid the audio bouncing around – that was some of the beauty of film, capturing light that the human eye does not see. When teaching photography students, I’ll always get them to shoot on film and compare it with digital – yes digital is needed for speed, however film captures a depth and quality that I doubt digital will be able to achieve.

With good knowledge of photography, and a creative streak, even if the band aren’t that energetic, or a few legends that are getting on in years, then the use of spotlights to create silhouettes, use shadows – be creative!

Thanks very much for your time Alex. Use the comments below if you would like to join in the conversation.

You can check out Alex’s contributions on this site by clicking this or check out these links:

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