PDA

View Full Version : The Worst Advice (in ANY format)



Kevin M Bourque
20-Apr-2002, 18:48
Hi Everyone ?

I enjoyed reading previous posts about ?The Worst Large Format Advice? and ?The Funniest Thing You Ever Heard?. The ?Worst Advice? post really got me thinking, though, and I came up with a far more insidious example. I still hear it from time to time. It?s not format-specific, so indulge me a little.

When I was first learning how to use a darkroom, I knew a guy who worked in a ca mera shop. He would say really wise sounding things like ?expose for the shadow s and develop for the highlights?. He never really explained what that meant, b ut who was I to ask a bunch of questions? One day I was complaining about how b ad my prints looked, and he said,

?You just need to buy a box of paper and lock yourself in the darkroom until you learn how to print?.

There?s the awful advice. It not only sounds innocent enough, it actually sound s good! I already had a great deal of enthusiasm for the work, and here was thi s god-like individual (he worked in camera store!) telling me that I just needed to apply some time and effort, and I would be a good printer. Wow, this was go ing to be easy AND fun!

So I got busy. I printed, tried some different paper, tried some different film , printed some more, tried some different chemicals, tried a different light sou rce, made more prints, tried some different lenses, etc. I printed whenever I h ad the chance and made the same mistakes over and over and over again. Huge, na sty piles of bad pictures. I eventually became a Magic Bullet addict, but that? s another post.

The problem? His advice constituted an infinite loop. It included no test, no condition that tells you if you?re done, or even if you?re getting closer to you r goal. Being literal-minded (and sometimes no too smart), I followed his dictu m to the letter, and spent an embarrassing amount of time spinning in very small circles.

Not having an active photographic mentor, I did not understand the tragic incomp leteness of what he offered me. The intention was sincere, but some of the step s were missing. I eventually got out of the loop, but think of all the wasted t ime!

So what should he have told me? It?s kind of obvious in retrospect, but it was n?t at the time. Here?s how I think about it now.

1) Look at your print and decide what you would change to make it better. This step is really the most difficult. Until you develop a critical eye, it?s hard to tell if a print will benefit from changing the contrast, brightness, composit ion, or something else. There may even be a mechanical problem (improperly deve loped film, for example). If you can?t decide, show it to someone whose picture s are better than yours and ask them. Make sure they make good pictures and not just opinions.

2) Find out what techniques will get you closer to your goal. In other words, h ow do I fix the problem? Again, you may need to ask someone.

3) Try it. Compare your new print to the old one. Is it what you expected? Is it better? Maybe you need more or less of what you tried in step 2. Maybe you need to try something else, or some combination of things. Go back to Step 1, and repeat as necessary. When you get a print you like, or run out of things to try, you?re done.

Most of you already know some version of these instructions and use them in your work. They sound completely obvious (but so does the Bad Advice). If you?re s till in the ?repeat mistakes until time and money are exhausted? loop, consider giving the expanded set a try.

And if you see that guy in the camera shop, poke him in the nose for me.

Thanks for reading ?

- Kevin

Kevin J. Kolosky
21-Apr-2002, 11:01
Kevin

I could not agree with you more. Far too many begining photographers try to correct their mistakes by automatically fooling around with different combinations like developers, films, temperatures, times, camera equipment, etc. They never get a handle on one thing, let along 100 different things. And I really think too much emphasis is placed upon working up from the negative, when, as you seem to suggest, one should work down from the print. After all, that is the final product. the good thing is that when makes so many mistakes, as you admit to have made, pretty soon you run out of mistakes.

Kevin

David Walker
21-Apr-2002, 11:54
If you still don't understand "expose for shadows, develop for highlights, I suggest you carefully read some good books on exposure and printing such as "The Negative" and "The Print" by Adams, or "Zone VI Workshop" and " The Fine Print" by Picker. If you don't start with the baisc principles the best critical eye won't lead you in the right direction.

David

Kevin M Bourque
21-Apr-2002, 12:07
Hi David -

"Expose for the shoadows and develop for the highlights" is one thing I can usually deal with (provided I don't set the meter to the wrong ISO). I can now reliably meter a scene, decide where to place the low values, see where that places the high values, and decide if I want to do anything with development to alter the range of values.

It was a major confidence builder to get that far, believe me! I've since moved on to more interesting mistakes.

jnorman
21-Apr-2002, 14:04
i can still remember, about 25 years ago, the young fellow from the local shutterbug store, after looking at some of my first attempts in B/W, telling me "mr norman, you should just stick to color.."

Barry Trabitz
21-Apr-2002, 14:37
David, Wasn't it Fred Picker who advocated " expose for the highlights and the other values including the shadows will fall into place. "

scott jones
21-Apr-2002, 14:58
One thing I noticed about Kevin's post is the emphasis on asking for advice and criticism from others. Truely I believe one cannot do anything really well just by themselves. All great athletes use coaches and thus it should be true that photographers need mentors/coaches. I think the critical idea here is that the coach can show you what is missing in your work. If one could see it on one's own, one would be Ansel by now.

The idea of a ?distinction? is learning ?what you don't know that you don't know?. Only another person can show you this. I just got back from the John Sexton workshop and the ?coaching? there was superb. I have learned many new ?distinctions? and profited immensely by it. I?m really beginning to get it that receiving help from others is really what will help me be able to express myself better in photography . .

Scott

David Grandy
21-Apr-2002, 15:33
Here goes:

1) A pro should be able to get the exposure by just looking at the light.

2) Never mind what Kodak (Ilford, Fuji, Agfa) says, don't even try their time/temperature development numbers.

3) The Zone System will give you perfect negatives just like Ansel Adams'.

4) Although this isn't a one line quote of bad information, it's more the kind of advice your get at an art college:

- Use only a normal lens. - Print full frame. - Use lots of infrared film. - Paint yourself into creative corners that restrict you rather than liberate your art. - Defeat any technical criticism with "Well that's the way I felt." - - Don't use your photographic skills to earn a living by shooting a commercial job; it's better to earn a minimum wage flipping burgers or by working in a camera store.

Matthew Runde
21-Apr-2002, 22:13
"Get close and fill the frame with the subject."

That may help some people, but for what I'm doing right now, it may as well read, "make sure that the image is out of focus and is underexposed by six stops."

David A. Goldfarb
21-Apr-2002, 22:26
--Rule of thirds.

--Don't center the subject.

--Don't put the horizon in the middle of the frame.

e
22-Apr-2002, 00:55
Opinions of what lenses I should use.Many times I like the lens that others don't.I like my cheap Optar because it blows away all my other LF lenses hands down.I like my 3.5 and 2.8 Xenars because I can actually see the GG inside in dim light.I like my Noctilux because it is the fastest lens on the planet and is wonderful even though some dont care for it.Lesson learned....listen to others but.... make sure to go with your gut! One other thing...that lenses should only be used at their optimum apertures...

John Kasaian
22-Apr-2002, 03:17
How about this:"Nobody uses that old_______(insert name of camera, lens, light meter, tripod etc...)anymore, You really need to get yourself a____________(insert name of overpriced, soon to be obsolete camera, lens ,light meter, tripod etc...)if you want to take great pictures!"

Struan Gray
22-Apr-2002, 05:18
Kevin's experience is like the the "just burn film" advice often dished out here and elsewhere. Nonesense, but people like saying it.

Sometimes it seems trivially easy to be a rebel in photography. I shoot at midday in full sunlight. I *like* wrap round ever-ready cases. I handhold large cameras at slow speeds. I cheerfully put my film through the hand baggage scanners. I crop in the darkroom.

David Walker
23-Apr-2002, 14:51
Barry,

I think you are right. Somewhere down the line Picker changed his tiechnique based on his experiences. He could probably do that based on repeatable metering and processing technique. I was really referring to setting film speed (base exposure) at the low end and setting development time to fit printing and paper contrast at the high values. That he did not change that.

My daughter is taking a college level (not art school) photography course and thyt have her evaluating test strips as to whether "it's too dark or too light" arghh. No wonder begginners get grey and light grey in their prints

bill_1041
23-Apr-2002, 19:39
Worst advice: "The smaller the f-stop, the sharper the picture."

chris jordan
24-Apr-2002, 18:38
ha!-- yeah, Bill, i was given that advice, and followed it for the whole first year i shot with 4x5. my lens could stop down to f/64, so i figured for best sharpness i'd shoot everything at f/64, and i couldn't figure out why all my transparencies were so dang fuzzy!

Huw Evans
24-Apr-2002, 19:52
I guess this is a slight departure from the topic - not so much advice as commen t - but I read the following in a review article in an increasingly popular UK p hotography magazine today:

'...depth of field is much shallower than I would expect for a lens of this foca l length and quality...'

I don't think I'll be buying it again.

jnantz
7-Aug-2007, 07:15
Kevin's experience is like the the "just burn film" advice often dished out here and elsewhere. Nonesense, but people like saying it.

Sometimes it seems trivially easy to be a rebel in photography. I shoot at midday in full sunlight. I *like* wrap round ever-ready cases. I handhold large cameras at slow speeds. I cheerfully put my film through the hand baggage scanners. I crop in the darkroom.

YES!

Kirk Gittings
7-Aug-2007, 07:57
Van Deren Coke to Thomas Joshua Cooper in a graduate review, "there is no need for a third generation of American landscape photographers".

and to me "format is irrelevant to vision".

Nick_3536
7-Aug-2007, 08:21
When I was first learning how to use a darkroom, I knew a guy who worked in a ca mera shop. He would say really wise sounding things like ?expose for the shadow s and develop for the highlights?. He never really explained what that meant, b ut who was I to ask a bunch of questions? One day I was complaining about how b ad my prints looked, and he said,

?You just need to buy a box of paper and lock yourself in the darkroom until you learn how to print?.

There?s the awful advice. It not only sounds innocent enough, it actually sound s good! I already had a great deal of enthusiasm for the work, and here was thi s god-like individual (he worked in camera store!) telling me that I just needed to apply some time and effort, and I would be a good printer. Wow, this was go ing to be easy AND fun!

So I got busy. I printed, tried some different paper, tried some different film , printed some more, tried some different chemicals, tried a different light sou rce, made more prints, tried some different lenses, etc.

The idea of buying a big box of paper/film is mutually exclusive with trying many different types of paper/film and chemicals. You stick to one paper/film and don't go jumping all over the place.

How are you supposed to compare todays work with yesterdays if you are changing everything all the time?

The point of buying a 250 or bigger box of paper is to force the person not to change too many variables.

domenico Foschi
7-Aug-2007, 09:42
"What is with all those fuzzy,wuzzy artsy pictures? A good photograph should be sharp all over"
Translating: There is only one way to use a lens....

cyrus
7-Aug-2007, 11:08
"Real pros use the metal reels and developing tanks - not the plastic ones."

This bit of sage advice cost a friend of mine many, many hours of frustration and almost scared her out of photography.

Richard Kelham
7-Aug-2007, 11:24
"Real pros use the metal reels and developing tanks - not the plastic ones."

This bit of sage advice cost a friend of mine many, many hours of frustration and almost scared her out of photography.


It's probably true though....

MIke Sherck
7-Aug-2007, 11:58
"Film is dead. Get a digital camera."

:) Mike

claudiocambon
7-Aug-2007, 12:04
"If you get developer or stop on your hands, make sure to dip them in fixer as well to neutralize it."

And I did it!

Vaughn
7-Aug-2007, 12:19
"If you get developer or stop on your hands, make sure to dip them in fixer as well to neutralize it."

And I did it!

No, it is just if you get developer on your hands, dip them in the stop bath. Forget the fix!

(Regular hand soap, being alkaline, is not very good for getting off developer.)

"The world is a very good teacher, but one must be a very good student." old Chinese saying.

I like the camera store clerk's advice about grabbing a big box of paper and locking oneself in the darkroom. Good advice...but it does assumes one is a good student...that one takes a good look at one's print and thinks hard about the next step. I think Kevin's problem was the application of the advice, not the advice itself.

Reminds me to what the Elves say in The Lord of the Rings -- basically, elves don't like to give advice...what is done with the advice is out of their hands and they end up getting blamed for the results.

Vaughn

cyrus
7-Aug-2007, 12:47
It's probably true though....

Why? The only benefit I can think of for metal over plastic is that metal conducts heat better so perhaps the temp of the developing solution can be regulated by placing it in a water jacket. But then again, plastic is a good insulator and so there's no need for a water jacket, and also plastic reels don't affect the temp of the liquid... those thick metal reels are real heat sinks.

Oh, and if you drop a metal reel and it gets bent, forget it! Not to mention the metal lids that jam up...
I guess you can load a metal reel while it is still wet though, unlike a plastic one, thought I have never tried it.

poco
7-Aug-2007, 13:16
Plus you can load two 120's onto plastic without taping the ends. I fell for the "real men only use metal" line once, bought the thing and wrestled with it for a few hours. Now I use the metal tank to steam milk for lattes. Haven't found use for the reels themselves -- maybe to mash potatoes?

Ken Schroeder
7-Aug-2007, 16:23
David, Wasn't it Fred Picker who advocated " expose for the highlights and the other values including the shadows will fall into place. "

Barry, I believe Fred Picker advocated placing the highest value on Zone VIII and taking any shadow value one could get. At the same time, he was advocating developing a negative for normal development and one at plus one and a half. This is not as crazy as it might seem. Fred was very comfortable in softer light. He "avoided backlight like the plague" borrowing the phrase from Edward Weston. The technique worked very well for him. It also allowed him to concentrate on other matters in the field. The two negatives gave him (the printer), a choice of negatives. I consider it very solid advice, in most cases. Most is a key word, but distinguishing between the cases comes with experience.

Before the Zone System, Dr Paul Wolff, the great apostle of the Leica, wrote in his 1935 book, My First Ten Years with the Leica, " give full exposure and abbreviate the development. For those of us who still like luminesscent shadows and delicate highlights, the advice remains solid. (in all formats)

Bruce Barlow
8-Aug-2007, 04:32
[QUOTE=David Walker

"I think you are right. Somewhere down the line Picker changed his tiechnique based on his experiences. He could probably do that based on repeatable metering and processing technique. I was really referring to setting film speed (base exposure) at the low end and setting development time to fit printing and paper contrast at the high values. That he did not change that."

Fred tested ISO (for low values), development time (for high values), and Proper Proof time (minimum exposure of paper for maximum black thru clear film). Once he had that, his materials were calibrated and he could - and did - set the lightest part of the scene on Zone VIII and expose accordingly ("expose for the high value and take what you get in the shadows"). If he wanted more contrast in the negative, he placed the high value on Zone VI 1/2 and developed N+1 1/2 (1/2 gave him more flecibility with graded papers). Having two standard development times kept things really simple in the field.

I've followed that sysem for over 20 years and never missed. I make one negative each way, even numbered holder for N, odd for N+.

Worst advice I ever got: my first photo teacher advocated leaving enlarger exposure time constant and closing and opening the aperture on the enlarger lens. Ouch. Without precision or repeatability.

Helen Bach
8-Aug-2007, 05:35
Jock Sturges' advice to me when I assisted him (but briefly): "Putting a banana sticker on your camera will result in better pictures." Of course that is pure nonsense, and I don't know why I trusted him. Mango stickers work much better. Anybody could look through my work and tell which snaps were taken with a banana-stickered camera and which were taken with a mango-stickered camera.

Best,
Helen

Richard Kelham
8-Aug-2007, 11:16
Why? The only benefit I can think of for metal over plastic is that metal conducts heat better so perhaps the temp of the developing solution can be regulated by placing it in a water jacket. But then again, plastic is a good insulator and so there's no need for a water jacket, and also plastic reels don't affect the temp of the liquid... those thick metal reels are real heat sinks.

Oh, and if you drop a metal reel and it gets bent, forget it! Not to mention the metal lids that jam up...
I guess you can load a metal reel while it is still wet though, unlike a plastic one, thought I have never tried it.


You got it: temperature control is easier with metal tanks/reels. Though having said that I only used the metal reels when I was a working photographer sling 'em in a cage and dunk in a 3 gallon tank. Dozen or more at a time.

No you can't load film onto a wet metal spiral either, but by heck you can dry them quickly for pros it is speed that counts (they're much quicker to load too). So yes, pros use metal spirals...


Richard

Eric James
8-Aug-2007, 11:22
"Bokeh doesn't matter", sometimes expressed: "bokeh smokeh".

Thanks for the tip on the mango stickers.

otzi
8-Aug-2007, 19:35
You just need to buy a box of paper and lock yourself in the darkroom until you learn how to print?.
So what should he have told me? It?s kind of obvious in retrospect, but it was n?t at the time. Here?s how I think about it now. - Kevin


How about adding -Change only one thing at a time-

Robert Skeoch
9-Aug-2007, 07:47
good tip about the mango stickers... I'm going to try that.

raucousimages
9-Aug-2007, 09:53
I was told "35mm is too small and 4X5 is too slow. Buy a Hasselblad, it is the only camera you will ever need".

I love my Hassy, but it is only one tool on the toolbox.

Jim Jirka
9-Aug-2007, 09:55
maybe you should send that picture to autoban, you know that german magazine... :rolleyes:

eric mac
9-Aug-2007, 21:09
Chaquita or Dole? Damn this is harder than I thought.

Eric

Nicolai Morrisson
9-Aug-2007, 21:25
"Add 2.5 stops to the metered reading for medium format." (Really.)

JoeV
10-Aug-2007, 09:47
Kevin, perhaps the guy at the camera store was just wanting to sell you more boxes of paper. His interest really wasn't in your learning curve, but rather in his income curve. Which perhaps explains why fewer and fewer camera stores sponsor educational programs that connect new customers with experienced photo-instructors.

"Teach a man to fish..."

David R Munson
10-Aug-2007, 10:09
"Don't go into photography - there's no future in it. Get a real career instead."

I've heard this so many times from so many people I can't even remember who first said it to me. I've heard it from pro photographers, assistants, friends, relatives, etc. Too bad for them I have a listening problem.

Don Wallace
15-Aug-2007, 07:38
When I was a beginner, I had lots of questions, and I learned very quickly to differentiate between those who knew what they were talking about and those who didn't know squat but pretended to. I remember asking a photographer who I thought was more experienced than I how to control for a particularly difficult back-lighting situation. He didn't know the answer, but was the type who wouldn't admit it (my wife calls them "male experts") so he said, very condescendingly, "You are too technical - just let the art wash over you." I remember thinking "Gee. Thanks. That oughta work"

In any field of art, there are materials and techniques we all have to learn. When someone asks me a question I can't answer, I say that I don't know rather than reproducing BS and folklore. Maybe I didn't help them find out what they wanted but I least I have not derailed their search. And, trust me, there is an awful lot I don't know. ;)

Robert Hughes
15-Aug-2007, 12:41
"You should try selling some of those prints, they're really nice."

WTF? Somebody told me that just last week. As if! What are they tryin' to pull? Butter me up, make me all soft & gooey, then rat on me to the Internet, probably with a "mere St. Ansel knock-off" put down or something equally off-base.

But I'm on to ya, and believe me I'll sell when I'm durn good & ready!

jetcode
16-Aug-2007, 13:22
if you can't make it good make it big - Steve Kaiser

Brian K
16-Aug-2007, 13:41
if you can't make it good make it big - Steve Kaiser

Actually that is good advice.

My first photo studio, I was about 21 at the time, was a share with a much older and more established photographer. One day I come back to the studio and see him on the phone, his face growing redder and redder. I knew he had his "favorite" client on the phone, you might know the type, a client who owes you so much money, and is of course way past due, but if you stop shooting for him you'll never get paid. Anyway, he was trying to explain to the client how this client's product, a gray sweater with thin red stripes always photographed pink. At this point I see that my studio mate has had enough. Neck veins bulging, he screams into the phone," it's not the effing lights, or the effing film, you effing bastard, it's the effing sweater!!!!" and then slams down the phone receiver and in a continuous motion turns to me and says, "kid, now THAT'S how you talk to a client!!!!"

Vaughn
16-Aug-2007, 14:39
"Never listen to advice!" :p

Vaughn

bigdog
17-Aug-2007, 07:43
Twice, I have received the same "critique" (advice?) on a photo:

1. a picture inside the Pantheon on Rome, lit, of course, by the sunlight through the oculus in the ceiling.

2. a picture lit by the natural light from a window to the side of the subject.

In both cases, the "person who knew better" suggested that I move the light source.

Robert Hughes
18-Aug-2007, 16:40
2. a picture lit by the natural light from a window to the side of the subject.

In both cases, the "person who knew better" suggested that I move the light source.
Hah! That's the same advice I gave a YouTube vlogger the other day!

Rider
19-Aug-2007, 04:32
Plus you can load two 120's onto plastic without taping the ends. I fell for the "real men only use metal" line once, bought the thing and wrestled with it for a few hours. Now I use the metal tank to steam milk for lattes. Haven't found use for the reels themselves -- maybe to mash potatoes?

I hope you're joking!

jnantz
19-Aug-2007, 05:44
"throw away your camera, you are wasting your time"

Joe Smigiel
19-Aug-2007, 09:32
...Now I use the metal tank to steam milk for lattes. Haven't found use for the reels themselves -- maybe to mash potatoes?


If you paint, the metal reels make great brush cleaners. Just drop one in a glass jar full of turpentine (or water I suppose if you use water-based paints) and drag the brush over the reel to dissolve and dislodge loaded paint from the brush letting
the pigments settle to the bottom of the jar.