Is mediocre the new good?

Cameras are everywhere now. Everyone has a pretty decent one in their phone or even an entry level DSLR and they are snapping away constantly. On Facebook alone there are 300,000,000 images uploaded each and every day. That’s not a typo. Three. Hundred. Million. Photos! A day! Add to that the tweets and the Instagram posts and you reach an unfathomable number of pictures being created daily. And that’s amazing! I love that more and more people are enjoying photography and I don’t care that these images are badly composed or blurred or overexposed. It doesn’t matter. There is a certain magic in the snapshot, it’s about the moment and not the photograph itself.

But there is a downside to all these snapshots. Being exposed to this many, and I’ll be blunt here, bad images has lowered the public’s expectations of what a good photograph should look like. After seeing 10,000 terrible photographs, when something slightly less terrible comes along it gets hailed as “awesome”, “amazing” and “the best photo ever”. It’s not. It’s better, but it’s none of the above. If you’ve eaten nothing but beans for 6 months even the cheapest hamburger will taste like a gourmet meal.

Usually what makes people react like this is a sharp image with a shallow depth of field that’s been shot on anything with a bigger sensor than an iPhone. Yes, it looks a lot better than most images online today purely because of that, but that doesn’t make it “amazing”.  It does however make it easy for the person that took it to start believing the hype, and the next thing you know, they are making business cards and trying to charge for their services. But that’s another blog post…

Bad photographers in action

If you are a photographer, someone in love with the art and pouring their heart and soul into every image, all this praise being lavished on average work could drive you crazy. Don’t let it. Even though mediocre has become the new good and people are constantly bludgeoned with poor photographs, hold on to this one thought: if your work really is good it will be recognised. When something genuinely amazing comes along people know it when they see it (although they may need to invent new superlatives as they have wasted all the others).

So keep putting you best work out there. Don’t dumb down, settle for less or stop trying because you think no one cares. Push yourself harder to raise the bar even higher.  Show the world what “awesome”, “amazing” and “the best photo ever” really looks like.

It works both ways though. Remember to take it with a pinch of salt when people praise your work unless it’s someone you really admire. Don’t fall in to the same trap and remember you can, and should, always do better.

1 Comment

  1. Ali

    I really enjoyed this post. It’s something I’ve thought of a lot. Since I’ve seen some totally horrible work being praised I realize that I need to be my harshest critic and not buy into it. I think one of my biggest pet peeves is when someone takes a cell phone selfie, runs it through a photo editing program and comes out with plastic skin and they look totally creepy; they make it their profile pic and everyone says they look beautiful. I remember when I was first learning post processing I took a shot of myself on my Canon using the tripod and was playing with skin softening and techniques. Everyone was praising it and one true friend posted that he preferred “A less processed Ali”. Because of him I took a second look and realized I had taken it too far. It helped me a lot to get that bit of honesty 🙂



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