Is mediocre the new good?

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.

Share less photos!

Share less photos!

To be a good photographer, you have to be a good editor. I’m not talking about photoshop skills, I mean you need to be able to ruthlessly separate the wheat from the chaff. I keep seeing photographers post a solid image online on Facebook or 500px only to sabotage their efforts moments later by posting another five very similar but not quite as good images. Once you do that, you devalue the original image and it disappears into a cloud of mediocrity.

It’s the “spray and pray” mentality. With high frame rates, big memory cards and fast broadband it’s easy to be lazy and upload in bulk. Clicking ‘Select All’ and ‘Upload’ is so much easier that taking the time to sift though 300 images looking for the one that stands out. It’s even harder to understand when the photographer does that but still uploads dozens more afterwards.

You may have a lot of images you like from a particular shooting session, but I guarantee there will be one or two in that set that stand out from the rest. It might be that they are sharper or be exposed better. It could be a better composition or a distracting background element may have moved out of the frame. It might be a subtly better expression from your subject, or the peak action of a sporting moment. Whatever it is, there will be something to give it the edge – Take the time, and have the pride in your work to find those gems instead of uploading everything.

Case in point with the images below. All seven are sharp and each has merit but I chose only the 5th image to share online and this is the only time you will ever see the other 6.

7 Possibles

I like the angle of the car and the motion blur in the wheels. There’s nice amount of tyre smoke and there is even some light falling on the driver. Add to that the car is neatly in the centre of the sponsors banner to give some context and I think we have a clear winner. Here it is after a few Lightroom tweaks:

The final image

So what kind of photographer you want to be? Do you want to be known for quantity over quality? Do you want to get as many photos online as soon as possible and to hell with standards? Do you want your work to disappear into the endless stream of average that people are bombarded with today?

I certain I don’t. I want to stand out, and to do that I choose to only ever show my best work. Of course I throw the odd grab shot up to Instagram but anything taken on DSLR has some thought, time and care dedicated to it. It’s so much more effective to share one strong image than to bury it amongst 100 average ones.

So next time you are about to upload a batch of images, pause for a moment, take some pride on your work and ask yourself: ‘Does the world really need to see all of these?’