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gavinparsons

quality of published pictures

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This is a bug bear of mine and would like other people's opinion from across the world. In the last few years I've noticed some appauling pictures being published in magazines - here in the UK and across the world. Many are by so-called 'professional underwater photographers'.

 

When I send work in to be published, it is always the best I got from a particular shoot. If I get nothing, I don't submit the work until I can reshoot. I know this can be expensive, but that's our business for you.

 

Are the photojournalists to blame? Or is it the magazine editors simply going for the cheap option? I won't name names, but some magazines and photojournalists are worse than others. Any good UK-based photographer will know what and who I'm talking about I'm sure.

 

What are other people's thoughts?

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You are right but it is the decision of those that select the pictures. I have just been involved with a diving calendar. It was decided (by those decision-makers) that the pictures divers want to see are those of people about to go diving!!! I have just been involved in supplying pictures for a book on diving. It was decided to rotate pictures of divers so that they, the divers, were upright. After all people are normally upright are they not?!!! ...and so on. It's heartbreaking but the problem stems from the fact that the people who publish are publishers and rarely divers too.

It used to be said among photographers that if you selected out a sheet of 20 trannies but could only find nineteen so added something third-rate to fill the last hole, that would be the shot chosen.

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Are you talking technically or compositionally or both?

 

It never ceases to amaze me which pictures are chosen both in underwater and other publications. Our view, as divers who experience what we photograph and see firsthand, is substantially different from the view from above water where our images are often viewed as being of a very alien world indeed. To date I have had one photo published in three different orientations!

 

The magazine business is mostly orientated at selling magazines not showing superb photographs - a sad but true statement. And all too often images are chosen for reasons which we, the photographers, have no control over and never even get to hear about.

 

There is also a technical issue, especially as regards digital (and I include scanned images here) reproduction. Sadly, there is a great deal of myth involved with the reproduction of digital files. These can be reproduced superbly - I would say better than film for a given format(!) - but all too often, lazy or ill informed practices make digital reproduction an excuse for poor workmanship. Part of this problem lies with us the photographers. It is all too easy to provide a reasonable-on-screen appearing file which when analysed proves to be spiky, over adjusted and poorly originated. This is not helped by some photographers claiming that jpegs are the way to go (they may work ok but are substantially more prone to over adjustment than RAW files).

 

So I'd agree there are some lousy images published. We, the photographers, need to educate the users of imagery but this is not easy in a competitive world where professionalism is rather less well regarded than it perhaps used to be.

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In addition to Paul's points, the magazines like to work with people who are reliable and produce decent images when they say they will. All the magazines have black lists of photographers who take excellent pictures, but are unreliable and disrupt magazine deadlines. In the end the magazines will prefer a decent image that they know they will get on time, compared to a potentially awesome one that they might not get before the deadline.

 

Alex

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That is so true Alex. I'm sure there are quite a few primadonna "artiste" types out there that don't deliver on time. I'm sure editors have grown to love the speed of delivery of digital products.

 

When someone wants a photo (like BP today) for their newsletter, they want it now. If you can point them to a "digital contact sheet" (HINT = web gallery) of photos and they can pick one and have the full sized version emailed to them within minutes, they certainly get used to that.

 

What they probably don't realize is that preparing these "digital contact sheets" takes time and that should be factored into the price of the delivered "FOB" products.

 

Cheers

James

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Thanks for your comments and I hope more get added as well. I do agree that magazine editors and publishers are partly to blame for some poor images and images with the sun at the bottom of the shot and upside down sharks (that one always makes me laugh) etc, but I've also noticed some photographers which are so poor technically and artistically being consistently published.

 

I'm a published photographer and will do my utmost to supply the best images I can. Others don't seem to have the skills to even produce them and they are still getting published. They turn up in a couple of UK magazines and I cringe whenever I see that type of shot as it makes the UK's diving photojournalists look like a bunch of amatuers who have no idea how to take a decent picture. I know its not true as the majority of published underwater photographers are very good at what they do. I do worry though sometimes what the rest of the world thinks.

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