Thursday, May 03, 2012

Quality Images

I spend a lot of time looking at photographs on line.  I follow quite a few blogs devoted to photography with old film cameras, and I also regularly visit some of the big photo sharing sites including Flickr and  Millions of photos are posted daily on such sites, so some kind of viewing strategy is imperative.  All the photo sharing sites give you a hand in finding worthwhile images using a combination of computer algorithms and crowdsourcing.  Some of these work well, and others not so much.

My least favorite crowdsourced image displays are at which encourages viewers to assign a value from 1 to 7 to pictures, and then they show you the highest rated ones.  What that produces is a lot of technically perfect examples of motel art.

A much better result from a cooperative winnowing process comes from the Gallery Picks feature at the Rangefinder Forum site.  Each week, site visitors are encouraged to pick their favorites from the picture uploads to the site's galleries.  The results from this choice process are consistently excellent.  I think the quality is probably due in part to the demographics of the site's visitors; they share some esthetic values, and there is a remarkable number of skilled photographers who contribute their work to the  Forum's galleries.

I also think that the Gallery Picks benefit greatly from limiting the choices to pictures posted in the foregoing week.  The pictures one finds there have a strength and freshness to them that one seldom encounters in similar collections.  In fact, a recently established thread that permits selecting all-time favorites is much less successful in my opinion.  It seems that what sticks in peoples' minds over a longer time period tends toward the bizarre and the accidental.  Of course, this is a subjective judgment which I'm sure some Forum viewers would contest, but there is a pretty clear difference which arises between selections made over a week's time and those in which the time constraint is absent.


Vitaly said...

Hi Mike, just tried the RFF "Gallery Picks" thread as you suggested.

In a word: Bleck!

For one thing, I don't think a single Ansco Panda image was displayed in the entire selection!

The more serious shortcoming is this: no context. Who is the photographer, the original accompanying title/caption text, equipment/processing notes if any, and links to more images by the photographer, all of that is missing.

So, even if one does find a pleasing image dumped unceremoniously into that thread, it does not really provide any readily accessible means of getting back to the photographer's original intent, and perhaps finding similar images by the photographer.

Well, we just have to take whatever we can get with these online photography forums. Which all too often have precious little to do with photographic quality and presentation aesthetics -- not to mention intelligent and provocative discussion -- and more to do with "social networking" and the generation of advertising revenue.

Mike said...

I think a lot of the gallery pics show great strength in composition, and I'm not greatly bothered by the lack of context. I also like the fact that a lot of the photographers clearly have some appreciation of the history and potential of the medium which is uncommon.
That said, the RFF site is a horrible mishmash as far as design is concerned. I couldn't agree more with your opinion of forums with their irritating emphasis on reciprocity, and the lack of meaningful critical commentary. Those considerations led me some time ago to abandon participation in any of the on line photography forums.
There are a number of bloggers which offer the kind of context and in-depth critical commentary which you suggest. Unfortunately, most of them I have come across focus on the commercial gallery scene which I find to be a great bore.
Part of what I was trying to get at with my posting was useful strategies for finding worthwhile images. I have a few more ideas on the subject which I'll share in future posts. Any suggestions along this line will be welcome.

robert said...

A few years back on you could see every photo that was uploaded. The ratings, I believe were based on the number views. I preferred starting with the lowest viewed and found that to be satisfying as the photos were quirky and improved with every click of the page.