Friday, June 28, 2013

A Different Lens

All my physical, flesh and blood friends are tired of hearing me rave about Instagram so now I'm turning to my virtual ones.

The thing is, I'm a kinda sucky photographer (full confession, I had an initial flash of panic use of the word sucky might be objectionable and then I remembered I'm no longer twelve). But seriously, my photos are, at best, okay and, at worst, deleted.

About a month ago I noticed all these beeyoootiful pictures filling up my Facebook feed.

At first I told myself my friend's cameras were just better than mine. Since I don't suffer from any form of camera envy I was content to leave it at that, but then I noticed these mind-blowing, gasp-inducing pictures were via Instagram. And so I caved.

It took about five minutes for me to produce my first sharp-focused, color-contrast picture that brought Likes and Retweets out like rain on a Portland day, which is to say, a lot.

Instagram Perfect
The more I thought about the miracle work that Instagram performs on my lowly iPhone snaps, the more it struck me as a metaphor. In many cases my altered and adjusted photographs look better than the actual moment.

If a 'real' digitalized moment can be light-adjusted until it satisfies our treat-hungry eyes than what's to stop us from doing that to every other aspect of our lives?

Of course, as I writer, I already do this.

These words you read, they aren't slap-dashed on the page, even though that's the way I want it to seem. In reality, they're edited. Maybe not as carefully as I edit my books, essays or short stories, but I do re-read and re-work them because I want them to be their best version of themselves.

All this perfection makes a funny kind of sense out of the frustrations I experience with my own imperfections.

When everything my eyes consume, both in print and picture is as close to perfect as it can be, it makes me strive to be able to recreate all these brain experiences myself.

I'm like a teenage girl wanting to look like a magazine model, except instead of Playboy measurements I want New Yorker quality writing with skilled photographer pictures to accompany it.

We all know the right answer for the teenage girl, but what's the right answer when it's our skill sets we're trying to improve instead of our measurements?

Do we keep pushing at our raw product until it matchs the heights set by products filtered through specialty photographer lenses and teams of editors with decades of experience?

I'm not 100% sure, but I think the answer is yes. I think it's called the learning curve or the process by which we get better. But, of course, I'm just one person with an opinion, which is why I want to hear what you think.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

We just do the best we can, which of course will improve with everything we right.

Julie Flanders said...

I've never used Instagram because I'm a terrible photographer but now I really want to try it.
As for your question, I think the answer is yes too but like you I'm not 100% on that.

~Sia McKye~ said...

You have an interesting underpinning and application to your analogy, Johanna.

Yes, I do think we should push our raw products, whatever they might be, to be the best we can make them.

What that means to me is learning the methods behind whatever project we’re taking on. There are some shortcuts but they’re usually small adjustments. The big adjustments and improvements come from the application of what we've learned and a lot of practice. It takes time and there is no shortcut for that.

I am a perfectionist in when it comes to my creative endeavors. Whether it’s writing, playing music, artwork, photography, or creating a recipe. I usually compete with myself. Can I make it better? There’s a sense of satisfaction and contentment when I see improvement and a job well done. I believe in celebrating those moments.

I’m not big on wanting what I do to match or imitate a team of New York professionals. I do look at the work of professionals and analyze it; I use it as a guide. I’m not a team. I’m one person. But, I want it (whatever *it* happens to be) to match my vision of the project, not imitate someone else’s vision.

When you think about it, isn't anything we try to create a work in progress?


Neurotic Workaholic said...

I must admit that I reread and rewrite my posts before I put them online. But I haven't posted any pictures yet, because I'm a terrible photographer; all my pictures have been photobombed by my thumb.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

How many times can things be adjusted before it's too much? Your picture analogy makes me think of models and all the air brushing and Photoshopping that is done to them.

Elise Fallson said...

Ah, Instagram. I too have a lot of friends on Instagram. I have not caved in, yet. Thing is, I don't own an iPhone but I can produce similar results by rewroking my pics in photoshop. And I do rework my posts before publishing them, but it doesn't always help catching my mistakes/typos, etc. You ask in interesting question...I think most of us push our product to meet perceived expectations set by our peers. I think... hummm... I need to meditate on that one, but I like your analogy. (:

Joanne Noragon said...

There are several photo tweaking programs available. It is not a matter of deceit, but of making the picture more closely resemble what we saw with our eyes roving over the scene, shortening focus here, lengthening it there. My father was a superb photographer in the 30's, 40's, 50,s, 60's. He often used filters on his lenses to help render the scene closer to what the human eye sees. When I did darkroom work, the same thing. The picture comes closer to what the eye saw. And, of course, that is the purpose of editing, to bring the words closer to what the mind saw.

Johanna Garth said...

Alex, so true!

Julie, it's a tricky question, right!

Sia, I just wonder if perfectionism can ever come up to the level of a team effort. I actually lean toward thinking it can.

Neurotic, you MUST try instagram!

Diane, when I see the edited pictures they look more like what I saw when I snapped it.

Thanks Elise :)

Joanne, exactly, I feel like both photo and word editing bring the final product closer to that perfect image in our mind.

Ella said...

I think we keep redrawing the line in the sand. We learn one technique and move to the next one-redefining our skills!

I agree I edit my photos at Picmonkey and they always look better. The one thing I discovered is getting close helps, but sometimes I get too close. See, I have to keep redrawing the line.

Instagram is fun...I used it a lot, but took a break!
Thanks for the ponder and keep going! We all strive to do better~
;D You are not alone @>--------

The Bookworm said...

I think Instagram is fantastic, I love it. The filters for the pictures, like so many other things in life, we can edit, improve and make better.
Great post Johanna.

Chuck said...

Nice analogy between editing photos and editing writing...I do both all the time. My first draft of either would be really raw!

Unknown said...

Okay--this is way too heavy for just one cup of coffee. I have to go get another...

Okay. I'm back. This was such an interesting post to me. This striving for perfection invades our (my) modern day world. I'm thinking of these "Facebook" moments I have, where, I'm with my family and I take a picture that has FB written all over it, and I present it to my little world, all gussied up as THE perfect moment. Can you imagine someone from fifty or one hundred years ago having that same type of social mind-set? I wonder what that does to us psychologically, to be constantly trying to present ourselves in this external manner. We do it too as writers and with things like Instagram--which you pointed out.
Anyway, after reading your posts these long months I don't think there's any worry about you becoming consumed with appearances.
Thanks for the thoughtful blog. You really captured an interesting idea...perfectly.
I'm going to post it as my "Blog de Jour" over at the nut-tree...
That'll get at least--well, a read I hope. (Lots of crickets chirping over at the nut-tree this summer. Thanks for stopping by. I've enjoyed reading about your Dakota get away.)
~Just Jill