The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

The "Ah" factor always wins

As a photographer, one of my aims is to continually stretch myself and improve on my knowledge, understanding and skill in creating images. This means not being content to keep repeating myself, but constantly looking for ways to produce better photos.

In the long term this has a positive effect on my ability – the photos I generate today are definitely of a higher standard and quality than they were in days gone by. And while there are still one or two images I crafted a few years back that I can still look at with a degree of satisfaction, the vast majority leave me wincing slightly as I know I would go about taking that photo in a completely different way now.

But that’s as it should be. Hopefully my best work will always be in the next photos I create – otherwise stagnation is inevitable.

However - and I’ve come to realise this is a problem for all photographers who are continually pushing their boundaries – this results in me looking for different things in a photograph than a non-photographer. What appeals to my eye, or not, is often completely out of kilter with the general public.

For most people, when they look at a photograph, primarily they are looking at the content. I, on the other hand, am also looking at the technical execution – how well is the image exposed, focused and composed, and whether these things are in keeping with the narrative being presented.

Additionally, I spend large amounts of my time immersed in the world of images – particular websites, magazines, and TV programmes or YouTube videos – which means I’m constantly looking for originality too. There are only so many photos of a lonely tree against a dramatic sky, or a long-exposure coastal shot at sunset (where the sea looks like milky mist rather than water), I can see before they fail to impress me anymore, no matter how much I might appreciate the technical expertise. I’ve seen it all before - hundreds of times.

So it constantly catches my by surprise when photos that are merely OK in my eyes, produce a far greater response than what I consider to be my best work. Indeed something little more than a snapshot has just generated more “likes” on Facebook than any other photo I’ve uploaded to date.

Less surprising is it features my daughter, Meg. We were out for a walk in the woods at the weekend, and about halfway round I balanced the camera on a rock, set the timer to 10 seconds and photographed the two of us in a typical Dad-hugs-daughter image. I took 4 shots. The first was overexposed as I’d forgotten to adjust the settings on the camera; the second didn’t have the right compositional balance; the third had Meg’s face mostly covered in my shadow. I made appropriate adjustments each time and the fourth image was fine.

Loving father and patient daughter

A pleasant wee shot I knew my wife would like, but in terms of photographic skill and expertise, hardly a Pulitzer Prize winner. Put up on Facebook, though, it gets four times as many “likes” as what I consider to be my finest work.

But then I’ve long known that blog posts featuring my daughter always generate a higher response rate than any other topic, especially if they include a photo of her.

Technical quality is unimportant. A photo of a loving father hugging his daughter presses all the right buttons - outdone only by pictures or videos of cute kittens.

Poorly focused, crap composition and lousy sound quality, but cute.
52,075,351 views and rising...


Kateri Von Steal said...

There is an emotion in this.. you can see how much you love each other.

I think it's a great Father-Daughter shot.

mapstew said...

Sometimes ya just can't beat a Daddy/Daughter photie!

We (the band) have often spent days/weeks getting a song technically 'right'. It sounds brilliant, and yet can have no soul. Then we play an impromptu piece, make most of it up as we go along, and it fills the floor.

Megan is getting so grown up. (As are my three!) :¬)

Aoife.Troxel said...

I think it is definitely the emotion. Okay maybe a beach at sunset is a landscape - and therefore incapable of feeling emotion - but it will probably induce a nice emotional response in the viewer, who could be remembering honeymoon/holiday/childhood. And for every person that is seeing a similar shot for the thousandth time, there is someone (maybe) who is seeing it for the first.
That said, I think the power to produce an emotional response depends on the skill of the photographer and not just the subject matter. Take the quote by Anton Chekhov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Any writer could say the moon is out, but skill is required to really make the reader feel it. And readers can tell, I think, when the writing works.
I believe the same applies to photography in that the viewer will inherently recognise superior skill - but only to a certain degree. Some people will still read E.L. James.

Anonymous said...

I like a photo that produces an emotion in me...many of yours do that for me...but a father daughter photo that's the best :) this one is PERFECT!!!

hope said...

That photo sums up the best part of being a kid...knowing your Dad loves you. And it shows.

So my tastes may not always measure up to your professional eye, you have the ol' "a picture is worth a 1,000 words" down to a beautiful art. And I'm glad you share.

Pat said...

Give me your photo any day of the week.
The video I find a bit yucky.

Guyana-Gyal said...

Your photo with Meg is just perfect!

I think the *likes* you get for your photos with Meg says a lot about us today, how hungry we are for love, for positive things in our life today.

We turn on the news, what do we see / hear? And all the media gurus, what do they talk about? Politics, anger, hate, war.

Yayyyy for beautiful Meg and her father.

Anonymous said...

Now I relate to that! And the perfect mistakes.
I love your father daughter photograph.

Mage said...

Ah, love that's what shows.

Thanks to Pat, I've found you and will come back often. :)

Kim Ayres said...

Kateri Von Steal - thank you :)

Mapstew - I've seen an awful lot of bands that were fantastic live, but their recorded material, while technically perfect, lacks the soul.

Aoife - wonderful analogy :)

Theanne - thank you :)

Hope - they say a picture is worth a thousand words, but so many are barely worth half a dozen... ;)

Pat - are you more of a dog than a cat person?

Guyana-Gyal - thank you :)

Allen - thank you :)

Mage - welcome to my ramblings, and thank you for taking the time to comment :)

Claire Tilley said...

Don't you find though that when people read your blog they feel a connection with you and the things you talk about. The picture of the Mad Hatter a few posts later is wonderful but it doesn't say something about you. The picture of you and Meg tells us something about you and your relationship with your daughter. That's what people want. People want to know about you because your life seems interesting to you and a father/daughter photo will evoke the awww factor. It touches peoples hearts because it makes them feel closer to you and your family. Sad really because it's like Guayana Gal said, people are starved for warm fuzzy emotion. Thank you for letting us have a small glimpse into your life. I like your photographs but each one for a different reason. Of course family connections will always get more response... because it lets us know more about you as a person not just as an artist. Please don't photograph trees solitary of otherwise... your art is different but wonderful.

Kim Ayres said...

Claire - I know people prefer the personal connection - I just needed to write this to remind myself... :)

Sayre said...

Meg has always been my favorite subject of your photos. That does not detract from your artistry, as the pictures you take using your knowledge of light and shadow, posing and technical things are truly stunning. I always say to myself after seeing them that if I were ever to need my picture taken for official, famous business, I want Kim to do it. You bring something out in each of your subjects, but in Meg, all we see is love.

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