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Wednesday, April 11, 2012


I'm curious how different people react to pictures - a portrait, in particular.  So a week ago, I posted these 2 pictures side by side in my Facebook photos as an experiment.    The two photos were taken under the following conditions:

1. They are of the SAME person.
2. SAME location.
3. SAME viewpoint.
4. SAME lighting condition.
5. SAME camera.
6. SAME lens.
7. SAME settings in values and white balance were used in the RAW to JPEG post-process and conversion, although variations in the brightness of the background occured during the process.
8. The 2 photos were taken merely seconds apart with the camera not leaving my eye.  The left one being first.
9. The left photo is, indeed, slightly sharper.  This was due to the single-shot focus lock I imposed on my camera causing it not to track the subject's eyes as she tipped her head slightly down.

The results are interesting, to me at least.  The first respondents are a mix of photographers (or at least have some knowledge of the craft), and non-photographers.  Most of the photographers chose the left photo, while most of the non-photographers chose the right photo.  Later on during the voting process, more photographers gravitated towards the right photo.  Conversely, more non-photographers went for the left photo.  Does it have something to do with how some respondents point out reasons for their choice?  Probably.  But the reasons pointed out are all valid.  Like I said in one of my comments . . . There is no right or wrong answer.

The photo on the left was chosen more for technical reasons.  Sharper, more contrast are the general opinion.  This is how most of the photographers responded - a very clinical analysis of the technical qualities of the pictures.  On the other hand, the non-photographers (and some photographers) chose the photo on the right for reasons that are more emotional in nature.  More lifelike smile, angle, how her eyes hold their attention, a happier look.

So which one's my pick???  RIGHT PHOTO.  I've taken pictures of a lot of people, most of them models but there's a substantial number of ordinary people too.  I've also watched how other photographers - some of them friends, some of them whose work I simply admire - interpret their subject.  I've learned the the more succesful photos are those that communicate more to it's viewers on an emotional level.  More often, it's your subject's natural smile, but it can also be your subjects character or personality revealed by his facial expression or body language.  To be honest, I'm a little surprised that despite efforts to make the quality of the 2 pictures nearly identical, many of the respondents still made their choice based on nit picks.

Well, I did said no need to say your reason when you make your choice, hehehe.  But thanks for saying so, at least the mystery of why you chose which is no longer a mystery making the conclusions of this experiment more convenient to arrive at.

1. Good portrait = good technical quality + natural expressions
2. Photographicals tend to be analytical with technical qualities of a picture.  (Do I hear defensive comments?  No need for that, I have that tendency too.)
3. Non-photographers tend to relate to a picture based on emotions.

So what does that all mean?  No. 1 is self-explanatory. 

For no. 2, it means that learning photographers should be careful about falling into the trap perfecting their technical skills at the expense of what portraiture really is all about.  Let me put it this way - a bad picture is a bad picture.  If you don't get it right on capture, then whatever you do to make it better are simply decorations to cover your picture's shortcomings.  You're not making it better, you're turning it into something else.

For no. 3, well . . . a very large percentage of potential clients are non-photographers.  Because if they are photographers too, they would have done their own portraits, wouldn't they?

I guess there is one more question that needs to be answered . . . WHICH PHOTO HAD MORE VOTES?  Here's the stats:

Total of Voters: 62
Photographers: 41
Non-Photographers: 21

Votes for LEFT picture:  Photographers 18/41 (43%)
                                    Non-Photographers 8/21(38%)

Votes for RIGHT picture: Photographers 23/41 (57%)
                                     Non-Photographers 13/21 (62%)

So there you go.  The picture on the right was chosen more but not by a significant margin.  The small difference in the photographers' choice, I think, is enough to validate the conclusions I made.



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