Stuff I think about

Good images, Bad images

Posted in Uncategorized by Billy Soh on February 26, 2009

I’ve been told before many times there’s primarily two kinds of images, a good image and a bad image. It makes life helluva difficult, and I think distinguishing good images and bad images can be quite difficult now. Often I find it hard to truthfully fulfill the primary mission of an image–that is, to tell a story. What story is it telling? Or is it just pretending to tell a story?


Image editing softwares (e.g. Photoshop, etc), The opium of photography

Posted in Uncategorized by Billy Soh on February 24, 2009

I’ve been spending so much time in front of the computer adjusting and toning images I can’t help but say that photoshopping images is like smoking opium. It’s not exactly good for the smoker (likewise, its not exactly good for the photographer) but it kills pain and provides the user with relief (likewise, it saves or improves the images), and eventually gets you addicted while the vendors make huge chunks of money from the dependence on it, (likewise, you feel the need to use it so that your clients see that you spend more than just the time clicking the shot, more time spent on the images and your time is money.)

Isn’t image editing softwares like opium? It’s not good, but it isn’t bad either. Dependence on it kills some physical skills and technical abilities, and opium makes the user sick and dependent on relief and strength to work.

If opium (or the image editing softwares) is well used it is full of capabilities and endless possibilities.

Photography today through my eyes (3)

Posted in Uncategorized by Billy Soh on February 18, 2009

A decade ago in school I was given the chance to use commercial digital photography equipment and was taught the new edge in photography. It was quick, it was instant, but it was cumbersome, at that point of time it was only good in the studio–it has to be tethered to a computer.

It was new tools and new ways of doing something old and I felt like a country bumpkin for a couple of weeks.

The digital images were somehow appealing on screen but something was amiss, at that point of time I don’t know why, though at a later stage I finally decided that I had been watching too much television. The images often were tonally flat. Just like how watching a movie in a cinema from projected film and how watching the same movie on a television screen is different, though televisions are better today with high definition flatscreens. Watching a film in a cinema is simply a different experience aside from the plot of the film.

I’m always in pursuit for technical formidability in photography, and in the midst of it I’m always caught up with one question regarding personal signature style and technical character (or flaws and shortcomings), whether signature styles likes most in technical character, or signature style in a broad palette of techniques applied aesthetically. It may all be how well it works for all there is, but where do I really decide? If a photographer stops at any particular technical character that is his signature style, wouldn’t that mean a halt in progression?

Commercial photography is never a one man show, it involves a whole team of dedicated people behind it. In my opinion the most important factor is to get the synergy of the team, that gets the show running properly. Credit belongs to the team, never any individial alone.

Photography today through my eyes (2)

Posted in Uncategorized by Billy Soh on February 7, 2009

I’ve been going lots and lots of magazines recently looking through the color images and the monochromatic ones. Strangely enough the images may be very well styled, very well composed and very well post-processed, something is still amiss. As I went on it struck me that the post-process (ie photoshop) is the culprit. Many photographers today shoot according to how they’re going to manipulate an image, (often composition is negligible too) so desirable images for manipulation have a very narrow dynamic range. This translates to having gray images in a monochrome working environment. More than a decade ago I’d been reprimanded by my teachers and mentors in black and white classes in the past for producing gray images. At first I thought its my printing technique in the darkroom and I started cranking up the magenta filter on the enlarger, but it doesn’t solve the problem sufficiently. So I went on to improve my dodging and burning techniques, that makes a better image, but it still looks flat and gray despite having increased the number of tones in the image. So what was wrong? It was lighting. The cause of it: It was how I made use of any light available for shooting my pictures. Back then I didn’t care about how light was observed, but then on I decided to observe lighting more carefully.

Doesn’t it work better? All I needed to do was to shoot proper, minimise back end work for corrections. (Worse still, many do resort to doing such manipulation to pictures to such its being mangled and it gets passed on as creative work. Well yeah, creative indeed, a creative way to go around a mistake. Wouldn’t it be better if it’s well done, and wouldn’t the creative work be even better!?) In digital, when well done, that’s savings for photographer and client! In a dollar for dollar sense, the photographer saves his own time, clients gets the images early. It’s only right that the photographer’s formidable skill should be in his photographic technique and be paid for his skills.

My own standard for an image to make the cut is simple. Styling and other artistic input/direction aside, it must work well as a color image, as well in monochrome (black and white). Wouldn’t I be shortchanging my creative team if the models, makeup artists, hair stylists, clothing stylists, art directors, etc, who’ve put in all the great work when I’m only there to compose and snap the picture?

Posted in Uncategorized by Billy Soh on February 2, 2009

Some days ago a new friend whom I made recently asked me out for coffee and a chat about the creative industry in Singapore…it’s ironic that Singapore is a good place to set up a business. Well I can only say this, while we have all the necessary basic infrastructure to support businesses, the working society here doesn’t pay the due compliments, worse still, some even fail to pay due respect to people involved in team projects. I was aware of that but wasn’t quite sure how to put it. It really got me thinking where we have a civilised society or simply a non-barbaric mercenary society, it’s certainly not the gracious society we’re supposed to be in, much less the gracious society that we’re supposed to be building.

Whatever happened to the courtesy campaigns? Or that we just selectively forget everything that the government preached?