Rules and Expectations

I have come to a stark realization that everyone has very differing levels of expectations when it comes to seeing photographs. It does seem that everyone is seeing different things in a single, same image. Some people would put more emphasis on how important the composition is, while some would argue the significance of the exposure accuracy and color balance. There would also be a few who argue the fundamental subject content of the image, and the artistic layers of meaning hiding underneath the image. When you put an image in front of two people (who may, or may not be photography literate) you will get two very different sets of feedback, in terms of what they see in your photograph, and what they think of your overall photography presentation.

I have personally known a few people who would live by some rules to their death. They are the same group of people who would push away any stray or unfamiliar ideas, just because those ideas clash with their regular string of photography philosophies. It was strange how some people can so easily push something aside, because they are not open to the different concepts. Just because the idea may not appeal to you does not mean it is not a good one. I was once told off by a friend for doing so much hip-shooting, because he thinks it is a cowardly and carelessly executed technique which requires very little skill and produces very low hit rate. (how ironic, because he was the one who introduced the idea to us in the beginning, before he "changed" his mind). Nonetheless, it was one technique, which I believe can work effectively in a few situations where conventional shooting methods do not apply.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus E-5 and ZD 50mm F2 Macro or 8mm F3.5 fisheye. Shutter therapy was at Chow Kit, KL.

Living in the trash cabinet, literally.

Not from Malaysia.

A troubled country.
PINHOLE Art Filter applied.

Weathered paint.

I guess that is one of the beauties in photography, though it is so universally similar, the variations between a photographer to another can be quite a huge contrast. You may give the same set of camera and equipments to two different photographers, asking them to shoot the same subject. At the end of the day you will have two rather completely different sets of photographs. Not necessarily one better than the other, just two very different outcomes. Why? Because both photographers think, and work differently.

Therefore, when I do meet new photographer friends, or established photographers I do admire, I would not go all out and ask for tips and tricks on how they become successful, or be as good in photography as they are. I would not ask them to teach me some special techniques or how they make that famous shot of theirs happen. I would not even care about what camera and lenses they choose to use.

What I would do, if I have the opportunity, is to get to know them better. Get to know how their mind works. How they see things. How they think about the things that they think. Learn how the clock tick. Learn what brings out the characteristics in their art, and learn that through observation on the individual's characters. Learn what motivates them to shoot, learn what gives them the inspiration. Techniques and skills can be picked up through research, reading and practice. However, looking into a photographer's mind is not something you can just pluck out from an internet site, or read from a published photography book. It is what you find in the photographer's life that you will see the secrets of their powerful images.


Collecting treasures.

Sleepless under the shade

A garage.
DRAMATIC TONE Art Filter applied.

Different photographers have their own sets of rules and expectations. There should not be absolute right and wrong. Some would say shoot RAW, because it will save your ass if you screw a few settings up in your camera during shooting. Some would say shoot JPEG, or even more extreme, should just go straight out of camera (SOOC) and not apply post processing, because you should get everything right in the camera the first time around. Some says photoshop is evil. Some cannot live without photoshop. There is a long list of debates and arguments, and it is up to us to carefully choose what we want to believe in, and adhere to for our own photography style and needs.

For example, I believe cropping is fine, as long as you do not overdo it. Some of my friends are so against cropping that they consider it one of the deadliest sins in photography, and would give you one long lecture if you told them you cropped your images. I have come to accept post-processing as a part of workflow for digital photography, and it is crucial to do it right. However, I also believe in getting everything right in the camera while shooting. I personally cannot stand using manual focus for serious shooting such as event coverage, and I do think flash is a necessity in some situations when the lighting is bad or just too dim. Some argue the wonders of available light photography and how flash destroys everything. Some would sing of the miracles of multiple off camera wireless flash creative lighting system.

Is it not beautiful how those different sides kept colliding and never would come to a same page?

Sometimes, life slows you down.

Sometimes, life is full of spikes.
GRAINY FILM Art Filter applied.

Sometimes, everything is locked away.
GRAINY FILM Art Filter applied.

Sometimes, even animals understand your pain.

Does it really matter what style you choose in your photography, or how you want to shoot? Or what you want to shoot with? Who is to say who you want to be? Who is to say how your photographs should turn out to be?

In the midst of so many confusing photography philosophies flying everywhere, many which conflict with one another, I think what truly matters in the end is the choices you make on your own, and how you make it work for yourself, not for others. It does not matter if it is not the best technique, if it works, you know it works. If it does not work, don't kid yourself, do something, and find ways to make it work.

Photography is an expression. You should express yourself, and do it in your own way. Shoot what you love to shoot. And remember to enjoy yourself while you are at it !!


  1. love your last shot, meow~

  2. is that the only shot you love? so sad...

  3. Your writing and photo-taking skills are very impressive.

  4. Thanks Sintaicharles. I am still learning and growing.

  5. Everyone have their own point of view & their preferences. The fun part of photography to me is to explore the photographer's thought & attitude which laid beneath their piece of art, as well as to express mine.

    Robin, u street photography always reflects ur care & concern about this society... U got the potential to be a good politician... LOL

  6. Hello John,
    I agree with you, exploring the photographer's thoughts and attitude can be beneficial, and self expression is photography's truest form !!
    Me??? Politician??? I think the sky will fall down first ahahahaa

  7. You have said it so well Robin. I find it hard to find the words sometimes to express the same things to some of my photographer friends who seem to believe that opinion is fact.

    Great shots by the way - as usual.

  8. Hello Phil !!
    Long time no hear from you.
    Thanks for the support and compliments !!

  9. Shutter therapy indeed. I always appreciate your writing and pictures.

  10. thanks alf!! your encouragement is much appreciated!!

  11. Great post and photos, Robin :) I definitely agree with what you have written. Keep it up!

  12. Great thoughts & photos. Spot on. We can't please everyone on whatever we do. Just continue to do what we love most.

  13. thanks very much xuenphotoz, that means a lot coming from you!!

  14. Robin...just discovered your blog. Great blog, great photography and great insights. I think what makes photography great is its is accessible to most everyone and everyone can practice it as they want. Does that mean everyone creates great photos? No, but not everyone is trying to.

  15. Hello JC,
    Thank you so much for the kind words !!
    You do have a very valid point there, not everyone is trying to create great photographs. Some people just want to have fun shooting. I believe having fun is the more important part of the equation. You may be a great photographer, but what is the point if you do not enjoy it? Thanks for sharing such insightful thought yourself !!