What’s it to Ya

A cropped image

I have been thinking (and what better place to contemplate than by a large body of water under a cloud filled sky) about a post that was made a little while back that had a preference for ‘real’ gardens and not ‘airbrushed’ gardens. I found the short remark rather telling in so many ways. I guess it left me wondering what is wrong with a well-taken image showing a garden in its best light?

Honestly, I prefer an image someone took a little time to compose in camera, an image of a garden of which they may be quite proud. I prefer a garden that makes a pretty presentation to a neighborhood. Don’t you? I highly doubt that anyone ‘airbrushes’ a post image either. You know, taking objectionable things out and putting in desirable additions like they do for magazines.  Sure everyone has an idea of their ideal garden, and that surly differs from person to person, but seriously, photo manipulations for a blog post?

I can do wonders with Photoshop given an ample amount of time, but I usually post images on GWGT straight from the camera.  These images are not for sale and I post so often, where would I find the time, especially with nothing to gain from it? But if you read on, there really is not so much a gain, as a detriment in posting poor quality images, according to professional photographers and bloggers.

When you are doing a low resolution image for the web, there is no point in enhancing 99.99% of the images. You may have only one in a batch of thousands that is one worth a ‘holy crap that’s good’ response. And to have an image like that, you need to either have enormous luck, or great photography skills and knowledge. This type of image deserves the time of editing if it is necessary at all, and should be printed, not just seen small on a blog anyway.

Did you ever really analyze why full, wide angle images of landscapes don’t look so hot on blogs, even when taken by a skilled photographer? It is because a post is just too small a place to display images like that. They lose all their power. Print them big on a wall and see the difference. On to gripe two….

Then there are other bloggers who get their panties in a knot over other web viewers ‘stealing’ their images. Another chuckle on this one too. I upload larger images than most and have had people tell me they downloaded them, printed them and framed them. Does this bother me? Absolutely not. Now if they were profiting off my work then I might have a say on that. But read on and see why stealing a blog image is not worth the effort if printing is your goal.

I was reading another blog post a few days ago of a professional photographer that I quite admire. He is known worldwide and sells his images for quite a pretty penny. But he has a post up that headlines, Go Ahead, Steal this Photo and Make Prints. And he means it. He even lets you post them on your blog with his permission. I did ‘steal’ an image just to see what resolution they were posted at and at what size. If you want to know, it is 72 ppi and a size of 900×586 px. That is an image 12 inches by a little over 8 inches.

I was very curious. I ‘stole’ one of my own images and it was 72 ppi and over 11 inches by almost 17 inches at 800 x 1208 px. Guess what size that prints at with a professionally sized 300 pixels per inch (ppi) resolution? 4 inches by 2.667 inches. Not so great huh? So people stealing images at 72 ppi are in for a lousy image if printed at 8 by 12.  You can resample in Photoshop, but how many people stealing images have this application?

I want you to go see his work, so I am sending you there rather than posting his ‘stolen’ image. But that leads to another panty twisting issue, gripe number three.

Using web images that YOU do not take in a post. I find that a little anus pinching of a remark that I see on a lot of blogs. If it is on the web, it is going to end up somewhere else. Pinterest anyone??? Google Images???? Here is a take on Pinterest too. At least the images always link back!

I have no problem seeing my photos around the web like this. As long as they are not making money, maligning my work, and are crediting my image to my blog, who the heck cares. Really. And if you are paranoid about this, here is a place to go check if your favorite capture was stolen. It is a reverse image search app.  My photography work is not so important that this makes a hill of beans anyway. I have had another architect steal and implement a design I did and put my work under his own name, and that is a whole other issue, a legal one too. But a photo?

Gripe four, every image you see is wonderfully stupendous.

But let’s get back to the meat of the matter. Are any images that most of us produce worth stealing? I can say ‘NOT’ emphatically for the most part. Many are good, but not ‘holy crap’ good. Let’s talk about that too. I have never taken a ‘holy crap’ image. Some I might say, ‘Not bad,’ but nothing any more positive.

I think an image that strong takes you on a journey of sorts. Your imagination swirls and you find yourself immersed in the work.

What makes photos stand out is not the technical aspect, it is the feeling and mood. The sense of getting taken where the photographer intends you to be taken, somewhere deep within the image. The viewer becomes engaged in a story.  I can think of a handful of famous images that do that to me and all of them have story, emotion, exceptional mood and extraordinary lighting. But there are plenty of photos in the ‘Oh my, I wish I took that photo’ category, a blog hop to Nat Geo is all it takes for me to have image envy.

In fact, I was reading how if an image lacks the fundamentals of composition, light, form, and color, don’t even bother pressing the shutter. Wow, that means I would never venture to take a photo because it takes experience to get all those right from the camera. But it is good to think about and strive for. And if you extrapolate a bit, many of the same design principles apply to landscape design. If the design does not have the fundamentals of good design then it will never be a ‘holy crap’ garden.

I also read somewhere recently, to not even bother posting an image on the web unless it is the absolute best image you have. Again, there would not be so many bloggers out there shooting photographs if this was doctrine to follow. But that got me thinking too. The web is forever and why post images that are not just so special? I will never get a ‘holy crap’ image, but hope to at least get a few I would be proud to have taken. I decided to put more effort into getting those type of images. I have been working on the fundamentals and after that, hopefully the art. Then I will be Photoshopping my work if it needs the extra punch….

So let’s loosen up fellow bloggers. Don’t take issue with those that Photoshop or spend some time making the composition and angle of view of the garden magazine worthy. They are trying to put out the best quality that they can. Maybe they think their garden is worth it too. I have been reading some posts as of late that have had some alarmist kind of rhetoric, trying to make others worry about stuff like stealing that really is not something much to care about if you are blogging in the first place.

Relax a bit and don’t be so concerned with other bloggers stealing your images either. Get a Creative Commons license. It sets some guidelines. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.5/, Check out the other licenses too.

I guess I am getting a bit annoyed by a few bloggers that have all this advice to give on stealing images, putting on a watermark (which REALLY ruins any image I am seeing), taking polished photos of too perfect gardens, editing (or not) photos in any manner, or any of the other similar issues. I have even had some email me to chide me on occasion for some of my Photoshop composites on GWGT. My advice to them is learn a bit about what you are talking about, then keep your advice to yourself.

Garden Beds, Literally

Images above are taken at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens in early October 2011. The bedroom below was at Plantasia in March 2011.

If you are local, think to support ….

For further information….

http://www.nationalgardenfestival.com/Hearts/index.asp