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Should We Require Better Lighting Descriptions Photos Posted To The PFRE Flickr Group?

Published: 08/01/2016
By: larry

PFREFlickrGroupThere's a discussion in the PFRE Flickr group going on about requiring better lighting descriptions on photos posted to the PFRE Flickr group.

The current PFRE group posting rule language is:

Please give photo setup, background information and lighting info in the photo comments to facilitate feedback and education.

Tony Colangelo has suggested that we expand the current language above to encourage posters to include the following 5 points that he currently uses when posting photos to the group:

  1. Who the client is and/or what the client’s need(s) were for the shoot, as that will typically influence my approach to composing the image.
  2. The number of ambient and flash exposures used and why (e.g., one ambient with lights on, one with lights off, ‘x’ number of flash exposures - one for the window pull, another for the … and so on.)
  3. The number of flashes used, flash placement (and power levels if I can remember), diffusion techniques, as well as the *rationale for doing so* … I think it’s very helpful to provide info as to why a STU umbrella was used vs. a bounce off of a wall or into a WC joint.
  4. A few words about the editing process. For instance, using PS to selectively address colour casts; or offering a word or two about blending layers, if used, or Nik plug-ins to help with contrast or detail enhancement, etc.
  5. WHY the shot was interesting/challenging.

Another variation/extension to Tony's suggestion would be as Wayne Capili suggests for the text of the rule:

When you post an image, your image is open for constructive critique. IF you are feeling generous, additional shooting information (Tony's 5 points above) will be greatly appreciated.

This would ensure that we don't make posting images to the group so difficult that we discourage people from posting. We'd like to get as much input as possible from regular posters to the PFRE Flickr group and those of you that don't yet post images to the group or who intend to post images in the future.

[polldaddy poll=9263481]

[polldaddy poll=9264230]

21 comments on “Should We Require Better Lighting Descriptions Photos Posted To The PFRE Flickr Group?”

  1. Hi Larry, just a point of clarification, my commentary on this topic within the discussion group was never intended to say, or even suggest, that things should be REQUIRED in a description. As is stated in my write-up, I simply wanted to share my "thought process" around how I personally go about writing up a description. I wholeheartedly agree with Wayne's recommendation that those 5 things that I noted re: my process (or variations thereof) should be seen simply as suggestions for shaping a description - not a requirement. Indeed, if people perceive that there's a required process to simply post a photo, they may not post their photo at all -- and if that were to start happening regularly, we would all lose out. Anyway, I hope this has clarified my position.

    Thanks for this post on the blog, Larry ... with any luck, it will stir up some additional discussion/brainstorming on this important topic.

  2. Regardless if something gets decided or not, this has really got me thinking about posting photos. If using the 5 steps suggested it forces me to think through the image and think back in retrospect about the how and why of the image. When it comes to adding value to this community the 5 steps seems like a great suggestion as opposed to posting dozens of photos in a spam-like manner. This should improve everyone's work when thinking this way, right?

  3. I think it's a bad idea. I think many people don't want to post all the details about how they take images (and clients) for fear that someone will copy their technique, then possibly undercut if in the same market.

    I think tips and stuff are great. It allows others to develope a technique. Most people will try to do the barest minimum to get by.

  4. I think that the original posts was mainly addressing the ambient plus flash description. I feel as if that description doesn't comply with the current group rules.
    Maybe a change in the rules that ensures that this particular method gets sufficient lighting setup and blending info that described how the blending is done.
    Maybe the 5 steps is a little to much to require, but I do think it should be encouraged.

  5. @Tony - Yes, realize you are not promoting the idea that your 5 points be required. I added that choice to the poll more to clarify all the choices. It's pretty clear that the majority believe it would be useful to encourage people to use your suggested points.

  6. I like the idea of following Tony's criteria. Why else post photos if not to educate others and/or be educated through critique from our peers? Well, perhaps the only other reason is to post photos which we think look nice in order to elicit praise from others - I'm as guilty as anyone for this, but other than massaging our egos it may not be of much use.

  7. As the original poster on the PFRE flickr forum, I would like to clarify why I started that thread.

    As Caleb pointed out above, there are some descriptions that seem to skirt the rules of the PFRE group, and that worries me.

    In particular, rule 3 states:

    "Please give photo setup, background information and lighting info in the photo comments to facilitate cross education."

    I would argue that several photos have descriptions that do NOT facilitate cross education in any way.

    Hence, I am suggesting that the current rules be more strictly enforced. I am worried that the PFRE group pool will turn into what MOST flickr pools have become; a dumping ground of self promotion.

    There are already an AMPLE number of flickr groups where one can post their photos if they feel uncomfortable about giving away too much information on their setup and post processing. Numerous flickr groups don't hold themselves to the same standards as the PFRE group.

    My understanding was that the PFRE group is for something MORE than just showing off; my understanding was that it was a group for working - or aspiring - real estate photographers to SHARE their knowledge with one another and encourage others to grow as photographers and business professionals. It is - and should always be - a place for people to LEARN about the art and business of PFRE.

    So I would say that allowing photos - no matter how attractive they are - with exceedingly vague descriptions into the photo pool just adds to the clutter of the pool and goes against the intention of making the group a place to facilitate cross education.

    I think if we are going to allow people such as myself and others to promote their websites and facebook pages on flickr in their photo descriptions, then (at least in the PFRE group) we should expect more helpful descriptions of the lighting and post processing. (and believe me, I certainly DO post links to my website and facebook page in my photo descriptions). I think it will help maintain the integrity of the group.

    Thanks in advance for your consideration.

  8. I would say that the setup information might be useful for the "one shot in the camera" images and one should refer the the books and videos available on this site and others. But it seems that the vast majority of the photos posted are composites, and therefore setups are less of an issue than knowing how to adjust opacity, use layers with masks and blending with brushes. Does it really matter what the flash setting was when the opacity is 20%, most of the layer was masked out and a brush was used to desaturate a color cast?

  9. I admit that I am one of those that have been guilty of being lazy when adding details in the description of the images I add to the group pool. I think that providing Tony’s five items will help all of us to write more detailed, informative descriptions to the images we post.

    Currently the group rules are not on the “landing page” which is the Photos page. The rules are actually on the About page. When was the last time any of us have actually gone to the About page? I know I haven’t for quite some time. In the column that is on the left side of the Photos page is there any way that the rules can be posted there? If not then maybe add a statement like “Before adding an image to the group pool ensure that you have read and that you follow the group rules that are available on the About page.” Also, can the ability to collapse that column be turned off?

    Whatever the decision is on this subject, it’s going to take all of us to “police” the group. If you see that someone has posted an image to the pool and they haven’t followed the rules or guidelines of the group then add a comment to their submission. That responsibility should not be left solely to Larry and Scott.

  10. Personally I do not use this group. But if I did, I completely understand Mark's point of view. However, I would suggest that a strict requirement could well discourage people from posting. If viewers don't find that essential information to learn from, then they can ask for it presumably. (Sorry I am an old fart and not familiar with all the social media platforms). If it is clear that people are posting not for adding the group's benefit but for self promotion, then perhaps the administrator can take them down.

    And after a lifetime of photography, I learned early on that even if two photographers are standing side by side using the same camera, same lens and same film (see I am an old fart), their results, especially final results, will still be different. So I would suggest that each photographer will use any shared technique in their own unique ways. So the worry about sharing techniques should not cause fear of loosing some edge over the competition.

    So I think that if the goal of the group is clearly stated up front and contributors do not adhere to that, then their posted photos should be removed. But a requirement before photos can be posted would be self defeating. Sometimes just seeing great photos are simply inspiring in and of themselves and thus have value.

  11. I like what Rohnn said and want to add my 2 cents.

    First, Larry, great site. I've learned so much here.
    Second, the purpose of the site as stated in the overview is to get feedback. There's nothing there about sharing information. I love mission statements.
    Third, *if* the goal is to learn from other's technical information, we should let people describe in their own words what they did. I don't think we need to focus on flash info, as the 5 points seem to. I for one would have difficulty filling in the 5 points. They seem designed for someone else's approach. I often bring one flash, and take different shots with me holding the flash in different places. I blend exposures using enfuse and ps, and take shots with the lights on and off. Points 2 and 3 seem deadly boring, but maybe that's just me.
    Fourth, the 5 points add a lot of workload to the task of posting an image. To me, it seems too much.
    Fifth, some points might be interesting one time, but not the next. For example, yesterday I had a client who would interrupt every sentence I uttered, and who had not really prepared the space. Those facts surely impacted the shoot, but are they interesting? Not this time, not even to me. I don't think we should require people to get into that stuff for every image they post.
    Sixth, there seems to be some inflammatory language here, about shameless self promotion and image dumping. Maybe it's just people trying to make a living and posting images.

    I learn a lot from the comments on pictures. To me, it seems they rarely deal with number of flashes.

  12. I was quite taken aback -- and a little saddened -- by an earlier comment on this thread in which the contributor noted a belief that one should not provide detailed lighting set-ups with a posted image, for fear that a competitor would copy the technique and then undercut the local market.

    It brought to mind a question that was put to Albert Einstein many decades ago. Someone asked Einstein, “What is the most important question that a person can ask?” to which he replied (and I quote): “The most important question you can ever ask is if the world is a friendly place.” The answer is staggering, both in its simplicity and its scope. Indeed, if we believe that the world is unfriendly, then we will act accordingly. We will literally begin expecting the worst of/from others and, as such, put up walls (figuratively speaking, of course) to protect ourselves.

    If, however, we believe that the world is a friendly place, then we will see and expect the good in others and act accordingly. Indeed, holding this belief would typically prompt us to go out of our way to help people, knowing that we would ultimately be given back that which we gave.

    The belief that we should not post detailed information related to our image/technique, out of a concern that others will use it in a way that will put us at a disadvantage, is filled with both hubris and shortsightedness. It is shortsighted because it implies that nothing other than technique would prompt a current/future customer to choose one photographer over another … as though service excellence, treating the customer with respect and kindness, delivering images in a timely way, providing value-added elements, etc., etc., etc., have zero weight in the customer’s decision when choosing a photographer.

    It highlights arrogance in the self-belief that one’s technique is so superior, that others would naturally be interested in it and then use it to ultimately undercut the individual from whom they took it. The result is a choice not “give back” to a community whose sole focus it is to make all of us better photographers!

    For those others in this thread that have noted that posting more details related to lighting (and other considerations in the posted image) is too much trouble or takes too much time, I can tell you that I probably write longer descriptions than 99 per cent of the people in this community and it usually only takes me 2-3 minutes per image. The 5-things that I described in the aforementioned discussion thread, most of which Larry copied into this blog post, are simply the guidelines that I use in writing up my descriptions … no one is saying that a contributor MUST use all 5. The spirit behind those guidelines is simply that providing more information in a description, is usually better than providing less.

    In closing, I’d like to point out the blatantly obvious in saying that, if Scott Hargis or Mike Kelley or Simon Maxwell or John McBay or Julie Mannell or … so many others … had the attitude that it was too much of a bother to write up a fuller description OR made the decision to consciously withhold their expertise from the thousands of readers who visit the site, simply to protect themselves from allowing a handful of local competitors to know “their secrets”, then *NONE OF US* would be ahead at this point because we wouldn’t have the books and videos and commentary that these individuals have produced FOR US. And that would be a shame!

  13. To clarify on my behalf... I've purchased ebooks from PFRE, Scott Hargis, Simon Maxwell, and bought the video series from Mike Kelley. All of these cost money for me to learn something. I don't mind offering a few tips here and there. I get contacted almost weekly by someone wants to know my technique. I did sell my technique information to one person because they were far out of my market.

    The point is, I don't mind sharing vague descriptions of what I do, but I do mind giving intricate details. I feel that for my area, my images are pretty good compared to most. When I started in this area there where 3-4 competitors. Now there are 15-20. As many stated, just trying to make a living. I get lots of clients that hire me over others because my images have a better look. I've been told so MANY times.

    My technique has taken me years to develope, $ and practice to learn. I'm always in a state of learning.

    I'm sorry that many of you don't agree with me. But feel that many of you might agree.

    I guess if the rules are such that the details about how and why information becomes required, I don't have to post.

  14. At this point it is very clear from the poll above that we are NOT going to REQUIRE any description but rather encourage people to use descriptions by putting some suggested points in the rules and in fact, this is all that Tony suggested above. There are some that would like the more extensive descriptions to be required but they are not in the majority.

  15. I've been noticing that many photos being posted to the Flickr group are getting thinner and thinner on setup info. There also seems to be an issue with camera settings posting correctly (maybe due to PS'd composite images and not just lightly adjusted in LR with camera metadata preserved).

    I don't care who the client is, but a geographic region might be interesting; ie: Pacific NW, or SoCal or even Spain.

    I guess I could ask for more details in the comments if I'm interested in the setup. I agree with other posters about the PFRE Flickr group being a great learning forum as opposed to other groups where people just dump photos with no comments while commentors award them random "awards".

    One thing that I would like to see is a rule that images posted to the PFRE group are crossposted to a limited number of other groups. Images that are heavily crossposted seem to be the ones with thin or no information and generate lots of superfluous comments/Awards.

  16. @ Scott Van Manen

    I would personally appreciate it, and I tend to do that when I do the "faux shift-lens" trick.

    Often I will shoot REALLY wide (10 or 12mm on a crop sensor), but since I am shooting at an angle, when the verticals are straightened, there is a significant part that is cropped.

    I try to make a not of that when I remember.

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