Stop trying to chase (or fake) perfection in your photography – It’s ruining your work

Tips & Techniques

It’s funny. In the film days, camera and lens manufacturers strived for perfection, because photographers demanded it. They wanted perfect sharpness and clarity wide open. They wanted no vignetting. They wanted fantastic colour and contrast with consistent light transmission from one lens to the next.

As the gear gets closer and closer to that perfection, photographers are treating their own work the same way. They strive for “the perfect shot”. They’ll move things before taking the photo or photoshop bits out to make it “perfect” in post. But is that doing more harm than good? Photographer James Popsys takes a look at how chasing perfection could be ruining your work.

The problem is that we’ve become so used to “perfection”, with the deluge of “perfect” photography we’ve seen, particularly in the last couple of decades since the advent of digital. Whether it’s in the studio or on location, we see all this work that just looks too perfect to be part of the real world. Every hair on a portrait is perfectly placed with immaculate skin. Even landscapes aren’t immune to such treatment, either.

But this perfection, retouching things out that we don’t think fit, photographically, can often come at the expense of story, of feeling, of connecting with the viewer on a personal level. And when we don’t want to have to deal with removing things in post, we simply choose to not shoot the photo – which is kind of silly these days when shooting another photo costs essentially nothing.

It’s a fascinating look at the topic, and while I tend not to manipulate my images all that much, there have definitely been times when I’ve not taken a shot purely because something about the scene I was facing annoyed me from an aesthetic standpoint. And many times, I do eventually feel like I wished I’d taken the shot. Even if just to have a visual reminder of it. The emotion is important, at least as important as technical aesthetics.

How do you deal with chasing perfection?

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