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DPChallenge Forums >> Photography Discussion >> Removed backgrounds - commercial photography syndrome
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01/26/2007 10:58:44 AM · #1
It is my impression that there are more and more challenge entries with backgrounds removed to completely white or black. We are seeing background-less portraits, close-ups, still lifes.

Removing the background will make your image a better seller on the stock sites, but it will, in most cases, turn your art photograph into a product (or just a thing) shot. Background is an important element in a photograph, its interaction with the main subject can be very interesting and bring context into the image. It can provide textures to keep the viewer's eye looking at a photograph for a longer time. It can show interesting qualities of light.

So, all you stock submitters, leave your light tents and uniform backdrops for commercial photography, and shoot a photograph with a real background for the next challenge. For the last couple of months, when voting, I have been deducting 2 points for the pictures without backgrounds.

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(Edited to add the credit for the photograph).

Message edited by author 2007-01-26 14:15:14.
01/26/2007 11:10:26 AM · #2
While I agree with you in general about how a background can add personality to a photo or even the subject, I totally disagree with your negative voting just because of a lack of background.

If you want the focus completely on the subject, a background of any kind can distract and maybe should be removed. Not everything needs context. Studies of form and light can be hindered by a background.

I personally prefer a background when taking pictures, but then again, I don't have a studio and I'm not particularly interested in having one. Be aware, though, that sometimes DPC voters will mark you down for a background, even if you think it adds to the photo.
01/26/2007 11:46:39 AM · #3
Originally posted by elemess:

While I agree with you in general about how a background can add personality to a photo or even the subject, I totally disagree with your negative voting just because of a lack of background.

In reality it's not as simple as that, I would happily vote high on an image with no background if it worked well for me; however, *most* of the background-less images are just glorified fixations of an object, albeit many of them superb technically (both exposure- and lighting-wise).
01/26/2007 12:15:49 PM · #4
Originally posted by agenkin:

Originally posted by elemess:

While I agree with you in general about how a background can add personality to a photo or even the subject, I totally disagree with your negative voting just because of a lack of background.

In reality it's not as simple as that, I would happily vote high on an image with no background if it worked well for me; however, *most* of the background-less images are just glorified fixations of an object, albeit many of them superb technically (both exposure- and lighting-wise).


I'm pretty much in total agreement with you here. I think people are mostly taking the safe/easy way out with all these featureless backgrounds. Not all the time of course, but a lot of the time. For me, most of these 'studies" done against white or black or even-colored BGs are utterly devoid of emotion. I don't mind it when there is very little BG showing in the first place, but I am beginning to be put off by the preponderance of beautifully-lit, very colorful subjects floating int he midst (or the corner of) a sea of nothing.

This, of course, is just a personal preference :-) And I have done my share of these in the past, I hasten to add.

R.
01/26/2007 12:21:57 PM · #5
I'm certainly guilty of this in this project I'm working on. My main reason is that I'm compositionally crap and getting in really tight and excluding most of the background helps me make passably good pictures. It gets harder to do it well as you include more and more of the surroundings.

Though I also have a really strong dislike for bland studio backdrops in the solid white/grey & black categories. I'd much rather try to find great light and a cool background, then get so close that I crop all that cool background out of the shot because I can't deal with it :)

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Message edited by author 2007-01-26 12:28:21.
01/26/2007 12:26:23 PM · #6
it's called a 'Studio', and it deserves its place in photography every bit as much as Environmental work does. Personally I prefer to shoot outdoors and/or with an interesting background, but there are often times when it's either unreasonable to do so (weather, content, opportunity) or unnecessary.

I have the ability to see past my own ego and recognize that there is room for both, despite my preference.

Also in my opinion, no background is better than a poor background.

P
01/26/2007 12:30:17 PM · #7
Originally posted by Pedro:

It's called a 'Studio', and it deserves its place in photography every bit as much as Environmental work does.

Studio work does not mean or dictate blend, texture-less backgrounds, it's just an easy (and, IMO, boring, in most cases) way out.
01/26/2007 12:34:14 PM · #8
Originally posted by agenkin:


Removing the background will make your image a better seller on the stock sites, but it will, in most cases, turn your art photograph into a product (or just a thing) shot.


I'm not at all upset that you have this opinion on the subject, but I wasn't aware that DPC was an art site. I thought it was a photography site and if challenge submitters choose to home their "commercial" skills then they should be encouraged to do so.

Edit: typos.

Message edited by author 2007-01-26 12:36:58.
01/26/2007 12:37:13 PM · #9
Originally posted by agenkin:


Studio work does not mean or dictate blend, texture-less backgrounds, it's just an easy (and, IMO, boring, in most cases) way out.


And again I'll reiterate, sometimes the situation either requires it, or the photo benefits from it. I find these sweeping statements about how a particular style is easy or a cop-out (collectively deserving lower scores - 2 points, no less) are extremely myopic and one-dimensional.

01/26/2007 12:42:50 PM · #10
Originally posted by Pedro:

And again I'll reiterate, sometimes the situation either requires it, or the photo benefits from it. I find these sweeping statements about how a particular style is easy or a cop-out (collectively deserving lower scores - 2 points, no less) are extremely myopic and one-dimensional.

If you read the third post at the top of this thread, you'll see that I do make exceptions. Those exceptions are, however, extremely rare, and should not stop us from discussing what I think is becoming an unpleasant trend in hobbyist photography.
01/26/2007 12:43:39 PM · #11
I think it all comes down to what type of photography a person chooses to do and what is most important to them. There are trade-offs with every type of portrait work. If you choose to shoot environmental portraits you may not be able to control the lighting as much as you would like in every situation so that is a challenge. If you choose to do studio work you can control the light but are more challenged to keep the images interesting since you have limited space/backgrounds. Lighting effects and props can add a lot, but its still limiting.

Depending on the message you are trying to convey, one may work better than another. This shot would not have had impact with a city street or bookshelves behind it.

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01/26/2007 12:44:15 PM · #12
I want to add that not all good photography is "fine art" photography. Not all "fine art" photography is good photography.

More times than not "art" is used as a cop-out for good technicals. Well, at least in the mind of the "artist".

AND generally speaking, commercial photographers eat better than "fine art" photographers ;-)
01/26/2007 12:47:07 PM · #13
Yes background can add personality to a photo or even the main subject. HOWEVER .... I am going to play devil's advocate here a bit. But when you talk about backgrounds with nothing in them then how would you vote on say:

Johannes Vermeer's Painting titled Girl with a Pearl Earring - that has just a black background.

Johannes Vermeer's Portrait of a Young Woman.

Artemisia Gentileschi's Penitent Magdalene

Artemisia Gentileschi's Lucretia (there are two she did, I am taking about the nude portrait which has nothing in the background.)

If the subject shows emotion or an action I think chopping two points off because there is no pivital background that acts as a secondary subject is a bit harsh.

Yes, I know that photography and oils are entirely different mediums but none-the-less if they were photographs would you dock points because lack of character building background?

Message edited by author 2007-01-26 12:49:51.
01/26/2007 12:47:11 PM · #14
Originally posted by fotomann_forever:


I'm not at all upset that you have this opinion on the subject, but I wasn't aware that DPC was an art site. I thought it was a photography site and if challenge submitters choose to home their "commercial" skills then they should be encouraged to do so.

Edit: typos.


Precisely! Alienating a certain style to me is not what this site is about. If its a good shot, its a good shot, Doesn't matter what type of shot it is. Some might not like b&w and vote them all down. Or someone might vote everything with skin down... Its well within your right to do so but it is your opinion and not the opinion of the entire community.
It is the artists choice on how the shot is done.
Telling me to leave my stuff at home is not 'friendly' to me. I will shoot my photos the way I want. With or without a background as "I" see fit. Vote it the way you see fit and leave it at that!
01/26/2007 12:48:45 PM · #15
Originally posted by idnic:

I think it all comes down to what type of photography a person chooses to do and what is most important to them. There are trade-offs with every type of portrait work. If you choose to shoot environmental portraits you may not be able to control the lighting as much as you would like in every situation so that is a challenge. If you choose to do studio work you can control the light but are more challenged to keep the images interesting since you have limited space/backgrounds. Lighting effects and props can add a lot, but its still limiting.

I need to clarify that I did not mean to put a carefully selected backdrop into the same category as a removed background.

Various kinds of artificial backgrounds can be used very effectively to replace the natural ones. I mostly object to featureless backgrounds (complete feature-less black/white/blue/whatever).
01/26/2007 12:53:47 PM · #16
Why did you start this thread? Because it sure looks like you're picking a fight, especially when you pretty much never have anything nice to say here. I guess for that matter, why are you even here if you hate it all so much?
01/26/2007 01:00:21 PM · #17
Originally posted by agenkin:


If you read the third post at the top of this thread, you'll see that I do make exceptions. Those exceptions are, however, extremely rare, and should not stop us from discussing what I think is becoming an unpleasant trend in hobbyist photography.


I did read that. Very kind of you too make exceptions for The Heathen. I AM discussing your opinion; I just happen to disagree with it. I prefer interesting backgrounds, yet also believe the 'exceptions' where featureless backdrops are effective are far less rare than you suggest.

I don't believe that it's a trend at all (not in the last 2 decades, anyway). If it IS a trend among hobbyists, I'd suggest it's a positive progressing, as more novices are learning about controlled environments in photography and developing their knowledge. not sure how that's a bad thing.

As always, I respect everyone's right to an opinion, and their right to vote as they please. I am not, however, required to agree.
01/26/2007 01:03:31 PM · #18
Originally posted by CNovack:

Johannes Vermeer's Painting titled Girl with a Pearl Earring - that has just a black background.

I would definitely not call that "just a black background". //www.about-vermeer-art.com/vermeer/vermeer-oil-paintings/paintings/1.html

Regardless, comparison of photographs to oil paintings is not a very good one, because (1) it is virtually impossible to obtain a uniform colour in a painting, and (2) the canvas and the brush strokes add subtle texture to oil paintings, so they are not as boring to the eye as a whole field of RGB(0,0,0) pixels.

Message edited by author 2007-01-26 13:04:39.
01/26/2007 01:08:08 PM · #19
Originally posted by Pedro:

As always, I respect everyone's right to an opinion, and their right to vote as they please. I am not, however, required to agree.

Pedro, it is not important to me that you agree with what I am saying; it is, however, important that you understand it. I am not forcing my opinion upon anyone, this is just a discussion.
01/26/2007 01:08:38 PM · #20
Yes and no. In your posted example, the background enriches the composition and subject. No doubt. But in others still, the backgrounds can clutter and disgrace the subject.

In my portfolio of people, I enjoy and appreciate both. I hear what you are saying....there is a sterility with the solid backgrounds. It is a tough issue and with most borderline issues, you can find positives (or negatives) in both! But alas I am guilty, I am an optimist.

So, truly, it all depends on the photograph, the goals and the execution. But Pedro is right with this comment....as more novices are learning about controlled environments in photography and developing their knowledge. not sure how that's a bad thing. ...that is exactly right.
01/26/2007 01:14:13 PM · #21
Originally posted by agenkin:

Pedro, it is not important to me that you agree with what I am saying; it is, however, important that you understand it. I am not forcing my opinion upon anyone, this is just a discussion.


I do understand that. It's important to me that youunderstand that my objection is not to your opinion about solid backdrops. Having seen some of your comments on photographs in the past it's obvious to me that our taste in photography differs - again, I take no issue with this. What I do object to is collectively painting a particular style with the same brush, and blindly deducting two points from the score as a result. It says to me that you're prejudging something that someone has taken the time and energy to prepare for the DP Collective. This is what I find to be myopic and judgmental. Which I suppose, is your right.
01/26/2007 01:17:17 PM · #22
To me not having a background is an artistic statment. I prefer images with a simplistic focus sometimes. I think it is a matter of artistic prefrence.To me not having a background is an artistic statement. I prefer images with a simplistic focus sometimes. I think it is a matter of artistic preference.

Message edited by author 2007-01-26 13:18:10.
01/26/2007 01:26:42 PM · #23
Sometimes there are obvious results on DPC and I think that might be at the root of the frustration at the first post.

Many top finishers have no background or a very simple background which doesn't add to the image but adds focus to the subject. Many of these are set-up in a makeshift studio ... The thing is, that often, doing stuff like this DOES teach a lot about photogrpahy so perhaps the results are appropriate.

Having said that, I completely agree that a natural or "natural" background often adds interest to an image.
01/26/2007 01:30:37 PM · #24
Originally posted by Pedro:

What I do object to is collectively painting a particular style with the same brush, and blindly deducting two points from the score as a result.

This is hardly a "style" that we are talking about - it's a technical trick.

Deducting 2 points is no more judgmental than the process of voting itself. There is nothing "blind" about my method: as I stated above (and you acknowledged), if a background-less image grabs me, it will get a high vote. In my opinion, however, most images with removed backgrounds are crippled, and I use the -2 points as a reinforcement to see less of such images at this site. How myopic is this?

Message edited by author 2007-01-26 13:31:50.
01/26/2007 01:32:15 PM · #25
I'm still confused about what you are calling a "removed" background. Could you post an example?
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