wild internets oceans and wild water(marks) rapids

below the classic arguments in an internet forum of Canon vs Nikon, or PC vs Mac, it can be said that the use of watermarks on photos is well-placed. not too distant from watermarks is the way that photo-hosting social sites should do for photographers — for example: An Open Letter to Vic Gundotra and Google+ [link]. these two topics are related in terms the attitudes and goals that people have.

from long ago, it was a comment on a flickr group that I read how people would join a group and then ask that rules be changed according to their prerogative. this was insightful: flickr has it that anyone can start their own group with the rules as one sees fit, but of course, this does not satisfy the underlying need, quite possibly generalized as:

" I want to share my photos here because there is a large audience, but I want it to be comfortable to the way I think they should be shared (or things ought to be). "
— not said by anyone in particular, or literally

it is not unreasonable for people to provide feedback to sites on features, and perhaps even on the underlying behaviour possible. this takes on a greater aura by sites that depend on users to provide content, and there is something to be balanced there. however, it is always a site's decision based on their entire user-base and their assessment of users gain/lost.

the most absurd request is to prevent users from downloading a photo. well, it is the fundamental workings of the internet that the photo has to be downloaded in order for anyone to see it. these days, with bigger-is-better, sites are encouraging to upload big-sized photos. yet, the controls demanded by content-providers to popular sites can include such requests.

the consequence of this lack of control is that some people will watermark their photos. like all things internet with photography, the dials are set to "11" and watermarks can be rather intrusive when looking at a photo. this brings a backlash from photograph viewers whose enjoyments is being disturbed, or for whom watermarks signifies a misunderstanding of creative work and sharing. parallels are then drawn to many uses of art, and forum discussions get lively.

I do watermark my photos**, but not as a deterrent against people grabbing the photo and re-uploading elsewhere. my consideration is that most people are lazy and will not remove the watermark. then, the watermark is a "message in a bottle", for the rather rare chance that someone wants to look up the photo creator and then is able to track me down.

since my uploaded photos are not going to pop-up in some stream of gorgeous photographs with a sudden disturbance to the viewer of my photo with a watermark, but rather, it will be that they see a page with only my photos on display, they can easily click away if so shocked/disturbed/annoyed. alternatively, a photo print without a watermark can be ordered.

as for sites? instead of demanding so much care for one's photos, just view the internet as an ocean and the photo as a bottle tossed into it, and the watermark is the note inside. however, we can create the bottle: make it 800 pixels and use the JPG compression as severe as possible... and then it is gone forever. it is the gift to the internet.

changes to a site are a bucket of water tossed to the ocean. companies and teams that create the sites are well aware of how the internet works, how the users behave, and what draws the users to the site. the onus is on the user, and potential content-provider, to determine if the site is for them, and not to request that the site changes for their perception of fairness.


[ link ] public post on facebook to comment within facebook

~
** an exception is VSCO Grid, since the uploading to the Grid is directly from the app, and the extra steps of watermarking is something that is not worth doing given the controls VSCO provides against the casual image downloader: screen caps is the easy thing to do.

the internet in the workflow (part 2)

•A Shift In Workflow

in the first part [ link ], it was noted that the old way for many to work their photographs through a system/workflow for feedback, or understanding , was (effectively) no longer valid. for many, flickr was the sole source for many functions and results in sharing a photograph online. the decline of flickr, and the rise of mobile devices and apps-based photography, along with other sites picking up on disenchanted flickr users, meant that some sort of change was required.

one of the negative aspects of internet sharing was the urge to get a photo up and ready to share: maybe one per day, to maximize comments and activity on the photo. not surprisingly, this is not really a way for someone to take photography serious, never mind the distraction from social quid pro quo.

Becoming Independent

then, a new of thinking of how to use the internet for a photographic workflow is required. this new way has to be much more independent, to remove the dependency on one site, and perhaps shed the urgency that social-sharing brings into the selection, and processing, of a photograph — among many other issues affecting the process. 

this also means that one must begin to rely on repeated viewing of one’s own photographs to see how well they fit into the current vision.  this is not too different to listening to music, and with time seeing how the song details come into our way of hearing details, or it just is a “flash in the pan.”

since there is no urgency to post photos to the internet, it is good to work the photos all at once. that is, all of the photos constituting a potential project are gathered to consider which ones are suitable for further work on them, if any of them are needed. a lot of deletion should occur here, but it is only a first step. if some photos are just “soooo good,” then one can still do as before, and process one or two and post them in the process of the first step noted below.

•Use The Entire Internet

the steps, or segmentation, would be something like:

  1. post photos to fish for interest
  2. revisit sites to reconsider the work
  3. group the work into projects to “kill your darlings”
  4. complete the projects via book product and/or portfolio website

additionally,

  • curate
  • shake up the process with Mobile Photography

for Step 1, the many social-photo sites are not as active in commentary about photography. just presence-actions like faves/likes, posting to groups (if available), and short 3-word comments are the norm. however, search engines and search through tags offer a way to put photos to bait for additional work, and the rare useful feedback. this step also offers a way to get some photos out while the entire project is being edited.

consequently, one can post one’s work to many sites — flickr, 500px, Instagram, etc. — without increasing one’s energy put into such endeavor. especially since editing software now has automatic uploads to many of these sites. 

because of Step 1, or because of Step 3, the biggest benefit is to look at one’s recent work against the old, and repeated viewing in varying context to reconsider if the photo is in final form. this is Step 2. perhaps a heavy-handed processing is noticed, or a change in composition to improve the impression comes as a result. in a way, Step 2 is on-going through Step 3... all the way until the end of Step 4.

the hardest element of photography is editing one’s work. not the presentation, but removing/deleting seemingly favorite photographs from a set to make the collected work stronger. Step 3 is about this process, through repetition and reconsideration. the repeated viewing that leads to re-editing the photo’s presentation also brings about a consideration of its strength in a group. it also becomes apparent how a body work “hangs together” and/or can be subdivided.

Step 4, while it is just about making a final selection of the photographs in a project, and giving them a portfolio — or final resting place — it is perhaps the most difficult of steps. this one is much more personal, and up to one’s personal demands on phoography. this step can be complemented, or substituted, by proceeding with a book project. the book forces a process of selection, flow, and possibly writing, which can be very enriching — even if the book is not to be a “big seller.” actually, it is best to make the book for oneself, rather than for an audience.

For Example... Kodiak Xyza on the Internets... woo hoo!

for Step 1, I post photos to flickr and 500px, though I do not care to post all of the photos to flickr, and posts a bit of the strong ones, once the project is near completion, to 500px since I am using the site as an intermediate portfolio. consequently, I post the photos in different sequence to each site to keep looking at the work.

the projects for effecting Step 3 are uploaded to Dunked [ link ], where they get revisited, and perhaps some subdivision of the projects take place. along with the project segmentation, it is good to write some words that would go with the photographs in a book.

for Step 4, I have a “resting” place for projects: A Touching Display [ link ], of which Wedding Photography is a very quick process to get to it — this is because the project is dealing with a client, and there is nothing to write about it.

it is good to shake up the normal process as well, and two ways is to look at photographs from other photographers, and pursue a Curation project. there are many sites to pursue this curation, especially if one wants to blog about it. I want to keep it simple and use tumblr: Moments After A Dream [ link ]. however, given the awkward “dashboard” in tumblr, there is no attempt to make a connections to other tumblrs, as the site is usually used just like twitter and Instagram: the idea of following and presence-interaction.

in some instances, one can see a scene in different ways that is dependent on the camera used, and I like to carry a couple of cameras, and one of them constitutes the mantra I am pursuing for Mobile Photography. (an article on this is soon to be posted, for now there is a preview on Dunked [ link ].) in this case, it is a way to shake-up the more contemplative approach to photography, and quickly decide on a preset, in my case from VSCOcam, and upload to VSCO Grid [ link ]

I quite like that Dunked and VSCO Grid are not social, and merely allow links to be provided to direct people to the work: people can look at the work as they wish, for however long they wish, and there is no need to make a presence-interaction of any kind.

the internet in the workflow (part 1)

what to do with so many sites to share one's work? it can be a crazy chase to join so many sites, to garner more views/faves/comments. 

one answer, which may cure the sense of madness, but not really actively help with increasing the audience: incorporate the internet into the workflow that weans all of the photos into the essential ones. 

the internet used to be a simple means for sharing one’s photographic work. the professional always had a destination website, which drew visitors from established sources, and for most everyone else a Photo Interest** site was sufficient.

the interaction may have been like the flow example for flickr. uploading a photo to flickr had many sources for interaction, and the results had many uses. there was a way to garner some feedback on the work; get additional exposure to one’s work that would not be possible with a personal portfolio website. it was not rare to notice that people were contacted for use of a photo, or hired for a photo shoot. there were articles about flickr's superstars.

a one-site use for improving one's photography.

a couple of years after the rise of flickr as the site for photo-sharing, photography had exploded in popularity thanks to digital photography, and so did the number of alternative sites, while other established sites (e.g., p-base) stayed on, and in the meantime flickr imploded. popularity-driven photography moved to Instagram, as the mobile phone drove more people into photography, while flickr reverted to being a shoebox, as originally intended. 

many approaches-to, or interests-in, photography remain viable through a single platform. Instagram is such the case for many people using photos for social attention, and marketing by commercial firms seem to have found a way to use Instagram and their popular uses. Twitter is pushing into this area of photography, and 500px has become a home for yet another style of photography.

a question for a class of photographers is: which site to replace flickr? or, at least, to help with their next step in photography. the answer may be the internet itself, rather than a site. not the simplest of solution, but definitely a bit sane.  how can the internet be used to further one’s photography, without having to chase websites and assess a social critical mass?

the most singular benefit I had for uploading work to a social site was that of revisiting a photo, thus causing a re-examination of the work. this become important as Lightroom became much more powerful, and it became more efficient to work on photos closer to an evolving vision. 

thus, the use of the internet can be split into two processes: Passive Soliciting and Active Thinning. in the second part to this post, what and how of these two processes are detailed, though they can be summarized as follows:

  • the idea is to use the photo-sharing sites to leave photos as bait — to “go fishing” for results from searches, and whatever interaction is left at the site. this is a form of Passive Soliciting.
  • a big effort by a photographer is to thin-out one’s work to make for strong portfolio. Active Thinning is effected through a gathering of photos into projects, which can be uploaded to non-social sites, and pursue this process over a period of time.

there is more work, in terms of uploading to sites, but that remains less of a concern with fast broadband connection, and removing any urgency to upload daily, or at certain times that maximize the usage of the site by one's contacts. 

PART 2 [ link


** flickr never was a photo-centric site, since the presentation of the photos were not the most important function of the site. Smugmug was/is definitely more photo-centric. 


social photography is dead

though the question is: was it ever alive?

the answer is yes, in that flickr had stumbled upon facilitating such a situation. Social Photography is facilitated by a site where the user has a photo used for currency, and people can act in a social manner on the photo. typically, this is by views, faves/likes and comments. subsequently, there was a curating effect, self-serving or altruistic, via invitation to groups.

that social photography was a success in furthering photography, or perhaps trivialized it, is to be another (long) conversation; or even that social photography was engaged by a significant number, or a critical mass, of "true" photographers is yet another conversation. 

social photography thrived through the rise of flickr and its peak, before an anecdotal decline — and many reasons seem to contribute — which allowed other sites to rise and be noticed. this period was from 2005 to about 2007, or 2008 at the latest. there is no clear demarcation of when social photography "lost it", and this is not of great concern, though it is sensible to argue that the rise of Instagram marked its death. the change in platform, from flickr's desktop to Instagram's smartphone, propelled the change in what a photograph is among people.

someone may think: « but Instagram raison d'être is that of social photography!  »

not quite. Instragram is not social photography, because there is no engagement about photography. yes, a photograph is created for the purpose of a social interaction, which is in line with previous mechanism, albeit at a much smaller scale and perhaps not involving so many strangers. thus, there is nothing photographic of merit in Instagram. that is, aside from the photographer putting as much, or little, effort into taking and processing the photo — in third party apps — but not in enriching that experience through a social interaction. while Instagram had to solve a photograph-storage/servicing engineering problem, Instagram is about sharing/connecting and not photography — this according to one of its founders. still, we must remain aware that despite a company's intentions, people can morph the intent of a website to their needs. this clearly happened with flickr.

while this generalization can benefit from a longer discussion, and definition of terms, the important observation is that it has created (at least) two notable groups: the Social Photographer, and the Longform** Photographer. ( a person can fit in either, or both.)

the Social Photographer is working the social sites, notably tumblr and Instagram, and amplifying it through social networks, notably twitter and facebook. the interactions of faves/reblogs, short platitudes — such as the infamous "great capture" — and comments is the gained currency from mining the right photo. there is much to be enjoyed in this realm, if one finds the proper content generators. the photographic qualities of the photos are secondary, or non-existent.

the Longform Photographer can be working within the social network tools, but seeking a different way to communicate — perhaps often frustratingly so —  and requiring more than mining socially-appealing photographs to build an audience. actually, an audience is required by any photographer type, but the required audience count threshold may be lower. this Longform Photographer may reside somewhere in between the Social Photographer and the traditional art-world photographer.

clearly, the author is in this latter group... and in the process of learning, and figuring out how to use the internet to help a photographer's, and a photographic, pursuit. the audience is less of a concern at the moment, since much is to be figured out. this site is an aid towards that pursuit.

** a commonly used term in online journalism is "longform journalism" , and The New Yorker has references to "longread" articles.