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Spiderguy252
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Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sat Sep 03, 2011 2:31 pm

If you showed me some of the older photos in the database, I can immediately make them out to be so. Perhaps it's the subtle grain or colour casts or anything else that represent the nuances of the cameras of yore.

Look at this one, for example. Without the timestamp embedded into the info below, I bet you could determine the age of the shot to be......well not recent.


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Photo © Gerard Helmer



It was clicked in 2004.

Here's another one. From 1996. Scan or not, the shot reeks of age.


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Photo © Jochen Beeck



However, thanks to advancement in cameras and imaging/editing technology, these factors have been eliminated a great deal, and a photo clicked today might as well look like one shot five years ago.

These three come from 2007, 2009 and 2011 (and in that order). But you'd never know which was shot on when.


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Photo © Michel van Bokhoven


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Photo © Nino Buda-CYYZ Aviation Photography


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Photo © K.L.Yim



So. My question is. Is that it? Have we reached that point in photography where image quality has finally been made similar across the board, and differences between two or more shots redundant in that regard?

[Edited 2011-09-03 07:35:44]
 
je89_w
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sat Sep 03, 2011 3:07 pm

Great question. I honestly think that when it comes to 2D images with regards to A.net (1000 to 1600 pixels-wide limitation), image quality has pretty much reached its peak. However, technology continues to improve day by day, and by removing the A.net limitation, image quality (and even the definition of an "image") seems limitless.

  
 
spencer
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sat Sep 03, 2011 3:38 pm

I don't believe we've reached the peak yet. I'd like to see something along the lines of some kind of vivid contrast that makes an image stand out somewhere between 2D and 3D. Something like what they do in TV commercials where a photograph seems to have several living layers where the viewer could perhaps go between, as such. I'm not saying I'd like it to go that far but something that punches the picture out of the flat 2D we now have.
Just my 2p's worth  
Spence
 
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Spiderguy252
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sat Sep 03, 2011 4:16 pm

It's interesting to note that in the 'Similar Topics' section below the thread, somebody has posted a similar question, though dating back to 2002. The general consensus on the thread is "No, not yet", but I guess it's a question that could have popped at any given time, over the years.

Have We Reached The Highest Digital Quality? (by LGW Jun 13 2002 in Aviation Photography)
 
Silver1SWA
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sat Sep 03, 2011 4:52 pm

I think for digital images in the 1000-1600 pixel range, we are nearing the peak. However as image quality begins to peak, the standards here continue to climb. The question is, when will the standards reach a peak?
 
cliffak
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sat Sep 03, 2011 6:18 pm

Image quality is basically limited by physics (resolving power of the lens and sensor), signal processing and noise. Sensor resolution has remained stable for a few years now, which indicates there is not much point in increasing it and lens resolution (lp/mm) falls as the lens is stopped down anyway. Modern lenses are very, very good and the resolution is pretty much diffraction limited at most apertures. This also means that there is a point where quality just can't get any better, there is no way around the laws of physics.

Better clipping perfrmance is what I would really like to see in digital. Especially the red channel can look awful with shift towards orange/yellow and "jaggies" at strong contrasts with other colors.

I shoot some film as well (not much aviation though), and a well-scanned slide or negative actually comes really close to digital. Sure, there is grain, but it is what makes up the image and so it makes for an entirely different medium with a different feel to it. It also clips much more gracefully and seems to handle those pesky bright reds better. But for a film shot to look good on the computer the scan is everything - if you do shoot film, be prepared for hours of trial and error with the scanner. Had I had the gear for it, it would be interesting to shoot some aviation on medium (or larger) format film and see what kind of quality can be squeezed out of it.  
 
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scbriml
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sat Sep 03, 2011 11:25 pm

Quoting Spiderguy252 (Thread starter):
If you showed me some of the older photos in the database, I can immediately make them out to be so. Perhaps it's the subtle grain or colour casts or anything else that represent the nuances of the cameras of yore.

I would dispute this to a degree - I've recently edited and uploaded shots from 2004 and I'd say the only differences are better editing skills on my part, better editing software and better monitors for the editing. There's absolutely no reason that photos taken with a 10-year old DSLR can't be added to the database to today's standards.

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Photo © Steve Brimley
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Photo © Steve Brimley


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Photo © Steve Brimley
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Photo © Steve Brimley



When looking at many of those "old" photos (heck, you're only talking about 7 years ago), you have to remember that acceptance standards were significantly lower than today. Those shots would (unless the subject is uber-rare) almost certainly not be accepted today. However, with correct editing, they can be accepted today.
 
ckw
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sat Sep 03, 2011 11:55 pm

I think when looking at old pics, the quality issues are at least partly due to both the scanner and scanning technique. A well scanned tranny can still look very impressive. Some would argue that scanned film is still better than digital - and it is true that film handles highlights better than digital (if you don't agree with this, compare sunsets shot on film to those shot on digital).

BUT I think we have reached the point where digital out performs film in other areas. Bottom line - film and digital have a different look, so it is really a matter of personal preference.

Has digital reached its limits? Almost certainly not - increases in pixel density and (more importantly) signal to noise ratio are possible - the catch is that with DSLRs, the sensors are already reaching or exceeding the limits of what the lens can deliver, To go to the next level will be very expensive, but not impossible.

Ultimately though, the question is how much better does it need to be? For 90% of print applications digital can deliver as high a quality that can be represented and well exceeds what can be displayed on all but the most esoteric electronic media.

Cheers,

Colin
 
photopilot
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sun Sep 04, 2011 12:30 am

Quoting cliffak (Reply 5):
Had I had the gear for it, it would be interesting to shoot some aviation on medium (or larger) format film and see what kind of quality can be squeezed out of it.

Well, I shot this on Fuji RVP-50 slide film with a Hasseblad and a 150mm f4 Zeiss Sonnar Lens. It was then professionally drum scanned at god knows what resolution (Bombardier's Graphics Dept sent it out) and I've seen a 6 x 12 FOOT print and you can count the rivet heads in the aluminum skin. It's stunning. I've got a 36" wide Litho of this image run as a poster and you can count the rivits on that as well. There's simply no way even modern digital can compete with a film as good as RVP-50.


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Photo © Stephen Liard



Now, that said, I wonder what a Phase One IQ180 for Hasselblad H1 high-resolution digital back (80 megapixel) would be like. But at a whopping $47,995.00 for the back.... not counting the camera body and lens, well we can only dream.
 
darreno1
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sun Sep 04, 2011 1:44 am

Quoting ckw (Reply 7):
Has digital reached its limits? Almost certainly not - increases in pixel density and (more importantly) signal to noise ratio are possible

I agree. There is still much room for improvement with regards to pixel density, signal to noise ratio and dynamic range. I'd like to be able to taka properly exposed pic one day with very high dynamic range without having to bracket or do much post processing. IMO, we're not there yet although we are getting close.
 
Chukcha
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sun Sep 04, 2011 5:14 am

Yes, the quality is getting very close to perfection, and the images are also getting to look so much like one another. The imperfection of the older images gave each of them a character - after all, there could be no two films developed exactly the same. Even the older digital photography seemed to have more individuality.

The perfection of the digital photography of late works against this website - being so much alike, the photos are getting increasingly boring to look at; that's why I much prefer to browse the older photos here.
 
viv
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sun Sep 04, 2011 8:46 am

Image quality in its technical aspects (grain, edge to edge uniformity of exposure, sharpness) may well have reached its apogee.

Composition and artistic input will never peak. These are far more important than technical quality, being limited only by imagination and creativity.
 
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ptrjong
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sun Sep 04, 2011 12:57 pm

Quoting scbriml (Reply 6):
I would dispute this to a degree - I've recently edited and uploaded shots from 2004 and I'd say the only differences are better editing skills on my part, better editing software and better monitors for the editing. There's absolutely no reason that photos taken with a 10-year old DSLR can't be added to the database to today's standards.

I agree. Most of my 2005 uploads would be rejected today. This is partly because of my editing skills and partly because of the lens I was using, but better lenses were certainly available.
 
ckw
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sun Sep 04, 2011 9:22 pm

Quoting Chukcha (Reply 10):
The perfection of the digital photography of late works against this website - being so much alike, the photos are getting increasingly boring to look at; that's why I much prefer to browse the older photos here.

I think "perfection" is a bit strong (talking about the technical aspects) - of course we don't know how much better an image can be until we see it. In a similar way I'm surprised how much better Blu-Ray can look compared to DVD.

But I do think what does work against this site (and photography in general) is the tendancy to focus on techinical aspects of the picture rather than the image as a whole ... a case of not seeing the wood for the trees.

I believe if you took a random sample of the greatest images of the last century, I'm pretty sure they would fail the acceptance criteria of this and many other sites.

Whatever the technical capabilities of the equipment, I do think too many photographers focus on trying to achieve technical perfection. Overall I'd say photography has perhaps a bit futher toward 'craft' than 'art'.

Cheers,

Colin
 
topgun3
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sun Sep 04, 2011 9:29 pm

In my opinion, the major photo quality advances will come in high ISO photography. If the noise level can be reduced, that opens up new areas of low light / high speed photography.
 
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ptrjong
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sun Sep 04, 2011 9:31 pm

Quoting ckw (Reply 13):
I believe if you took a random sample of the greatest images of the last century, I'm pretty sure they would fail the acceptance criteria of this and many other sites.

With a little luck they would be pardoned by the better screeners here, but the reverse unfortunately seems to be true. The most horrible compositions and crops seem to be acceptable here lately as long as the technical quality is alright.

Peter 
 
mirage
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sun Sep 04, 2011 10:38 pm

I think dynamic range still have a long way of improvement until it matches what human eye sees.

Luis
 
photopilot
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Mon Sep 05, 2011 12:31 am

Quoting mirage (Reply 16):
I think dynamic range still have a long way of improvement until it matches what human eye sees.

Quite simply, impossible. The overiding factor is bit-depth and file format. As long as A.net and the web only supports 24 bit images (8 bits per channel, red, green, blue) then you will only have 256:1 dynamic range. The only way around this is completely technical and would involve the internet supporting a higher bit-depth file format, with corresponding compatibility and file size limitations. That's a LONG way off if at all. Because except for professional or high-end photo applications, it's simply not needed for the 99.999% of the commercial business applications of the internet.

A better explanation.

The ability of a camera to capture high bit-depth images requires an image sensor with suitably high dynamic range (at least 4,000:1 for 12 bits per channel), and a correspondingly high A/D converter bit rate and a file image format that supports it. The weakest link in this chain of requirements determines the actual bit-depth of the captured image.

The physically small image sensors used in compact digital cameras provide a dynamic range of around 256:1. These cameras typically use 8-bit A/D converters, allowing up to 256 brightness levels for each RGB color channel. The images are stored as 24-bit JPEG images -- 8 bits per color channel.

The physically larger sensors used in digital SLR cameras have higher dynamic range capability than those used in compact cameras, and are able to capture more subtle tonal graduations. DSLRs are usually equipped with 10- or 12-bit A/D converters, providing distinction for 1,024 or 4,096 brightness levels per channel, respectively. Normally DSLRs offer the option to save the 10 or 12 bits of data per pixel as a RAW file, because JPEG only allows 8 bits of data per channel.

The A/D converter bit rate is normally designed to match the image sensor dynamic range capability. If the image sensor has only a 256:1 (8-bit) dynamic range, a 10- or 12-bit A/D converter may produce a smoother tonal range, but it can only provide 256 brightness levels per channel. Similarly, if image data is captured at 12 bits per channel, storing it as 16-bit TIFF will not create new brightness levels. Storing a 10- or 12-bit image as JPEG or 8-bit TIFF will cause the distinction between some brightness levels to be lost.
 
Chukcha
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Mon Sep 05, 2011 2:56 am

Quoting ckw (Reply 13):
I think "perfection" is a bit strong (talking about the technical aspects) - of course we don't know how much better an image can be until we see it.

Maybe a bit strong, but applicable in the case of A.net, as long as the photos accepted here are 1024 to 1600 pixels wide 24 bit images. With these limitations perfection here is as good as reached, IMHO.

[Edited 2011-09-04 19:59:04]
 
cliffak
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Mon Sep 05, 2011 4:37 am

Quoting photopilot (Reply 17):
Quite simply, impossible. The overiding factor is bit-depth and file format. As long as A.net and the web only supports 24 bit images (8 bits per channel, red, green, blue) then you will only have 256:1 dynamic range. The only way around this is completely technical and would involve the internet supporting a higher bit-depth file format, with corresponding compatibility and file size limitations. That's a LONG way off if at all. Because except for professional or high-end photo applications, it's simply not needed for the 99.999% of the commercial business applications of the internet.

Also, a little known fact is that most cheap LCD monitors (the kind 90% of the users have) use 6 bit/channel TN panels, which are perfectly fine for office work and such but a bit lacking for photo editing. I think IPS and similar panels uses 8 bits which is one reason the images look better on that kind of monitor.
 
darreno1
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Mon Sep 05, 2011 5:10 pm

I think the OP's question goes way beyond A.net. Web standards, flat panel design, a/d conversion bit dept will all change with time and improvements in technology. As cameras improve, as flat panels become more advanced with higher res displays, and as the internet network speed increase for the average joe, web and picture standards will evolve as well. It's just a matter of time.
 
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Scooter01
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Mon Sep 05, 2011 10:17 pm

If I can add my 2-cents worth (not having submitted any photos to this site yet)

The evolution in photography and the availability of decent equipment for the masses are changing all the time.

The early B/W photo:

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Photo © Juhani Sipilä



does not really show everything that's interesting to see.
Obviously these planes have been sitting at the same spot for a few days....

An older color film scan:

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Photo © Juhani Sipilä


...and one from today:

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Photo © Ron Baak


notice how the colors of the grass under the plane are brighter than in the areas not burned by the Sun's rays?

Scooter01   

[Edited 2011-09-05 15:42:59]
 
UnitedJumboJet
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sat Sep 10, 2011 12:00 am

Slightly unrelated, but still regarding IQ - are there any shots shot with large format here? That's still probably the king of image quality.
 
ckw
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sat Sep 10, 2011 11:26 pm

I do recall some stunning ramp shots from Vancouver on large format some years ago, but I can't remember who by. The quality was stunning.

Cheers,

Colin
 
megatop412
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Thu Sep 15, 2011 2:50 am

It always seems like we can never get better than what is already the best. If you look at music formats as an analogy, when CD's replaced cassettes we went 'what could possibly be better than this' then 20 years later along comes lossless .wav files. What will the next music format be, and how could it possibly be better?

Same thing with photos. 20 years from now we'll all be in disbelief about the 'horrible' 8-bit per channel limit of the internet. The same internet we and this site use and enjoy right now.

I hate the fact that image sharing here has become such an academic exercise that photos are trolled for technical perfection because of how good the technology has gotten. I understand the motivation behind it, and I'm stoked there are so many more photographers out there now that digital is so commonplace. But in my mind, the technical excellence factor is a distraction away from what brought us to do this in the first place. Pixel density and signal to noise ratios are about as close to aviation photography as Handel's Messiah. Then again, I started with film.
 
viv
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Thu Sep 15, 2011 9:17 am

Quoting megatop412 (Reply 24):
he technical excellence factor is a distraction away from what brought us to do this in the first place. Pixel density and signal to noise ratios are about as close to aviation photography as Handel's Messiah.

I totally agree. Excellence comes from composition, imagination and creativity. Theoretically, there is no upper limit on these aspects of photography.
 
ckw
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Thu Sep 15, 2011 11:29 pm

For a bit of a laugh, have a look at this if you haven't already seen it

http://theonlinephotographer.blogspo...eat-photographers-on-internet.html

But I think there's a serious message here. I have a fairly good collection of photo books by the great and the good. And the one thing I have learned looking through these is that technical excellence is as nothing compared to composition and emotion. If a picture can generate a genuine response, you stop looking for the flaws.

Unfortunately most of us aren't gifted with an eye to produce truly great photos - I think we try to compensate by being good craftsmen. Nothing wrong with that, but I would trade my technique for a truly insightful eye in a heartbeat (of course there are a very few who are blessed with both superb technical and creative ability - left and right brain working together).

Cheers,

Colin
 
darreno1
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Fri Sep 16, 2011 1:37 am

Well I'll be honest and say at this stage I'm more into the technique and technical aspect than the creative for a few reasons, one being it evens the playing field a little. I do not live in a very picturesque environment nor do I have the time to devote to a creative composition. Others live in naturally beautiful environments, have special airport access, or do aviation photography for a living. So these folks already have a big advantage. Another reason is the subject matter. I find that more often than not, getting too creative takes away the focus from the main subject - the aircraft. This is personal of course and many others will not see it that way. With that said, I wouldn't hesitate to admit there are a lot of photos in here I'm in awe of.
 
ckw
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Fri Sep 16, 2011 9:29 am

I don't think there's any need to feel defensive about being 'technical' - most of us are craftsman rather than artists! And indeed, on a site like A.net perhaps the majority of visitors are looking for a well crafted shot rather than an artistic one.

But I do disagree with you saying this 'levels the playing field' with those based in more picturesque environments ...

Quoting darreno1 (Reply 27):
Others live in naturally beautiful environments, have special airport access, or do aviation photography for a living.

... and as long as you stick to "recording the scene", how can you compare? In my view it is the artistic approach which 'levels the field' by making the ordinary look extraordinary. The artist is capable of revealing things that normal eyes miss. To some extent this is a gift, but I do believe that we are all capable of learning how to do this - at least to a point well above average if not to genius level.

Cheers,

Colin
 
spencer
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Fri Sep 16, 2011 11:15 am

I think, re the whole artistic approach, anything I've tried to be artistic fails yet something that's caught my eye and I've shot without even thinking about, turns out "artistic". So, yes, we may all have it in us but try perhaps too much to get it?
Spence
 
darreno1
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sat Sep 17, 2011 12:40 am

Quoting ckw (Reply 28):
... and as long as you stick to "recording the scene", how can you compare? In my view it is the artistic approach which 'levels the field' by making the ordinary look extraordinary. The artist is capable of revealing things that normal eyes miss. To some extent this is a gift, but I do believe that we are all capable of learning how to do this - at least to a point well above average if not to genius level.

I think art is too subjective a matter to really have a meaningful debate. What you might consider artistic excellence, I might consider boring and vice versa. I've seen people fawn over BW photography and I look at it in bewilderment. Now BW photography before there was color is another story. I love the colorful picturesque photos on here a lot more than those merely trying to make a statement. We all have different tastes however we can all somewhat agree when a picture is well exposed, level, crisp and of high quality. If pics were judged more on the creative aspect, more than half would probably be rejected.
 
ckw
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sun Sep 18, 2011 12:12 am

Yes, art is subjective - and can produce very polarized opinions (what we in the UK call the Marmite factor - you love it or hate it) ... but one of the tests of art is that it DOES provoke a reaction. I do agree it would be very difficult and contentious to screen shots based on 'artistic merit' ... but its also a bit sad that by judging photos primarily on technical competance perhaps encourages photographers to play safe with their shots.

Cheers,

Colin
 
viv
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sun Sep 18, 2011 7:40 am

I shoot aircraft to relax. Creative photography is much harder.
 
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comairguycvg
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RE: Have We Peaked In Photo Quality Yet?

Sun Sep 18, 2011 8:26 am

Quoting viv (Reply 11):
Composition and artistic input will never peak. These are far more important than technical quality, being limited only by imagination and creativity.

I agree, very well said. There are no limits to the mind and the eye of the photographer.  

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