The Art of Writing Comments – A Humble Lesson

Why this title? Well, I thought up of this title because of a comment I received about this post some time ago:-

no gush here

My advice, next time, is to realize that you are in a “photographic hell” instead of a studio, where lighting is controlled and good portraits are made, then act accordingly.

The white balance (thus the skin tone) in those images is quite poor. Your flash is showing in their eyes and making light pools on their faces. Basically, what I see are snapshots, masquerading as portraits.

Back the he77 OFF, then use your zoom to stand in the “sweet spot” of your flash, thereby avoiding the light pools on the faces. Take 2 minutes to remove the flash from the eyes. Lastly, but certainly not least, in situations where you are forced to shoot under mixed light sources do a custom white balance (with a white piece of paper held EXACTLY at target) before each shot.

Actually, I am always open to suggestion and constructive criticism and I welcome and look forward to comments to my post. Either good or bad, I always enjoy reading them. I don’t expect my readers to always agree with me, so long as they have a valid reason, it’s always good to hear the opposing views and arguments.

If the author of that comment has taken care to read my original post, he would realize that the photos posted on that post was never meant to be good examples of “portrait” photography. Never once have I claimed in the post that they were portraits and yet he accused me to trying to masquerade those shots as portraits. The photos were only meant to demonstrate how the Canon EOS 40D would perform under some pretty poor condition and what Adobe Lightroom RAW processing would do.

Actually, the advice he gave for shooting portraits using flash in general were absolutely right (using the sweet spot of the flash to avoid light pools on faces, doing custom white balance under mixed light sources). However, he failed to take into account of the actual situation.

A lot of photographers go to the Hong Kong Computer & Communication Fair every year. Usually, there could be at least 10 or up to 40 or 50 photographers crowding around a single showgirl trying to get a shot. There could be up to 4 or 5 rows of photographers. It is practically impossible to stand at the sweet distance for a flash because the distance you stood in front of the showgirl could not be really dictated by yourself. If you attempted to stand at the sweet distance, you will be blocked by at least 4 or 5 rows of photographers in front of you, some of them would be hold the camera above their heads. Sometimes, it would be impossible to stand at the sweet distance even if there were no other photographers around as the fair were usually extremely crowded with exhibitors and visitors.

It is also easy to understand, it would be impossible to set a custom white balance for each shot under such situation. You will never be able to get the showgirl to hold a gray card or piece of white paper in front of her face for you to set a custom white balance.

With the knowledge that it was impossible to set custom white balance, the route to achieving accurate skin tone lies in white balance adjustment during post-processing. No one actually has to agree with me they the white balance I choose was good, but personally, I think I did a reasonably good white balance adjustment during post-processing. They may not be really pleasing skin tones, but they represent the skin tones of the “yellow” race as accurately as I could portray. Perhaps, the author of the comment was trying to judge the skin tones of those photos by the “white” race standard?
The lesson to learn here? I think one should have more understanding of an article before trying to give blanket advices. However, when someone who left a comment for an article who clearly has not fully read or completely understood the article and then started to give me a lesson to the author. It is clearly not constructive for anyone, either to the author, or other readers and it exposes the author of the comment as a person who either has little understanding of the subject himself or simply appeared as rather condescending.

The person who left that comment is supposed to be a professional photographer. I have seen his site, I won’t make any comments about his work. I’ll leave his site link here instead, and you can decide for yourself what you think about his work.

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14 thoughts on “The Art of Writing Comments – A Humble Lesson

  1. I couldn’t agree more with your conclusion. I see this all the time in forums; people comment who, obviously, didn’t read the entire article/comment or, at best, skimmed it. I have this happen to me all the time.

    In fact, earlier today, I responded to a question in a forum asking whether a super-zoom point and shoot or a DSLR was better. The person stated they would be photographing a trip to Africa and the subjects would be people and animals. I stated that the DSLR would be worth the money, since they are have much, much better noise characteristics at high ISOs than point and shoot cameras. I also said that the overall quickness of a DSLR would be a major boon since no point and shoot could react at any where near the speed of a DSLR. I recommended the Nikon D40 and 18-200VR lens, since he didn’t want to change lenses often.

    Someone else responded by posting this:

    “Not entirely true now other than in extreme low light situations, and where subject movement is rapid.”

    I guess I assumed people would know that when you use high ISO, you are typically in a low light situation. I also thought that I made it clear that subject movent was the other main issue I addressed. I don’t know what he meant by “rapid”. To me, animals and people (especially children) move rapidly many times. I know I can’t capture my kids with my point and shoot unless they are still and I have lots of light.

    Anyway, I understand your frustration. I checked out the guy’s web site and I’m not sure he’s sober. I don’t really know what to say about it except that what photos I was were not impressive.

    I just found your blog yesterday, but I like what I have seen so far. Keep up the good work…

  2. I couldn’t agree more with your conclusion. I see this all the time in forums; people comment who, obviously, didn’t read the entire article/comment or, at best, skimmed it. I have this happen to me all the time.

    In fact, earlier today, I responded to a question in a forum asking whether a super-zoom point and shoot or a DSLR was better. The person stated they would be photographing a trip to Africa and the subjects would be people and animals. I stated that the DSLR would be worth the money, since they are have much, much better noise characteristics at high ISOs than point and shoot cameras. I also said that the overall quickness of a DSLR would be a major boon since no point and shoot could react at any where near the speed of a DSLR. I recommended the Nikon D40 and 18-200VR lens, since he didn’t want to change lenses often.

    Someone else responded by posting this:

    “Not entirely true now other than in extreme low light situations, and where subject movement is rapid.”

    I guess I assumed people would know that when you use high ISO, you are typically in a low light situation. I also thought that I made it clear that subject movement was the other main issue I addressed. I don’t know what he meant by “rapid”. To me, animals and people (especially children) move rapidly many times. I know I can’t capture my kids with my point and shoot unless they are still and I have lots of light.

    Anyway, I understand your frustration. I checked out the guy’s web site and I’m not sure he’s sober. I don’t really know what to say about it except that what photos I was were not impressive.

    I just found your blog yesterday, but I like what I have seen so far. Keep up the good work…

  3. Hi Roland,

    I just saw the site of the person who is claiming he knows “better”…….
    What can I say about it ??? Well ,I can do it better than him !
    ha-ha-ha-….

    Well, I’m not a pro ….. 🙂

  4. Oh.
    My.
    Word!!!

    You’ve GOT to be joking about that being his professional website?!? I don’t mean to be rude, but his photos are almost all out of focus!! Is that not step 1 in photography?

    Anyway, I know I’m no pro, because I didn’t notice the off-white skin tones. But then I live in Africa, South Africa to be exact, and we see a lot of off-white skin tones here. 🙂

    And, if people would like to see a PROPER wedding photographer’s photo’s, go check out MY wedding photographer’s site! And there’s also his wife’s site, who’s also a wedding photographer!

    MUCH better quality.

    On another note, I’m glad to hear you’re getting a TON of visitors. I really like the photos. And I bought myself a 40D and I’m LOVING IT!!!

  5. I can understand your purpose for those photos as well as the point of the comment, however since you are demonstrating a very expensive camera and lens in a review most people would expect no less than perfect photos, after all, you did go through the trouble of editing them.

    I’m not a photographer but I can definitely tell the difference between photos from a point and shoot camera and a DSLR. I would think that those photos may have been taken by a Canon IXUS (faces too bright, eyes out of focus, odd photo positioning etc). In addition I find the models scary looking and “plasticky”. HK girls are beautiful and fairly petite however with a combination of the heavy makeup, poor hairstyling and positioning some people may not see that.

    PS. Under Jan Shim, photographer was spelled wrong.

  6. Hi Gouki,

    Thanks for your comment and view. However, I have to disagree with your on a few points and since you admitted that you are not a photographer, I would be grateful if you would kindly allow me to explain a few points to you from a photographer’s perspective.

    1. I would not go into a long argument with you on this point but just to let you know that the Canon 40D in fact is considered as a pretty reasonably priced camera in the D-SLR (digital single lens reflex) camera world. It is priced at the lower middle price range and would not be considered as an expensive D-SLR for most D-SLR photographers. Obviously, price is a very subjective issue, so for a person in the market for a cheap point and shoot digicam, they will think the canon 40D is an expensive camera.

    2. The fallacy and misconception that many people have is that, if you buy a more expensive camera, then you will automatically be able to take better photos. Or to put it another way, many people believe that a D-SLR will take better photos than a point and shoot digicam.

    However, a camera alone, no matter how expensive and capable it is, cannot take better photos by itself. A camera is merely a tool. A good photo consists of many elements like composition, exposure, color, focus etc etc. You can give a $300,000 Hasselblad to an average Joe and he will not be able to take good photos with it or even just better photos with it than his cheap point and shoot digicam.

    A good D-SLR gives a photographers options that a cheap point and shoot digicam would not. Like the ability to use different lenses. Some lenses can give you effects that a digicam cannot. For example, a large aperture lens can give a very shallow depth of field which a point and shoot digicam will never be able to do.

    Another important of a D-SLR compared to a point and shoot is the size of the image sensor. A D-SLR has a much larger sensor than a point and shoot. It can gather a lot more light, so a D-SLR can allow a photographer to use much higher ISO and take photos with low noise. Many digicam can only take good photos with low noise at ISO 50 to 80. Many D-SLR nowadays can take photos with low noise at ISO 1600 or even higher.

    There are many other advantages of D-SLR which I will not go into here. But all the point is that, all the features and advantages of D-SLR will not make an average Joe into a great photographer.

    By the way, in my opinion, I would say there is no such thing as a “perfect” photo. Artistically, a photo can be good or bad depended on your personal point of view, but it would be impossible to quatify as towhat a perfect photo maybe. Even good or bad can be entirely subjective and opened to personal interpretation. Asking for a “perfect” photo is simply an impossible task. I for me will admit that I will neve be able to take “perfect” photo. Perhaps in your mind there are “perfect” photos, but not in my world.

    3. If those photos were not taken by me, I could still easily tell that they were taken with a D-SLR with large aperture lenses that allowed the shallow depth of field. Those photos could never have been taken by any point and shoot digicam. As I have said before, those photos were only meant to show the technical ability of that 40D, they were not meant to be a work of art.

    If you would kindly care to take another look at those photos again, you will notice the extreme shallow depth of field in most shots. I used large aperture lenses for all those shots with aperture values ranging from f1.4 to f2.8. That means that only selective area in the photos will be in focus. For some photos, if the focus was on the left eye, the right eye would already be out of focus. If the focus was on the noise, both the eyes would be out of focus.

    I would just like to point out to you that using shallow depth of field and selective focus with a D-SLR and large aperture lens is a technique and artistic choice. If someone were to try and shoot those photos with a point and shoot digicam, if the photographer managed to focus on anywhere on the face, then every feature on the face will be in focus. If however he missed the focus on the face completely, then the whole face would be out of focus, not a single feature on the face would be sharp.

    If you look at the area in focus, you can see some very fine details even at a reduced web size. You will be very hard pressed to see this kind of resolution with a point and shoot digicam.

    4. Whether Hong Kong girls are beautiful and fairly petite in general is of course a very subjective matter and I will not go into an argument with you here. However, I have no control over the make-up, hairstyling and positioning of the showgirls. It seems odd that you tried to equate make-up, hairstyling and “odd positioning” with quality of the photos or camera. I think I have pointed out quite clearly that my position from the showgirls was not ideal and clearly could not be dictated by me. So how can you correlate odd positioning with the quality of the camera? You seemed to suggest that a point and shoot would shoot a photo with odd postioning and yet a D-SLR from the same position would not and how would a D-SLR no matter how expensive be able to improve the looks of the models with heavy make-up and poor hairstyles? All these factors have no correlation with the technical quality of the images produced by the camera.

    Anyway, the point of the photos and article were not meant for that purpose. Many of the readers who were potential buyers of the Canon 40D found the shots helpful in helping hem to assess the technical ability of the camera.

    Thank you for you comment again. Thanks for pointing ou the typing error, I have corrected it already.

    Best regards,

    Roland

  7. Hi Roland,

    Thanks for taking the time to write back, I thought you might appreciate some feedback after all that is what “Leave a Reply” is for right?

    Anyway,

    Thanks for your comment and view. However, I have to disagree with your on a few points and since you admitted that you are not a photographer, I would be grateful if you would kindly allow me to explain a few points to you from a photographer’s perspective.

    When I said that I was not a photographer, it means that I’m not one by profession but I know what good photos look like and I have high expectations for things such as wedding photos. I have a DSLR myself and I understand the differences between one and a P&S. If I want brilliance and eye candy appeal I would use a DSLR and a computer. For certain day to day applications a P&S would suffice.

    1. I would not go into a long argument with you on this point but just to let you know that the Canon 40D in fact is considered as a pretty reasonably priced camera in the D-SLR (digital single lens reflex) camera world. It is priced at the lower middle price range and would not be considered as an expensive D-SLR for most D-SLR photographers. Obviously, price is a very subjective issue, so for a person in the market for a cheap point and shoot digicam, they will think the canon 40D is an expensive camera.

    And likewise, a professional photographer would probably think that the 40D is a budget camera. At the end of the day, these are all cameras trying to take the same pictures. I also noticed the way you stereotyped point and shoot cameras as “cheap”. Nikon and others have produced $1000++ cameras that are certainly not cheap in the eyes of the average consumer. P&S cameras are in no way inferior to DSLR, they just don’t have the potentials as DSLR given the fact that DSLR uses interchangeable lenses. Put both in the same playing field (same lenses etc) is the DSLR still so much better?

    Its not just the tools that man uses but how he uses them.

    2. The fallacy and misconception that many people have is that, if you buy a more expensive camera, then you will automatically be able to take better photos. Or to put it another way, many people believe that a D-SLR will take better photos than a point and shoot digicam.

    However, a camera alone, no matter how expensive and capable it is, cannot take better photos by itself. A camera is merely a tool. A good photo consists of many elements like composition, exposure, color, focus etc etc. You can give a $300,000 Hasselblad to an average Joe and he will not be able to take good photos with it or even just better photos with it than his cheap point and shoot digicam.

    I would agree mostly, but I would expect a far better photo out of a $300,000 camera than a $399 one, if not why buy one?

    A good D-SLR gives a photographers options that a cheap point and shoot digicam would not. Like the ability to use different lenses. Some lenses can give you effects that a digicam cannot. For example, a large aperture lens can give a very shallow depth of field which a point and shoot digicam will never be able to do.

    Another important of a D-SLR compared to a point and shoot is the size of the image sensor. A D-SLR has a much larger sensor than a point and shoot. It can gather a lot more light, so a D-SLR can allow a photographer to use much higher ISO and take photos with low noise. Many digicam can only take good photos with low noise at ISO 50 to 80. Many D-SLR nowadays can take photos with low noise at ISO 1600 or even higher.

    There are many other advantages of D-SLR which I will not go into here. But all the point is that, all the features and advantages of D-SLR will not make an average Joe into a great photographer.

    Absolutely, but don’t be so sure that digicams will NEVER be able to recreate DSLR type photos.

    By the way, in my opinion, I would say there is no such thing as a “perfect” photo. Artistically, a photo can be good or bad depended on your personal point of view, but it would be impossible to quatify as towhat a perfect photo maybe. Even good or bad can be entirely subjective and opened to personal interpretation. Asking for a “perfect” photo is simply an impossible task. I for me will admit that I will neve be able to take “perfect” photo. Perhaps in your mind there are “perfect” photos, but not in my world.

    There are no perfect photos, but there are some that are almost close to perfection because they are so visually appealing.

    As I have said before, those photos were only meant to show the technical ability of that 40D, they were not meant to be a work of art.

    I used large aperture lenses for all those shots with aperture values ranging from f1.4 to f2.8. That means that only selective area in the photos will be in focus. For some photos, if the focus was on the left eye, the right eye would already be out of focus. If the focus was on the noise, both the eyes would be out of focus.

    If that was your purpose then you have made your point, but maybe a different subject would serve the purpose better. I thought when you were taking photos of these models that you were there to capture their beauty and atmosphere. But if you were to tell me that they were taken with a 40D then the results of those photos would leave people scratching. The other guy claimed improper shooting methods, my agenda is slightly different in that I can’t see any advantages in the 40D in those photos.

    I would just like to point out to you that using shallow depth of field and selective focus with a D-SLR and large aperture lens is a technique and artistic choice. If someone were to try and shoot those photos with a point and shoot digicam, if the photographer managed to focus on anywhere on the face, then every feature on the face will be in focus. If however he missed the focus on the face completely, then the whole face would be out of focus, not a single feature on the face would be sharp.

    If you look at the area in focus, you can see some very fine details even at a reduced web size. You will be very hard pressed to see this kind of resolution with a point and shoot digicam.

    I reckon if we both took photos of the sky with similar lenses and reduced the images to 640×480 there would be absolutely no differences.

    It seems odd that you tried to equate make-up, hairstyling and “odd positioning” with quality of the photos or camera. I think I have pointed out quite clearly that my position from the showgirls was not ideal and clearly could not be dictated by me.

    My apologees, my expectations were too high as I did not realise that you were still learning how to use your DSLR.

    So how can you correlate odd positioning with the quality of the camera? You seemed to suggest that a point and shoot would shoot a photo with odd postioning and yet a D-SLR from the same position would not and how would a D-SLR no matter how expensive be able to improve the looks of the models with heavy make-up and poor hairstyles? All these factors have no correlation with the technical quality of the images produced by the camera.

    I actually said that in defense of the photos. I just found some of the angles odd. With a better understanding of how to be photographed, posturing, makeup that doesn’t make them look more washed out than cameras make them out to be and better positioning, they would have come out better in the photos. Modeling is a different course altogether just as understanding the behaviour of animals and birds. I’m not a photographer but even I know that the camera isn’t responsible for everything in a good picture.

  8. Hi Gouki,

    Thanks for leaving another comment. I would just like a clear up a few things.

    When you said you were “not a photographer”, I took it that you simply and literally meant you were not in fact a photographer. I had no idea you actually meant you were not a “professional” photographer. It appeared as if you were equating “photographer” with “professional photographer”. I think and hope that was not your intention indeed, otherwise, neither of us would be considered as a “photographer” since both of us do not shoot professionally. Anyway, I take it that you are actually a photographer that do not shoot professionally, unless you disagree, of course.

    Pardon my ignorance about your status and knowledge of photography. If you haven’t given me the impression that you were not a photographer at all, I wouldn’t have tried to explained to you the difference between a D-SLR and a non-SLR digicam. I am sure you clearly know the difference as you have stated.

    I will not dwell on discussion with you about prices on cameras. Price is a very subjective matter and is all relative. So I won’t go into how cheap or expensive cameras are with you anymore.

    However, I would just like to clear up a few thing about non-SLR digicam.

    It was never my intention to imply or stereotyped that all non-SLR digicam are cheap. I would however say that in general, most non-SLR digicam are cheaper than D-SLR+lens, and the major of non-SLR digicams in the market are priced in the lower and cheaper end of the market rather than the high end. I know there are some rather expensive non-SLR digicams, but those cannot really be considered as mainstream models.

    It was also not my intention to imply that a non-SLR digicams cannot take good photos. I have seen a lot of good photographers taking very good photos with non-SLR digicams. I never once said non-SLR digicams cannot take good photos. In fact I have written a post before praising non-SLR digicams:-
    https://rolandlim.wordpress.com/2007/07/22/site-feature-mervyn-lim-a-digicam-master/

    When you said this:-

    P&S cameras are in no way inferior to DSLR, they just don’t have the potentials as DSLR given the fact that DSLR uses interchangeable lenses. Put both in the same playing field (same lenses etc) is the DSLR still so much better?

    Actually, noticed I have refrained from using the term P&S or point&shoot so far. IMHO, this term is much more stereotypical and derogatory than anything I have said. I am sure you don’t need me to tell you that many non-SLR digicams in fact have many user settings and allow a fair to a large degree of creativity if the user bothers to learn and use the settings. So to simply call them P&S digicams aren’t really doing them justice.

    Anyway, to answer your question about putting non-SLR digicams and D-SLR in the same playing fields (with same lenses etc), will D-SLR really be better?

    Well, in my opinion the answer is really more complicated than what you have said. It really depends on what you are trying to shoot. In some ways, the answer maybe yes, in other ways, the answer maybe no.

    Yes, you will get the same field of view and perspective, but the depth of field will be different. If you want to shoot a shallow depth of field shot, then the D-SLR will still have a major advantage, since the tiny sensors of the non-SLR digicam will not give as a shallow depth of field as the D-SLR even if you use a large aperture lens. Conversely, of course if you want a large depth of field, then the non-SLR digicam will have the advantage

    Due to the tiny sensor size of most non-SLR digicams, if you shoot at low ISO 50 to 80, there would probably be not too great a difference in quality when comparing to a D-SLR, but if you shoot at any ISO greater than ISO 100, I am sure you’ll notice a major difference in quality. The larger sensor in the D-SLR will be able to produce a photo with much better quality due to lower noise and higher resolution. The higher the ISO, the greater the difference. Unless under very good lighting level, there is no way the majority of non-SLR digicams can rival the quality of shots you get with a D-SLR.

    Besides the issue of noise, D-SLR with a larger image sensor will provide a wider dynamic range than the tiny sensors in the majority of non-SLR digicams.

    Having said all that, I would just like to stress that I am not for one seconds trying to put down non-SLR digicams. In competent hands, non-SLR digicams can give very fine results indeed. The only point I am trying to make is that non-SLR digicams have certain inherent technical limitations which cannot be overcome by the skill of the photographer, but used within its’ limitation, will provide good results.

    You said:-

    my agenda is slightly different in that I can’t see any advantages in the 40D in those photos.

    Well, I am sorry the photos didn’t do anything for you and you couldn’t see any advantage of the 40D over a Canon IXUS from those photos. I have made my point about why I posted those photos and what I was trying to show. If you couldn’t see any merit in those photos, then be it. You may not agree with me, but that’s fine and I respect your opinion and let’s just leave it at that.

    You said:-

    I reckon if we both took photos of the sky with similar lenses and reduced the images to 640×480 there would be absolutely no differences.

    First, you told me that you could not appreciate any difference in quality of my shots compared to a Canon IXUS. Then, I tried to tell you how and in what way you would be able to see a difference with those shots. And then you told me to do the test by shooting the sky and reducing to web-size and that would demonstarte NO difference?? Well, you have gotten me really confused now. I found that remark rather contradictary. So you really want me to shoot the sky and demonstrate that there will be no quality difference between the 40D and the Canon IXUS, even by your own high standard?

    You said:-

    My apologees, my expectations were too high as I did not realise that you were still learning how to use your DSLR.

    Well, maybe I am the one who should apologize to you for not reaching your high expectation. I wrote the review of the 40D in the hope of trying to help other people who were considering the 40D. I was perhaps the first person to put a relatively detailed user review of the 40D on the web, long before any established photographic web-sites. As Hong Kong was one of the first places to get the 40D in the world and I was lucky enough to obtain a body from the first shipment , I was hoping that my early review would provide information that would help others. Those shots form the Hong Kong Communication and Computer fair was taken on the day I bought the 40D. I went to that event practically immediately after I bought the 40D. Those were some of the earliest samples of the production camera you would find on the web. The venue was not ideal as I have explained numerous times already. I am really sorry I did not have the resources to rent a studio and hire some models to produce some professional quality sample shots for the 40D.

    And yes, I am still learning. I believe no one can know everything in life and photography or D-SLR is not an exception. No matter how good a photographer maybe, if he or she remains open minded, there will still be something to be learnt everyday.

  9. Dear Roland,

    Congratulations on a very dignified response. Environmental circumstances may preclude the perfect setup. The website of the person making the critical suggestion…well, let’s say the website may be a reflection of one’s character and skill and can only be given a very modest appraisal. To be fair, I consign myself to an even less than modest level.

    Cheung

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