What’s it to Ya

A cropped image

I have been thinking (and what better place to contemplate than by a large body of water under a cloud filled sky) about a post that was made a little while back that had a preference for ‘real’ gardens and not ‘airbrushed’ gardens. I found the short remark rather telling in so many ways. I guess it left me wondering what is wrong with a well-taken image showing a garden in its best light?

Honestly, I prefer an image someone took a little time to compose in camera, an image of a garden of which they may be quite proud. I prefer a garden that makes a pretty presentation to a neighborhood. Don’t you? I highly doubt that anyone ‘airbrushes’ a post image either. You know, taking objectionable things out and putting in desirable additions like they do for magazines.  Sure everyone has an idea of their ideal garden, and that surly differs from person to person, but seriously, photo manipulations for a blog post?

I can do wonders with Photoshop given an ample amount of time, but I usually post images on GWGT straight from the camera.  These images are not for sale and I post so often, where would I find the time, especially with nothing to gain from it? But if you read on, there really is not so much a gain, as a detriment in posting poor quality images, according to professional photographers and bloggers.

When you are doing a low resolution image for the web, there is no point in enhancing 99.99% of the images. You may have only one in a batch of thousands that is one worth a ‘holy crap that’s good’ response. And to have an image like that, you need to either have enormous luck, or great photography skills and knowledge. This type of image deserves the time of editing if it is necessary at all, and should be printed, not just seen small on a blog anyway.

Did you ever really analyze why full, wide angle images of landscapes don’t look so hot on blogs, even when taken by a skilled photographer? It is because a post is just too small a place to display images like that. They lose all their power. Print them big on a wall and see the difference. On to gripe two….

Then there are other bloggers who get their panties in a knot over other web viewers ‘stealing’ their images. Another chuckle on this one too. I upload larger images than most and have had people tell me they downloaded them, printed them and framed them. Does this bother me? Absolutely not. Now if they were profiting off my work then I might have a say on that. But read on and see why stealing a blog image is not worth the effort if printing is your goal.

I was reading another blog post a few days ago of a professional photographer that I quite admire. He is known worldwide and sells his images for quite a pretty penny. But he has a post up that headlines, Go Ahead, Steal this Photo and Make Prints. And he means it. He even lets you post them on your blog with his permission. I did ‘steal’ an image just to see what resolution they were posted at and at what size. If you want to know, it is 72 ppi and a size of 900×586 px. That is an image 12 inches by a little over 8 inches.

I was very curious. I ‘stole’ one of my own images and it was 72 ppi and over 11 inches by almost 17 inches at 800 x 1208 px. Guess what size that prints at with a professionally sized 300 pixels per inch (ppi) resolution? 4 inches by 2.667 inches. Not so great huh? So people stealing images at 72 ppi are in for a lousy image if printed at 8 by 12.  You can resample in Photoshop, but how many people stealing images have this application?

I want you to go see his work, so I am sending you there rather than posting his ‘stolen’ image. But that leads to another panty twisting issue, gripe number three.

Using web images that YOU do not take in a post. I find that a little anus pinching of a remark that I see on a lot of blogs. If it is on the web, it is going to end up somewhere else. Pinterest anyone??? Google Images???? Here is a take on Pinterest too. At least the images always link back!

I have no problem seeing my photos around the web like this. As long as they are not making money, maligning my work, and are crediting my image to my blog, who the heck cares. Really. And if you are paranoid about this, here is a place to go check if your favorite capture was stolen. It is a reverse image search app.  My photography work is not so important that this makes a hill of beans anyway. I have had another architect steal and implement a design I did and put my work under his own name, and that is a whole other issue, a legal one too. But a photo?

Gripe four, every image you see is wonderfully stupendous.

But let’s get back to the meat of the matter. Are any images that most of us produce worth stealing? I can say ‘NOT’ emphatically for the most part. Many are good, but not ‘holy crap’ good. Let’s talk about that too. I have never taken a ‘holy crap’ image. Some I might say, ‘Not bad,’ but nothing any more positive.

I think an image that strong takes you on a journey of sorts. Your imagination swirls and you find yourself immersed in the work.

What makes photos stand out is not the technical aspect, it is the feeling and mood. The sense of getting taken where the photographer intends you to be taken, somewhere deep within the image. The viewer becomes engaged in a story.  I can think of a handful of famous images that do that to me and all of them have story, emotion, exceptional mood and extraordinary lighting. But there are plenty of photos in the ‘Oh my, I wish I took that photo’ category, a blog hop to Nat Geo is all it takes for me to have image envy.

In fact, I was reading how if an image lacks the fundamentals of composition, light, form, and color, don’t even bother pressing the shutter. Wow, that means I would never venture to take a photo because it takes experience to get all those right from the camera. But it is good to think about and strive for. And if you extrapolate a bit, many of the same design principles apply to landscape design. If the design does not have the fundamentals of good design then it will never be a ‘holy crap’ garden.

I also read somewhere recently, to not even bother posting an image on the web unless it is the absolute best image you have. Again, there would not be so many bloggers out there shooting photographs if this was doctrine to follow. But that got me thinking too. The web is forever and why post images that are not just so special? I will never get a ‘holy crap’ image, but hope to at least get a few I would be proud to have taken. I decided to put more effort into getting those type of images. I have been working on the fundamentals and after that, hopefully the art. Then I will be Photoshopping my work if it needs the extra punch….

So let’s loosen up fellow bloggers. Don’t take issue with those that Photoshop or spend some time making the composition and angle of view of the garden magazine worthy. They are trying to put out the best quality that they can. Maybe they think their garden is worth it too. I have been reading some posts as of late that have had some alarmist kind of rhetoric, trying to make others worry about stuff like stealing that really is not something much to care about if you are blogging in the first place.

Relax a bit and don’t be so concerned with other bloggers stealing your images either. Get a Creative Commons license. It sets some guidelines. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.5/, Check out the other licenses too.

I guess I am getting a bit annoyed by a few bloggers that have all this advice to give on stealing images, putting on a watermark (which REALLY ruins any image I am seeing), taking polished photos of too perfect gardens, editing (or not) photos in any manner, or any of the other similar issues. I have even had some email me to chide me on occasion for some of my Photoshop composites on GWGT. My advice to them is learn a bit about what you are talking about, then keep your advice to yourself.


21 thoughts on “What’s it to Ya

  1. I try not to worry if my image is great…I am learning so it is as good as I can make it…and I have seen my progress with my point and click…it is wonderful art we can create sometimes when we enhance or change a picture…I love making some of mine into oil paintings with an app…it is fun…but I cannot paint…Pinning is a whole other animal because there are some sticky legal things going around that may or may not be true…I simply do not have the time or interest at this time to Pin…I am saddened to hear that someone would email you and chide you for Photoshopping an image…Really? I also have a photographer friend who is very gifted who also says to take his images and use them. He knows that for you to make a big print, you will have to come to him though…I have been told I should print or sell some of my pics…I don’t see it but I may do it for my own use in the house…I take pictures to capture the beauty of what I am seeing or to use a visual aid to explain my post…oh well to each his own I guess…

  2. Dear Donna, Another thought provoking posting. I think all of your images are ‘holy crap’ ones. Mine are generally just ‘crap’, but the purpose of my blog is to show what I am trying to achieve as a gardener — not as a photographer. I wish I was more knowledgeable as a photographer, and I wish I could afford a ‘better’ camera, but I hope I am achieving my garden-journal goals anyway. However, I do envy your ability with a camera. Keep those beautiful photographs coming. P. x

  3. Great post! There are a few good photos here and there in my blog, but most just illustrate what’s going on in the garden and that it’s a work in progress. I do straighten crooked ones and crop sometimes, but mostly it’s just how things look on a given day.

    After reading this I am glad I made the decision not to watermark. I make sure that all mine have a link, if someone somewhere deletes it I can’t stop them. Like you, if I find someone trying to profit then I’ll deal with it.

  4. I don’t know, Donna… you lose your credibility about not have “Holy Crap!” images when you post such stunning photos. That red barn took me on such a journey I could actually feel the warmth of the sun on my face…. not an easy feat since I’m looking at a cold and snowy morning out my office window. As for watermarks, my opinion regarding that has evolved over the almost two years that I have been blogging. I do use a watermark, though my preference is to make it rather discreet. I consider it as my “signature” on my painting. Thanks for another great post… I always enjoy what you write as well as the view from your lens.

  5. Ha, that’s funny – I guess I haven’t read any of the posts where people are getting all up in arms about blogging. Most of the blogs I read are more about the garden and plants than photos, though. I would probably be quite flattered if someone stole my photo!

    In the end, it’s about why do you blog? I blog for enjoyment and for sharing in a gardening community. Maybe some people blog to show off their photos and enjoy playing around with Photoshop. Either way, if you’re too stressed over a blog that you are doing for a hobby and stressed out over other people’s blogs, why do that to yourself?

    And by the way, I have said ‘Holy Crap’ to several of your photos.

  6. I have found that photos which look OK in Microsoft paint, don’t look so great when posted. I try my best to post photos that are at least in focus even though the scene might not be that pretty as my garden is more “real” than most – I was delighted when I discovered that someone had Pinned a picture of my weedy patio.

  7. I think Indie is right. It’s all about your goals and what your readers want. If your readers want to see pretty gardens, shoot from the best angles. If you want a more unvarnished look at a garden, you can capture an image that shows warts and all. Each photographer/editor/blogger needs to establish his or her own guidelines. I like to show real gardens, but I do want to show them looking their best. If I were shooting a garden and there was a garbage can at one end, I would move around until I found an angle where we wouldn’t see the garbage can. In Photoshop, I would have no qualms about cropping out the garbage can. However, if that garbage can were in the middle of the garden and I couldn’t crop it out, I wouldn’t erase the garbage can in Photoshop. That would seem like crossing a line to me.

  8. I think photos can be improved immensely by doing basic, very easy things like cropping them and adding shadows/contrast on Picasa or whatever system a blogger uses. If the photo will look better when I see it on a blog, then I am all for it. However, I am not sure exactly what you are saying about using photos. Just as I wouldn’t want people using my text without asking I don’t want people using my photos without asking. I have had other bloggers ask and I have said yes. I have had commercial enterprises ask, and I have said no, not without payment. Another blogger used a bunch of what she thought were my photos without asking, and one of them didn’t belong to me and required specific conditions to be used. If she had asked first then I could have told her. I haven’t used watermarks yet but have been advised to many times.

  9. Some interesting things to ponder…like you I have read blog posts that go on rants about steeling photos and have even gone so far as to put a sign on their blog “no pinning allowed”. I am by no means an expert photographer, far from it, but my photos I do for myself and for purposes of sharing information on my blog. I am absolutely flattered if someone copies, pins or “steals” my work. From my perspective the purpose of blogging is to share information and as long as credit (by a link back or in writing) is given I am OK with people using my photos. I am astounded that some people have the balls to criticize your photos. I don’t understand their point. Photography is an art form and a photographer has the right to manipulate their work if they so desire. Btw, I think you have produced lots of “holy crap” photos!!!!

  10. Well said. You have seen the photos I take, just shots to remind me of the moment and share it with some friends. Not “holy crap” moments – just moments to share. I started to learn the “shop” basics and found I was spending way too much time on something I will not be doing anything with other than posting. So, SOOC (straight out of the camera) for me. If someone finds a photo of mine they like, they can copy it, it would be nice if I heard about it. Maybe it was a “holy crap” photo in someone else’s eye.

  11. Well, well, well…I wish we lived in the same city so that we could go to a local coffeshop and talk about this for a few hours. We are made of the same fabric and I totally agree with you on this matter. Here’s an example:
    I had to decide right up front if I was going to post a message about copyright. I decided to ‘give my photos’ away on my garden blog for many reasons. My first reason was that I’m a school teacher and I wanted school children all over to find my blog and feel comfortable using the photos for their projects. I imagine kids using search engines might find some of my bug and flower images useful. You are exactly right about posting one’s best photos. I use this rule of thumb; I ask myself if I were to land on my own garden blog for the first time would I say ‘wow’ at the first images I view. If I can’t say ‘wow’ or ‘cool garden’, then I pass on that image or even that post. I also have a photography blog and I know exactly what you’re saying about that ‘holy crap’ moment. I have nice close. But perhaps that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Since we are friends, I’ll tell you my photo blog link. But feel free not to visit.

  12. I got a Creative Commons for my blog. It just made sense. I actually like Pinterest because the photo is a link back to the blog that it came from.

    I try to put up the best pictures that I can (in terms of focus, composition and lighting, with some judicious cropping), even if I’m not taking a glamorous shot of the garden. Why ever not? 🙂

  13. You made my day! This post is straight up and thought provoking. … and like many other of your readers, I believe you have a BOAT-load of “holy crap” pictures!

    (BTW, I am pathetically hooked on “Pinterest – Gardening” at the moment. I actually had wanted to ‘Pin’ some of your photos – but have been worried about ‘copyright’ issues with bloggers recently.)

  14. I have read some of the blogs that are against Pinterest users using their photos. Which I completely understand. I thought about it for a while, and figured, 1) my photos aren’t that good, 2) more traffic (hopefully), and 3) it’s too much trouble to stop it. If I don’t want it on the internet, I don’t post it. Simple.

  15. Bravo sister! Great post!

    I recently read a blog (not a blogger I frequently visit) where this person went on and on about how terrible Pinterest is and we shouldn’t be “stealing” photos and yada, yada. … I had the audacity to comment that I think she has an anger problem. Of course she didn’t post my comment. LOL. I also told her that I believe using Pinterest is the digital equivalent to tearing a photo out of a magazine and putting it on your fridge. I also said, as you did above, that once your work is on the Internet you really don’t have any control over it and if you don’t want it stolen, you shouldn’t put it on the Internet in the first place. I concluded with something to the effect of, I’ve seen my photos on Pinterest and I’m delighted. The whole purpose of my blog is to inspire people to create beautiful gardens. If my photos are worthy of being repinned, hallelujah!

    As you stated so eloquently, some people are getting WAY too serious about all of this. They need to lighten up, take a chill pill and go to anger management. — Just my two bits.

  16. This whole “stealing” issue really passes me by. I’d never watermark a picture, because like you I find that it detracts from the image (and my images really aren’t all that great to begin with). -I’d be more upset if anybody stole my words, but then words are impossible to protect and really, what’s the likelihood that my amateur blogging will be of any value to anybody. (I am, though, starting up a case against a small publishing house that have used some of my translations commercially without paying me the agreed royalties, and that seems a bit like if my regular employer decided to stop paying me. NOT on!)

    I find that I really don’t have the patience to create perfect shots; as long as the picture illustrates my narrative by showing a concrete example of something or by communicating a feeling or a sense of pleasure, then it’s good enough for me.

  17. Hi Donna, For the longest time, I didn’t add watermarks for reasons similar to the ones you bring up. Any image on the web is crap, when it comes to printing. Then some guy in Vietnam started raiding my blog for images for his e-books. You don’t need a huge file for an e-book. So, I started to add a watermark and he seems to have moved on.
    Generally, there is no respect for copyright on the web. It is a bit of a free-for-all. People steal music and movies all the time. Bloggers use images out of books or magazines without any hesitation.
    Do people go out and buy the latest issue of House Beautiful, after they see the images on some blog? Interesting question! If I was a magazine publisher or magazine photographer, I think I would worry that magazine sales might be effected by such wide proliferation of these images. Obviously they don’t worry, as they never have gone after anyone, that I know of anyway.
    I don’t mind Pinterest because it links back to the source and I have noticed it sending traffic my way. Who can argue with that?

  18. I am so glad I read your post. I actually purchased a watermark, and I dont have the time (or now the interest) to useit. No, I wouldnt be happy to see that someone used my photo as their own, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesnt matter much. Thank you for your thoughtful opinion!

  19. I’ve totally pinned your photos on Pinterest!!! Just so you know, they get repinned more than any of the photos I took myself so I think a lot of people would disagree that you haven’t taken any “Holdy Crap!” photos. Keep up the good work both with the photos and the great blog posts.

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