This Looks Just About Right, Eh?


Imagine someone showing you an image on a screen or print and saying one of the following:

a. This is correct.

b. This looks correct.

c. This is good.

d. This looks good.

Out of those four statements only two are photographic – b. and d. They are the only two that speak of the look of the thing. The other two deal with other aspects of reality – verifiable fact in the case of a. and arguable morality in the case of c. Only one of the statements – a.  – can ever be free from subjectivity. I’ll show you what I mean.

Take the simple case of a colour. Here is a patch of red:


The mechanism of Photoshop Elements 14 says that it is composed of 205 red, 48 blue, and 48 green units and has a certain saturation and brightness expressed in a percentage. Despite what your own screen – computer, tablet or phone – is showing you now, you could go to a similar Adobe product on a calibrated screen and dial in the same numbers and see the same red. It may not be the red of the fire trucks in your town, but it is a verifiable red – you and I can both look at it and say ” This is correct “.

Now – if the screens are not calibrated the same or the numbers are not the same…or if our eyes are not seeing red, blue, and green the same way…we can both say ” This looks correct. ” and be wildly different. We’re both flying by the seat of our optic nerves and who knows where that leads.

Neither of us can say ‘ This is good. “. A block of red colour has nothing to do with goodness, badness, or Dick Smith’s peanut butter empire.

But we can say…if need be…” This looks good. ” as long as we are prepared to admit that we have left out the words ” to me “. If we are honest ( good, if you will…) this will define our vision far more than it defines the image we are commenting on.

That was a simple patch of red on a computer screen. Imagine applying ourselves to criticizing or promoting complex photographic images and then awarding prizes for the best ones. We would be on more stable ground if we bicycled along a razor blade.

And don’t get me started on the question ” Does this block of red make my arse look big? “. I’ve been there and it is not peaceful country…


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