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Posts in philosophy
How to win friends and influence people

The principles of this age-old book are still as relevant as ever. Excellent rules for life. 

1. Don't criticise, condemn or complain.
2. Give honest, sincere appreciation.
3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.
4. Become genuinely interested in other people.
5. Smile.
6. Remember that a person's name is to that person the most important sound in any language.
7. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
8. Talk in terms of the other person's interest.
9. Make the other person feel important - and do so sincerely.
10 The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.

11. Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never say, 'You're wrong'
12. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
13. Begin in a friendly way.
14. Get the other person saying, 'Yes, yes' immediately.
15. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
16. Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
17. Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.
18. Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires.
19. Appeal to the nobler motives.
20. Dramatise your ideas.

21. Throw down a challenge.
22. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
23. Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly.
24. Talk about your own mistakes before criticising the other person.
25. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
26. Let the other person save face.
27. Praise the slightest and every improvement. Be 'lavish in your praise.'
28. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
29. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
30. Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

None of that is obsolete. And it's not about being fake - be genuine in your relationships with others. 

Your first 10,000 photos are your worst

"Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst"
- Henri Cartier-Bresson

I was looking through my collection the other day and noticed that with every passing year I take almost exponentially more photographs. It reminded me that this is one of the most important things that I - and you - can do. More.

Cartier-Bresson stated the above before the advent of digital cameras, so perhaps it should be 100,000 now. Malcolm Gladwell the Canadian journalist in 2008 coined the '10,000-hour rule', and reckons that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of repetition and practice for a total of around 10,000 hours. And although he wasn't talking about photography, Ira Glass was right when he said you've got to get rid of a lot of crap before you're going to get anything that's special.

With your 10,000 hours comes technical mastery. One of the most important things about this, is that it gradually frees you from worrying about f-stops, focus points and exposure compensation, so your right brain can concentrate on the real job at hand of working your creativity.

Compositional 'rules', tips from experts and Photoshop plug-ins can help, but understand for sure there are no shortcuts. Shortcuts not only don't work, they waste your time recovering from their failed promises and realising you have to just get back to the grindstone.

There's no point hanging around waiting for the lightning strike of inspiration either. Waiting for the muse to appear is a romantic notion and most creative people will tell you that you just have to get on with job and she will eventually join you. All the best ideas come out of the process.

Whatever your creative interest, just make sure you prioritise one important rule: do more of it!

Predictable beauty - or in the eye of the beholder?

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder"

Is it really? What do we understand by this statement? Presumably that we all possess different standards or interpretations of beauty. And that which one person considers beautiful will not predictably apply to another. On the surface this seems reasonable, but after deeper consideration of the evidence we find that it actually isn't true.

In terms of facial beauty, psychology research has shown us that there is wide agreement across cultures about who is beautiful. Interestingly, none of the studies found exposure to western media to have any influence on perceptions of beauty. It has been found that babies as young as only a few months old gaze preferentially, and for longer, at faces judged by adults as attractive as compared to those who are aren't.

Divine Proportions

Many believe that beauty is strongly related to facial proportions that conform to a shape as described by Divine Proportions or the Golden Ratio of 1.618.  Dr. Stephen Marquardt was one of the researchers who not only studied cross-cultural human beauty but also incorporates the principles of his research of the Golden Ratio into his maxillofacial surgery practice. He has developed a series of mathematical masks which can reliably predict human beauty and be utilised for aesthetic dentistry and surgery.

Coming to the image at the top of the page and discussion about predictable beauty, it came as no surprise to me that when I shared this on the internet it was received favourably. I have many other photos that I personally prefer, which received much less (and in many cases no) attention. Interestingly, one of my most popular photographs in the years I've posted on social media is of two horse riders at a beach in New Zealand (below)

If you are looking for other photographic features that conform to universal standards of beauty to include in your images, these will include:

  • saturated colours rather than dull
  • bright images as opposed to dark and underexposed
  • high contrast not flat
  • broad but directional lighting
  • beauty in nature - sunsets, hillsides, seascapes and long white beaches. We prefer sun rather than it's absence, images that depict warm weather, blue skies and scenes void of pollution or human spoiling of nature. These subjects often have the added benefit of inducing a 'pleasurable memory' from holidays in our lives.

Not to say these are fixed rules and there is no room for individual aesthetic taste - they are broad generalisations - you only need to look at Flickr Explore for proof of these styles however.

Compositional influence

One of the most important skills we must develop as a photographer is the ability to not only view and enjoy the images other people make, but to critically read them and think about why they work (or don't work) from an emotional and compositional point of view. Learning from this we can then apply these principles to improve our own art.

Compositionally, the image at the top of the page has foreground, mid-frame and background points of interest because I chose a wide angle lens. Wide lenses exaggerate distance and reinforce depth in an image. Compare this for example to the other horse riding image above in which composition is flattened by use of a telephoto lens. Not to say that one is right and the other is wrong - it's just an artistic choice you have to actively consider when you choose your focal length and look through the viewfinder.

In photography we utilise the Golden Ratio, although it is more widely known as the 'rule of thirds'. In general an image is considered more compositionally balanced if we place important subjects on a line that divides the image into thirds - along either the horizontal or vertical axes. In my two-horse image above the midpoint of the horses is at approximately the 1/3 from right edge horizontally. I also placed them on the right side of the frame so they have photographic space ahead of the direction they are running. Placing a subject moving or facing the frame edge tends to create an unsettling tension rather than balance. This tension can be used to create interest if done with care - in this photograph for example, the subject's gaze out of the frame makes us wonder what she is looking at, holding our attention for longer than if she were looking directly at the camera or camera right.

I took several other frames at the time of the sunrise image and have included two of them below (and the original to save scrolling).

Original image

Original image

The importance of visual weight

The first shows both Hannah and the horse aligned on their 1/3 lines - so why isn't it as pleasing from a compositional point of view? The relative size of Hannah in the foreground has much more visual weight than the beach walker in the mid-frame, so the image feels centre-heavy. A relatively dominant subject on the left foreground of the frame requires more space to the right to achieve a satisfying compositional balance. Visual weight isn't just about size, but more about what draws the eye. The human form has great visual weight, as do larger objects and those that are colourful and/or brighter.

Hannah and walker on 1/3 lines of frame

Hannah and walker on 1/3 lines of frame

Another frame below shows a different layout. Some may prefer this to the original image and although I think framing the horse more to the right leads to greater compositional balance, I preferred the position of the horses legs captured above. Also, the foreground sticks below the horse are a bit more distracting in the image below. Of course I could use Photoshop to exchange the horse from above and remove the sticks, but that would be cheating...!

The differences are small, but perhaps better appreciated in the larger versions when you click them.

A more balanced composition?

A more balanced composition?