If I Were You….

Stephanie 5

If I Were You….!

I don’t know how widespread this phrase is but I can remember hearing it for most of my life. You know…”If I were you, I would tell her(him)…”…”If I were you, I wouldn’t think any more about it”…etc, etc,.
Recently, I’m afraid, it has ‘rubbed me the wrong way’.  This would be in relation to the critiquing of others’ ‘works’…be they artistic, relational, or otherwise.

What brought this up is related to the picture above which was actually shown here back in 2011, as part of a post on “Specialties”.

I posted this shot on a photography forum and found that some seem to think it is their ‘job’ to ‘correct’ the works of others.  I heard, “If I were you, I would have cropped it in a more traditional portrait crop so that the girl is placed in the center…”  “If I were you, I would have had the subject look towards the camera.”…. “If I were you……etc.”

This photo may not be to everyone’s liking or tastes, and I can live with that,  but I can say that it is EXACTLY the way I wanted it.  I didn’t crop in tighter because the place…the location…the setting…is as important to the emotion portrayed as the person is. The gaussian blur was used to give it a dreamlike quality.

(This image was used in a book and, granted, it WAS cropped differently than my original and shown in color, but it fit the format better and Hey!….they were paying the bills! :))

I have also seen occasions where a viewer would download someone else’s image, ‘retouch’ it and then upload again, as if to say (or sometimes actually saying), “Here’s the way it should be done!”  Now, granted, it’s different if someone is asking for help or critique, but to assume that you have a better idea of what is in someone’s mind and vision…??  Sorry…I don’t care much for that! That is one reason I have always been hesitant to ‘review’ another photographer’s  portfolio.  Who am I to say, “This is good”…”This is bad”   I might offer, “This strikes me as….”  and offer an explanation of why and how it ‘strikes’ me, but, Who am I to say,

“If I were you…”?

I have now developed a pat answer to this remark.  When someone says, “If I were you….” I stop them and say, “If you were me, you would have done it exactly the way I did! ”  This is not to say that I don’t accept criticism well, I just think there might be a better way of phrasing it.

For instance… the following portrait was shot as we were walking away from another ‘set’.  I just happened to turn around and saw the highlights that were made by the setting sun through Kate’s red hair.  Turn around, snap….not even certain that the camera had time to focus…

4x5 Kate
Upon showing it, I heard immediately, “If I were you, I would have taken one step to the side to keep that column from coming out of her head.”  The one step that I ‘should’ have taken would have only allowed me to totally miss the shot, the expression and the beautiful back-light.  Honestly, I had not even noticed the column as a distraction, possibly because I was concentrating on the face and hair OR possibly because I knew where I was and the abundance of columns, to me, was a given architectural element.

Either way, it was a particular moment in time and all moments are perfect for what they are.

I did, however, remove the column and light fixture in post-production.

4x5 New Kate

A little cleaner…? Sure…Better? Quite possibly… So, I guess in this case, if the critic ‘were me’ he would have gotten the shot that presented itself and been willing to spend some time at the computer ‘cleaning’ it.

In the forum I mentioned above related to the opening image, I did get a response that made me realize that someone ‘got it’ while also adding their views….without the “If I were you…”

He said, “I may not explain this very well but here goes. Have you ever had an awe inspiring moment when you saw something and your brain blocked out everything but the thing you were looking at? When I clicked on this (i have a 24” monitor so I got the full image) I was drawn to the woman’s hat and followed down to the end of the umbrella. She is really glowing! This is like a capture of one of those moments. Sure – after analyzing the image I can see where other highlights have been drastically reduced and the focus is not “real”. And yes, if I crop it down to a square at the bottom I can see the more standard formal response to the image. But I don’t know if I would have had the same experience I just had when this popped on my screen.”

Next time someone offers the unsolicited “If I were you…”

(Particularly as it relates to an act that is already done and gone…)

Remember that they are NOT you and they have no idea what it is like to be you…what you see, what you feel, what you fear, what you hope for, what you express…What your unique vision is in regards to art, music,  relationships, jobs, child-rearing, politics, …on and on…

Sorry for the rant……!


~ by rkpowers on October 7, 2013.

12 Responses to “If I Were You….”

  1. soo pretty!


  2. Sorry Randy, I think you have every right to “rant”. Being a “photography laymen” (if I could even call myself that…I would be more of a photography moron), I never even noticed the column and fixture until you removed them from the original. I just thought it was a beautiful women in a beautiful setting.


    • Thanks, Steve. (Most of all, I appreciate that you read all the way through, or you wouldn’t have picked up on the ‘rant’ comment) 😉 It’s not so much whether an image is viewed by a ‘layman’, or a so-called expert. My goal is first to capture images that appeal to me, or else why raise the camera, but secondly…and a very close second, is to present an image occasionally that on first ‘reading’ defies…or better…supersedes… critique or second guessing. I have found that there are many people who feel compelled to second guess or take apart everything…at least everything that someone else does. I think we all see or hear it in every facet of life.

      BTW…I guess that makes me a ‘photography moron’ also, because I’m with you….I never even noticed the ‘mistake’ that caused some to miss the rest of the image.


  3. I love both shots RP!


  4. Looks like a “Somewhere in Time” weekend at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Two beautiful shots taken in a beautiful place. All the photos in your collection on the website are superb, and I especially like a certain few — of the Windermere, the Grand, and Round Island Light (my favorite). Keep up the good work!


    • Thanks, Pam. You’re right. Both were from a Somewhere in Time Weekend. Kate, the redhead, is actually Jane Seymour’s daughter and was wearing the dress that Jane wore in the movie.


  5. “If I were you…” I’d have written my rant exactly like you did. My favorite line is…
    Remember that they are NOT you and they have no idea what it is like to be you…what you see, what you feel, what you fear, what you hope for, what you express…What your unique vision is in regards to art, music, relationships, jobs, child-rearing, politics, …on and on…
    You are truly a wonder Brother Powers. I admire you and your work, greatly.


  6. http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/70140911?strkid=1595776109_0_0&trkid=222336&movieid=70140911


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