Before enter in a discussion about what is the difference between find and build a perfect photo, I should give you my meaning about what a perfect photo is. In this social networks world an answer could be “the photo with xxxx likes in this or that website”.
I am posting in some website, as a lot of us are doing in these days, but I have a mixed feeling about the result. There are my photos over-evaluated and others under-evaluated.
For the pixel peeper the answer could be “the photo I can magnify xxx % and it is still sharp, without noise and well defined”. This could be a good parameter, but how to define the Robert Capa photos taken at the D-Day landing? (http://www.skylighters.org/photos/photo2.jpg)
I feel, likes are helpful to satisfy our ego, while a sharp photo is a requirement but not the only one. The first criteria to have a perfect photo, I would say a must, it has to give some emotion to the viewer. The photographers is having many different emotions related to it, linked to the moment and place it was taken, but for the viewers the only possible emotion is coming from the frame only. Unfortunately they have nothing else than this to judge it.
A perfect technical photo without showing any emotional impact, it is a good perfect piece of technique you can admire and like but it is not what I would call a perfect photo. It is missing the emotion, the feeling of being part of it the viewer should always had.
How is it possible to have a perfect photo? It is on of the most difficult question to answer in photography. Emotion can come in many different ways, a landscape with astonishing light, a portrait with a deep expression, a well crafted fine art photo and son on … Subject matter more than technique, even if technique is the base but it does not work itself.
The final outcome can be obtained in two ways, find and shoot or shoot and make the perfect photo. What is different is how do you approach the post processing.
Personally I do not like spend too much time in the post processing, I am not good at and I have limited time for it. My way of work is find and shoot it. I’d rather wait for long time or come back to the place, if possible, than make it up with some powerful software. I am not going to discuss what is ethical correct and what it is not. Those are different approaches and they can fit different people or their needs.
The “find” it style, requires more time and patience in the field. Scout the location, find the right subject or wait for it, look for a good composition with all element in the right place, try to understand which light should work at the best in that condition, prepare for the shot and finally take it. Many times happen that not all elements are at the right place and it is required to come back, you are distracted by something and the ideal moment passed, setting is not the perfect fit for the imagine. Technique is important but it does not work alone. All these facts, and more than these, can impact the final result and you could be forced to wait or come back again.
The “build” it style, requires less time in the field but more time in the light room. Find the subject is a key point anyway, but composition wise or light wise the approach can be less time consuming. If some elements are not fitting for the imagine, they can be replaced in the post processing. Classical example could be distraction element like people passing by, trees or cars and so on. The light is not the best but you can always replace it with something from a another photo. Room for distraction or post improvement are higher. in this case invest time to understand what post process software can do for you and learn how to do it.
As a final word on this post, you can go in either ways or find a mix between them but emotion has to be there and technique. Post processing, gears can help you to get there, but they are not assuring you the final result. Your eye and your experience are what will make your photo step out from the mass The emotion can be adjusted through the process but your photographer mindset and view is what guide you to have a perfect photos. There are many ways to train it, a new idea for a blog?. My piece of advise is to go out and shoot, this is the most valuable training.