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bfaye
Seriously Hooked

USA
721 Posts

Posted - 10/06/2004 :  10:53:26 PM  Show Profile  Visit bfaye's Homepage Send bfaye a Private Message
I just received my copy of ScarfStyle by Pam Allen and while it is a beautiful book, I am frustrated by what I perceive as form over function issues with IK. Here's what I sent their editoral staff:

I am a subscriber to Interweave Knits and after purchasing ScarfStyle, I feel compelled to address what I perceive as an ever-worsening problem with your publications. Many of the photographs in your publications are out of focus and do not allow adequate viewing of the projects. I am a photographer and have owned a film production company since 1975. I am a film producer and have worked on numerous national and international projects. I understand that locations, lighting, set dressing, and props are an integral part of creating an interesting, fresh look for creative photographs. I also understand depth of field and focus. The primary objective of any photograph is to communicate the purpose of the photo. If the purpose of the photo is to create art on film, fine. If the purpose of the photo is to display the project to be knitted from the pattern, then the object should be clear enough to see the project. Case in point: Gibson Girl Pullover from IK Summer 2004. Apparently, either through design or ineptitude, your photographer was unable to get the pullover in focus. While you may be looking for an effect, what is achieved is frustration for knitters who want to see what the project looks like, not an artificial artsy version of the project. If I want to view art, I go to an art museum. If I want to see what a finished project looks like, I expect an in-focus photograph.

I purchased the book, ScarfStyle, and I was very disappointed with the photographs. While you attempted to compensate for the out of focus pictures by inserting smaller pictures of the projects, I find that unsatisfactory. What I came away with was a pretentious, art for art's sake approach to the photography. I heard several people in a local yarn shop discussing the same complaints about your photos in this book. All of these knitters cannot be wrong about what they want from a knitting book. The first rule of reaching an audience, whether on television or print, is to deliver an understandable message, whether that message be visual or printed. I understand that you want to communicate movement and excitement with your photographs but perhaps you should remember that the main photograph should be one that the audience you seek to serve finds useful. Out of focus does not automatically transfer to creativity. What you and your photographers and editors find boring does not mean that your readers find it boring.


Maybe I came on a little strong because while I do like the projects, the whole book seems to be trying too hard to be creative. Let the creativity of the projects stand alone. If they are up to it, they will survive the scrutiny in focus.

Am I alone in this? Thoughts?

tipper
Gabber Extraordinaire

364 Posts

Posted - 10/06/2004 :  11:38:32 PM  Show Profile  Visit tipper's Homepage Send tipper a Private Message
I think the out-of-focus issue would've been less of one had they more artfully arranged the scarves first. There are far too many times when I'm trying to squint (what good does that do, Tipper?) to figure out the detail in the blurry bits. Let us see what we want/need to see; THEN do your artsy stuff.

So, I agree. I totally love the book otherwise, though.



http://www.plasticsoul.org/blog - Daily Fiber Therapy

http://scarfstyle.blogspot.com - Scarf Style Knit-Along
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Wen
Permanent Resident

Australia
3244 Posts

Posted - 10/07/2004 :  02:48:09 AM  Show Profile  Visit Wen's Homepage Send Wen a Private Message
Well done, there is an increase in all types of fashion photography to forget the audience and create 'art' that is pleasing to the photographer. The worst examples I have seen are in fashion catalogues where you see an inch of cloth and there is a full description of a $500 garment that the model is supposedly wearing.

What's the point of a photograph if it doesn't show anything. A picture is only worth 1000 words if it clearly shows its subject.

Wen

2004 stats: 20 FO, 7 WIP, 27 wool purchased, 4 frogpond.
http://photos.yahoo.com/whdayus
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plath
Gabber Extraordinaire

460 Posts

Posted - 10/07/2004 :  05:03:45 AM  Show Profile  Visit plath's Homepage Send plath a Private Message
I thought the pictures in Hot Knits were weirdly blurry, too. I haven't checked out Scarf Style yet.

http://www.plath.blogspot.com
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rorosity@aol.com
Seriously Hooked

696 Posts

Posted - 10/07/2004 :  05:50:14 AM  Show Profile Send rorosity@aol.com a Private Message
I didn't notice the photo problem in the book, but I do agree that better, clearer photos are needed in most knitting books. I just sent an e-mail to Debbie Bliss regarding this problem in her Alpaca Silk book. There is a sweater in the book that I would like to knit, but I am having a hard time seeing the full design, because the model is sitting in a reclining position and the photo is taken from the side. I love the cool, artsy photos, but I would like alternate, additional photos of each product taken from the front and back of each garment.

Jeannine

http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/rorosity/my_photos

Destashing - For Sale:
http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/rorosity/album?.dir=/cb32
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klfrazier
Permanent Resident

1745 Posts

Posted - 10/07/2004 :  06:05:43 AM  Show Profile  Visit klfrazier's Homepage Send klfrazier a Private Message
The problem with IK's photos has been noticed by many, many knitters. Not only do they have a tendancy to do artsy shots that are slightly off focus, but many of their photos are also shot too dark. I hadn't noticed the problem with the book, but then again I haven't seriously sat down with it with an intention to make anything from it.

I hope that someone responds to your letter. It was well written, and as you are from the industry it should get a bit more notice.

Kristin
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bfaye
Seriously Hooked

USA
721 Posts

Posted - 10/07/2004 :  06:42:26 AM  Show Profile  Visit bfaye's Homepage Send bfaye a Private Message
Good Morning All,

I received an email from Pam Allen this morning. I am very pleased that she responded as I did not expect one and I am relieved that we can look for clearer pictures from IK in the future.

Here's Pam's letter:

Dear Benne,



Point very much taken. We are very aware of the blurriness in a number of the photos we’ve used in Knits over the past year and please believe that these images were not our attempt at artiness. In both cases, our photographers had just switched from film to digital cameras and were in the throes of learning how to work with a new technology. The photos in the magazine were made worse by our trying to crop them in ways we were used to doing with film images. Apparently, without our knowing it until it was too late to do anything about it, the images lost there integrity when we zoomed in. This was especially true of the photo you call attention to—the Gibson Girl Pullover.



Over the past year, we’ve struggled to find ways to work with the limitations of digital technology: our photographer has upgraded his camera and done extensive research on working with digital images, and we’re more careful now at the design end with how we manipulate his images. As for Scarf Style, the photographer we used for that book had just recently switched over to digital as well. And she isn’t a knitter and wasn’t familiar with the criteria for a good ‘technical’ photo. She too has worked to figure out how to adapt her ‘film’ eye to digital. We’re currently working on a book of wraps and ponchos and yesterday the photographer and I had a lengthy conversation on the focus problem. At this point, she’s well aware of our needs and she’s now at home with her equipment



All of the above is to say that we apologize for the lousy focus in many of the images in our magazine in the last few issues, and in Scarf Style, and we hope that you won’t hold them against us. We’re working hard to make our photos interesting—and, yes, somewhat ‘arty’—without losing sight of their main purpose: To show the reader/knitter a clear picture of what it is they want to make.



Please take a look at upcoming issues with your same critical eye and let us know if we’re doing better. I’d very much appreciate hearing from you again.



Sincerely,

Pam Allen

Editor

Interweave Knits


Thanks to all of you for your replies. I truly wanted to know if I was overreacting to an issue to which I am particularly sensitive. I am rather new here on the forum and this is the first topic I have posted so I haven't quite figured out all of the features of posting messages. In particular, I don't know how to take quotes and place them in my posts so I have a learning curve to deal with too.

The best part of all of this is you will be able to quit squinting Tipper! Rorosity, did you get a repy from Debbie Bliss? Perhaps input from those of us who actually pay for these publications will have an effect.

bfaye

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purlewe
Permanent Resident

1921 Posts

Posted - 10/07/2004 :  06:54:10 AM  Show Profile  Visit purlewe's Homepage Send purlewe a Private Message
As a fellow photogrpaher I can also agree with you. The summer 2004 issue was the worst. I thought it was just my own eye and personal take on that issue. I am glad to see that I am not the only one. Kudos to you for writing such a concise letter and gettign sucha good response. I look forward to "looking" at the future issues of IK.

My mother is insisting I swtich over to digital photography and I often tell her it just isn't the same. Perhaps I can use this letter to point out the problems that digital photogrpahy can make. But then of course she is using the top of the line digital camera and I am not. :)

Cats always feel underestimated, underappreciated and underfed. ~Jon Carroll

http://www.livejournal.com/users/purlewe/
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Schleppenheimer
Seriously Hooked

USA
627 Posts

Posted - 10/07/2004 :  07:00:13 AM  Show Profile Send Schleppenheimer a Private Message
I'm very impressed by the letter that Pam Allen wrote back to you, bfaye. Your original letter had extremely justifiable questions that many of us have about the quality and setting of photos that don't give us a good idea of what the knitting project really looks like. Not only did Pam's response explain the "why" of the out-of-focus photos, but she invited you to keep an eye on the integrity of future photos. That's really a classy way to respond.

Kris
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Dagny
Chatty Knitter

USA
178 Posts

Posted - 10/07/2004 :  07:55:11 AM  Show Profile  Visit Dagny's Homepage Send Dagny a Private Message
"In both cases, our photographers had just switched from film to digital cameras and were in the throes of learning how to work with a new technology."

Bull. My dad in law is a photographer, and the PPA and all the local offshots have been pushing digital for years... if they are just now switching, them they are far behind everyone else in the country! Furthermore, almost all the labs now have digital sections, and the bigger labs have actually closed their film sections down to just a few people. Weddings and schools and groups are being done on digital, and have been for years. Just another excuse to write off a bad attempt at "art". (can you tell I used to live over an Art Gallery? Kind of spoiled me as to what really is artwork.... and soft focus was the rage back in the '70s, we have much better cameras now!)

Dagny in Maine

yarn blog
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anderknit
Permanent Resident

USA
2604 Posts

Posted - 10/07/2004 :  08:15:26 AM  Show Profile Send anderknit a Private Message
Bull or not, I am impressed that IK (Pam Allen) took the time to respnd to your letter, made the commitment to improve the quality of IK's photography, and invited us to keep them on their toes.

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.' "
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GFTC
Permanent Resident

USA
6331 Posts

Posted - 10/07/2004 :  08:29:04 AM  Show Profile  Visit GFTC's Homepage Send GFTC a Private Message
Very nice that she responded as she did but get real - on the job training at a magazine and with an about to be published book? Why on earth would you allow a photographer to practice "the new technology" on your magazine and book? Not only that, but if the photog did not have a "technical eye" for knitting, why was there not someone from the magazine/book to guide her? Every photo shoot I have ever been to for magazines involves endless on the spot polaroids or instant digital pix to test look and lighting throughout the shoot.
Pam Allen should be glad she already has the job and is not on "The Apprentice" or Donald Trump might have something to say.
She should stick to the advice "never complain, never explain" because her explanation did not enhance her skills of judgement and made the whole operation sound totally unprofessional.
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Lissa
Permanent Resident

USA
4942 Posts

Posted - 10/07/2004 :  08:30:31 AM  Show Profile  Visit Lissa's Homepage Send Lissa a Private Message
I'm also concerned about the "photogs didn't know what we wanted from the pic" statement. HUH??? You didn't have an art director at the shoot???? And, with digital, you have LESS chance of not getting what you want, because you can see the pic immediately, and reshoot if they're off. Sounds like they need to get a better grip on managing the production process...

Lissa

Hey - I MEANT to do that!
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PamS
Seriously Hooked

USA
943 Posts

Posted - 10/07/2004 :  10:06:34 AM  Show Profile Send PamS a Private Message
First, I agree with all that's been said on this thread, save Pam Allen's actual response. And, bfaye, as an editor, I was impressed with the quality of your letter and the manner in which you expressed your complaint.

I can understand to a certain, limited degree, in having a few photos in a magazine not up to snuff, but really, for a book? That's inexcusable. How do you publish a book with shoddy photographs when that's what readers see first? It makes me think twice about purchasing any books published by Interweave in the future without careful scrutiny. And, I always thought that digital photography gave you clear, more precise pictures. What about all that software out there to manipulate the photos?

I also think that publishers try to make any excuse they can to explain away less than up to par product. But, that's another issue.

Nice work bfaye!

--PamS
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Wovenflame
Seriously Hooked

Canada
812 Posts

Posted - 10/07/2004 :  12:34:12 PM  Show Profile  Visit Wovenflame's Homepage Send Wovenflame a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by PamS
And, I always thought that digital photography gave you clear, more precise pictures. What about all that software out there to manipulate the photos?


As a "novice" digital photographer, let me tell you that there should be NO reason for a book or magazine to publish out of focus pictures. Even a modest, middle of the road, digital camera can do the focussing for you. My modestly priced model has on view-screen indicators that light up when it is in focus. Even if you have a few slip by unfocussed there is NO excuse for including them in your final "print".

I can quickly take a dozen different pictures of the same knitted item using different lighting, backgrounds and camera settings and then go to my computer, weed out all but the best, crop the remainder and have them up on my blog in 30 minutes or less. I would HOPE that a professional photographer working for a publisher takes more time than that!!

I have perfectly clear CLOSE-UP pictures of butterflies and dragonflies that I took within a few weeks of purchasing my camera......when I hadn't even had time to read through the entire manual. Untrained camera people?! Ppfff, what reckless publishing!

-Marlene-
Come visit me at:http://wovenflame.blogspot.com/
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bfaye
Seriously Hooked

USA
721 Posts

Posted - 10/07/2004 :  2:34:36 PM  Show Profile  Visit bfaye's Homepage Send bfaye a Private Message
Thanks everyone for your input. I must agree I was taken aback by the explantation given by Pam Allen for the lack of quality in the photographs. I know that if we, as a company, had produced our projects with the lack of professionalism shown in these photos we would have been out of business very quickly. It appears the entire production process could use some close examination.

A major complaint by professional cinematographers and photographers about the digitial format is that it is too crisp with everything under the sun in focus in the shot, limiting artistic license for out of focus backgrounds, special effects and lighting effects. A film feel can be achieved in the digital process but it takes a professional. The business world of photography and film production is very specialized with directors, cinematographers, and photographers and digital artists who generally specialize in certain aspects of production. For example, a beauty/fashion photographer is not usually hired to shoot landscapes, etc.

It will be interesting to see how well these issues are addressed in forthcoming publications. I too, will carefully examine any knitting books before purchase.

bfaye
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SusanT
Seriously Hooked

950 Posts

Posted - 10/07/2004 :  2:43:28 PM  Show Profile Send SusanT a Private Message
I can stand a bit of artfulness in the photo as long as there's a good schematic. They're so wonderfully useful. Why don't all designers include them in their patterns?
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Cameellie
Honorary Angel

USA
900 Posts

Posted - 10/07/2004 :  2:59:43 PM  Show Profile  Visit Cameellie's Homepage Send Cameellie a Private Message
In the book Hot Knits, the cover sweater is photographed so that you never see the true neckline or even the body of the sweater. It looks cute, but there is no way to be sure.

Cameellie
Remember, everybody is somebody else's weirdo.
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JulieB
Gabber Extraordinaire

Australia
521 Posts

Posted - 10/08/2004 :  02:21:29 AM  Show Profile  Visit JulieB's Homepage Send JulieB a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Wovenflame

quote:
Originally posted by PamS
And, I always thought that digital photography gave you clear, more precise pictures. What about all that software out there to manipulate the photos?


I can quickly take a dozen different pictures of the same knitted item using different lighting, backgrounds and camera settings and then go to my computer, weed out all but the best, crop the remainder and have them up on my blog in 30 minutes or less. I would HOPE that a professional photographer working for a publisher takes more time than that!!



There's a huge difference between the quality required to get a good picture on a computer screen (around 70ish dots per inch I think), and a good picture on paper (around 300-600 dpi). I can have fabulous looking digital pics on screen, but they're crap when printed on photo-quality paper.

I completely agree with those who said that letting someone "practice" digital photography on a real publication is very poor planning. My DBF is a hobbiest photographer and takes dreadful digital photos (something about not being able to accurately control the focus or something). There's no way I'd let anyone who hadn't done a *lot* of digital work before anywhere near a book! There are many technical issues that really should be sorted out before letting work like that out in public.

Julie.
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cat.k.
Chatty Knitter

USA
292 Posts

Posted - 10/08/2004 :  04:35:41 AM  Show Profile Send cat.k. a Private Message
Jeannine, I agree with you on many of Debbie Bliss's patterns. I have a couple of her earlier books with kids' clothes, and on plenty of patterns, you really can't even tell what the sweater looks like.

And there's no drawing or schematic to help you out.

But I didn't seem to have this problem with Pam Allen's book. And her reply was very gracious, I thought. It's hard not to get defensive in response to a complaint, even a very just one.

Cat
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virtualpurl
Gabber Extraordinaire

409 Posts

Posted - 10/08/2004 :  07:22:45 AM  Show Profile Send virtualpurl a Private Message
I found the fuzziness in Scarf Style odd -- I thought it was a design choice -- but it didn't annoy me because there were clear closeups that told me what I wanted to know. I don't know enough to judge the plausibility of the explanation. But I've been involved in writing books and I know that sometimes at the end, you may feel forced to let things go that really should have been fixed. (In my case, it was the thinking that was out of focus, not the art.) Pam Allen edits a magazine I like a lot, and one that communicates respect for its readers, so I'd give her the benefit of the doubt. (Guess it's the sisterhood of the glass house.)
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