Bob Shell: Good Enough


fashion photography by the legend Tony Ward
Photo: Tony Ward. Model photographed with Canon 100D. Copyright 2022.

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2022


Good Enough


A friend wrote me with a technical photography question. He wanted to know if a raw file from a native 6 megapixel sensor would have better quality than a file from a larger sensor converted to a 6 megapixel JPEG image. I answered in part:

On the photography question, simple answer — I don’t know. 

My late friend Fred Picker, one of the finest photographers I’ve known used to get a lot of ‘what happens if I do this?’ questions. 

He had a big rubber stamp made. It said, “TRY IT!” He’d stamp it on the letter in red ink and mail it back. 

Without being able to actually take Fred’s advice, I’d guess the raw file would be better. My Canon EOS 10D was only 6 megapixels, but I was able to make great 13 X 17 prints suitable for gallery sale from it. Seems to me these cameras with massive pixel counts mostly serve to fill up storage space on your computer system unless you’re shooting for Times Square billboards.. I had very good results upsizing my files with Genuine Fractals software. I believe I heard they were bought by Adobe and folded into Photoshop. 

Like anything else, it all depends on what you’re doing with the photo. The last book I did before being convicted was ‘The Complete Idiots Guide: Massage Illustrated.’ I shot a couple hundred photos for the book illustrating massage techniques with a couple of models. The book measures about 8 X 10 inches. The biggest photo is about half page size. I shot it all with the Canon EOS10D, 6 megapixel. Shot all as high quality JPEG. Converted to B&W and tweaked contrast a bit in Photoshop. A camera with higher pixel count — bigger files — would have just slowed down the workflow. 

I’d done three books before for Penguin, the world’s largest publisher, so they trusted me to deliver quality on time.

My agent called me, “Can you write a book on massage therapy for Penguin, shoot all the photos, and create a one-hour DVD to go with the book?” 

“Sure, I’ll write/photograph anything for them!” was my answer. 

That was some project! I needed a Certified Massage Therapist as coauthor for credibility. My old friend and former model Viictoria Jordan Stone was one, so I hired her to be my coauthor on the book. I had to shoot the still photos and video for the DVD at the same time due to budget limitations; I could only afford the two models, both of whom were professional massage therapists, for one day. Very hectic day! 

The folks at Penguin in NYC liked my work, had me do four books for them until my conviction shut my life down. I’d probably have done a dozen by now. Anyway, high pixel count would have actually been in the way for those books. No photo was run full page. 

Back in the late ’80s I was up in Maine with a group of photographers at Acadia National Park. Beautiful place! I noticed that George Lepp, a very prominent wildlife photographer, was shooting with the cheaper Canon 100 – 200 zoom. We were talking and I asked him why he wasn’t using the L-Series version, which was much better optically. He said, “I use it because it’s good enough.” I took George’s comment to heart. Most of my photos were made with cheaper lenses, Canon’s lower priced versions, Vivitar (made by Cosina), Sigma. I tested them, and if they were ‘good enough,’ I used them. 

Most amateur photographers get equipment obsessed, forget that all that really matters in the end is if the final image is ‘good enough.’


About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell related to UFO’s, click here:

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