Dunning Kruger effect and photography

After yet another post from someone vastly overestimating their abilities, I thought it was time to remind people of the Dunning Kruger effect and it’s impact on photography. The post in question came from someone who was complaining about the performance of the Tamron 28-75mm and The Sigma Art 24mm and indicating how they needed to get the 24mm G Master and a 16-35mm G Master.

Notwithstanding the difference in focal lengths between the 16-35mm and the 28-75mm which would make the choice somewhat surprising, the person in question had skill levels that would put in a category of bridging beginner to intermediate, possibly still maintaining the beginner badge depending on how you measure them. To me, anyone who is still posting over-processed HDR style pictures that involved dragging the shadow slider to max and highlights slider to max still falls into that category.

When I asked some questions about it. He proceeded to post some B Grade lingerie photos along with some mediocre portraits, all of which clearly showed he lacked basic portrait skills but had an overly inflated perspective of his skills. Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert, I am a decent intermediate, but when I can spot glaring basic errors in someone’s portrait photography, they should be concerned. If an intermediate is spotting basic errors, you’re firmly in the beginners or early intermediate camp.

Now, before we go further, let’s consider what he was complaining about and what he was comparing it to. If the person in question was comparing a Tamron 28-75 to the 16-35 G Master, although he should have been comparing it to the 24-70. If he indicated the focal length was a problem, I could have accepted that, but he didn’t. He was concerned about image quality and image quality is where the Tamron excels. Centre sharpness is comparable to the G Master. Edge sharpness is marginally worse, but pushing a lens to the limits where the edge sharpness would have a considerable impact to your photos would take a fairly good photographer, not just an advanced photographer, but a very good one at that, which he isn’t unless he is faking being a beginner.

How does this tie into the Dunning Kruger effect? Well, the Dunning Kruger effect is the following:


What it means is that very early on in your photography learning curve, you have a vastly exaggerated perspective of how good you are, and over a period of time, that declines as you start to realise how much there is to learn about photography. On the other end of the spectrum, people get imposters syndrome where they don’t actually realise how good they are, so they actually underestimate it and view themselves as worse than they actually are. My guess is Mr Tamron hater is somewhere firmly at the top of that graph on the far left.

Now his position isn’t unusual. Its a case of what you know, what you know you don’t know, and what you don’t know you don’t know. His problem is that there is a lot he doesn’t know that he doesn’t know and a lot of people fall into that camp. The important thing is to recognise where you are because that means you are on the path downwards, which in turn means you are getting better.

If you want a nice video on the Dunning Kruger effect. I’d recommend this video:

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