Is It Better Now? Or Better Now?

Is It Better Now? Or Better Now?

March 6, 2013  |  Personal, Photography craft


I’ll start with a little story, and then circle back to my point. I do have one, I promise.

I got my first pair of glasses when I was eighteen months old. I’m told my right eye was crossed and weak and I was letting my stronger left eye do all the work. There were periods when they patched my left eye to encourage me to use the right one, and then surgery. I spent my third birthday in the hospital for that, and I remember bits of the experience. That went a long way toward fixing things, but I still had to wear glasses. I can’t say I loved them. Those elementary school pictures are still a little painful. :-)

But I loved my eye doctor. I remember him as kind and patient and calm. Dr. Denny wasn’t a pediatric eye doctor. I don’t think they had those in the 1950s. But he was creative and found a way to help me read the eye chart before I could really read, using only the letter “E”. “Which way is it pointing? Up or down? Toward the window or toward the wall?” I’m probably embellishing the memories a little (hindsight isn’t always 20/20, you know), but my lasting impression is that he always treated me with respect. Like a person, not a child. I think we had conversations.

And I remember that big, cold, black machine. I’d lean my forehead on it and feel it pinch my nose. Then I’d hear the flip/clunk as one lens after another fell into place. In another office, with a different doctor, that machine might have been scary. In Dr. Denny’s office I just found it interesting. We were solving a mystery together, and my input was crucial. Over and over again, his calm soothing voice would ask “Is it better now? (flip/clunk) Or better now?”

Those words have stayed with me. I find myself saying them (In my head. Mostly. I hope.) whenever I’m puzzling over comparisons.

In photography, those comparisons are often between processing an image in color or black and white. Sometimes I don’t see a choice. The top image, for instance, needs to be in color, I think. It’s the pop of yellow in the road sign that makes this image strong for me. It just wouldn’t be the same in shades of gray.

But other times, I can’t decide. So I’ll ask you.

Is it better now?


Or better now?



  1. I love the story in this post and how you set it up to ask us our opinion. You really are the complete package, Dorothy. As for which image is “better”, I am connecting much more with the black and white. I think it has to do with the higher contrast between the tree and the building behind it in the B&W image. There is more visual tension there that draws me into the image and makes me wonder what lies beyond. Hope that makes sense.

    • Thanks, Sabrina. I think perhaps “is it better?” is not a fair, or complete, question. Better for what? It all comes down to intention, doesn’t it? What story am I trying to tell? I like the drama of the black and white image too, and I hope it would elicit feelings of suspense, maybe even dread. The warmth and brightness of the color image tells me a different, happier story.

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