Photography and digital editing

There seems to be a large number of photographers who object to the use of Photoshop and the like to adjust photographic images. There are clubs where such practices are banned for competition submission. Given that RAW images require a little post-processing to be usable (and not everyone is happy for this post processing to be carried out by the the computer in their cameras against broad-brush preference settings for vibrancy, sharpness, etc.) this is problematic for many.

I would argue that photographs have always been subject to manipulation, it is just easier to do it these days. Even the way a photograph is taken in the first place has a huge impact of course. There is no such thing in my view as a “real” or a “pure” photograph.

Recently, in response to someone again complaining about the digital editing of photos, I wrote this:

But surely doing lots of very detailed and careful dodging and burning as part of the printing process is just the same as adjusting levels, dodging, burning, etc in Photoshop. As soon as you shoot a 3d view with a 2d imaging device and make decisions around depth of field, you have moved into an artistic world. It might be easier and less time consuming to use Photoshop than working in a dark room, but the pricipled are the same.

I personally do not like heavily over processed images either, nor am I a great fan of what I consider over saturated velvia film stock, I do not like HDR images that have been tone-mapped to death and have auras around everything but I appreciate the more subtle works which will do until exposure range greatly increases and HDR displays become available.

There is no pure form of photography though. I am with you in wanting to get things right to my taste in camera as much as possible with little post processing. That said, Mr Adams [Ansel Adams] is one of the world’s most highly regarded photographers, and I am not. You have to wonder what he would have done with Photoshop.

and Brian Culbertson made the point more clearly (reproduced with his permission – with minor corrective edits):

When film was the standard there was a degree of manipulation you could do in the developing or processing of the film itself as well as in the dark room. pushing or holding the developing times, adjusting chemicals to shift color and contrast, cross processing, film speed speed and types. There is also the adjustments made while shooting the shot f-stop, shutter speed, movement, lighting, reflectors,gels, filters……the list goes on. And in the darkroom there were no limits. The paper used and the different levels of silver, and dye in them. Use carbonated water when mixing the chemicals? Are any of the forms of manipulation more pure or acceptable than others? In any case you can manipulate for a more classic photographic image, or non traditional image. It seems that the goal is always the same to produce an image that you envision. Is the process of manipulation, and capturing really the focus? Sometimes it is rewarding to try something new. Even if it is not right for the current thing you are working on it might be perfect for a future project or vision.

** updates **

Since the original post, discussions continued

Firstly, I provided an interesting link

And now I find an amazing contribution to the discussion from a guest blogger on Scott Kelby’s site:

http://www.scottkelby.com/blog/2010/archives/7617

Well worth reading don’t you think?

G Stormz Painchaud replied (copied with permission):

I agree that it was worth reading, [kyber].
My opinion has not change though. He said himself, “Most of my images only had subtle adjustments using curves or hue/saturation, but they were applied in a way that transformed the original capture.” (Scott Kelby)

I believe that there are amazing scenes to photograph & keep original — simply because there would be nothing you could add to improve the perfection of the already existing piece. What I believe is that any great photographer could visit or find a place in which these images could be produced — how they are. Photoshop, however, make the photographer completely unchallenged That is too say, he knows he can adjust/add/erase anything bad within the photo.

ANY photographer could find that one image — but they are impatient.

They know that people want new photos a.s.a.p, which is why they find something that looks mediocre & photoshops it. The point is to get a great (photoshopped) image to the audience to show more of their work.

Scott mentions (as you & other have, [kyber] about Photographers from other periods in history. Some, who have the “purist” opinion of work — are in fact hypocrites. They have only praise for photographers from different eras, but bash those of today – who do the same (with better equipment). I do NOT agree with this. I am a naturalist — for those ancients & the newer photographers – & don’t agree with it — no matter who produces the work.

Before this discussion goes any further, I have a question . What is the exact definition of a “Purist”? I have been called a “Purist” when it comes to photography, but I’m not so sure. What are the terms in which a person is a Purist — to what extent? Do they take a photo & do not edit it at all, or do they only enhance with light/dark-black/white ? I do not agree with Photoshop, but I do not post my photos without a “natural” enhance. If a Purist is against all editing — then no, HELL no, I’m not a Purist in the least .

Enhancing & Photoshop are not the same thing. Scott mentions this in the blog aswell. I edit the shades of my photos with the free common downloads you can find anywhere on the web. Yes, I am agreeing that enhancing with these types of programs is a type of Photoshop, but the term for these programs are used lightly. Real photoshop can do things to photos that the common download cannot — ADD/REMOVE items in the image. Photoshop (what I am against it for) is that it can REMOVE/ADD & change anything in the photo that the photographer dislikes & didn’t want or couldn’t take out at the time the photo was taken .

My response:

I think we broadly agree Stormz XO, we are just at different points on the same scale between enhancement and manipulation. I am happy to some personal arbitrary point with enhancements using whatever tools one chooses but less so with manipulation (which is what most people think of when talking about Photoshop) where content is changed (remove/replaced/added) and/or fundamental colour relationships are altered.

If an image can not stand alone without significant manipulation, then I think you and I would agree that time would have been better spent taking a better picture.

Purist was a term using without definition but was intended to mean someone opposed to all digital post processing of an image (perhaps even in camera). You are clearly not a Purist.

Thank you. This has been interesting. May I quote you also on my blog? Do you have a public portfolio of images online? I would be interested to look at examples of your work.

and finally, for now

Thank you, it has been one of my more mature conversations on this subject.
I am looking into having a site with all my work (not just the ones that have been alowd to post), but I have a fanpage & a deviantart ;
[snip]
You can quote me, I hope we can have similar discussion in the future .

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