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Up for Discussion – Post Production on Images

Last week I received an email from Better Photography Magazine and it had an article in with the title Should A Landscape Photography Competition Be Art?.  I was intrigued.  It was also about a new competition and one that I recently entered.  It is a good read and it got me thinking about this whole problem we seem to have with the digital age and manipulating photos.  scabattoirs0035

Let’s start in the days of film.  When you went out and did a shoot with a roll of film, you would come home and develop the negative.  There was no difference here, the film determined how the film or negative was processed.  Once the negative was ready to be printed, you would get your enlarger and do a proof sheet.  Lay all the negatives on a piece of paper, put a clear piece of glass over the top and expose the negs.  Then you would look through the negatives and decide which image you would want to print.  Before you print it, you would put it in the enlarger and do a series of tests, times, to work out what the right time for the image would be, the correct exposure, so to speak.  Then you would decide which filter to use to give you the contrast you wanted.  The print would then be made.

scindustrial-0031You have the print in your hand and you think, well the sky is too blown out, I better do some dodging there, this is where you would use your hand or a paddle or something and hold it over the area, but move it quickly as well so you didn’t get sharp edges.  This was also how you burned in a area that wasn’t dark enough.

While I was doing my photography course, we spent the year in the dark room and we were taught so many different ways to do things in there.  I don’t know, but isn’t it all silosclouds-0152manipulating the image to get something special.

The people who were envied in the days of film, were those that had darkrooms.  However, today in the world of digital, people who manipulate their images are called cheaters.  I don’t quite understand how it is okay if I do my images in the darkroom and manipulate them it is okay, but if I do that in Photoshop then I aren’t being true to the image.

It seems only now in the world of digital that people think you can take images with a camera and they won’t need anything done to them.  It was never the case in film, not that I was ever aware of.  If you were capable of that you were considered a very skilled and masterful photographer, certainly not a cheater.

scslaughterhouse0020Of course, nothing compares to being able to see a shot in camera and take it.  I think being able to capture something in the camera first is the most important step.  If you have that first, then what follows will only add to that.

I do believe that some people over manipulate their images.  They have learned many tricks and it becomes more important to show those than getting a great image.  I often see images that I think are fantastic, but they have overdone the post production work.  I certainly have to put myself there, and have done it many times in the past, but I do hope that I am doing a much better job these days.

Perhaps the real skill is learning when to do things and when not too.  Being able to judge the image as the image and not some post production piece of digital art.  I also hate that term, but that could be me.  For me, the post production is the part I could possibly love just as much as actually taking the photo.  I have my images, that I have been out to take, and now I want to see where else I can take it.

Do you manipulate your photos?  Why do you you?  Do you think it is wrong to do it? What do you think makes a good image?  Do you love doing post production work?walhalla0096

These posts are a great way to share knowledge, so please contribute.

I will approve them, as long as they are nice and not nasty in any way.

Feel free to respond or reply to other comments.  It would be good to generate some discussion. I do like it when you start talking amongst yourselves.  

If you have a topic that you would like discussed, or a problem you need help with then please send me an email and we will see if we can do a post about it.

All the images in the post are all images taken with black and white film and developed by me, except for one.  I did have a darkroom for awhile.  I will put them in a gallery for you now.

203 Comments
  1. It’s not cheating, good grief!

    June 3, 2014
  2. Photography is art! I paint with light 🙂

    June 3, 2014
    • I love that Sarah, might have to borrow it. 🙂

      June 3, 2014
    • Sarah is dead right. I use that very title in a presentation I’ve been giving for the past several years.

      June 4, 2014
      • She will love hearing that Robin, and it is so true. I tell my students that if you want to be very good at photography you have to understand light.

        June 4, 2014
      • I’ve been using the phrase since my college days over twenty years ago 🙂

        June 4, 2014
  3. I do “correct” my photos because I don’t always have the lens I need on my camera and the shot may fly by, and also manipulate them for digital or print display since each is different enough to demand a different level of contrast and detail, and also manipulate them when I want to see what will happen. It’s a digital darkroom instead of a physical one. But most of all I love your monochromes above.

    June 3, 2014
    • Thank you Bernadette, though I have manipulated them all in the digital darkroom. I do like that term. I agree, each image should be a judgement thing, and it should determine what it needs.

      June 3, 2014
  4. I edit, conservatively most of the time, but I cannot see anyone not editing who is not serious about photography. Your camera adds sharpening, often a color scheme. Black and White is a filter, in camera and out, as is color. It is all editing. Not the kind of editing, Stalin did of colleagues in the Kremlin, but much closer to Ansel Adams, who used a lot of techniques to finalize his images. We just have more tools and easier tools. A significant amount of media involves compositing images and some more controversial actions. If you are a pro someone is giving you rules to follow or they won’t buy your work. If you are an independent artist the choice of where to go is up to you. What makes someone expert in my mind and what I strive to achieve is seeing something and taking a picture and processing it so that it comes out exactly as I thought it would. That is actually very hard to do. WordPress has a lot of images that are well composed, have great subjects, show talent but need some basic edits like dodging and burning.

    June 3, 2014
    • I couldn’t agree more about the tools we have today being easier. Great points Victor, I agree with everything.

      June 3, 2014
      • I also agree with Victor! A few years ago there was an Ansel Adams exhibit here at the Phoenix Art Museum and they showed one of his images and how he processed it several different ways. I doubt if anyone called it cheating as he was a master. Too bad people don’t understand that post processing in the digital era is no different than the analog dark room.

        Tamara

        June 3, 2014
      • No, I don’t think anyone called him a cheater, isn’t he known as the master of landscape photography, the guy that is held up as the one we all strive to be like. I agree, it is such a shame they don’t see that Tamara. Thanks

        June 3, 2014
  5. Hi Leanne,

    Great post! As you know I’m a keen wildlife photographer and an occasionally take landscape shots. I do try and minimise how much I adjust my shots in post production but some shots do need some help! Most of my wildlife pictures need an element of cropping, some need brightness increasing due to poorer light. Some need tightening of focus in certain areas and sometimes, especially in bright sunlight on landscapes I need to adjust levels. Very occasionally I will remove unavoidable objects that ruin a great picture. Animals don’t pose! Photography is a hobby for me and any money I do make I give to nature charities so I guess I’m not really qualified to make a professional judgement. What I would say is that if there is a great picture that could be made better for the people that love my pictures without distorting the focus of the picture, then I will make the adjustment.

    For me, with nature and wildlife photography, changing a blackbird blue or changing a tree pink, does not work. I can see that for more artistic work this may not be the case!

    Mark

    http://www.lifespirit.biz

    June 3, 2014
    • I have heard, that article talks about how it is different for nature photography and not really considered the done thing. Though I can see that is it necessary at times. great points Mark.

      June 3, 2014
  6. Photography IS art, so why should landscape photography be any different.
    I don’t think of photo editing as cheating, more like a ‘refining’ tool.
    BTW great photos, as always 🙂

    June 3, 2014
    • I couldn’t agree more Tracey. Thanks.

      June 3, 2014
  7. My hands are so wobbly and my eyesight is not the best so I would have few photos that were of a standard that I would be proud of without some help from the editor.

    June 3, 2014
    • Another great point, so glad you feel that way too, it is important that you get the images you were trying to get.

      June 3, 2014
  8. lensaddiction #

    Ooooh interesting post and a real can of worms here 🙂 I used to be a real purist about processing images and only doing the basics required to get the RAW image to look like a photo. But so often I was left dissatisfied because the sky was blown out or the tones weren;t as deep or as rich as what I saw when I took the image.

    I attended a Post Pro Workshop by Trey Ratcliff the HDR guy and he took us through his full process from raw to final image, and he uses many different tools but his ultimate goal is to make the image look “real”. I am completely on board with that and started to used things like the ND grad in LR to improve my skies.

    Recently I did another post pro course online, where it highlighted some new features and tools available in LR5 and I was astonished at how a small tweak here and there can really make all the difference. You don’t have to lay it on thick and I am really happy with how my images are looking now. Little things like a subtle lightening of a shadowed area of the face, or using the clarity slider to bring up texture in hair.

    My ultimate aim is still to have the image looking “real” and true to what I saw when I took it, but it is also to have the post pro subtle so that its part of the image, and not obvious.

    Where I think the line is blurred is where the artistic desire actually goes beyond the photo and turns it into digital art – it has so many layers and so photoshopped the original integrity of the image is lost. That is the fashion at the moment and I think it is wrong – in competitions you should have to submit a jpg of the original image so you can compare it to the finished image and see truly how much work is done and make your call.

    I think if that was a requirement it would change the way competitions are judged a great deal!

    June 3, 2014
    • Oh yes, I thought it might be a contentious subject, hopefully it will stay friendly.
      Yes, the keeping it real is so important, Joel Grimes talks about the same thing, finding the real, making it look believable.
      I agree with everything but the last part. Do we ask painters to submit a photo of what they were painting and then ask them why it is different, or judge them more harshly because they create their own reality.

      Where does it say that photography has be reality. There is a bit difference between it looking “real” and it being reality. Perhaps that is the difference between art and photography, one is more about reality whereas the other is more about creating an atmosphere or feeling, stirring emotions. I know a painter who paints, what you would think is reality, but I know he will take 3 different photos he has taken and merge them and create his own reality, so is that wrong? Or is it okay because he is a painter and an artist, but if I do the same thing, it is just wrong, no question about it. I don’t pretend I’m not doing it, I’m very up front about it. People who know me and know my work, know that I do that.

      Competitions are very clear on what you can and can’t do to an image. They will tell you if it can be manipulated or not. You just have to read the fine print first. The judges are professionals and they know if an image had been manipulated a lot.

      June 3, 2014
      • lensaddiction #

        Hi Leanne, I agree, it *is* a difference between ‘art’ and ‘photography’ and the problem is the difference is not very defined, and hence the challenges for people with different viewpoints.

        Some of your work I like, and some is too artistic for my personal taste, but I respect your right to indulge your art according to your vision 🙂 Where I struggle is when an image is so heavily edited it bears no resemblence to the original photo – how is that photography exactly?

        There should be a new class or genre called “digital art” or something similar, where any post pro beyond the normal tweaks you would do to correct an image puts it into that class.

        I have no problem with people who want to manipulate their images into new and unique forms, what I have an issue with is calling the end result photography. Its not, its some form of art.

        June 3, 2014
      • I think they do have a name for it, though it tends to be put with portraits more, but I think of it as conceptual photography. I think that covers it really well. I think there are too many negative connotations with Digital Art. I really hate the term, and the ideas that people have with it.

        June 3, 2014
      • lensaddiction #

        Yes the name is ugly, I could get behind conceptual photography.

        Ultimately it needs to be differentiated from the other kind of photography. I think its the fact that its done on a computer that caused the grey area, if a painter takes a photo and uses it as the basis for an image thats art, but when you take pixels and manipulate them, it seems OK to call it photography either way, and thats the dilemma, in my opinion 🙂

        June 3, 2014
      • I like that too, though usually when I hear of fine art photographs I expect that the images will be heavily processed.

        Yes perhaps, though does that mean we can’t call Ansel Adams a photographer? Though not created on a computer his images were very heavily manipulated as well. I think we have to show and express ourselves as we wish, if I were entering a competition and it said no post processing, I would question that, and say really, usually they mean you can change exposure, contrast, but basic stuff. They don’t want to be able to tell that you did it. I know photojournalism, is a no processing, so is most of nature photography. I think it depends on what type of photography you are doing. There are so many different types. Competitions are usually very clear about what they will allow and what they won’t.

        PS I always use Ansel Adams because he is the best example of a pre-digital photographer that I know of that did a lot of post processing.

        June 3, 2014
      • lensaddiction #

        I had to think about this for a few days before I was happy with my reply – in essence Ansel Adams used the technology that was available and inherent within photography to produce his images. So that means to me its still photography.

        However now we have computers and Photoshop and layers and textures and other things that are OUTSIDE of the original parameters that defined photography. Even our digital SLR are outside that but they are still striving to stay true to the original photography ‘soul’ for want of a better word.

        Its all the other technology that takes it beyond that which is where I think the dividing line between photography and conceptual/digital art/photography is.

        Cloning things in or out, changing eye colour, face shape, adding or remvoing hair or trees or powerlines and any one of countless things that you can do, they are beyond the basic original photographic principles and I think take it beyond photography.

        Where it makes a difference is if I want to enter competitions or be a pro and compete in the marketplace, if I don’t do these things, follow the fashions then I run the risk of not suceeding. The fact that to succeed I am essentially forced to do them is my issue.

        June 5, 2014
      • This doesn’t make sense to me, if you have the technology to do it, why wouldn’t you, power lines are ugly, why would you leave them?

        Digital cameras these days are not like old ones with film, you can do some much with them, that you couldn’t do with SLR’s. I just think you can’t decide what technology you will use and what you want. We don’t tell painters or other artists that their work is crap because they weren’t truthful to what they were painting, so why do photographers, what makes us so different? Why do we have to ignore what is out there, because some people think that it isn’t right.

        It is the same in any industry, if you don’t keep up with the current trends and what people are using then you will fall behind. Take the computer industry, how many different programming languages have their been, and how much has it changed? My husband is a programmer and he is always learning new tricks and new languages. Why should photography be different, why would you want us to stay in the dark ages? I don’t understand it.

        I manipulate my photos, I put in different skies, if there is something in them I don’t like, I remove it. I do everything I possibly can to get an image that I love and am proud of. Then again, I don’t pretend that I don’t do that. I have never pretended otherwise. As far as I am concerned it is photography, everything I use is photography based, they may come from different images, but they are all photos. I don’t have a problem with it. It is my artform and what I do for art. I don’t think of myself as a photographer, I think of myself as an artist that uses the medium of photography.

        June 5, 2014
      • lensaddiction #

        ” I don’t think of myself as a photographer, I think of myself as an artist that uses the medium of photography.”

        And that there is the difference between art and photography 🙂

        June 5, 2014
  9. This is my first view of your film work and I like it quite a lot. You are 100% correct in your comments about “manipulation” of images – it has been done since the first shot was captured by a camera – can post processing go over board? Certainly, but that’s OK if it is what you (the photographer) wants to do – Do I have to like it? Well, that’s another thing all together. Bottom line – no amount of post processing will make a bad image good – just a good shot a bit better.
    Thanks Leanne 🙂

    June 3, 2014
    • I agree with you one hundred percent Robert. Thank you too. 🙂

      June 3, 2014
      • Having discussed this with you before Leanne, What Robert says resonates with me. I completely agree and that is the way I approach my photography.
        Thankyou. Terrific discussion.

        June 4, 2014
      • I know what you mean, when I read what he says I just sit nodding my head. Thanks Robyn.

        June 4, 2014
  10. I don’t think post production is cheating. The photographer is the artist, the image their creation. I’m nervous about overdoing it with my own work, so tend to stick to cropping, sharpening and adjusting hue and saturation. I enjoyed reading your post, thank you.

    June 3, 2014
    • You sort of have to over do it Robert to work out that you have overdone it. I used to have a lecturer at art school that would say “you have to be prepared to #%*& it up to know how to get a great image” So play around with it, and then come back and look in a month or two, and see if you still like it. I have lots of early images on this blog that I absolutely hate now. So overdone.

      June 3, 2014
      • Thank you for your advice Leanne

        June 3, 2014
      • You’re welcome Robert.

        June 3, 2014
      • I love that quote from your lecturer. Personally, I find it really reassuring as someone who has just started considering photography as a hobby rather than a recorder of high days and holidays. Every couple of weeks I seem to be learning something new about processing… And I’m sure that I use it to overkill at the moment but I don’t mind. I am learning a lot about the photos I take by playing with them. Great post. Thank you.

        June 4, 2014
      • I think you have to do that sometimes, overkill and then you learn to pull it back. I love that quote too, and I’ve heard similar ones along the way too. Thanks

        June 4, 2014
  11. I have a particular viewpoint on this (who doesn’t lol) but just as the camera was invented to go beyond a paint and brush, so photoshop was created to go beyond film. There will always be people who poo-poo post production because they don’t like change, or as I would call it “evolution”. To me, it’s all about art…how you get there doesn’t much matter to me. But if a compelling image is created and it’s pleasing, even if it’s only to the creator, then more power to them. Just as one can never say who the greatest musician is because it’s all a matter of taste, so it goes with photography IMHO. I’ve seen people create beautiful art with an iPhone and a phone app.

    Having said that, I do love post processing a lot. Do I sometimes not use it improperly? Absolutely! I’ve noticed a huge difference though in the last year with my post processing. Sometimes I want things to look “natural”…but what IS that? It’s such a subjective word. I like post processing to create some sort of mood I think. I guess it’s the “natural” feeling of the picture I’d like to get across. Having said that….there are obviously some technical flubs that I used to do that I really try to not do anymore…halos…don’t like halos. I didn’t even see them in the beginning but now I see them everywhere.

    Anyway, I guess I just enjoy the aspect of looking to see what others do and what message they’re trying to convey in their images. Thanks Leanne…this was a great topic!

    June 3, 2014
    • I could have written this Laura, great points all of them. I have found the same thing. Thank you too Laura, I thought it was about time we covered it. I might live to regret it, but so far, it has mostly been good.

      June 3, 2014
      • Great minds think alike! 😉

        June 3, 2014
      • Oh yes, they certainly do. 😉

        June 3, 2014
  12. I never knew that a photo could be altered in a darkroom. But yes, I do editing and I don’t see that as cheating. With any image I take I try to edit it to look its best; as close to as it was. But sometimes when going for an “artsy” look that editing will get kicked up a notch or two. When I do that I present the finished product as photo art.

    June 3, 2014
    • Oh yes, they could be, Ansel Adams was a master at it. I agree there, I would never show one of my art images and pretend it was the reality that I saw. I call them art images, because to me that is what art is, showing your reality and striving to get a reaction from someone.

      June 3, 2014
  13. Of course I edit. Today’s editing was yesterday’s darkroom. We would be crazy to skip that part of the process.

    In fact, I need to focus more on that part of the process and become more proficient with Photoshop. I love the act of taking photos and continue to improve with each trip out but the photos really move to the next level with a simple edit. I can only imagine what a more complicated edit might accomplish!

    June 3, 2014
    • It can be amazing watching an image get transformed in photoshop, really amazing. what you go to an image is so amazing. It is all experience Angela, and a willingness to learn, I’m sure you will get there. Good luck.

      June 3, 2014
      • Thanks, Leanne! Working within a community helps… it reminds me of my days spent quilting. I belonged to a quilt guild not only for camaraderie, but for the push to complete projects. It really isn’t much different for photography, is it?

        June 3, 2014
      • Not at all, and this is how it should be I think.

        June 3, 2014
  14. I think the goal is to create a beautiful image that you are proud of and that will resonate with other people. That’s art. How you get there doesn’t really matter. If you don’t want to call me a photographer because I use software and a digital camera, then don’t but you can not deny that I often create beautiful images. I say PFFFT to the haters. It’s the same with anything. Rap isn’t really music, bowling isn’t really a sport. Blah blah blah to the labelers and their labels. I know what I like and that is all that matters.

    June 3, 2014
  15. Well said and great topic Leanne and for Laura’s input as well. I agree totally. It serves a great purpose as long as it is used for good not evil and we don’t go too far. Some photographers don’t know when to stop and the photos end up looking so surreal (unintentionally) that it detracts from what the photo was about in the first place… Its knowing when to stop. Thanks again for a wonderful read.

    June 3, 2014
    • I like that too, using it for good and not evil. I agree, there is a point where it can be too much, and I suppose part of the process is know when to stop. You’re welcome Kaz, and thanks for you input.

      June 3, 2014
  16. First…Laura said ‘poo poo’….! 🙂 Sorry, I have yet to shake the juvenile in me…
    There will always be those who consider themselves ‘purists’ and say that post processing is cheating, yet I’ll bet those same people listen to music on records, tapes, cds, mp3s, etc, which could, by that same measure be called cheating because, believe me, a recording is generally FAR from a live performance. We have to do, as individuals, what we see fit in expressing ourselves and ‘shrug off’ the naysayers. (Unless it happens to be the rules of a competition, etc.) Of course it can be overdone, but also, of course, it can totally MAKE an image if done pleasantly…but there again, to be said to be ‘pleasing’ is to give power to the acceptance of the viewer. Though most of us want other people to admire our work, we, to be unique, sometimes add our own touches at the risk of showing who we are regardless of what others may think. Sometimes it’s a ‘flop’, sometimes it’s a “how did you do that?” and sometimes it may take years for others to appreciate our work….if ever. It really does not matter, if we are true to ourselves. I manipulate EVERY image… some by merely sharpening or lightening, or changing contrast, or cropping…(I also might put a pinch of curry in a dish that doesn’t call for it). Other images I run through every filter I have. Sometimes I come right back to ‘straight out of camera’, other times I hit on a look that makes me smile and I know that that is what I want to see and say…that expresses what I feel. I, as many here have already said, have looked back at old images and said, “What was I thinking!?”, but that is just part of the learning and growing process. My first digital images and my first digital processing made me realize that a photo that I had given up for lost (because I didn’t yet understand that you could change ISO without changing ‘film’) was not only salvageable but turned out to be exactly what I had envisioned and hoped for. Cheating? If so, then I accept the accusation! 🙂 In analog darkroom days I did indeed dodge and burn and sometimes overlay two negatives and then when the print was dry would ‘spot-tone’ spots and glitches…What’s the difference?

    June 3, 2014
    • Very well said, I don’t disagree with anything, you have said this brilliantly, thank you so much RK.

      June 3, 2014
    • lol! poo poo!!!!!

      June 3, 2014
  17. An interesting post Leanne. I also started in film and my father taught me how to work in his darkroom and clearly remember being gobsmacked at how it was possible to manipulate an image. I try to take the ‘softly softly’ approach and have a dislike for overly saturated images but then often love images that have been desaturated – all a matter of taste. I also think that it is not physically possible for a camera to ‘see’ and record what our brains and eyes do and so post processing is a necessary part of re-creating our original vision. Best of luck with the comp btw.

    June 3, 2014
    • I agree Lisa, it isn’t possible for a camera to do that, how does a camera capture the emotion you are trying to express. It is amazing what people could do in a darkroom. Thanks.

      June 3, 2014
  18. As soon as you try to capture the photo through the lens you are manipulating. Our eyes naturally “do” HDR, yet a camera struggles. As soon as you make a decision on exposure, white balance, aperture etc. you are manipulating. Never mind your decision what to frame, zoom, or crop. So from my perspective, as soon as you get set up to depress the shutter button then you are processing the image.

    June 3, 2014
    • What a fantastic point Christopher, I had never thought of it like, but you are so right. Thank you.

      June 3, 2014
  19. Leanne…again, you’ve brought up another great subject. I’ve read all of the previous comments and there isn’t one that I disagree with.

    When I took my first darkroom class (just over a year ago), I finally “got it” as to how those great photographers of the past became great.

    My attempt in today’s digital “LightRoom” is to keep the image as natural as possible, yet have the ability to convey some level of emotion, And isn’t it really about what YOU as the artist/photographer wants to convey?
    If someone wants to purchase your work, then fantastic! But it’s YOUR work…YOUR creativity…YOUR eye!
    If no one is interested in your work (whether to buy or just look at), does it really matter if you are conveying what you love in the first place? Did Picasso paint what someone else saw? You get my point.

    Keep bringing these discussions up Leanne. It really can serve a deeper purpose in this fantastic community.

    Now…back to my manipulation, lol. Cheers!

    June 3, 2014
    • I agree Dan, it is exactly what we artists/photographers want to convery. It is also about what you want to show and how you want to interpret what you saw. Nobody questions other artists for doing the same thing.
      I really do get your point.
      Thanks Dan, I hope so, I am enjoying what people say.

      June 3, 2014
  20. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I have had this conversation with my partner. I use minimal processing as a rule. I fix the contrast and levels. Sometimes I add an action if there is a particular look I am going for. And since I can’t shoot straight to save my life, I mostly always have to straighten the image. 😉

    June 3, 2014
    • OMG Suz, I am exactly the same way, the straightening tool is my best friend. I think you should do some research on ansel Adams for your partner, and show him how much he manipulated images. Seems silly you can do it in a darkroom, but not on a computer.

      June 3, 2014
      • I’m glad I’m not the only one with a crooked eye lol

        June 4, 2014
      • Oh definitely not, doesn’t matter how much I try not to do it, I always end up with crooked images. Maybe I am a little crooked. LOL

        June 4, 2014
  21. Great post!

    Yes, I do post process my images “wow I strongly dislike the word manipulate” as you said the same was done in the darkroom days. I like to call refining the image 🙂

    Why do I postprocess?

    To get the image either closer to what my eyes actually could see in the scene or to bring out some element in the photo that tells the story.

    Do I think it’s wrong?

    No of course not, if it was ok for all those other great photographers of the past to do it in the darkroom it is ok for me to do it in my Lightroom.

    What makes a good image?

    Well, all those things that make it come to life- line, form, shape, depth contrast etc….
    or any other visual art form.
    The other part is emotional a feeling, a strong reaction to the image is it serene, awe inspiring, revolting etc….

    Yes I like post processing in this age of digital photography.

    -Steve

    June 3, 2014
    • Thanks Steve, funny you don’t like the word manipulate, I really dislike the term digital art.
      I agree with everything you have said, fantastic.

      June 3, 2014
      • Your welcome!

        When I think manipulate I think of the puppet warp tool in photoshop.
        I agree the term Digital art, wow what a can of worms that can open. My other pet peeve is HDR as a category in photo contests. Hello it’s a process not a category like lets say flora & fauna.

        June 3, 2014
      • I have never heard that before about HDR in competitions, I am totally with you on that one. It is a process, and usually just the first of many.

        June 3, 2014
  22. Leanne, this discussion is a topic that I contemplate. I entirely agree with you. During the pre-digital age the darkroom was a place to manipulate the image. I often refer to today’s final work as a product of the digital darkroom. Also, the degree to which people use apps or software or a darkroom to alter an image is a matter of aesthetics, experience, taste and technique–oh, and experimentation. The computer is a tool. The darkroom is a tool. It remains true that the final photograph is the vision of the artist/photographer.

    June 3, 2014
    • Very well said Sally, I think exactly the same, and it does really come down to the artist/photographer and what their vision for that image was.

      June 3, 2014
  23. I think the idea of “cheating” with Photoshop is a matter of perception and access. In the pre-digital days, you needed access to a darkroom (whether you paid for space or set up your own) and I think that was considered more serious about the profession/hobby. With Photoshop and other digital tools, I think the perception is something along the lines of “anybody” can do a few mouse clicks on a computer, we all have computers, right? It’s too easy, it’s cheating. I think it’s not regarded as being the same type of work on a computer as it is when someone’s standing in front of trays of chemicals in a darkened room.

    And to your point about people thinking you don’t need to do any photo manipulation: think about the term “point-and-shoot” camera. It kind of implies that once you shoot, you’re done. Manipulating the image beyond that is for the professionals…or the cheaters 🙂

    June 3, 2014
    • Then again, photography was a very expensive hobby and not as many people had SLR’s back then, it was a whole different world. I think digital just makes everything easier. Do you wash your clothes in a machine or bang them against a rock, we go with new technology, why is it with photography we shouldn’t? Even if you went to the photo store and got your images printed, a good printer would do colour correction and things like that to make sure you had a good image. They were all manipulated in some way.

      Point and shoot cameras don’t mean, hey presto I have a great shot, it means hey you don’t have to worry about aperture, iso and shutter speed, because it manages it for you, but even those photos can do with some editing, even just basic exposure correction, sharpening, etc. Not everything has to have layers and layers of manipulation. It is very very very rare that I take an image and think, I don’t need to do anything to it, and the majority I do have very basic editing done to them.

      So Ansel Adams was a cheater then too? You must hate my work then.

      June 3, 2014
      • Not at all! I love your work and I agree with your post. I personally don’t think it’s cheating at all. I took a couple classes using a darkroom and only one class about Photoshop, and I wish I knew more about manipulating images. In my comment I was just thinking about where that “cheating” perception may come from and trying to explain why people think that way. I think people see a darkroom as more exclusive and give it more respect, and that using software on a computer to do the same work is not as prestigious.

        June 3, 2014
      • I am so happy to read this, thank you for clearing that up.

        June 3, 2014
  24. Your post came up just as I was working on a story about a six-year old so-so photo that I have taken through a number of “interpretations”. Two notes in your post and the comments rang my bell: Photography vs. art and restrictions in competitions. Some of the commenters here clearly make a distinction between art and photography. That usually leads to “photography is not art”. Of course, photography is art in the general definition of the term “art”. There are differences in how an artist gets to her/his creation. There are differences in types of art. Imagine for a moment an exhibition of some works of Rubens on one wall and creations of Picasso on another. Both are artists, both painters, yet their images are vastly different. I will grant you your space if you say “reportage photography”, “documentation photography”, “portrait photography”, or some other specialty is your preferred way of expressing yourself. But if you try to deny someone else their space or specialty by saying it is not “art” or not “photography”, I will leave the room, I don’t suffer bigots any more easily than fools.

    Now my thoughts on tight restrictions in competitions. Nothing wrong with them. Every parlor game has its rules. If you don’t like the rules, don’t play the game, but don’t deny others their enjoyment.

    As a teenager I was taken into the tutelage of a master photographer. Retouching and darkroom manipulations, differing chemistries and raw materials were the tools of the trade. Manipulation started in front of the camera – waiting for that cloud to move into the right place, using the emulsion with the desired characteristics, applying filters and more. The objective was a final image that would evoke the feelings in the viewer that you wanted to communicate. Yes that final image is what it is all about. I call my “heavily manipulated” images “cafe art”. I categorize them under “photography”. I love to admire the works of others, and pretty much all of the folks commenting here. I consider them all artists, all photographers, all colleagues.

    June 3, 2014
    • Fantastic Ludwig, I totally agree. My husband just said to me that my photography is what I saw it is, and no one can argue with it, they might call it something else, but it doesn’t matter.
      I agree about comps, they can do what they like and it is up to you if you will play their games.
      Thank you Ludwig, fantastic comment.

      June 3, 2014
  25. Yes, I do. Because I’m not a camera tester, I am not interested in see the output of a camera predetermined in factory. But there is a limit I think: when the goal is to get what we see with our eyes (hdr in landscape for example, sharpening, contrast, hues, etcetera) it’s art or craft in photographic way; but when the goal is to get what we see with our minds (reverse colors, put a sky from another picture, erase people, etcetera) then to me it’s art or craft in digital composition. Both are great to see but the latter is not photography to me. (but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy those images, just I see them with another eye knowing they aren’t a reality representation)

    June 3, 2014
    • I agree with the first part Francis, but not the second, I suppose we have to look at what photography is, for me the camera is the start, and then there are many processes and so many different ways to go. Photographers have been using more than one image for ever, compositing isn’t a new thing. See some of the comments here about how people learned how to use more then one negative to make an image. I call what I do photography, I use more than one image often, but they are all photographs and all put together.

      June 3, 2014
      • Thanks for the reply, I value your opinion because you are a professional photographer (and I enjoy your photographs although I lack education to appreciate them appropriately). To me is not a way of life but a hobby I do in my spare time. Said that I’m aware that since nineteenth century compositing (for example) has used for photographers. But even in those cases I think that the result is not anymore photograph and more illustration or collage (arts that I love too)
        I admit that my opinion could be a prejudice based in ignorance, but I’ve that opinion based in my ideas of ethics.

        June 3, 2014
      • Well it is your opinion, and that is okay, I don’t share it, but that is okay too. Enjoy your photography.

        June 3, 2014
  26. As for me – but I’m not a professional photographer – post production is essential. When I shoot, I think to what I would like to get as a final image. Usually, this means cutting, correcting the lens distortions, etc. I think this is fair and ethical: technology allows me to do so, and I’m aware of these possibilities. So, I take shots having in mind how I will go to “develop” the digital image. This requires to develop a different ability, that is, looking in the range finder taking into account a lot of post-processing manipulations you will carry out later.
    Personally, I do not like over-processed images too, but, for me, the borderline of what is acceptable lies in the fact that the final image is the result of a process which was in the mind of the photographer from the very beginning. When the post-processing alters the initial intent of the image, well, it is no more photography, but a different expression.

    June 3, 2014
    • I don’t do it when I am shooting, but I do do it when I get the image on the computer, I like to see what might happen.
      I guess the definition of over processed is different for everyone, and in the end I suppose it is up to the viewer. I still think it is a photograph, if it looks like one, and isn’t like an animation, then I think it is a photograph. Thanks Marco.

      June 3, 2014
      • I get your point and, fundamentally, I agree. Of course, my opinion is very personal, in the sense that what’s acceptable applies to me and my images, not to the work of others. I’ve found that this self-imposed limit is very convenient for my photographic interests as it forces me to “view” in a deeper way. But, this is my way, and I’ve no right or will to use it to decide over the work of others.

        June 3, 2014
      • I guess in the end, it is all very personal isn’t it, I don’t think there is a right way or a wrong way, but I hate being telling me that what I am doing is wrong, just because it isn’t what they do. Great attitude Marco.

        June 3, 2014
  27. Wow, I have read all the comments and found truth in all of them. Why else does eg Lightroom and Photoshop exist? I often get people asking me in the gallery, do I use Photoshop. Yes, I do, that’s what it’s there for. It’s just like sandpaper to a carpentar!

    To me it’s refining a desired concept or image. Eg shot of beautiful scene with some undesired distraction – the distraction needs to go, for the beauty that is there – to come out.

    I my day job in real estate I take photos of houses and I really try to capture the feeling of the home. As per realestate rules I don’t edit any holes in walls or electrical wires off telegraph poles, I don’t make them look bigger or smaller, but I will always eg: remove wrinkles out of doonas, a remote or ashtray in the wrong place etc, as inevitably that’s where all the focus goes.

    This discussion really is a can of worms – but a very relevant one! Thank you, Leanne!

    June 3, 2014
    • You’ve made some great points Anica, and I think we have to remember that it appropriate in some places and not in others, for me my work is all about it.
      It is, thanks Anica.

      June 3, 2014
  28. Leanne, As you basically note above, Ansel Adams should have the final word. I can’t do Adams as much justice as this blog post by Kevin Schick about “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico” and the continuing changes Adams made over the years. As far as I am concerned especially when talking landscape Adams is game, set and match and I believe he would have adored all of the new tools we have at out disposal.
    http://www.kevinshick.com/blog/2013/4/revisiting-hernandez-nm

    June 3, 2014
    • I think he would have loved photoshop, absolutely. Thanks for the link, what an amazing transformation.

      June 3, 2014
  29. You are still editing, darkroom or computer. It’s all the same.

    June 3, 2014
  30. Nelson #

    I do not think that post-processing is cheating, I think that software are a tool to use to enhance your photos if you want. Since I do shoot in Raw all my photos are post-processed to a certain level, all black and white photos are technically post- processed so yes I do used software on many of many but I do not consider myself a cheater. For me post-processing is just adding a little flavor to something not changing the flavor

    June 3, 2014
    • I agree, post processing is something I think is necessary, how much you do is up to you. Thanks Nelson.

      June 3, 2014
  31. Wow, very interesting post and comments, looks like most of us agree on the fact that post processing is part of the process of getting the end result you are looking for!
    And as Infraredrobert said you cannot make a bad photo look good, so the skill is in the photography AND the post processing. As I shoot in RAW, there is some thing that needs to be done always. when photographers make jpegs there´s allready a lot of ´postprocessing´ done by your camera, but then I´d rather keep it in my own hands!
    Thanks for bringing this up and all the views on it.
    Ron.

    June 3, 2014
    • I agree with that, it really does depend on the image to begin with, you have to have a solid base to start with. I would rather keep it in my hands too. No problem at all, thanks Ron.

      June 3, 2014
  32. A great discussion Leanne. Post production is far too much fun to ever want to abandon it and it is certainly integral to the process of creating an image. I had a painting instructor who wanted us not to concern ourselves with the end result of our labors but to enjoy and learn from the journey i.e. the process of creating the image rather than fixating on producing the Mona Lisa every time. I feel the same way about photography. Creating the image involves so many steps other than simply pointing a camera and shooting. These include balance, negative space, light and shadow, vanishing point, color v monochrome, f-stops, depth of field, etc. etc. What is evident from the discussion is that every one feels the same and from your wonderful Monochrome Madness galleries, everyone has their own unique way of expressing themselves. We all learn from each other because there is never an absolute right way of doing something. As we all know not every photograph is a winner but occasional one will have a universal sense of perfection that for some reason touches us all. Thanks as always Leanne for inspiring us 🙂

    June 3, 2014
    • I know Andrew, I love watching an image change as I am working on it. Great points Andrew and I totally agree with you, it is a very personal thing, and we all do it differently which makes it even more wonderful. Thank you Andrew, and it is my pleasure.

      June 3, 2014
  33. I really love shooting in total manual, don’t have Photoshop or anything else (although I do use Aperture for my photos, just don’t do any adjustments.) That’s my preference – full manual, use internal settings, etc, of course a polarizer, flash(es) off camera, and a few other filters like graduated ND. So yes, this is editing. But no post-production. I love a beautiful shot, but agree that, for example, a gloriously glowing pink tree is too much for me. Takes me back to the 60’s!

    June 3, 2014
    • Don’t have to do some, I’ve always read that digital images have to be at least sharpened, but the senses in digital cameras are not the same as film. There is post processing and there is post processing, what you choose to do is completely up to you, I try to do things and manipulate my images to see what I can do to them. I find images straight from the camera boring, but that is me. Thanks Barbara.

      June 3, 2014
  34. I actually wrote a post on this topic last year when a lot of images were disqualified from competitions becuase of too much photoshopping http://wp.me/p2DjHx-Ag.

    I do manipulate my pictures but I don’t add foreign elements to a shot although I will remove distracting elements. I manipulate my images because photography doesn’t stop when you press the shutter, the creative process continues in post production and as a digital photographer I have the digital tools at my disposal.

    I think that it is wrong to make an image, an unreal representation of the scene. You can emphasis elements (by colour and contrast), creatively crop and blur to improve the subject, but making the subject something it is not for me is a step too far.

    A good image is one that tells a complying story, message or emotion. For me photography is all about communication. Saying that there needs to be a little truthfulness in the image. A photograph never tells the whole story, just the story in the frame and it is the honesty of this moment that needs to be conserved.

    I love doing post production work and being creative and I do create images in photoshop that I wouldn’t call photographs more composites or digital art.

    June 3, 2014
    • I don’t actually have a problem making an unreal representation of a scene, though, I see nothing wrong with it, I am not saying my work is representational and I love the idea of creating my own realities and often do things like that.
      It is funny how people think that if you use elements from different photos then it isn’t a photograph, I still call it photography and the photos are the base and then I work on it more. I hate that term digital art, always makes me think of animations, they are digital art to me. Of course it is all the perception of the person doing. I think what I do is photography. Others may say it isn’t, but I think it is.

      June 3, 2014
      • You have made some good points and maybe I should revise what I am saying slightly. In the 19th century it was common for photos to be made from multiple exposures composites together to create a scene abd for me this is fine as this was the intention of the image in the photographers eye and this is the honesty of the image and the truthful scene in the photographers eye.
        My line in the sand is when the photographer s camera skills are weak and this is made up in post or instead of moving something out of the frame or even the photographer moving their answer is ill fix it in photoshop. I believe in getting it right in camera (or as best as you can) and then using the darkroom or computer to enhance the scene.

        June 3, 2014
      • I have to say I agree with that, I think post processing is fantastic, but it is better if you have a great image to start with and nothing can compensate for a bad image. I have heard the same thing, I’ll fix it on the computer, but really, if the original image is not good, nothing will help.

        June 3, 2014
  35. I love your old photos, Leanne, and I have to laugh … they were already signature Leanne Cole. 🙂

    Yes, it’s cheating. Kidding! Wow, when I read all that stuff you could do with film development I was amazed. I don’t know how to do dodging or how to fix a “blown-out sky.” My post processing skills are minimal, but I am slowly learning. To me, it is a relief that I can fix something like the light being off.

    I get a little wild with the art. Sometimes I have something in my mind for a photo when I take it, something weird to do later. I don’t know exactly what, but I feel my way toward it with the various tools.

    A lot of times I just go with the photo … But I like to see what you do with the images. They are amazing. And I do want to get better at the post processing.

    June 3, 2014
    • I think getting a little wild with the art is how many people start, it is how I started as well. There are so many things you can do with images these days, I love it, you know that. I have worked hard on my photoshop skills and love where they are going. Thanks Nia, good luck with yours.

      June 3, 2014
      • Yes, you have worked hard … and I look forward to taking advantage of all that work via lessons! 😉

        June 3, 2014
      • Oh that would be good, we should try and organise a skype session. 🙂

        June 4, 2014
  36. A fantastic discussion to which I can only add that I too love creating and to create an image that resonates and makes me go Yes thats it!! may or may not require tweaking or working on. Its still art and cheating is not part of the conversation . : )))

    June 3, 2014
    • I agree Trees, I love that feeling, it is fantastic when it all comes together. Thank you.

      June 3, 2014
  37. Way back when I first discovered photoshop I use to play around a lot but now I just tweak a tiny bit and I’m done!

    June 3, 2014
    • I do that with some, and others I do a lot too, depends on what I want the image for. Thanks Gypsy.

      June 3, 2014
  38. Hi Leanne,

    I asked the photographer David Penprase in an interview recently about about this. He worked exclusively in film his entire career. His answer was very succinct. To paraphrase ‘I don’t care how an image is produced, what I do care about is does it move me and affect me emotionally in any way.’ Surely this is what counts. This subject gives people something to talk about as evidenced here but it really is a spurious argument in my opinion. I’m with David, it’s all about the picture not how it was produced. He went on to say that the secret in processing an image, and this applies to film and digital, is knowing when to stop, it’s all too easy to overdo whatever processes you are employing in the dark room and the ‘lightroom’.

    June 3, 2014
    • I totally agree Chillbrook, and Peter Eastway says the same thing in his article, surely what really matters is the final image, does it look good and do you like it, and how you got it shouldn’t matter. I also agree with the second part as well, though sometimes you do have to go too far to learn what is too far.
      Can you add a link to the post, others might like to read it.

      June 3, 2014
      • You can read the full interview at The Digital Lightroom. David Penprase is the guest judge in the latest Digital Lightroom competition. The interview was carried out to mark the launch – http://www.thedigitallightroom.wordpress.com

        June 3, 2014
      • Thank you Chillbrook, I will definitely take a look.

        June 3, 2014
  39. I think in a lot of cases people who say processing is wrong are just lazy. They don’t know how to do it, they don’t want to make the effort to learn and they don’t want to think their images may be inferior because of that, so they say it’s wrong. Of course there are also times when very little processing is required such as much of photojournalism, wildlife and foggy landscapes.

    There is a place for wild processing just as there is a place for experimental images and infrared (and digital infrared involves wild processing). Most wild processing fails because people approach it as a technical exercise rather than a subsidiary component of an artistic process. Similarly, it is not uncommon to fail in capturing images even with the best equipment, or even because it’s the best equipment, because it becomes a technical exercise rather than a window to the soul.

    For me, the objective is to produce the best set of images I can, whatever it takes to do so. Because I have no commercial aspirations, I don’t need to use my time in an economically efficient way. Sometimes the process merely involves how little I need to do and other times it may take a massive processing effort aiming to produce an image that doesn’t appear to have been processed at all.

    June 3, 2014
    • I love that first part Murray and think you might be right on there.
      I agree about the technical exercise too, I never know what I am going to do, some things I always do, others, if it comes to me and the image dictates what I should or shouldn’t do. I never know what will happen.
      I feel the same way, I just want to produce really excellent images, and ones that I am proud of. Great comment Murray, some great points.

      June 3, 2014
  40. Interesting topic, and a difficult one for me 🙂 My website is about showing the beauty of unknown places in Europe. The pictures should look natural, I think, so lately I use Snapseed and Photoshop less. The beauty of the place should speak for itself. On the other hand, I do like to experiment, both with the settings of my camera and programs. So, one of these days, I will either put those pics on a separate page or a separate website.

    June 3, 2014
    • I don’t think it is always necessary, I just don’t like the idea that some thing it is always wrong. The image and the intention of the photographer should determine what to do to the image. It sounds like you definitely know what your intention is Ingrid.

      June 3, 2014
      • Yes, after 5 years I have figured it out 🙂 I like to experiment though, because I would like to develop my own style. I don’t know if it makes any sense, but when I see pictures of you, I “see” you, although I don’t know you personally. Your pictures make me want to go further; I am finally going to explore all settings of my camera and I have even joined a photography club!

        June 3, 2014
      • Yes that makes sense Ingrid. That is such a lovely thing to say, thank you so much. Just be careful with the photography club, sometimes they can be funny, make sure you get what you want out of it.

        June 3, 2014
  41. Great post Leanne and judging by the number of comments I’ve had to scroll through in order to write mine, it’s certainly prompted a lot of discussion. Post processing is a skill…..the software is becoming ever more sophisticated and complicated. It’s also where the photographer’s creative vision comes to life. However, like you I try not to over-process, because it’s very easy to ruin a good photo with poor PP. The reverse is also true – it’s not possible to rescue a poor image with good PP. A great image is the combination of a strong original image and sensitive/appropriate PP. I tend to stick to three or four set recipes that I’ve developed over time that suit my style and vision. I do occasionally add to or deviate from these recipes, if the subject calls for a “looser” style. I occasionally use HDR. Personally I draw the line at composite images (e.g. replacing a sky from one image with the sky from another) that for me starts to move away from photography into digital art.

    June 3, 2014
    • I change skies all the time, I replace the image with a sky from one image with another, I don’t have a problem with it, it is something photographers have been doing in the darkroom for a long time. I also really dislike the term digital art, always brings to mind animae or animation, images that are created completely in the digital world with no reference to reality or real photos. Though I am very upfront about it. I do find it strange that people draw the line there, and you aren’t the first to say that. I don’t have an issue with it and if I have an image that I like, except for a crappy sky, then I will replace it and put a better one in.
      I do agree with the first part though Mark, thanks.

      June 3, 2014
      • Each to their own Leanne…it’s what makes photography, art and life so varied and interesting 😊.

        June 4, 2014
      • So very true Mark, it is all subjective in the end.

        June 4, 2014
  42. Just for fun, here are a couple of grand Ansel Adams quotes…..

    “Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.” – Ansel Adams

    “The negative is the equivalent of the composer’s score, and the print the performance.”
    – Ansel Adams

    It’s still the same darkroom, just a digital one now. 🙂
    Cheers and keep making beautiful photographs!

    June 3, 2014
    • Great quotes, thank you so much for sharing them. I agree, it is still the darkroom.

      June 3, 2014
  43. Every image has to be looked at individually. I go through a shoot, pick my favourites. Then I go through them and do any minor edits, as they each require and on occasion I am happy with the image just as it is (very rare).
    I like the term digital darkroom, why is it ok to manipulate portrait photography for lighting etc but not landscape photography. Double standards if you ask me. Brilliant post. Thank you

    June 3, 2014
    • I agree more Leanne, each shot should be looked at individually.
      I hadn’t even thought of that, the lighting, it is so true. thank you.

      June 3, 2014
  44. Great potographs! 🙂

    June 3, 2014
  45. Very good article and it represents what I feel and think about post production images.

    I have never ever had experience before with film camera as I’ve just started learning about photography about three years ago. But even so I know how photographer in the past (film) produced their images theoretically as you’ve mentioned above.

    So I do not understand why in this digital era people who doing post production are called a cheater. To me the only different between now and the past is the way images processed in term of the media but both called manipulating.

    As a beginner I love doing post production. Why? Because by doing it sometimes I got inspirations from that about how to make a better image yet knowing what I’ve done wrong with my images. So it helps me to improve my skill according to my own standard obviously. 🙂

    Thanks for bringing this up, Leanne. 🙂

    June 3, 2014
    • That really is true, there isn’t much difference, though it is much easier on the computer than it was in the darkroom.
      That is great to hear, so glad you find it helps you improve your skills. I love what I can do and how it can completely transform an image.
      You’re welcome and good luck with your photography. 🙂

      June 3, 2014
  46. Wonderful post and a topic I’ve been thinking about lately. Yes, funny how we are called “cheaters” when we manipulate and touch-up our digital images with some form of software. We all do it on Instagram. It makes it sound like we’re creating deceptive art…maybe this is because there are a lot of us who don’t know anything about post-processing and it comes as a shock to them when they hear it.

    A photo, an image, is about telling stories. Period. So I don’t see why we can’t do post-processing on it to bring out what we want to say. I am still new to this whole image post-processing process, but do touch up my blog photos each week to go along with my written words.

    Hope your week is going well, Leanne. Work is tiring. Eating cereal now, writing stuff soon 🙂

    June 3, 2014
    • that is so true about Instagram, had forgotten all about that.
      I love that idea of images telling stories. I will have to remember that.

      It has been a strange week, not all good, but nothing I want to talk about here. I love cereal, haha, I’m watching Air Crash Investigation. 🙂 happy writing.

      June 3, 2014
  47. I don’t do much to my photos apart from resizing and watermarking them on Picmonkey, but that’s probably because I don’t know how to do anything else to them. If I start editing photos I will never get off this computer again.

    June 3, 2014
    • Haha, I know that feeling, I can get stuck on the computer for hours. Probably a good move Carol.

      June 3, 2014
  48. For post processing I see it in two different ways. There is photo manipulation, and photo enhancement. To me photo manipulation is where you alter the photo by changing things within it, adding new items, removing items, or altering the content of the photo, for the purpose of only creating photographic art for one to enjoy.

    Photo enhancement on the other hand is leaving the objects in the photo but doing edits such as straightening the horizon, fixing the white balance, changing the color tones, making a monochrome, or adding or removing noise to keep the essence of the original photo for one to remember what that point in time was like.

    There may be a fine line between the two and one can agree that with both you striving to create photographic art in one way or another, but to me manipulation is more to the extreme where in some cases the original photo can become unrecognizable where enhancement is more natural and makes the original more appealing.

    When it comes down to it, every photo has specific elements that make it interesting or not. We tend to be drawn to certain things. I think as a photographer it is important to learn what those elements are and know how to have them displayed. What I always ask myself when I process a photo is what is the main subject of this photo and is it being displayed in a way that others can enjoy? Is the editing so distracting that one cannot enjoy the main purpose of this photo? We all strive to create the best work that we can and always struggle in the beginning. Learning how to use the tools to take the photo is the easy part. It’s knowing how to compose a photo and then edit it that we all continue to learn.

    Half the battle is to take the photo, the other half is to make it appealing.

    June 3, 2014
    • I ask myself similar things, what is the point of focus, what do I want the viewer to see in this image, what feeling do I want them to feel. Are they art images or just documentary of what I saw. It is a good thing to do and you have brought up some great points. Thanks JT

      June 4, 2014
  49. Thought provoking post – interesting to see your readers’ points of view! I have no problem with photos being processed to enhance or bring out the best of one’s shot, however I’m with the eternal traveller on this one – I do minimal post-processing as I just don’t know how! I have recently started using Snapseed to do some basic editing such as changing the brightness and ambiance and I know how to crop, resize, sharpen and add a watermark etc but I tried Photoshop Elements and found it all far too confusing – it was just so complicated. I felt that my photos ended up looking worse for my inadequate editing than if I had just left well alone!

    I also don’t tend to have the patience to spend hours “messing” around in post-production, nor do I wish to make the time – I’d rather be out taking the photos than sitting on a computer trying to make them look wonderful! My photos are published with just the bare minimum of processes. As a result I would say that I am probably missing out on something but I accept that about my photography – I just try to make the best out of my time and my limited skills.

    Maybe when I don’t have to work I will go and take a course on the post-production side of photography so I can edit with confidence and feel as if I know what on earth I’m trying to achieve and how to go about it!

    Alison

    June 3, 2014
    • I think sometimes it helps if you have lessons first when using those, or watch some tutorials, it can go all crazy before you know it.
      Many of my photos are published the same way, I run them through Lightroom and that is it, but sometimes I like to play with some a whole lot more. I love processing them and seeing what I can do, so I don’t have a problem spending hours on them in the computer, I really enjoy that part actually.
      Yes, working makes it hard, I have made this my job so I guess that makes it a little different. Thank you Alison, great to hear your thoughts on this.

      June 4, 2014
  50. Peter45 #

    I actually like to add additional effects afterward, very much so. I do it for the reason that the effects can make it look like something more then a photo. I can make it look like a painting or a mental image. Sometimes a raw photo can be the best thing ever, but sometimes you need the post production to make a boring photo look beautiful.

    June 3, 2014
    • That sounds great Peter, and sounds like you really love what you do, even better, thanks for sharing your experiences.

      June 4, 2014
  51. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez #

    Art is everything. To try and define ‘what is art’ is to be judgmental – you can’t do it. To point to an image and say “this is art” or “this is not art” is to narrow the limits of possibilities. It seems to me that once a person snaps a picture, it belongs to them and they can do anything they want to it. Each treatment or manipulation to the image is art.

    June 3, 2014
    • I really like the way you think Jackie, I love it actually. Thank you.

      June 4, 2014
  52. First, three great masters of photography — Ansel Adams, Gene Smith and Pete Turner — would be using all the digital tools available to them. After all, Ansel Adams created an entire system for developing and printing called the Zone System to make his pictures be what he wanted them to be. My favorite Gene Smith quote was, “I want the damn picture to say what I want it to say,” And, Pete Turner used to say, “The picture isn’t done until the dupe is made.”

    Me? I follow something musician Neil Young said, “After playing a song 400 or 500 times, the song teaches me how to play it.” That’s what I say. Unless the picture must be made to some production standard, let the picture teach you how to make it.

    Some pictures — especially photojournalism — look best stripped down. Other pictures — personal, more artistic work — look better taken as far out as you can. There are no boxes.

    June 3, 2014
    • Very well said Ray, love all the quotes, brilliant, thank you so much for leaving them here.

      June 4, 2014
      • Thank you. I just think people get too hung up on something being a “real” photograph.

        June 4, 2014
      • I think so too, I never pretend that what you see in my images are reality. I like creating my own realities, something I really want to do more of.

        June 4, 2014
  53. Personally, I’m all for manipulation – a good finished image is more important than how you got there. Ansel Adams was an arch-manipulator of his images in the dark room – that’s why they’re so hard to imitate. Was he a cheater?

    June 4, 2014
    • I agree, it should always be about the finished image. I totally agree Richard, thank you.

      June 4, 2014
  54. My gosh, Leanne,

    I expect professionals to do whatever it takes to make an image marketable, (process and manipulate) but an amateur should not feel he or she must sweat blood, spend money or shed tears over processing an image.

    I want my photos to look good, but don’t feel I must do what you, or any other professional does. There is no financial incentive for me to spend hours manipulating a photo for a specific effect.

    This is also why I shoot jpg. Again, I don’t have any financial incentive to salvage a badly exposed photo. Either I’ll go back and do it over, or simply let it go. I also set my camera do do as much processing as possible.

    So, while I process my photos, and film was certainly processed, I don’t understand the need for amateurs to do whatever it takes in time, effort and money. Now, if I were creating digital art, that is a different story.

    June 4, 2014
    • I agree Robert.
      I really think in the end it is up to you and what you want to do with them. I just don’t like being told that I am cheating because I do it, or that it is wrong.
      Thanks Robert, nice to hear how you work.

      June 4, 2014
  55. It is not “wrong” to digitally manipulate images – simply because there are no “rights” and “wrongs” in photography. We each do our own thing – although there are always those who would rather have us do their thing. For me, if the end product looks good then it is good – end of story.

    I used to be a 35mm film photographer, and mostly shot colour (and also some black and white) slides. With slides, everything had to be right at the moment of capture. I mastered the techniques and shot pictures that pleased me, many of which can be seen on my blog now.

    But that was in the past. Times have moved on. The advent of digital processing techniques has left slide photography far, far behind. The images that I can achieve with digital simply would not have been possible with slide film.

    For me, the bottom lines I think, are two. First, I can see no value in continuing to use slide film because it is somehow more “real” or of higher quality or more of a challenge than digital. And second, since the vast potential for digital manipulation is there, I cannot see any reason for not taking advantage of it. Adrian

    June 4, 2014
    • I love your end of story and think mine is the same Adrian. Great bottom lines too, especially the second. Thank you Adrian, great thoughts.

      June 4, 2014
  56. I recon it’s all dependent on what you want and how you use the images. I, like most in this thread, edit images on my computer and do not see this as cheating. But for sure editing can be to cheat if an image is manipulated and then passed off as not manipulated. There was this big stink a couple of years ago in Sweden with a wildlife photographer winning an award for the wildlife image of the year where it was subsequently discovered that the lynx featured and the background was 2 separate images that had been merged in photoshop. Needless to say he was stripped of the award. I’m sure there are many such examples.

    June 4, 2014
    • I think it is important to be upfront about that as well. I think everyone who follows me knows that I manipulate my photos, I don’t try and hide that.
      I think I heard something about that. the rules for comps are usually very clear about how much processing they allow. Thanks Freddy.

      June 4, 2014
  57. I’ve been thinking a lot about this subject lately, so thank you for posting! As an under water photographer, I am subject to a slightly different set of rules when it comes to post-production. Because of the effect of the water column between the camera and the subject, it is imperative that some post production work be done, such as sharpening and contrast. At some point, though, I think that photo manipulation becomes more about your skills on the computer than your skills as a photographer. For example; It is very popular in under water photography to have the subject against a black background. This is accomplished through skill with the camera. However, I think the problem comes in when a photographer gets a mediocre image and burns out the background to make it look like he/she accomplished a great shot. In this case, that would be “cheating.” Maybe the question to be asked is whether the photographer is deceiving the public into thinking he is a great photographer when really he is just great with computer software? That being said, I believe whole-heartedly in post-processing in order to enhance a great image, and even to create a creative piece of art. But if the purpose of post-processing is to make the public believe you are a skilled photographer, then I think that could be called “cheating.”

    June 4, 2014
    • Interesting points, I don’t see why a photographer can’t be skilled in both, we didn’t say a photographer who had great darkroom skills wasn’t a photographer, that he was just a master printer. I think you can be both and for me becoming as good as I can at editing has been just as important as honing my camera skills. They work together. Though I do believe it is best to start with a good image.
      Now the second point, I think if it is done very well, and you can’t tell, how is that cheating. Most photography is deceptive, you show what you want to show, manipulate the scene to get what you want. It is an interesting point. Thanks

      June 4, 2014
  58. Lots of good points made here, and I fully agree that post production is not cheating. I’m learning PS and other editing software and enjoy making my photos better, mostly basic enhancing but sometimes I want to make more artistic images and do a lot of “stuff” 🙂 although I’ll always be an amateur. Great photos as usual!!

    June 4, 2014
    • You never Tiny, you never know what will happen, just keep doing what you are doing. Good luck with it. Thank you.

      June 4, 2014
  59. Thanks for addressing this subject, it is one I deal with in my personal style each time I work. I started out my photography in the darkroom and not behind the camera. Besides the normal dodges & burns, it was even common for me to mask and overlay 2 to 3 negatives to create an image. Sometimes I would create works with no film involved. Were they photographs? It was technically “writing with light.”
    Later, I studied photography while studying journalism in college. Any manipulation was taboo.
    I think in the film days, the principle was to learn to appreciate the talent and technic used for the style of the artist.
    With the digital age, it has become common place to see all the phases of the moon in one sky, so we ask/wonder if it is truely photography or digital art. It is a good question and perhaps the digital age has blended the many different styles of photography with no clear lines of distiction anymore. However, we should still also focus on the talent that was used to create the image and if it speaks to us as the artist would have hoped. Appreciating an image for the talent to capture in camera or post manipulation doesn’t negate the image, it just gives the artist credit for their skills where due. It could be said that simply using a digital camera is computer manipulation and not true photography, DSLR’s are nothing but programmable processors anyway.
    I personally don’t do any post work other than the basics anymore. I’m enjoying the challenge of trying to create the image I envision at the moment of capture. This is for my joy and I hope the work involved is appreciated by the viewer.
    And I love your selection, you know my passion for B/W. The fact these are from film also shows the work & talent put into them from the beginning, no progamable iso, exposure or f/.

    June 4, 2014
    • Wow, that was interesting trip into photography, not one I’ve heard of before.
      You have make some fantastic points Paul, though I still dislike the term digital art, it brings to mind animation, games that sort of thing, things that never had any photos to start with and were created completely on the computer.
      I do lots, but you know that. Thanks for you thoughts and experiences here Paul.

      June 4, 2014
  60. Very nice pictures!

    June 4, 2014
  61. Hmmm! This is something I’ve thought about for a long time!
    I used to be firmly in the camp of “NO POST-PRODUCTION!”, but I’ve since become less annoying and less hipster. I now know that there’s a time and a place for everything. I guess it also depends on what sort of post-production we’re talking about here. If we’re talking about things like adjusting blow-outs, colour balance, white balance, cropping, then that should all be fair game.

    I guess things get a bit more dicey and ambiguous when we start talking about things that are a bit more heavy-handed in Photoshop. It’s not really my place to say what’s right and what’s not, but I suppose some people get a bit antsy when people start creating/adding things that weren’t originally there – so much so that the end result only barely resembles the original.

    At the end of the day though, photography is art, so the person taking the photo can do whatever they want with it. I do still really enjoy shooting film (if only it wasn’t so expensive). The unpredictability and delayed gratification are just things that you can’t replicate with digital, so it’s a shame that so many people will miss out on it.

    June 4, 2014
    • I think it is that as well, and it really is up to the person who took the image and their interpretation of the scene and what they want to do with it. I love heavy handedness, and love seeing how far I can take an image.
      thanks David, always good hearing what people think.

      June 4, 2014
  62. Ann #

    Good discussion!

    I think that, in photojournalism, post-processing should be minimal. Reuters has clear rules on this (http://handbook.reuters.com/index.php?title=A_Brief_Guide_to_Standards,_Photoshop_and_Captions). I’m really on the fence when it comes to fashion photography; mostly because it presents teenagers and young women with an unrealistic view of what they should look like, possibly leading to eating disorders. On the other hand, Photoshopping in the area of fashion photography has provided with a lot of very humorous images (http://www.complex.com/style/2013/07/model-photoshop-fails/ralph-lauren).

    That said, art has no rules, other than those you make for yourself.

    June 4, 2014
    • that is true Ann, the fashion industry are obsessed and do go too far, they are really out of touch with reality anyway.
      I also think art has no rules and that is the way it should be. Great points Ann, thank you.

      June 4, 2014
  63. How fascinating… I learned burn and dodge in the darkroom but didn’t realize how far it could go. (We were just taught photojournalism and manipulating/interfering with the image or how it was captured – like asking for a hat on/off, etc – was really frowned on.)

    I only recently started heightening contrast, manipulating a little bit, sharpening a hair… I’ve always cropped because IMO most photos can benefit from it. I don’t have the time or the tools for massive amounts of post-production work, although I have several “art photography” concepts that I’d love to try someday, and they would certainly require it.

    I think it’s like anything else… it depends on what you call it, and what your intention is (for example fashion manipulation as discussed above). It brings to mind that camels/pyramids photo that National Geographic manipulated and got burned for… it *did* make a stronger photo, but they also needed to be upfront about their methods.

    Great post, thank you!

    June 5, 2014
    • I think photojournalism is still pretty much the same, and post processing is still frowned upon.
      I am slowly learning all the tools for it and I do love it, I love seeing where you can take a photo. I hope you get the tools you need sson.
      I agree, I never pretend that my images aren’t manipulated, they are, and I do and I do it a lot. I think people following me or those that come here know that I do that.
      Thanks Dakota, thanks for your thoughts as well.

      June 5, 2014
  64. gtonthenet #

    I used to develop my own film – black and white, of course. Labour-intensive doesn’t even begin to describe how much time and effort it took. The greater part of that was the dodging and burning to get the final print just right, but we all did it. The end product was an image the way I wanted it – and that’s the point – it’s your image and you process it how you see fit. Nowadays you can do the same, in a few minutes, that used to take many hours of trial and error (and a lot less cleaning up afterwards!). Digital photography has changed the way I do things, but not the things I did. I’m just more efficient now.

    June 5, 2014
    • I’m with you here about the time. I hated the darkroom, it was so time consuming. I remember working on the image in this post, the one of the abattoirs at the back and I wanted a darker sky. I spent hours in the dark room trying to get it, even asked someone else I know, and in the end couldn’t get it, gave up. I get on the computer a year or so ago and in 15 minutes I have my burned in sky and it looks great. I actually gave up photography because I was so frustrated at not having enough control over an image. If you didn’t notice things or such. I knew I wanted to do more. Then digital got me back in and I haven’t looked back, I love what you can do on the computer, it is just brilliant. Thanks.

      June 5, 2014
  65. This is a great post, and you made some really good points! Photoshop has a bad rep, when it shouldn’t. I took part in a fine art photography workshop recently, and learned that editing your images is not a bad thing at all — it’s just another form of expression, just like painting. Photoshop isn’t even a must in fine art photography; it all depends on what you want to communicate or express through the photo.
    One photographer who has left a big impression on me is Jerry Uelsmann. He’s created all his manipulated images in darkroom, way before Photoshop even existed: http://www.uelsmann.net/works.php
    The only understandable exception to this is photojournalism. Unlike fine art photography, the point of it is to portray reality, so touching up photos in this case would be considered unethical.

    June 5, 2014
    • I am glad you think so too Yasmine, I agree, Photoshop has a rep and for what reason I don’t know. I think editing your images is absolutely fine and should be encouraged if you want to do it. Fine Art Portraiture is great. I love doing it, haven’t been doing enough, must see if I can get some soon.
      That photographers work is absolutely amazing.
      I think nature photography is like that too, you can do basic editing, but nothing that changes the actual image. Thank you Jasmine some fantastic points.

      June 5, 2014
      • My pleasure! I enjoy discussing this kind of things. 🙂
        And so sorry about my late reply!

        July 9, 2014
      • I wish I enjoyed them, I get so angry when people don’t agree with me, LOL. Thanks Yasmine.

        July 10, 2014
  66. Before the advent of cgi and in the days transitioning from film to digital, I proposed thinking about fidelity to the real as recorded as “Type I Photography” and the _addition_ of information and departure from the documenting image as “Type II Photography”. Tonality would then be interpreted as iterative in regard to the “essential content” — subject before the camera — of the recording.

    So far, so good.

    I would also differentiate between “Response Photography”, in which the photographer has ventured into some extant reality or encounter with what exists separate from the photographer and “Constructed Photography”, in which the photographer imports elements and builds the subject.

    It sounds awfully academic, but in that there are people who really want to see the flower, the face, the building, the sea, the countryside, and so as if encountering the object fresh, the system sufficed for the Bresson-with-Leica set. The answer to “how did you get that picture” involved a narrative leading up to the exposure. That’s what mattered. In the post-Adobe, et al. environment, the answer to the same question may start with, well, “First, I made a mask” or some other post-exposure action building on the raw recording.

    After hashing these issues for ages, looking back, I came to the simple conclusion that all photography is illustration all of the time, and how we then approach that responds to the shooting context and related intent. The character and humanity of the photographer then determines how the machinery will be used: some will work like Selgado or Nachtwey,, and some will approach recording like Man Ray but with a digital toolkit — and now cameras — that give owners a shot at emulating George Lucas.

    June 5, 2014
    • I think I agree here. I don’t think it really matters how an image came to be, the question should really be, is it is a good image and do people like it. I don’t understand the luddite mentality to photography, that we can do this, but we can’t do that. If the tools are there to create the vision we want then shouldn’t we use them.
      Why do we have say how it was created, do we go to a painter and say, please show us what you were painting so we can see if it is real or you did stuff that you shouldn’t have done.
      I do think some photography, like photojournalism, does have to be true to the scene, but why do other things, why can’t we just say, yep it’s good, or not it isn’t?
      Thanks commart, great thoughts here.

      June 5, 2014
      • Among critics, curators, and investors, the penchant to classify visual art, describe it materially, locate it in the history of the literature (“new idiom” is always the prize) develops value in the possession of the artifact.

        Photography has borne the burden of representing both industrial art — science and technology — as well as visual fine art, and the same combing curatorial industry plus the technology development and sales interests ply the same voodoo: subject, location, date + camera, lens, processing tools + printer, paper, ink. 🙂 I’ve been distracted by politics made possible by broadband Internet, and so, as you have seen, my ability to perceive and frame an image has been snaps in the garden. Yikes! So I’m a bit remote (with some great gear around the place). What I may suggest is that making art has always a technical part that corresponds with the development of technical facility; then it has a literary / conceptual / idea part, and the setting out to create a name / brand / style involves the latter more than the former.

        The Luddite unplugged (gone back to glass and collodion) has been a part of the romance since virtually the beginning. No sooner could Talbot produce a gauzy paper negative than “classical tableaux” became the fashionable thing to produce. Later in the history, reversions to earlier technology, like going into the field with a wooden box when a brass bodied 35mm would have been so much more convenient, constituted part of the charm. That may be part of what’s happening with not wanting to be a graphic artist, illustrator, computer programmer but this other less captive, more wild, or more intimate-with-subject soul searching with a camera.

        I’ll stop here. It’s been a pleasure chatting after so much time seeing your logo. –Jim

        June 5, 2014
      • That is true, and I think the distinctions need to be made between the different types of photography, I have no issue with that, and there will be rules that regulate what is satisfactory and what isn’t.
        I think that is also true, we are a strange species, humans, so weird.
        Thank you too, nice to hear from you. Take care Jim.

        June 5, 2014
  67. I really enjoy post processing. I think it’s important not to start getting into the mindset of “I can correct that later” and being lazy with your technique, but most photos need will need some adjustment or correction when you come to look at them on a monitor. Like you, I don’t see how this is that different from dark room techniques – in fact many of the functions in Photoshop are named after these very techniques and Lightroom is obviously a play on the word darkroom.

    However, I do see lot of over processing in photos these days and I’ve been guilty of that myself, but this shouldn’t detract from the necessary business of making your images look the very best they can. Besides, how many paintings are an accurate representation of their subjects?

    I think it’s only “cheating” when you specifically claim the shot to be “as it was”, but have added in elements that weren’t there.

    June 5, 2014
    • I really enjoy it as well. I love it really. I agree about the correcting lately, I’m old school and if you can fix in camera, then you do.
      I hadn’t thought of that about Lightroom, good point.
      I have done the same, overprocessed, though that is sometimes how you learn, over do it, and realise it is bad, though the second part has to happen as well. I think of paintings when I’m processing, paintings aren’t always correct, they have mistakes, so why can’t photos be the same.
      I like that last statement. Thanks Stevie, really great points.

      June 6, 2014
  68. I pretty much only shoot film, and when it comes to editing, less is best.
    For B&W, I use filters to get the contrast I want. The only adjustments i do in photoshop are Levels, Curves, Crop, Straighten, Sharpen and Spot Healing. Most of those are due to scanning, and trying to reproduce the image on screen to replicate the negative/positive.
    Less is best, and I think some people should spend more time behind the camera getting it right rather than “I’ll fix it In photoshop later.” I think what was done in a darkroom was still quite basic, and if you did similar adjustments in Photoshop there shouldn’t be a problem.

    June 7, 2014
    • If you listen to a lot of people, there was a hell of a lot you could do in the darkroom if you knew how. There were some exceptional printers in the days of darkroom. Though it surprises me that you feel shooting film is best, yet you don’t have any issue scanning and doing adjustments on the computer, why are you also using a darkroom? Would that be more true to film.
      I have to say, and I have seen it a lot with this post the luddite attitude that comes with photography. The idea that photography got to a certain stage of development and that everything after it should be dismissed, that it isn’t allowed to develop beyond that point.
      One of the things that I think has been fantastic about digital is that you are using all those chemicals that you did with film. The chemicals for photography are so bad, and working out ways of disposing of them was horrendous. I hated the chemicals.
      I use photoshop a lot, and I still manage to get around 500 images a week, so I don’t think that is an issue.
      I do agree that doing things like good composition is the best when taking the photo and something I always do. I do love playing in photoshop and seeing what I can do.

      June 7, 2014
      • Yeah, from what I have seen you could “cut and paste” in the darkroom, but skills like that were only used for advertising and publications.
        I don’t have a darkroom, and and it’s rare that I get to spend any time in one, which is why I resort to scanning.

        I like film largely for the equipment side of things, and for the characteristics of each film. The digital cameras that I owned included a Pentax K5 and a Canon 5Dmk2, both great cameras, but I struggled to get images that I was happy with. I have found my ‘hit’ rate with photos these days has increased, and the only adjustments I make in post are levels and slight contrast to fix the flat images the scanner outputs. The less time I can spend in front of the computer the better.

        Photoshop is a fantastic tool, but I feel it gets over used sometimes.
        Photography is ever evolving, and it’s good to see, the quality of images produced by cameras is incredible, and whether you use film or digital is irrelevant.
        But hey, it’s just my opinion.

        June 7, 2014
      • Hey James you should read through the comments, they weren’t just done for those, people were learning to do them in their home darkrooms. People have done some amazing stuff in their darkrooms, very creative. People think HDR started in digital, but it began in the darkroom. I have no idea how, I never had the patience for the darkroom, but it was incredible.

        I am glad to be done with film, it drove me nuts, I hated not being able to tell if the shots were any good, and then rolls of film processed to find you used the wrong setting or something. Such a waste of money when that happened.

        So does this mean you think my images are also overdone? I love seeing what sort of images I can get with photoshop, how far I can push it. though I never pretend my images aren’t manipulated, some of them are, and they are a lot, well they all are, but some way more than others.

        June 7, 2014
  69. Dear Leanne, first of all, I have to thank you for this discussion: it really clarifies many points of view. After a few days and many comments, I would like to contribute once more with a small thought.

    I am beginning to think that post-production of images becomes “cheating” when they do not respect the expectation of the viewer. I can clarify with a simple example: suppose you publish an image portraying Mr Barack Obama with a shoe on his head (I use this example, because Mr Obama is universally known). It is obviously a composition performed in some post-production software, e.g., by merging to shots you have taken before.

    Now, if you publish this image on your website, from the context any viewer will consider this image as a composition. She may like it or not. She may consider it beautifully ironical, discuss it, criticize, being disgusted, or whatever. But, in any case, she will know that the image is an art work, made by a photographer.

    Oppositely, if you publish this image on a newspaper without any further specification, this could be considered as “cheating”. Because it is not clear whether the image is a real portrait, showing that the President of USA has gone crazy: the context suggests that the image is “real”, and the viewer has to infer that it is a composition. It would be “honest” if the photographer, in this particular case, declares that the image is not a single shot of a real scene but, rather, an interpretation of what he thinks about reality – or something similar.

    Of course, the expectation of the viewer is not a strict borderline: surprising the viewer is important when we want to produce a good image. But there should be no doubt on what is purpose the image has been produced for. So, limiting post-production is not a question of over-using a technique, but rather a need which arises when the image has to be used in a context where certain aspects of post-production may lead to a false interpretation of the image. And, in particular, with art works, I see no reason to limit post-production.

    Obviously, to produce to good images, one must start from good shots and one has to master the digital darkroom: as everyone knows, post-production may correct a few minor mistakes, but a bad shot will always become a bad image! So, even when an image depicts a real situation, it can be enhanced by post-production – and it should, to reach the standard of quality which are required to have a professional shot. But, in this case only, the limit is not to modify the “content” of the scene.

    June 7, 2014
    • You’ve made some great points and observations Marco. Photojournalism, I think, is very strict about what post processing and what post processing isn’t allowed. Usually, I believe you can’t alter the actual image.
      I do think people should be upfront about it though, but that doesn’t necessarily mean telling exactly what you did. I often change skies, most know I do that, I don’t try to pretend I don’t.
      Thanks for you thoughts here.

      June 7, 2014
  70. Hey Leanne, thanks for this post. I often fight back and forth with myself and with artists on whether or not a photograph (never mind landscape photography) is art. As a photographer, I started my career in the art and culture sector before I started doing it commercially. And while selling my art, “marketing” my photography as an art form is an ongoing battle. I have been successful but the challenge remains there. With the help of CONTACT a photography festival that showcases photo as art in Toronto and with the help of famous photographic artists such a Ed Burtynsky (a Canadian, eh?) photography is getting some recognition.

    To sell photography as art, to answer a couple of your questions [Do you manipulate your photos?], often, heavy manipulation to a photograph is key. It is other wise deemed as a “snapshot” with no artistic influence. My art involves a lot of manipulation in different mediums. Photographic art is a hard sell, but now as the commercial photographer is slowly leaving our midst, photographic art might be a better sell with time.

    Why do you manipulate them a lot?
    If you’re selling it as art, it’s because it sells.

    Do you think it is wrong to do it? It’s not wrong if it means your doing it to garner the interest of a specific audience.

    What do you think makes a good image? Good composition, proper exposure and clarity. That’s if you’re not over manipulating it for another reason. I personally look at my photos this way.

    Do you love doing post production work? Yes!!! I think the best image is when it’s tweaked just a bit more to put some extra icing on the cake.

    June 9, 2014
    • It is hard, and it is even harder when there is a mindset that if you have heavily manipulated a photo then it is no longer a photograph, but something else. It is so frustrating.
      I love your questions and most of your answers would be mine as well. I love manipulating my images, I love seeing where I can take them, and really to get the images that I am really proud of, I have to do that.
      Thank you so much, wonderful to hear what it is like in Toronto, Melbourne, I suspect is even worse, but hopefully things will change.

      June 9, 2014
  71. In my beginner days, I used to have a very strict “photoshopping is cheating” approach to my photography. There are several reasons to that initial approach, the main one being that I wanted to learn how to master the capture process as much as possible. Also I didn’t know anything about post-processing (It took me two point and shoot cameras, one DSLR, something like 4 years before I discover the magical wonders of RAW images). One thing that I wanted to avoid at all cost was switching into the “eh, just snap something, I’ll just fix it in post” mindset. Once I started to really know my camera in and out, that I knew better about composition rules, settings, I started to learn about RAW Processing. Seemed like the logical next step. My editing is pretty basic, and I still limit myself to things like curves adjustments, cropping, exposure correction, white balance correction. And I always do my best to get the pictures right in camera directly (always keeping away from the “I’ll fix it in post” mindset). I don’t really call myself an artist. I don’t edit heavily, no adding textures or pushing the sliders to the limits and beyond in Lightroom/Darktable/etc… With the acceptance of “post processing” for myself, I also started to accept the fact that post processing was part of the photographic process, and to be more accepting of others who do post processing (would have been hypocritical otherwise).
    Now, retouching is an entirely different thing (and by retouching I mean “heavy” processing, or compositing, and advanced techniques like the ones used by Erik Johansson, whom you recently talked about). This is not photography anymore, to me, and really goes into the domain of art. And when somebody talks about art, nobody can say the process that led to the art piece is “cheating”. All one can say is whether they like the art or not, and that doesn’t make the art less “art” :).

    June 11, 2014
    • I know that mind set, not something I have ever had, you should always shoot the best you can in camera, without a doubt.
      Okay I have to disagree with the last part, what is art, if you call it art, then it could be a painting, it could be a sculpture, where exactly does it fit in, you take it from being in nice pigeon hole and then throw it out into the world as nothing, except art. How is that fair, it is still photographic, whether you want it to be or no, it is art, yes, but it is still photographic. If I did an image like that and entered an art competition they would want to know what the medium is, the medium is photography. So many have said things that it is like we are embarrassed, ashamed, that we can make these extraordinary images with photos, that we want to banish these people for doing them. I think that is sad. I hate the idea that the work that is what I think is the best is considered as nothing, though it belongs no where.

      June 11, 2014
  72. Reality and art

    There are a couple of things I’d like to say about reality and art that I meant to say in my earlier comment but ran out of time.

    It’s impossible to take a realistic photograph unless it is a copy of a two-dimensional object under rigorous conditions. Other than that, photographs are two-dimensional abstractions of a three-dimensional world with different colours, tonal range, sharpness and framing than the human eye. While reality is objective, our view of it is subjective and our vision is partly a learned act of imagination that also changes as we age. Moreover, we remember places to be more vivid than they actually were, so our standards of what seems “realistic” are not accurate.
    A jpeg out of a camera is a somewhat random subset of the RAW file and we cannot see on our monitor what is in the RAW file nor can we print it or display it on the web. So if the objective is to produce an image that “seems realistic”, that is likely to require post-processing which may be extensive though subtle.

    People commonly define art in terms of what they are told is art and say that art is impossible to define. I don’t agree with either attitude. Photographs can be art as much as anything else (and as with anything else, they may not be art). I think it’s quite simple: A photograph is art if it’s successful at subliminal communication.

    In other words, there is something about photographic art that makes us want to keep exploring the image, perhaps something that communicates with us in a way that we don’t entirely understand. Of course there may be a significant cultural component to that; a photograph of a test chart might be artistic on the mud wall of a Kalahari Bushman. So what one person with their imagination and cultural context sees as art may not be art for another person. Also, what someone claims to be art may not really be art because they’re just claiming it as an instance of a comfortable category rather than relating to the supposed art object. Similarly, a photograph that people do not recognise as art may still be art either because it has a powerful subliminal effect on them that they suppress or do not recognise, or because they are not culturally awake to what the photograph communicates.

    So, what is art is simple enough, it’s just recognising the instances of it that gets more complex.

    In your case of digital art, a photograph is either artistic or it is not, whatever the methods used to create it and whatever the style. If the addition of the word “digital” is just to persuade us that it is art, then it is probably merely pretentious and not really art at all.

    June 12, 2014
    • I love that last part Murray, I am finding people add the word digital because they don’t recognise that it could still be photographic. That the image has been manipulated so much that while it looks real, it can’t be a photo. I do find it quite frustrating.
      I really love everything you have said here. It is great, and thank you so much for taking the time to leave another comment on it.

      June 12, 2014
  73. ask #

    Great article.

    May 6, 2015

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