So, when does it stop being photography?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Kamera RAWr, Oct 30, 2007.

  1. Kamera RAWr macrumors 65816

    Kamera RAWr

    Joined:
    May 15, 2007
    Location:
    I'm where I need to be
    #1
    I wanted to start a small discussion about when photo editing goes to such a point as to not be photography anymore. I would like to know what the photographers of MR have to say on this issue. It starts of course with simple adjustments like perhaps exposure, white balance and things of that nature. Then there is the dodging and burning, masking, PS filters, etc. Also so far as making adjustments to separate elements of the photo. Where does it stop being photography?

    If there is already a thread on this topic, please forgive me :eek:
     
  2. jbernie macrumors 6502a

    jbernie

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2005
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    #2
    It stops becoming photography when the object is created by other than a camera.. so long as it starts as a photo taken by a camera it is photography to me.

    Now in saying that maybe there could be need to have two fields, where you have original photography and enhanced. Though with digital photos today unless you see the original on the memory card any print out can only be taken at face value.

    In saying that :), digital photography/effects has allowed us to do so much more as Joe or Jane Average photography that used to be in the realms of professionals and high end studios.

    The gf and I are right now reviewing stacks of photos from the trip to Australia, lightening up a few pics etc so they are more viewable before printing. No need to waste money on average or below pics when you can review them all first and decide how many you really want to print.
     
  3. Doylem macrumors 68040

    Doylem

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2006
    Location:
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    #3
    From its earliest beginnings, 150 years ago, photography has been an interpretive medium. The person who said "The camera never lies" was badly misinformed...

    We've always edited in-camera by picking this particular composition, not that one... There were plenty of manipulations in the darkroom: more cropping, burning & dodging, toning, etc. What's changed with digital is not the motivation... but merely the ease by which we can manipulate images.

    What I don't like is the idea of post-production as a quick-fix - trying to add some spurious gloss to uninspiring pictures. For example, there's no app or plug-in or 'magic wand' that can recreate a play of light on the landscape.

    The best post-production (IMO) is simply the minor tweaks to a good image (probably RAW) that recreate what the photographer originally saw. Other 'looks' (posterisation, HDR, Dragan, etc) should be used with care.

    There's really no point at which photography becomes an illustration or a technical exercise. At one end of an imaginary line is record photography: setting the camera up at the end of a street to record how a particular place looked at one moment in time. A the opposite end of the line are composite pictures, using every trick in the book to create a fantasy world - with masking, 'stitching', colour manipulation. All other photographs can be placed somewhere along this line, that's all...

    Reality is far more interesting than our inventions. I'm bored with pictures that have been given a purple sky, with maybe a couple of pink flamingos flying over. This is photography as clip art...

    We don't want to train ourselves to see. We want a trick, a tip, the app the professionals use. Sermon over. :)
     
  4. bartelby macrumors Core

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2004
    #4
    I think Doylem has pretty much covered it all.:)
     
  5. CrackedButter macrumors 68040

    CrackedButter

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2003
    Location:
    51st State of America
    #5
    You know, you can take pictures without a camera and its still photography. I disagree when you say "so long as it starts as a photo taken by a camera it is photography to me".

    I could just use film and expose it using my hands or just use photography fluids to make a image. Heck I can use tree leaves to imprint an image onto paper, are these not images as well?

    My suggestion is that you need to read up on Camera Obscura and you'll come back with a modified opinion.

    I made the image that is attached without using a camera or a computer, its not even an illustration using pens and paper. Is that not an image?
     

    Attached Files:

  6. Doylem macrumors 68040

    Doylem

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2006
    Location:
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    #6

    Hmmm... needs a little post-production, I feel. Maybe a couple of flamingos. ;)
     
  7. -hh macrumors 68020

    -hh

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2001
    Location:
    NJ Highlands, Earth
    #7

    I agree. To make a simpler (although more interpretationally strict) summary, I'd say that photography can include post-production manipulations intended to compensate for our technology shortcomings in recording.

    Thus, cropping is because we're compensating for having "too big" of a frame. Similarly, multi-image splicing is because the frame's "too small".

    Dodge & Burn are because of limitations in dynamic range. So too is image stacking for HDR.

    Retouching to remove hairs, dots and other flaws...is just that. Restoring color balances are also generally okay, although one can cross over into manipulation.

    But adding/removing objects (eg flamingos) I'd say crosses the line, but even this can be situational: I can see removing an object where it stuck into a corner and is clearly not intended to be the image's subject, but is merely a distraction (the alternative would have been to crop more). I'll try to find an example I'm thinking of later.


    -hh
     
  8. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2005
    Location:
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    #8
    When someone does on the computer what we used to do in the darkroom and produces an image pretty much what was originally shot in the camera, that is "photography." When someone does on the computer things which deliberately alter the image to the point where it is not really the same as what came out of the camera, then that, in my opinion, becomes "digital art."

    Burning/dodging/cropping/sharpening/boosting or reducing contrast, maybe a slight touch of the healing brush or clone stamp to remove something distracting in the image (say, a wastebin or a scrap of paper in the midst of an otherwise attractive landscape scene)..... these are all what I would consider still holding to the tenets of photography. Adding filters to change the color, adding or removing subjects/huge objects from the image, distorting the image so that it is unrecognizable from its original state......this would be digital art.

    Nothing wrong with digital art, it is a new and potentially exciting form of art in which people can have fun expressing their creativity in different ways than we've ever been able to do before.

    This whole topic is a hot-button one for many photographers, and if you look on the web you will find a lot of heated discussions of "photography" vs "digital art" and people's concerns about how far a digital image can be manipulated and still called a "photograph."
     
  9. netdog macrumors 603

    netdog

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2006
    Location:
    London
    #9
    I'm more interested in if it is compelling, beautiful, catalyzing or otherwise stimulating.

    I'll leave the rather mundane interest in wrestling over labels to others.

    FWIW, numerous photographers from every age have used whatever post-image capture processing technologies were available to them, from Stieglitz to Steichen to Rauchenberg and Hockney. Be it using silver, dodging and burning, or painting and/or collaging polaroids, none of these gentlemen could have produced the work they did that incoporated photography without photographs. When on earth did those photographs cease to be photographs? The question is ludicrous. The answer is never
     
  10. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Location:
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    #10
    I just wanted to chime in... Doylem did an excellent job of responding to this. It's a misconception that film photography does not involve much in the way of post-processing. Even many of the terms you used -- dodging and burning -- indeed come from film photography and were imported from there into the digital realm, as far as I know.

    I personally think it's not too valuable to think about what is and isn't a photograph, although I think that, at the point where you transition from modifying the photographed content to creating part of the content using other techniques (rendering, drawing, etc), it's appropriate to say that you're working in mixed media rather than photography. Still art, though.
     
  11. BanjoBanker macrumors 6502

    BanjoBanker

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2006
    Location:
    Mt Brook, AL
    #11
    I agree

    I agree completely with Clix. Particularly the hot button line. This is basically the same debate musicians had with the advent of the synthesizer in the late 50s. Plus ca change, plus c'est ce le meme chose pretty much says it all.:cool:
     
  12. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #12
    Indeed, if you see the originals of many of Ansel Adams works, you'll see that he wasn't always a great photographer, but he was almost always an exceptional printmaker.

    I just tend to lump it all into the "imaging" bucket.

    My enlargers have filter packs, my lights have gels, and my lenses have filters- Adams often removed signs, power lines, vehicles and I think in one case a large class graffiti in his images- but he's always hung in the photography section of galleries.
     
  13. Doylem macrumors 68040

    Doylem

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2006
    Location:
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    #13
    The news media still hang onto the notion of photography as an objective record of an event as it happened. A photographer called Adnan Hajj was sacked by Reuters a couple of years ago for making a pic of war-torn Beirut more dramatic by repeating the plumes of smoke (without much skill!) in Photoshop.
     

    Attached Files:

  14. saltyzoo macrumors 65816

    saltyzoo

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2007
    #14
    Technically, any bit twiddling isn't photography. I hate being technical though.
     
  15. mtbdudex macrumors 68000

    mtbdudex

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2007
    Location:
    SE Michigan
    #15
    Kinda reminds me of my B&W Photography course (film of course) I took in College back in 1985.

    I learned all sort of neat "tricks" from my teacher.

    Two points of Photography.
    -technical aspect
    -artistic aspect

    Honestly, I can say for B&W (film) I was technically proficient and mildly OK at the artistic. For digital, I'd say I'm not as proficient at the technical tools, my artistic ability is again mildly OK.

    So, IMHO If you can capture it (however) and manipulate it (however) and then view it (however) it's Photography.

    Does it "move you"?
    Make you think?
     
  16. seany916 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2006
    Location:
    Southern California
    #16
    The picture you get straight from the camera is PHOTOGRAPHY.

    Everything you do with it afterward is POST.

    That said, it doesn't hurt to "help" the pictures a bit sometimes if needed.
    It's also an art form unto itself. Depends on your needs & goals.

    There is room for everyone and the food they like at the table. I just get annoyed when someone says, "Hey! That's not REAL steak because it's cooked well-done!". I like medium, but I also support the guy that likes his cow blackened. It's not my money, I'm not the one eating it, and it's none of my business what he eats unless it truly affects me in some way.

    Some people I know don't own anything other than a P&S and just like the process of post. I prefer to get as much as possible right with the camera and tweak a bit as necessary. Other guys shoot and deliver without any post-processing at all. Do what works for you.

    What makes you happy as an artist? What makes your clients happy (and makes them regular clients)? How much guilt can you live with knowing that you (gasp!) delivered the pictures without spending countless hours in Photoshop?

    That said...

    you could just do what a lot of the local wedding photographers in my area do (no offense to the decent ones)...

    just throw a softening filter on the front and call it a day.
    "for soft, glowing, ethereal images"

    (Okay, I'm a hypocrite... I admit it. Sorry.)
     
  17. QuantumLo0p macrumors 6502a

    QuantumLo0p

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2006
    Location:
    U.S.A.
    #17
    I have to agree with jbernie.

    What the camera interprets has always been part of photography. Pushing, pulling, DOF, etc, albeit some consider this be a gray area. However, filters that adversely affect outcome seem to have always been considered to be a step further in altering the image.

    Outright adding content that was not in the photo definitely crosses the line for me as well as every avid photographer I know personally.

    I'm sure most of us know a great graphic artist who is a lousy photographer.

    Think of it as "bionics" for photography!

    Ja.
     
  18. CrackedButter macrumors 68040

    CrackedButter

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2003
    Location:
    51st State of America
    #18
    I think you have, and many other people here have a limited view on what photography is. Or everyone has a very narrow definition of what photography is or what it can do.

    Adding content doesn't mean its not photography and darkroom skills are not a grey area. Basically its more than about the camera and you shouldn't limit your interpretation of what photography is, by it.
     
  19. seany916 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2006
    Location:
    Southern California
    #19
     
  20. M@lew macrumors 68000

    M@lew

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2006
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    #20
    Editing programs are just tools to a photographer just as much as a flash is.
     
  21. bocomo macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2007
    Location:
    New York
    #21
    as an artist, i could care less about labels and categories-leave that to the critics and historians. basically just show me something! make me interested in your imagery and make me think. i don't care what tools are used.

    i think the digital vs. film manipulation stuff gets interesting when you consider jerry uelsmann. looks like photoshop but completely darkroom.

    it boils down to this for me: if it's journalism or documentary then i feel the relationship between objects in a scene should not be altered. lighten, darken, whatever but just don't change the colors, take things out, put things in.

    if it's art...the sky is the limit (the point is to be creative, right?)

    just like anything else, in the wrong hands, any tool can produce crap

    also check out

    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/cloning-the-can.shtml
    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/filter-ethics.shtml
    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/veracity.shtml
     
  22. bocomo macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2007
    Location:
    New York
    #22
    also, this is a great trio of books that are philosophical in a very conversational manner about photography

    http://www.lenswork.com/lwp.htm

    attached is a short essay from one of the first two books (i can't remember which one)
     

    Attached Files:

  23. JeffTL macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2003
    #23
    It's photography as long as light-sensitive materials -- film, silicon, dry plates, photo paper in a pinhole camera, or anything else that records an optical image -- are materially involved in the production of the work. The definitions of materiality and a particular work are left as exercises for the reader.
     
  24. Doylem macrumors 68040

    Doylem

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2006
    Location:
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    #24
    That's a rather depressing quote (for me, at least). My photography is more about seeing than manipulation. Looking is hard work (if you're doing it right...), but the effort pays off. It makes life richer, more meaningful, more creative... and looking through a camera is just one part of this process.

    I know what can be done with Photoshop (even if I'm not adept enough to do it myself), and I know too that people seldom know when to stop. Most of the manipulated images I see have simply been 'over-cooked': too much colour manipulation, too dramatic HDR, etc. It becomes like Hollywood car chases: they have to be more and more exciting to stop the audience yawning. The result: we become over-stimulated, but under-nourished... unable to respond to imagery that isn't brash, blatant and eye-poppingly zappy.

    My pleasure in photography (mostly landscape) lies in going in the opposite direction: slowing down, learning to be more patient, enjoying the process rather than just looking for 'results' (which, ironically, seems to produce more better pictures, not less). It's looking for subtlety... mostly in what light does to landscape. It's 'reading' the landscape, and responding to it. Post-production is limited to colour correction (rather than colour manipulation) and trying to bring the image back to what I originally saw (particularly in regard to the human eye being able to cope with huge variations in lighting intensity... while digital sensors struggle).

    Post-production offers many temptations; how amazing to be able to change an image so dramatically simply by moving a slider left or right (well, it's amazing to those of us brought up on film photography...). But what matters to me is what I originally saw. Instead of spending hours creating masks and layers in Photoshop, I'd rather go to interesting places, sleep in my van, set the alarm for 'early' and have the dawn landscape to myself. The fascination is to try to capture some of what I saw on film (or, now, a digital file).

    There's a big difference (IMO) between an image that's seen... and an image that's assembled or heavily manipulated. And too much of one can make it hard to respond to the other. It's like overpowering our taste-buds with glutinous sauces, so we can no longer eat our meals without great dollops of ketchup.

    Apologies if this sounds pretentious. It's not meant to be. I just see people getting lost in a world of post-production techniques, and photographs which have a pleasantly glossy sheen but which don't mean anything. :)
     
  25. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2005
    Location:
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    #25
    Beautifully said, Doylem! For me, too, the joy in photography comes from the moments I spend holding a camera in my hands (or on the tripod), making the exposure and savoring what I am seeing through the viewfinder..... I really dislike post-processing, if truth be known. I would be perfectly happy to have someone else do the tedious work of PP, but unfortunately that is the price we pay for the benefits of digital imaging: time spent hunched over a hot computer, bringing to life what we've successfully captured on the memory card......
     

Share This Page