Photo-shopped

April 08, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Among my friends, neighbors, and family I have assumed the position of being the go to guy for all questions photographic. I generally consider this a good thing in that I enjoy helping people take better photographs. I also like helping them use their equipment to its full potential. I am by no means a camera snob, that is to say in my opinion a decent photograph can be taken with most equipment today. There are limits to what equipment can do, and the better the gear, the better the potential photograph can be. A good cell phone camera with 8 mega pixel resolution can make a very decent photograph of say 5 X 7 inches. When you get up to 10 or 12 mega pixels and you know what you are doing, and take care in making the shot, a very decent 8 X 10 can be produced. This assumes that your lens is clean, horizon is level, you are careful framing the shot, you watch for edge and background distractions, and have selected the proper white balance. When we begin to talk about advanced amateurs and professional photographers the discussion changes. The digital SLR'S they use are engineered for producing quality images. Its not only about mega pixels at this level. Issues like lens quality, file format, shutter speed, sensor size, and a host of other settings to numerous to mention here affect the image capture. After the captures are on the memory card, photographers then process the session. This is referred to as post processing in the industry, and this is the point where the road to a framed work of art splits into many branches.

Some photographers work for minimal time in post processing. They will adjust the contrast and brightness, do some minimal cropping, tweak the color, and remove a distracting spot here or there. There goal is to spend their effort on the capture. There work demands that an expertly produced photograph arrives where its intended and looks good as quickly as possible. Sports photography and photo journalism are two examples of this type of work.  Another way of working is to produce a good capture where all elements correctly reproduced, however the camera is just the first step in an extensive post production edit. It is planned,  going into the process there will be plenty of work done to the image to make it stand out in some way. Either for fine art, or commercial end use. In both cases, a talented photographic artist controls all the variables to produce the desired end product.

As consumers we are flooded with images every day. These days the quality of the work we see is very high and quite dramatic. We have become accustomed to these images, (and video) and it increasingly takes more and more drama to get our attention. The images we look at have become hyper-real. Sunsets are more dramatic than life, fashion models are thinner, taller, and have smoother skin than life, and those plates of gourmet food have super real color and make our mouths water at first glance. Our view of the world we live in has become dull and apathetic. We are over exposed to the dramatic image, so much so that real life seems a dim version of the images we are exposed to. There is another side effect that has made its way into our consciousness, we label all outstanding images as being "Photo-shopped".

I make it a point to look at lots of photographs from many different artists and disciplines. My appreciation for the fine image covers different styles and subject matter. I hold no prejudice in whether an image is heavily edited or very lightly tweaked. What determines if an image works for me is my initial reaction and the emotion stirred up by the artists work. I am a bit saddened when I hear someone refer to a work as being "Photo-shopped". Its as if there is some magical program that can transform a camera image all by itself. Implying that the photographer is somehow less talented because of post processing. The most important aspect of viewing an image is, does it make you think, move your emotions, or question a belief. Talented photographers are responsible for the whole process of creating their work. From image capture to post processing and framing, their decisions make the finished piece either successful or not. Consumers of images need to view images with a bit more openness. Photographs are different than "real life". Even what looks like a straight image is still edited in some minor ways. Many people love a fine black and white print, and look at them as if they are a purer form of photography. The world is not black and white, you are looking at an abstraction. When we look at and enjoy a painting, we bring an openness to our conscious mind. Our expectations do not hinge on how close to reality the artist was able to get. In fact, it was the invention of the camera that freed painters from realistic renderings, and allowed for abstractions. When you view photographic work bring a sense of openness. Allow time to be with an image and look inward at the emotions it stirs in you. The photographer that signed his or her name to the work is responsible for what you are looking at. Their selection of the tools used is of little importance in my opinion. Comparing the image to real life is of little importance unless the work is meant to document reality, and that is a whole other topic for this blog.


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