Photography; editing photos

September 30, 2012  •  2 Comments

This is a topic which my view of has changed throughout the last few years of taking photography seriously. At its most simple form, photography is thought of by many as an evidence based tool; a means of capturing something seen and sharing it with others who were not present at the time it was taken. If you edit a photo you are not sharing what you saw.

This view is taken by the majority of non-photographers I speak to and in my experience by every 'new' hobbyist photographer. There is a strong disapproval of photo 'editing'. That the skill should lay in finding the scene, choosing the camera settings, composing the scene and then pressing the big button on the top. Anything beyond this is said to be cheating; deceiving the viewer. This "cheating" is typically attributed to "new" post production (pp) software packages like photoshop.

Now I personally am divided on the PP issue. When starting out in photography I felt *any* edits to the original image was cheating. If there was a spec of dust on the sensor I should've cleaned it first, if the colour wasn't right I should have used different settings. I hated the way "photography" magazines told me how to correct these failings afterwards with software in pp.

But it's important to remember that post processing isn't a new art. Film always had to be post processed. You took a roll of film to Boots to be 'processed' and they used chemicals to process your film and create an image. When photographers processed their own images in a darkroom they could selectively process sections of an image. Make it lighter or darker, cut out specs of dust, or even make a composite of multiple images - the landscape from one, the sky from another. The majority of what photoshop can do is not new, it's just a hell of a lot easier, and I think this is the problem. By having a whole suite of edits that are all so accessible, many photographers edit images because they can, not because they should.

Now personally, I think photography editing is critical to the quality of an image, just as it was in the past with a darkroom. It could be a simple case of straightening a horizon, taking a closer crop, or converting to black and white. It could be more indepth like pulling out details from the highlights and shadows or editing the white balance. But - and this is an important but - I don't agree with removing or adding elements to an image. It's a personal choice, but I'm a photographer, not a graphic artist.


Comments

Simon Tregidgo
Hi Joe, agree completely about the white balance and perhaps I didn't finish this post in the right way because I do think the post processing is vital to an image. It's the adding and removing of parts of a photo which I dislike; the trend to photoshop in a 'nice sky' because the sky on the day wasn't quite as lovely as it could've been. To me that's graphic design, not photography.

A white balance fail was what got me started shooting RAW; on a ski trip I manually set it for the evening and then a whole day of shooting on the slopes the next day came out blue. Couldn't save the jpegs, all were ruined.

Personally I'm too forgetful to dare tweak white balance etc. in advance because I will always forget to reset it!
Joe Stealthmode(non-registered)
As a rookie/ensign I find tools like Adobe Lightroom to be useful in getting the white balance correct, which is something I feel like I still haven't all-the-way figured out. Sometimes I get a little too fancy, though, and I find myself overdoing it. The results are either interesting in a one-off sense, but most of the time I wind up wasting time. One of these days I will be able to pull the images straight from the body...
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