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Keep it real...

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by OzRay, Mar 31, 2010.

  1. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    ...or is it necessary? In my newspaper photographer role, everything I shoot needs to reflect reality, so the most that I can do in post-processing is to crop and make minor adjustments to exposure, contrast and WB, anything else is a no no.

    But when it comes to anything else, is it necessary to try and capture reality as it was observed at the time of taking the photo? Firstly, the camera will interpret the scene in the way the programmers dictated in the software/firmware, so reality is distorted from the get go. Then it comes to your memory to remember what the scene looked like to your eyes, noting that we all see light, tone and colour differently. Then in post-processing, there are issues such as the type of software that you use and how things are calibrated (they are calibrated, right?).

    Which leads me to my point. In the C&C section, one of the most common responses to a different interpretation of a submitted photo is 'That's not what it looked like.' So what? If it looks better, more dramatic, more emotional, does it matter? I have never seen a landscape photograph, for example, by any well know photographer reflect what the scene actually looked like, if they did, they'd not sell one photograph. Take for example the following:

    - http://www.nickrains.com/index.php?option=com_phocagallery&view=categories&Itemid=28.

    - http://www.kenduncan.com/index.php/gallery

    - http://www.markgray.com.au/gallery/open-edition-prints/australia/index.php

    Tell me that any of these photos reflect the actual scene; I've been to most of these places and can tell you you'll never see them like presented. So why is there a view, at times, that dramatisation of colour photos is somehow wrong, yet with B&W it's a free for all? Photography, to me, in many cases is not much different to painting. I present what is/was in my mind's eye when I recorded a scene, not what it may actually have looked like, much the same as a painter takes many liberties when recording a scene.

    So this is OK?


    But this is not?



    • Like Like x 4
  2. pete

    pete Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 26, 2010
    Phoenix, Az
    damn right it is :) 

  3. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    Ray, Good thread.
    Photographs are an abstraction of reality not a representation of it.
    You are taking a three dimensional reality and abstracting it to 2 dimensions. I like B&W because it lends to the abstraction more by removing the comfort of color.

    So, a photograph should be viewed as it's own reality and not as a representation of something in a 2 dimensional world.
    I really like what you say and the way you say it.
    Ray, come home to the discussion group, we miss ya over there....
    • Like Like x 1
  4. BBW

    BBW Super Moderator Emeritus

    Yes, I think it is OK and that as in painting there will be realists, impressionists, expressionists and more.

    I used to be a purest in photography, but I'm changing. Sometimes I want "the real thing" and other times I want my mind's eye view.

    Ray, thanks for starting this discussion and for those links - which I'll look at for sure. Right about now I have to get off line but I'll be back.

    Good thread.:drinks:
  5. cosinaphile

    cosinaphile Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 26, 2009
    new york city
    for the photojournalist i think there is a responsibility to try to record the scene as it actually looked which requires a memory of the moment, a bit of the minds eye, and a photo that may be processed or not to help realize the scene as it existed at the moment the photo was made, in so far as that is even possible

    this is something that in the most favorable of circumstances would be difficult to achieve 100 % with ,but i think for the sake of truth and of journalistic integrity
    2 things unfortunately rare in these dark times,one should at least try ,

    but where are the boundries of truth and what is an acceptable 2 dimensional reality when it is gleaned from three ,as shooter says quite correctly, photos are abstractions first,......but as they are what we have , journalists have a responsibility to try to help the viewer know something as accurately as possible

    other photos are carte blanche as far as im concerned , with the shooter choosing
    based on any and all consideration considered valid for the sake of the image

    edit ........
    threads like this make this forum great , thanks ray, and your long exposure of the mossy rocks and stream , is captivating
  6. hodad66

    hodad66 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 27, 2010
    Indialantic, Florida
    personally, I never manipulate photos of stretch the truth...... :biggrin:

  7. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Just something that was niggling at the back of my mind for some time.

    Yes and no. Technically, we are flattening a stereoscopic view, providing both of your eyes are OK; however, in reality, the three dimensional view is somewhat of an illusion. We live in three physical dimensions, but really only see things clearly in a flat plane (two dimensions). We invoke the perception of depth in our photos, much in the way that we see, by appropriate use of composition, perspective, lens choice and depth of field.

    I actually think that presenting images in B&W is much easier in many respects. It's much easier to get away with errors etc, as no one can really say that you've done things incorrectly, other than the purists. However colour, as I alluded to in this post, is something with which everyone is familiar and has their own opinion. It's much harder to justify choices of colour, tone, contrast, saturation, white balance etc with a colour photo, because people will relate to their own experiences and tastes.

    Thanks, I'll ponder things for a wee while. :smile:


  8. texascbx

    texascbx Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 30, 2009
    I do not believe it is right to manipulate images either.:biggrin:

  9. LisaO

    LisaO Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 18, 2010
    New York Metro Area
    People always refer to Ansel Adams as the photo naturalist and think he would never do digital. While in reality Ansel Adams was a big manipulator of images. How else would he get black skies?

    On the other hand journalists have a responsibility to tell the truth with a photo, however everything from when the photographer presses the button to how the image is framed, cropped and printed/displayed is all a bit of manipulation on the photographers part.

    In photojournalism framing, cropping and contrast are allowed but pixel manipulation is frowned upon and photographers have been fired and denied awards for cleaning up images.
  10. Brian Mosley

    Brian Mosley Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Great post / thread Ray and all... the one point I would make is that, to be brutally honest my PP isn't there to bring a flat, probably reasonably accurate ooc rendition back to 'what I saw in my minds eye' or 'impression I had' of the scene. To be honest, I'm aiming for a rendition which has reasonably natural and subtle impact and balance... so that it looks plausible, but often just a bit better than I could expect of a 2d snapshot of a 3d experience.

    For me, the aim is to bridge the gap between a 2d snapshot and a 3d experience... but not necessarily 'my memory of the 3d experience' - sometimes it's just a treatment of the image I have in front of me based on my own esthetic preferences.

    Just trying to keep it real :wink:


  11. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Nothing wrong with that at all. All of my photography ranges from mild adjustments to sometimes quite radical. Often, the lighting and subject matter will dictate how much is really needed to make the shot pleasing.

    As someone once said, or words to that effect, 'Reality is only in one's own mind.' :smile:


  12. pete

    pete Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 26, 2010
    Phoenix, Az
    This is to deep for me!
  13. deckitout

    deckitout Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 28, 2010
    Essex UK
    Great thread Ray

    I do like to manipulate, for me I take an image with the thought of what it will look like after PP (expect family events ect.) I am not interested in reality in most cases, I want an image jumping out at me.

    As Ray says almost every landscape shot is now manipulated in some way, that's fine by me, nothing against the purist approach it is skillful it it's own right.

    All our tastes are different, in the thread recently about our fave Photographers, I just didn't get a lot of what I saw.........didn't work for me

    But hey that's okay because if we all liked the same things wouldn't it be a boring old World
  14. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 2, 2010
    Make or take

    There's a difference in how many photographers describe what they do. Some say they "take" a photograph, others claim to "make" one. I always used to think that the latter was pretentious nonsense, but now I'm not so sure.

    I always used to claim that I "take" photographs, but when I actually think about what I do to an image then thats probably self-delusion on my part.

    I see the problem starting because cameras don't take an accurate representation of what our eyes see. The 2D/3D issue has already been mentioned. Just think about how our eyes can handle extremes of dynamic range and how a camera/lens combination can't. Then there's the issue of how lenses alter the image. Can a fish-eye lens ever be regarded as a valid representation of reality? Well only if you're a fish I guess.

    The first thing we would all have to take on board is whether any manipulation of an image actually causes any harm. We all know of instances where altered images have been used as propaganda and have in many instances caused significant damage and even death. Also an image can be changed to imply guilt when there is none and vice versa. We've all seen paparazzi pictures. If someone is keen to present a "celebrity" in a bad light to justify a story, sticking a wide angle lens into their face and firing a flashgun should do the job nicely.

    So where does an "enhanced" landscape image fit into this.

    As a long-time landscape photographer and supplier of images to travel markets I have been "guilty" of "improving" many of my images. Is this justified? Does it cause any harm? It could be argued that I'm misrepresenting a place, making it look better than it is. Someone may book a holiday on the basis of my picture and be disappointed when it doesn't turn out to be as "scenic" as anticipated. Likewise, even the most beautiful places in the world have certain angles which can "misrepresent" them. A picture of the rubbish dump at base camp on Mount Everest would give a significantly different impression of one of natures masterpieces.

    There is obviously a difference between such images as these and the kind of obscenities produced by Joseph Goebbels for the Nazis, but is it just a matter of degree?. As photographers we all know that what comes out of our cameras is only a representation of the reality we encountered first hand. How often have we said - "It looked better than that" and then proceeded to enlist photoshops assistance in making it look how it felt.

    I have no answer or set of personal rules to any of this. My "editorial" choices are also influenced by the fact that this is how I make a living. The fact that my highly saturated landscape images shot in "great light" sell better than than those of a plainer nature has not gone unnoticed.

    I have certainly changed my mind about how I create images. I most definitely "make" them. When I shot on transparency film there could be some justification in the claim that I was to a certain extent representing reality, but the use of different film stock, polarisers, grad and warm-up filters all contributed to my images not being as "pure" as they might have seemed. With digital I have no excuse whatsoever. When I open up a raw file on my screen, not all but many things are possible.

    I guess if we all only ever used the in-camera jpgs untouched then we may be closer to the "truth" However Rays image of the "long-exposure" water is a good one. This is a photographic "fiction" in the same way as star trails, multiple exposures and montage.

    When I said I have no rules I actually do have one. When working on a landscape image I always ask myself "Could it have looked like this?" If the answer is yes then I will send the image out. If not I'll ease back on the alterations.

    I'm not photographing for a political cause, I'm not a social documentary photographer looking to raise certain issues and there is no agenda in my work other than to say - "This place is great, you should see it." A great deal of my work is also "generic" created to be used in combination with other graphics, text etc. This is generally not specifically identified and the notion of misrepresentation is irrelevant.

    Rays notions of the differences between "art" & "journalism" are true. However do those who view our work realise the distinction between the two. Does someone who views one my travel pictures realise that it might be my "artistic impression" or do they think that its an 100% accurate representation? I have no idea.

    This is a good thread and I thank Ray for starting it. It is something I think about on a daily basis. I also have images very much like the ones he linked to.

    Do I feel "guilty" about them? Well not really. Should I feel "guilty" about them? That I can't answer. Does doing what I do cause any problems? I would hope not, but I cannot be sure. It would be great if I could put some sort of "health warning" underneath each image - saying something like "This image was created by the photographer, it is a representation of, not a true record of the place depicted" But since thats not possible I just have to hope that my "pretty pictures" are viewed in the spirit in which they were created. Whether that happens is anyones guess.
    • Like Like x 3
  15. BruceW

    BruceW New to Mu-43

    Apr 1, 2010
    West Yorkshire
    Could it have looked like this?

    I imagine for the same image, each person would have a different threshold at which they would answer soundimagesplus's question yes/no. However, I like the question. It gets closer to the real world.

    I've never been hung up on slow shutters, because it is a (detactable) device to indicate motion. With various filters (whether at shooting or in PP) I have no problem, because without them more often than not I've found the camera to record something far less than I saw in person.

    I'm sure someone has wordsmithed a pithy quote identifying the difference between scene corrections/enhancements and fabrications intended to deceive. But the quote above, seems a decent guideline.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    If you look at photography as a process of making a representation of reality you force yourself to deal with reality in the image. That creates tension and pressure in processing because you chase the elusive butterfly.

    If you think in terms of abstraction , regardless of the intent you free yourself to make an image that reflects your vision. There becomes freedom of expression.

    The simple act of subject selection is an abstraction from reality. So to set yourself free,
    get away from reality representation and go to reality abstraction.

    As much as you try, you can't make a photo any more than what it is, an abstraction of reality that becomes it's own reality.
    • Like Like x 4
  17. squeegee

    squeegee Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 26, 2010
    Personally I only usually do cropping and minor exposure balancing. Sometimes I'll alter images but usually only as a joke or something obvious.

    I don't think it's necessarily wrong to do so, but I think one is an "attempt" at capturing reality (even though we know it's imperfect) and the other is an attempt at creating art.

    It might be like writing a book, there's fiction v.s. science fiction, even fiction is "wrong", but it's our best attempt at reality. I guess some photographers consider themselves artists, and maybe others consider themselves documentary-ists (I think I just made up a word :rolleyes:  ) ?
  18. hodad66

    hodad66 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 27, 2010
    Indialantic, Florida
    What can I say.... I'm a slave to the reproduction of
    the scene... JUST AS nature had designed it.... :eek: 

    • Like Like x 3
  19. Brian Mosley

    Brian Mosley Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Yes, Lightzone has very limited cloning tools, and no ability to do montages... suits me very well, although I'd like to be able to clone out power cables more easily on occasion!


  20. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    Thanks for this image....
    I used to see things like this in the 60's and 70's.

    You actually just solidified my point.
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