Can it really be called photography anymore?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by tbarrent, Oct 24, 2020.

  1. Mod note - originally posted in "Business of Photography"

    With all the post digital editing done these days?

    I do NOT mean digital equivalent of Dodge and Burn.

    I mean the full photographic cut room equivalent of ILM studio work.

    Take a photo of a low lit room, toss on luminar, and turn the table light on digitally, then make it a purple light. Or to take a photo of the house at dusk, and turn the street lights on, but as pink eye killers.

    Or ti take a photo of a kid staring out the window and cut and paste the background outside the window into being some stupid as fish tank view like on the photo shop instagram commercial?

    Would it still qualify as photography if the Hindenburg being destroyed was given the digital once over and all the lights were turn into pastel colors, and the flames turned to green, and perhaps the people on fire were given really cool colored flames?

    Would it qualify as anything if the napalm girl photo was given pink street lights?
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 25, 2020
    za33photo and Vincent Peri like this.
  2. Welcome to, but


    get a grip on it.

    A book wasn't a book unless it was hand inscribed by a monk
    A portrait wasn't a portrait unless it was painted by an artist.

    Ansel Adams said
    [emphasis added JDM}

    Ansel Adams, 1983 Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs. Little, Brown and Company. p.59
  3. Photography is closed under the operation of adding photographic elements together
    Ricochetrider and glen_h like this.
  4. In my view it is not photograpy anymore , it now falls under modern "Art" , if it can be called that.

    The modern "photographers" are completely lost without their "photoshop" programs , they do not know how to use their camera's anymore.

    I know that I am in the minority here , but this is my viewpoint and I am sticking to it (laughing).

    Cheers and have a nice day now.
    michael_frangos and Vincent Peri like this.
  5. “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

    (Said because of a feud between the Montagues and Capulets, long before today’s [sarcasm]much more important feuds[/sarcasm] about photography.)

    Sticks and stones, baby, sticks and stones.

    Do what you want and let Webster and Oxford worry about what to call it.

    If you’re too concerned with what other people do with their cameras and software, you may just find yourself [bad pun intended] out of focus!
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2020
    Ricochetrider and SCL like this.
  6. Manipulation of photographs is nearly as old as photography itself. For example, by Oscar Rejlander and Henry Peach Robinson among many others. And more recently, Gerry Uelsmann.
    John Farrell likes this.
  7. Interesting question. I liked @steve_gallimore|1 's reply.

    Personally, I consider the whole process of planning, organizing, shooting, selecting and post-processing to be "photography". So my (neutral, non-enhanced) camera "shots" form the basis for digitally creating "photos". I have no problem calling what comes out the camera "photos" and those that come out of the whole process "final images".

    Not all photographers have the time to post-process their photos before delivery. And there's a tradition in 'journalistic' and 'documentary' photography that photos (even with some enhancements) depict some slice of 'reality'. Verifiable credibility is king. So no pink street lights (unless they really were!).

    The tools for creating 'pictorial' stills and videos become ever more sophisticated and are limited only by a visual artist's imagination and skills. That's fine with me. As far as
    I know, innovation in technology and techniques has helped visual art to develop and expand throughout history.

    As more and more visual artists are demonstrating, you don't need to be a photographer to be a visual artist. There are already more than enough existing photos to work with.

    morrisbagnall likes this.
  8. SCL


    Yes, some modern techniques seem to stretch the older definition. But isn't it inclusive of imagination? In a world which continually evolves, so do its this case "photography". There's room for all, and nobody can force you to follow another's lead. So hang in there, be dismissive if you desire, but don't scorn others' attempts at creating their own vision.
  9. A little more Shakespeare...

    "Teach not thy lip such scorn, for it was made for kissing, lady, not for such contempt."
    —Richard III
  10. Lightroom Calibration Panel Tutorial - Signature Edits - Improve Your Photography

    the image of the road in the woods, that is an image. the original before on the left hand is fine, and looks like what you actually see in the woods 90% of the time. The right hand, is perhaps 10% of the time what you would see, in about a 1-2 hour window of day time during the time of year.
    But with this example the issue is, how can you still make the claim that the edited version is still the same image? Youve changed everything in it to make it "artistic" but never kept the actual image.

    Inspirational Lightroom Before and Afters

    Image 5. The before image isnt the greatest ill give you that. But its years ahead of the final image that is extremely nasty looking. Greens are gone to something else, the skin tone is shot, and looks like the exposure was a +3..... And the way the edited lights look like a horrid light flare is just sooooo professional looking. Hell the after image looks like it was taken with a vga stick camera circa 2000.

    Image 9... simply WTF.. after just blows puppy poo

    Image 10. The editing is purely crap. Sure the overall image doesnt change as sharply as the other examples.. but BUT..... the person doing the edit ONLY changed the foxes fur to a different time of daytime based on how the coloring change... and forgot to fix the grass around it... faux paw... or stupidity? COnsidering that the original image is how the animal actually appears in the wild in those conditions
  11. Did someone tell you that a photo is supposed to represent reality? If so, they misguided you. Many photographers think a photo transforms reality into something else or is some combination of a reflection and transformation and they, the photographers, get to decide the degrees of each.

    Bad editing is bad editing. Bad editing is not an indictment of editing. Choose YOUR path. If that's a kind of photojournalistic adherence to objectivity, go for it. But concerning yourself too much with how others approach photography will guarantee your own lack of independence and an authentic voice. Let them worry about what they do. What the hell is the difference to you?

    “You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”
    ― Ansel Adams

    “A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”
    ― Richard Avedon

    “Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths.”
    ― Eddie Adams

    “We regard the photograph, the picture on our wall, as the object itself (the man, landscape, and so on) depicted there. This need not have been so. We could easily imagine people who did not have this relation to such pictures. Who, for example, would be repelled by photographs, because a face without color and even perhaps a face in reduced proportions struck them as inhuman.”
    ― Ludwig Wittgenstein

    “People say photographs don't lie. Mind do. I wanted it to provide an escape route, I wanted to make pictures that were fantastic and took you into another world, one that was brighter. I started off with this idea.” – David LaChapelle
  12. This, so much this.

    Even the most straight, unmanipulated documentary photograph only shows what the photographer wanted to show. When you choose to take a photograph, it is your view of the situation, backed by all of your ingrained beliefs and ideals.

    How you choose to take that photograph, your choice of moment, framing, composition, is just as much yours as what you decide to do after you push the shutter.

    There are no rules, imagine if someone said to Picasso "you can't paint like that" (and I'm sure they did).
  13. Please, somebody buy the OP a drink--a big one.
  14. Agreed on so many counterpoints to the original argument. A photo is (more often than not) a split second in time. Without the context of what was happening before and after that split second, it is possible to make up and/or believe anything you want- just from looking at the single, very short, instance in time.

    All things evolve, right? In fact, change is the only constant in life (I mean besides death and taxes). SO why not accept that photography, also, will change and evolve and morph. Man Ray, Weegee, both were doing some experimental things with photos and photography. Their work back then really was "photography", too- even if it did challenge the norms & mores of the day.

    Of course, one is free to deny that which they will. That said, photography today is still photography even if it doesn't quite fit into whatever little box you wish to keep it in.
  15. What did you see? What did you think you really saw? What did you really want to see? Combine these and you may have a nice image in my opinion.
  16. alot of you dont seem to get the point.

    Can it still be called PHOTOGRAPHY when you take that photo of your cat on th window sill and use editing to make it a different time of day, change the background to a burning medieval castle, etc..
    za33photo likes this.
  17. I often find that when a whole bunch of people seem to me not to get the point, it's me that might not be getting it!

    We're all making more important points than whether or not it can be called PHOTOGRAPHY. But, maybe for you, our points are beside the more mundane point of what to call something.

    So let me say it as clearly and simply as possible.
    Yes, it can. And, as importantly, it is.
  18. Manipulation of photographs is fine as long as you declare it. It's no longer photography once you do it: photography by its nature is the documentation of the world. But it doesn't mean it's wrong. I don't like it, personally, and I have no time for it. I don't see it as edifying.

    But most commercial imagery is almost never photographic anymore, which is fine. It's an ad, so it doesn't matter. In fact, photography itself is becoming redundant for generation of commercial images.
    za33photo likes this.
  19. Can it really be called photography anymore?
    It is almost the wrong question turned the wrong way round.

    realist pictures start the same way: a lens forms a real optical image of illuminated subject matter and casts this image onto a light sensitive surface. The lens may be on the front of a camera or it may be in the front of a person's eye. But, all the same, a lens is a lens and an image an image. If the first step in picture-making determines the naming of the final picture then one could defend the proposition that all realistic pictures are photographs. Realistic paintings, drawings, computer assembled pictures, traditional film photographs, all exhibiting realism, all start the same way therefore they are essentially the same thing.

    Which poses an awkward question: what does a realistic picture have to do in order not to be a photograph? I'll suggest a general and somewhat abstract answer.

    No assembly-type pictures are photographs. An assembly-type picture is one reconstructed, piece by piece, from a description of a real optical image, not the image itself. The description is always in synthesised code, perhaps an array of voltages in a computer memory or a sequence of neuro-peptides in an artist's brain, and, as always, the description is not the thing described. The coded description is almost invariably in the form of a set of instructions for the operation of a mark-making thing. Common "mark-making things" include an artist's hand wielding a paint loaded brush or some sort of electro-mechanical printer. A typical end result, an array of colored spots on a substrate, is the same.

    Then there is a small universe of impression-type methods. Some impressions aren't even pictures, life casts, death masks, wax impressions, for example. Photography as first mooted is an impression-type process. A real optical image enters a light sensitive surface and causes a pattern of marks that form a picture. The photographic method is independent of coded descriptions or mark making devices. That's why the invention of photography was so welcome in a world that had already been for centuries crammed with all manner of assembly-type pictures.

    Where pictures are valued as important information about the world assembled pictures are testimony and impressions are evidence. Both have uses but they are not the same.
    petrochemist likes this.

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