Discussion: Taking vs. making an image

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by patricks, Mar 21, 2005.

  1. I was just quickly reading though this article at Luminous Landscape"> about image making. Is this really what photography has come down to or will evolve to? Is post-processing taking over from actually making the exposure? I don't know how and why you make photographs, I simply do it to document life as it goes by, mostly making exposures around my family and our little adventure called life. To not make the final result purely an act of chance or machine, and to allow myself a bit of challenge in a hobby, I prefer to use manual cameras, thus some amount of pride goes into being able to make a "correct" exposure. I prefer prime lenses, no flash, my prints are pretty uneventful, I don't ask for a lot of dodge and burning, normally no cropping, prefer black & white etc. - one might even called it a minimal type of available light documentary photography (if I was into labels...) But what do you think? Will post-processing and Photoshopping take over photography? It seems like it is mostly/all about the end result ? the image ? and less and less about the journey of taking that photography?
  2. Patrick, I agree with your approach. Photography for many of us is a personal process, like religion or politics. We do it to please some sort of inner ego that doesn't require perfection or acclamation, only the satisfaction of finding within it the scent or other hint of familiarity that makes it our own.
  3. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    For those of us that actually studied photography, in the old days as well as the new, it's always been about post-processing. I learned to develop and print at the same time I started shooting. So did lots of people who have been very successful at becoming recognized as photographers outside the commercial space. The idea that photography is somehow disconnected from the final product comes from people who haven't ever had to really produce a fine print, show a fine print, deliver a finished image. I think a lack of craft on the finishing end results from a half-baked view of photography. That doesn't mean someone can't have fun doing it, but it sure isn't what's made the great, or even good, photographs of the last 170 years.
  4. I agree with Jeff. I've always considered what I did in the camera to be the first 50% of the finished product. And this far predates Photoshop. Read about Man Ray (his rayograms and solarizations techniques), what Eugene Smith (a much celebrated documentary photographer) did post camera, and many others and you'll soon come to realize that very few of the images we all know are straight (no darkroom manipulation) images. Neither way is right or wrong...it just is.
  5. I kind of agree with Jeff but going along with the times. Today there seems to be such oversaturation with photographs that (for me) anything 'propped' in post processing deservers less respect than seeing and appreciating the perfect exposure coupled with perfect composition and content.
  6. What makes you think that the raw image recorded on a piece of film is the most accurate representation of the original scene? Film has its own idiosyncrasies which are compounded by the vagueries of developing and printing. More often than not, the prints that I get back from my minilab are a great disappointment, because they do not convey what I saw through the viewfinder of my camera. Seen this way, post-processing is mainly an attempt to recreate what I visualized when I released the shutter. I am compensating for the deficiencies of the film. Add to that the desire to create "art," and it's hard for me to see any reason not to use Photoshop to the best of my abilities. All this is part of the "journey" that is photography.
  7. There's nothing wrong with post processing as long as it is done tastefully. Think of Man
    Ray, his photography can hardly be described as traditional. Ansel Adams paid a lot of
    attention to his printing and many of his photographs would not have the same impact if
    not for the outstanding post processing. Even in the traditional darkroom when your
    dodging and burning we're adding a lot of impact to a print. Richard Avedon prints are
    fantastic, but he made (or had made) many versions of prints before he was happy.

    My concern is that with PS being available now to legions of people that we will see an
    erosion of good taste. If I look at the portraiture that a lot of the American professionals
    now shoot and sell it sents shivers down my spine. The skin oversoftened, colour
    saturation that makes velvia look bland, black and white conversion that make every shot a
    muddy bland pile of sort of mono prints that they sell as sepia.

    Ah well, whatever makes the photographer happy I guess.
  8. I remember talking to a 'digital' guy who was trying to get everybody and his dog to admire his latest 'effort'.

    I asked 'Did you take that picture?"

    "Yes", he answered confidently, "I took it from..." and he gave me the URL from where he had lifted it!

    He was certainly 100% post-processing but I don't think you could call him a 'photographer'!
  9. However, photoshop is making every a little too manipulative so that people no longer
    think about the pictures they take.
    In the darkroom you can only do so much so that you can still recognize the orginal

    At the end I do think photoshopping with take over most of photography. It just gets too
    easy. Oh yeah and its also because people dont like goin out to do things anymore.
    Photoshopping can be done right at home without you gettting your hands dirty.
  10. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    The "too easy" argument is ridiculous. The funny thing is that there are always posts saying that Photoshop is "too hard." However, plenty of people made over-manipulated and sloppy images in the darkroom. Making a great print (or image, whatever) still depends on photographic insight, vision, and style. Suggesting otherwise implies acceptance of something that isn't good. In the end, great photography is about how the photographer conceives the final result, not the particular tools chosen to do the job.

    However, it does make some things accessible to a broader base, and that is a good thing. If photography still required being a chemist and carrying huge glass plates and a lab everywhere, everyone here would probably be doing something else.
  11. If Jeff and Bob (far above) are (or better - were -) right, then C-B would only be half a photographer because he never much cared about post-processing his pictures. Never made it into the darkroom ...

    So something is wrong in their approach. Post processing is not necessary, if the pictures themselves hold up. (Light, subject, composition, technically etc)

    But one can surely make "nice" beautified art through PS. Of course, except these are imagined images, not images of the real world. Chagall comes to mind; wonderful images he made. Those PS artists of this day are so much less successful, though. Maybe in 20 years we will see real processed photographic art that pleases the eye and soul. Old un-processed photography has done this "pleasing" for 100+ years. Of course using PS that well will take a few generations.
  12. Maybe we should be admiring the National Geographic photographers who for many years shot nothing but Kodachrome, at most adding some slight color correction filtering at the time of exposure. I burn and dodge to try to recreate what I saw. I've already been through the Jerry Uelsmann stage many years ago. It isn't me. Still, when a client has the check book open I try to oblige. For personal work I'm very straight forward.
  13. I don't know if it was addressed to me but I wasn't making a distinction between digital post processing and analong post processing. My point encompassed both technologies. IMHO there is something to be said for a shot printed in it's entirety (call it full frame) that captures the scene, the essence, has the right exposure and the right composition.
  14. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    When one can afford a great printer and can develop a working relationship over a number of years, it is possible to have someone else do it. However, that option isn't open to many...
  15. So is photography [becoming] image at any cost? If major components can be adjusted in post-processing, everything from color, background, light, blur, saturation, contrast, add/subtract people and objects - rain - what have ya' - is that still photography? the process of capturing light and making an exposure?

    hence, i'm not saying that post-processing does not has a valid place in photogrpahy - analog or digital - but it seems like we are drifting towards image/end-result-at-all-costs, if that makes sense.

    seems like the best advice to give anyone who wants to explore photography is to buy a book on Photoshop. Camera and lens may or may not be needed...
  16. I love guys like Frank. Because I don't do it 'your' way, I'm 'wrong'. Just what we need, another self appointed god. Re-read my post Frank...I specifically said neither way is right or wrong...just different. Jeeesh.
  17. Photoshop makes photography "too easy" in much the same way that planes, trains, and automobiles make travel "too easy."
    The availability of low-cost, computer-based, post-processing tools is a good thing, even though not every image produced using these tools will be a good photograph.
    Jeff has written previously about photography as a "democratizing force." I would encourage those who missed his remarks and references, which were offered in the course of the 24th discussion addressing Leica's financial straits, to see this thread.
  18. another example, wedding photogrpaher jeff ascough shots with C41 film if I remember correctly, regardless, he shoots film exactly because he doesn't want to be too much time in post-processing. hard to ignore the quality of his end result...
  19. C-B wasn't a printer but he also wasn't uncaring about how his photos were printed. You don't have to steer the ship yourself to be the captain.

    Each new shift in technology causes changes in the way photographers do their thing. Few of us were around to feel the earth move when the 35mm format became dominant, though move it did. But yesterday's upstart becomes today's mainstream becomes tomorrow's has-been. That's just how it works. My feeling is the photographic cream will rise to the top regardless of the tools & technology used at any particular time. Sturgeon's Law applies to photography as much as anything else. Always has.

  20. What makes you think that the raw image recorded on a piece of film is the most accurate representation of the original scene?
    Good point. Exellent point really, although getting Leica users to admit classic B/W photography is some of the most processed imagery in the history of photography is a classic experiment in admission of being in chronic denial.
    I was browsing through the one of the 'elite' B/W shooters portfolios here, which was the typical journalistic approach to small format B/W photography. I'd say 70% of this guys work was heavily dodged and burned to the point you could expect the main subject to have a glowing halo around it as the photographer burned the hell out of the background of each image.
    I mean, I'd say the majority of 'famed' small format B/W film imagery I've seen has the background burned in. That's not what bugs me - what bugs me is even if the technique is really bad and obvious, such as leaving a halo around you main subject, it's accepted as fine art. I'm sure Jeff has an idea of the genre' I'm talking about. Need I bring up Ansel Adam's boring and bland landscape work for the Dept of Energy. Lacking his aggresive dodging and burning, the images aren't very interesting. God forbid on the other hand a pixel out of place in a digital image.
    To best answer Patrick's question, all I can tell him is my digital capture has less manipulation going on than when I used to print B/W commercially, and they are far truer to the original scene. The question then becomes one of fiddling around in a darkroom vs fiddling around on your computer, and guessing by the bigoted responses from classic film shooters in regards to anybody doing it differently (better) than they are, it's not worth wasting my time bringing up.
  21. I also believe for shooters like Scott Eaton it really does NOT matter how you arrive at the photograph. The question then becomes, does anybody really care about that photograph and to what degree?

    I would venture to guess that with the oversaturation of photography in our lives 99% of the shots do not matter at all. If the shots aren't for documentary's sake then they matter even less. Because today it is far too easy to produce decent shot of the stunning Grand Canyon then the value of such photograph diminishes unless of course it is a stunning photograph that was produced with skill and no post processing.
  22. If we look back at the 1950's and 1960's when 35mm was first making inroads in news photography and "available light" was the buzzword films were not what we take for granted now. 400 speed films like Hp3 and Tri-X were as grainy, or more grainy, than today's highest speed films. Lenses were slower, and the few available fast decent ones cost a month's salary. That's the era that brought us UFG, Acufine, and Diafine, all three being concoctions of chemist Harold Bauman. They all allowed fast processing and increased film speed with very decent grain.

    Still, when you started out with a negative made with a single coated lens prone to flare, rated your film two or three stops higher than the manufacturer suggested, you ended up with a negative that looked nothing like the "ideal negative" that Kodak expected you to be able to print straight on grade two paper. You had blocked highlights and thin shadow areas that tantalized you because you could see that there was in fact some visible image there.

    Starting with DuPont Varigam one by one the paper makers introduced variable contrast papers. Soon people started experimenting with split filter printing. This wasn't to be creative! It was just to get an image that your paper could put on page one. You learned that you could get more detail in the bright areas by printing through a lower contrast filter, but sometiimes you'd have to "bump" it with a high contrast filter to keep it from looking to muddy. A high contrast filter could pick up seperation in those underexposed shadow areas.

    Yes, we learned to burn and dodge. If we wanted a printable image we had little choice. It wasn't to be creative. It was to get the job done!
  23. Jeff Ascough has posted several times in the Wedding Photography Forum regarding his choice of equipment. He used to shoot with EOS film cameras. He doesn't particularly care for flash and didn't like the big, heavy, bulky SLRs. That is why he switched to Leicas. What is crucal to wedding photographers, because of the large number of pictures they shoot for a given event, is work flow. For him he has a very good, long time working relationship with his lab. For him film has worked well. It should be noted that he has added digital into his coverage for reception work.

    As far as making images goes, once one isn't doing PJ/Documentary and is doing commercial photography, images are created. You work with editors or art directors, models, lighting, sets, props and create the type of image that is requested. In the past most of it was done in camera and now more of it is being done in post production.
  24. Friedlander would be so much better if he'd spent a little time with Photoshop. He could clone out all those telegraph poles and lampposts that ruin some nicely observed street shots.

  25. I use Photoshop, and I am neither "being creative" with it nor "being true" to the scene. I'm just trying to make the picture as good as it can be! See attachments.
  26. A little better.
  27. To sum up, I think that as photographers, many people simply want to add beauty to the
    world. If we have poor taste, then we will merely add tackiness. If we have good taste,
    skill and vision, then we may succeed. We will not achieve good taste merely by arbitrarily
    deciding, "I will use this technique, but that other technique is bad." That is itself "too
    easy". The challenge is to live and work with eyes and heart open. There are no shortcuts.
  28. Dear Al,

    What the National Geographic photographers did to their Kodachromes with filtration was as nought compared with what the average origination house and printer does before they're published. The picture on the cover of my Focal Press book Travel Photography (co-written with Frances Schultz) has appeared in several places and has been been blue; grey; brown; gold... And they ALL had an original trannie -- Kodachrome as I recall -- as a reference...


  29. Dear Scott,

    Absolutely! Incompetent and overly obvious dodging and burning in wet mono is every bit as repulsive as excessive saturation and sharpening in Photoshop -- and it is every bit as hard to explain to the perpetrators why.

    (I initially typed 'perpetraitors' -- perhaps I should have left it.)


  30. Have to agree w/Jeff throughout on this one. The quickest connections photo programs want a student to make is to see that the process of making an image includes all the elements from taking the photo to matting it, and to see how those elements interact with each other all the way through the process.

    You would certainly say that what Ansel Adams, Weston, Minor White etc, etc, did in the darkroom was an important part of the image. True, a lot of great photographers didn't/don't do their own. That doesn't mean they feel less about the process. Most of those had printers they worked with and trust. Avedon didn't always do his own printing, but those who have seen his work prints from his printer and Avedon's notes to it, will see extensive and detailed involvement in the printing process. Can't speak about HCB, but I know modern photographers such as Bill Aron use printers they've worked with for years. When they get prints they proof them and send them back for what adjustments they want done. Its also true that poor darkroom work will produce prints as bad and poorly done as Photo Shop prints are over saturated, and badly worked. Believe me, I know on both accounts :) I think PS does make things a little more accessable and easier physically than having a darkroom. Also I think there's a really rich physical craft element to darkroom printing that's maybe not the same in PS. But using PS well, takes as much time and work as learning the darkroom if you want what I would consider "excellant" print quality.
  31. I don't think your adjustment of the tones of the image made it untrue to the original...If you would have cloned in a gorilla climbing up the side of the building then that would have been different but to merely to adjust the tones of the image so that you compensate for the dynamic range of your film or the effects of whatever exposure settings you made at the time only serves to make visible elements that existed at the time of exposure. It brings the picture back to what it looked like when you took it.

    Some people will try to argue that since a photograph is not IDENTICAL to the real object that it represents then it is NOT a TRUE representation of that object. Sure, your photograph of the building is 2-dimensional while the real bulding is 3 dimensional. Your photograph weighs only a small amount while the building weighs an incredible amount. Your photograph is in B&W while the building and the rest of the world are in color. None of this matters. The photograph is as real as the real light that reflected off of it's real surface which was focused by the real lens onto a real light sensitive emulsion and was process until you could hold a real object...a photograph...in your hand.
  32. In response to Scott's post. I don't know how, overly burned/dodged b & w printing is considered good. My impression was that every photo/darkroom class teacher I've ever encountered would say that if someone looked at your photo and said, "wow, nice burn there", that the photo is no good. You should never be able to tell something was obviously burned or dodged (unless of course the photo is conceptual and burning and dodging is part of it.) We're talking about taste and skill. If someone paints your house and prepped a wall with spackle to fill in holeshere and there etc, you shouldn't see any evidence of that prep work on the final product, unless you want some sort of distressed look. Likewise, should you need to dodge/burn on a print, it should not be evident to the viewer.
  33. Patrick I hope this doesn't cause too many tears but here is quote from Jeff Ascough posted last week regarding his newly acquired Canon 1DMKII.
    "Digital gives me the advantage of instant playback so that I can get my flash exposure perfect. It also allows me to take risks that I couldn't afford to do under normal circumstances."
    I'm sure he didn't trash his beloved Leica but still...
    As for me, well all I can say is that the last 6 weeks or so I've spent in a local community darkroom for a B&W developing and printing class has been an eye-opening experience. Post-processing is the vital link that has been missing for me. The act of handing a matted and framed piece of work to friend as a birthday present the other day and to have her brought to tears over something I had created left me nearly dumbfounded. It was immensely satisfying in a way I probably can't explain in words.
  34. Patrick, all,

    my thinking has been that when I just point the camera and trip the shutter, I'm taking a

    My goal in photography has been to make pictures, taking whatever time is necessary to
    make a picture that says something and is more than just a snapshot. To quote Bill Allard,
    whose work I admire, "you don't take a snapshot at 1/4 of a second."

    Since I shoot primarily slides, I'm stuck with whatever is onethe film; like Patrick, I
    prefer faster lenses without flash. For me, its either spend time shooting or in the digital
    darkroom, and choose to spend the time making photographs. That's not to say I don't
    wind up with a lot of snapshots. ;)

    Will post-processing and photoshopping take over photography? For those who want to
    spend the time and want to change what they see in the film or no the screen, perhaps.

    For me, the journey of making the image in the camera remains a big part of the reward.

  35. Ben, there is a difference between your processed image and the current POW. These discussions go round and round because we lack the vocabulary to distinguish one approach from the other.
  36. Reminds me of the guy who came up to Picasso at a party and asked him why he didn't paint reality the way it actually looks. Like a photograph, for example. Picasso asked him if he had any photographs of his wife. Yeah, take a look. Picasso looked and then said, "She sure is small, isn't she?" Just 2 inches tall. And probably black and white.
  37. "with PS.....we will see an erosion of good taste"

    There was no shortage of "bad taste" in the wet darkroom.

    "It just gets too easy"

    Other than not getting your hands wet it's no easier or harder than working in a traditional

    "Maybe we should be admiring the National Geographic photographers.....nothing but
    Kodachrome, at most adding some slight color correction filtering at the time of exposure"

    Even leaving aside the notorious "moving pyramid" incident, this is wonderfully ironic. For
    a long time the images in Nat Geo have been some of the most photoshopped in the
    industry, the difference between an original transparency and what appears in the pages of
    Nat Geo can be utterly startling. You could use Nat Geo as source material in a seminar on
    "How Not To Oversharpen in Photoshop".

    "1950's and 1960's....we learned to burn and dodge. If we wanted a printable image we
    had little choice. It wasn't to be creative. It was to get the job done!"

    Al, y'know what? It's exactly the same in 2005. If somebody shows you a jpeg straight
    from their camera it's every bit as ugly and simplistic as an unbalanced traditional print.
    Nothing's changed other than the recording medium.
  38. my husband just today got a 20D and it is very nice. but if i had one i really doubt i would take pix. kind of takes the fun out of it. no suspense..wysiwyg totally. but on the other hand if i want to "capture" something i want to blow up for a billboard and have a client breathing down my neck, digital is definitely the E ticket. personally, i am back somewhere at the beginning of the history of photography and working my way back. cave paintings are next (~_+)
  39. "20D....wysiwyg totally"

    Claudia, borrow his camera, work only in RAW and come back and tell us if it really is
  40. the camera/lens is tool used to making the exposure, perhaps like a painter chosing a brush, ergo one picks a different tool/brush depending on what one wants to achieve.

    needless to say, developing and processing is part of any image making, regardless of film or digital media is being used, however, my underlying question is if we have reach a point where post-processing skills are becoming more important that the skills needed for making the exposure? it seems to me like the first part of the process is taking a back seat to the latter as 'i'll just fix it in photoshop'-attitude takes overhand.

    personally i do see post-processing as process, but I am mindful not to let technological capabilities take away from the focus on paying attention to the quality/direction/amount of light, the background, composition etc. making pressing the shutter.

    it seems like a good many people are mostly interested in end result/the image, regardless of how it was created or generated.
  41. Thing is, Meryl -- I darkened the sky in my image because I thought it looked better that
    way. Was that how I saw it when I tripped the shutter? Umm ... I honestly don't
    remember. So I can't claim I was just being true to the scene the way I saw it.

    BTW, speaking of the 20D, that's the camera I used to make that image. So I agree with
    the person who said that things don't have to be "WYSIWYG" with a digital camera, or with
    the 20D in particular.
  42. no thanks Doris...too involved with
    and this
    and this
    analog input, digital output. the fun, the suspense and the digital tinkering. some of us folks can't live without the anxiety of film input. kind of a woody allen thing. hard to explain but you know it if you feel it
  43. btw, do anyone remeber when they loaded a roll of fuji reala 100 in the camera, shot it, and had 4x6 or one size up printed (not scanned and then printed) and the images actually looked good/pleasing to me without any post-processing effort or decision on my part? sure, for "fine art printing" yada, yada, aspects of the images could have been improved, but for making people smile and remeber, it was certainly good enough...

    [note to self: put down the DSLR and pick up some fuji reala]
  44. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    it seems like a good many people are mostly interested in end result/the image, regardless of how it was created or generated.
    I have yet to get a show, get juried into a competition, sell a print or get published because I cared more about how it was created or generated than I did about the final image. The final image is what I have to show and publish, and occasionally to sell, not my process of making it.
  45. Jeff, obviously you and i take images for completely different purposes. But tell me, when submitting a photograph for exhibition/what-have-you is ANY amount of post-processing fair game in order to get the result you want? Changing background? Add people and/or objects to the scene?

    Hence, I make a distinction here for PJs who we expect to not edit images for subjective purposes, but in general.

    I mean, I can make an image of my wife "look better". I can remove some wrinkles, take away that birthmark on the neck, dodge and burn selectively to make the images prettier, but where does it end? I guess it is an individual decision.
  46. jeff, that is your POV. i also show and sometimes sell and my funky cameras/techniques are often of interest and a selling point to those who follow my work. it just depends...there is no "one way." you can pull a tooth with a rusty plier or with a high tech shiney dental tool. it still is pulling teeth.
  47. I guess that we could discuss this until the cows come home and still find no common ground. Everybody is going to do exactly what they feel they must to get the picture they envision, whether from a digital file or a B&W negative. Which medium to use, and where to stop, is something we each must decide for ourselves.
  48. EricM

    EricM Planet Eric

    "C-B wasn't a printer but he also wasn't uncaring about how his photos were printed. You don't have to steer the ship yourself to be the captain."

    HCB also wasn't a photographer. A shooter shoots and doesn't print. A photographer uses the camera, the negative, and the print, to convey.








  49. It seems like it is mostly/all about the end result "the image" and less and less about the journey of taking that photography?
    Isn't that usually the case, whether it's a painting, sculpture, or a photograph? This is really just a thinly disguised thread about the limits/ethics of digital "manipulation," of which there have been dozens on photonet over the last few years.
    Why set limitations that are defined by a threshold or line? Do what you need to do to realize the result, or image, you're going after. If you want to reduce photography to getting the correct exposure, using manual cameras, with no cropping, that's fine. Just don't expect others to adopt the same definition as to what photography is about.
  50. stick a camera in somebody's face and you get a picture of somebody with a camera stuck in their face. HCB didn't do that. i'm not exactly clear on Eric's point because there are so many pix and i am on dialup so i am using the first one as the base for my comment. looks confrontational in terms of photographer in person's face for no good reason. don't see the HCB reference at all. it is just bad, confrontational street to me. tell me if the additional images i could not load make a point i am missing.
  51. Eric, you, you, you... blasphemer...
  52. jeff, that is your POV. i also show and sometimes sell and my funky cameras/ techniques are often of interest
    Claudia, I don't think you're disagreeing with Jeff. People who see my pix ask me questions as well - that's fine. However, in the beginning, as well as the end, it's about a viewer resonating with your image.
  53. EricM

    EricM Planet Eric

    "stick a camera in somebody's face and you get a picture of somebody with a camera stuck in their face. HCB didn't do that. "

    wrong. he stuck his camera in many faces and got the expressions too. hello?
  54. Brad, i am disagreeing with what i see as a "puritanical" approach, i.e., tools don't matter, design of tool, aesthetics of tool etc that you and jeff proseletyse here. ok, you guys could take pix with any old thing. so....
    some folks have a more wholistic, sensual approach. it is the journey as well as the destination. some of us like to drool, fondle, and engage in lust with the tools that get us to the final destination of THE IMAGE. if you want to live on tofu while i feast on fois gras that is ok. but you don't see me hammering on "it's the image" (which i believe is the thing that pops up when you open Vue-Scan.) where i differ from you and jeff is in that i like the objects that make the images and i appreciate their aesthetic and design quantities. all dogs are loyal and good if treated right, but some dogs are pretty and have good personalities. same with cams. if you can have a 360 degree experience with loving the design and aesthetics of your camera and getting the image you want why should you have to listen to people who could care less. i don't listen to them
  55. yeah Eric I can't bear to look...

    To Bob Soltis and Patrick. The original question seems to indicate a lack of knowledge of the photographic process. Post Processing isn't new, its always been a major part of the process whether digital or analogue of every great photograph you admire by every photographer you like. Whether that photographer did it themselves or had another do it.
  56. EricM

    EricM Planet Eric

    "but you don't see me hammering on "it's the image" "

    correct. but you're doing a great job saying it is not. whatever floats your boat, right?

    please listen. there are two kinds. there are shooters that TAKE PICTURES and there are photographers that MAKE PHOTOGRAPHS. it's that simple.
  57. Claudia, I think you're taking a somewhat extreme view on what you think my views are. I
    have no problem with people connecting with their gear, providing their photography is
    not solely about that relationship - which for some, that seems to be the case. Making
    interesting images are still important.

    You going to the Plachy lecture?
  58. "i am disagreeing with what i see as a "puritanical" approach"

    Claudia your no digi input stance is pretty puritanical in itself. Live a little dangerously,
    experience the joys of RAW. You might just like it.
  59. heh, yeah Brad...i hear you. Sylvia Plachy lecture...where, when?
  60. Doris....my output is almost totally digital. but i do like my steaks nearly RAW, ditto Ahi.
  61. it's the final image that matters........and to continue Eric's way of showing it.........actually, we should have a thread of just these types of transformations

    could call it "from camera's eye to the photographer's eye"



  62. but if you do so much post-processing that you end up with a naff pic of cloned boats on a syrupy lake, your post-processing eventually makes you more of a graphic designer/graphic artist than a photographer. (Thanks to Carl for pointing out the POW - usually I can't bear to look.)

    Seems people are fondling not their cameras but the word 'photographer.'
  63. Ian, that's very true and the line blurs. Was Man Ray a photographer or a conceptual surreliast usting photographic proccesses: answer? both, sometimes one or the other or a bit of both. I myself, don't like the over processed photoshop look that I also think is graphic not photographic, but hey, I like good graphic art too. Sometimes my own stuff takes on a look that I think looks a little too graphic from using PS and over processing,but that's my lack of control of those processes, and also working with an unsuitable neg for what I'm trying t achieve.
  64. right Barry, that's what a lot of people dont understand. Most of the images that are worked on by the photographer in photoshop are already accurately exposed images from the camera in the first place. You still need to go thru the proper steps in the camera in the first place, so that when you get into the RAW converter or editor you have something to work with. Now, sometimes as in one of P Meyer's examples, you have to correct poorly exposed images in photoshop before you can start bringing the image back to what you envisioned when seeing it.

    almost hate mentioning this, but Ansel Adams DID NOT produce images that looked like what was actually there. He previsualized (i believe the term is) the image he wanted the print to look like and took steps in camera, in film developing, and in printing.........sometimes incredibly radical manipulations of the "truth" of the original scene. Moonrise over Hernadez.....i believe the title is........which at one time was the highest sold for print going, was (by wet darkroom standards) highly manipulated from the original scene...........you cant get detail in the moon, the town, and the landscape as he did in that without manipulation of some sort)......and I'm not making this up, he spelled out how he did that shot.

    So, this is not at all a digital photoshop question........not in the slightest......it's been done since the beginning of photography as we know it.....and will continue to be done. All photoshop does is make it faster to do. As far as the final outcome, well there have always been expert wet darkroom technicians and hacks.........photoshop does not change that. It only makes the process more accessible to the hacks.........and budding experts for that matter.

    Photoshop is going to produce more experts in the "processing" arena than the wet darkroom ever could imagine possible. Photoshop allows you to practice more. You spend 1 hour in photoshop doing what could take days in the wet darkroom. Mistakes are easily corrected in PS.......wet, is a start all over again routine. Practice makes perfect, and the more opportunity to practice the same process over and over again in the least amount of time is going to make digital processing a blessing to photography.

    Like Jeff (I believe) said above, you know longer have to be a chemist to produce exceptional results........and I might add, you no longer have to have extreme hand and finger dexterity (to burn and dodge) any more, nor do you have to have enormous amounts of time to learn wetdarkroom techniques. Photoshop shortens all those efforts, makes them easier, lets you get more practice in, in less time. It's the same determination to do a great job, it's still the same desire to produce a quality product...................it's the same artistic endeavor to "Make an Image"
  65. Some very nice pictures and examples. I agree that the creative process is only beginning as the shutter button is pressed.

    However, re. HCB, I would be delighted to be just a "shooter" if I had his ability.

    Cheers, A
  66. It's like you got some fresh shashimi- some wanna eat it raw and some wanna cook it their way for that taste they like----but if you have very bad raw fish to start of with then no cook can make you eat it/-------------so yea let's wait for the cows to come home
  67. Brad, just for fun, would you care to post a layers list showing what you did to any one of the images above . . . . . .

    Although I consider myself to fairly conservative when it comes to altered images, I have no problem putting myself 'there' on the examples above. I don't feel as though Brad is trying to put one over on me or even compensate for a poor capture.

    It's all about the intent of the photographer and how those intentions play out in the real world. Can anyone show me an example of someone who's a relatively successful artist, who 'makes' images that look real on first viewing, but aren't? (ie, excluding commercial work)
  68. Can anyone show me an example of someone who's a relatively successful artist, who 'makes' images that look real on first viewing, but aren't?
    richardavedon.com (excluding his commercial work, if you wish)
  69. The viewer assumes most commercial work to serve the purpose of deception to some extent, no matter how realistic it looks. The same is true of studio work, given that setups , including lighting, are created by definition, rather than a record shot of something 'found' or preexisting.

    Can you give me a specific example of a Richard Avedon shot you had in mind?
  70. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Carl, you seem to have a lot of "rules" about photography.

    Photographs are what they are. Every attempt to put them in a narrowly defined box will stunt photography's growth.

    I've seen photos from the 1800s that were very skillfully done composites, but that's not what makes them interesting. They're interesting because the photographer had a vision of something to show.

    I think it's a pointless exercise to go through portfolios to look for things that were created. Photographs are what they are, not what they were.
  71. The only 'rule' I have that comes immediately to mind is "don't BS me." We agree that the process is not the point. For me, it's the intent.

    . . . and it's especially hard to make a clear point in this endless debate without specific examples.

    Yes, I was disappointed when I found out that the large town sign made out of rocks on a hillside in 'Moon rise Hernandez" was burned into oblivion. Most people viewing that image never saw the original scene. Many might not have cared much. Many certainly would have.

    If you see no connection between photography and the possibility of a reasonable facsimile of a record shot, than we are indeed standing on different ground.
  72. thanks for some great input (and images) so far.

    hey, i'm actually not advocating one stand or the other as much as I am trying to have a dialog around a thought that appeared in my head. I do appreciate the opportunity to listen and learn from other "image makers" .

    The idea about before-after thread sounds pretty interesting...
  73. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Many certainly would have.
    I would take exception to this statement. I have yet to meet anyone outside of some people on this forum who think that photographs have to be an accurate description of "reality." I find many that are comfortable with Laughlin's insightful comment about photography, one that makes it clear that photography is far more than forensics:
    "The physical object, to me, is merely a stepping stone to an inner world where the object, with the help of the subconscious drives and focuses perceptions, becomes transmuted into a symbol whose life is beyond the life of the objects we know ..."
  74. The only 'rule' I have that comes immediately to mind is "don't BS me." We agree that the process is not the point. For me, it's the intent.
    Some thoughts from Avedon on BSing.
  75. EricM

    EricM Planet Eric

    ...I clearly drank way too much scotch last night...ouch, my head...
  76. Jeff, man, you increasingly sound like my one of my university philosphy professor (hence, not a bad thing). You sure you shouldn't be a phil. teacher instead of a photographer? ;-)
  77. everyone's playing with photoshop now cummon guys get out more!
  78. After awhile I think that most photographers who know their way around the "wet darkroom" can examine a negative, maybe also look at the contact sheet, and have a pretty good idea of an overall starting exposure and what contrast filters are needed, as well as what burning and dodging might be required. A couple of test strips can fine tune that, and most times the first print looks pretty damned good. It's little different than the ability to choose the initial exposure and developing to give the film based on scene contrast and lighting.

    A lot of younger, newer photographers grew up on auto-exposure, and not only never learned those basic darkroom skills but never even knew anyone who could teach them. They used to say "The lousier your negatives are the better the printer you'll become". We not only learned printing skills but we soon learned to produce the best negatives that we could. I remember applying for a job in a studio back in the 1960's. I was asked if I could load 4x5 film holders and developing hangers because most young guys then couldn't, then handed a 4x5 negative and told to go in the darkroom and make a print. It was a girl in a wedding dress, overdeveloped and shot in contrasty lighting, with raven black hair, back lit veil, and intricate embroidery and seed pearls on the bodice. Fortunately he was set up to use DuPont Varigam because Kodak Ektalure would never have let me pull it off. I made some test strips and got an useable print on the second try. Not great art but as good as anything coming out of his studio. Detail in the hair, detail in the veil and bodice, good flesh tones on the face. I never saw the original subject but I still had a pretty good idea of what people expected it to look like in a photograph.
  79. hate to admit it, Al (et al), but I'm one of those persons who never spend any real time in a darkroom (goofed around a few times as a teenager, that's it) and I seriously doubt I ever will get around to master those skills. That is where apps like Photoshop come in very handy to cut learning time and improving the final product. Having said that, I haven't reach the level w/ PS either where I use it heavily to edit/manipulate my images, perhaps a lack of skill and/or clear vision, but hey, I'm not in photography to produce fine art or exhibition photographs, so I don't mind it being a life long learning process.
  80. Thomas Sullivan wrote:

    <<<<< ... actually, we should have a thread of just these types of transformations [referring to posts showing original capture to 'finished' photograph]

    could call it "from camera's eye to the photographer's eye" >>>>>>>

    This is an excellent idea. It would be enormously helpful to me.
  81. FYI, I've just started such a tread. Hence, it is meant to be a learning experience for the participants. Understanding a photogrpahers decision making progress when creating the final image should be a pretty interesting and valuable excersise (certainly more relevant that another gear thread ;-) )
  82. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Al's completely off-base here. Nobody is talking about correct exposure, and correct exposure is just as easy with an automatic camera as with a manual camera, it comes down to knowing what to do.

    However, Al's approach to the darkroom would never produce great prints like Avedon's (sometimes over 100 dodge and burn areas) or Adams' or Weston's. They produce workaday images that would come from the corner lab. It takes a lot more to see through the negative (or original file) to a final image that rises above.
  83. Jeff, I hope you participate in the W/NW thread as you seem to have well articulated thoughts/processes about what/how to make an image.
  84. Jeff produces some excellent images. He does things his way, I do them mine. We each have our own vision and standards. Like I said earlier, this could be argued 'til the cows come home. We'll never reach an agreement.
  85. To my simplistic way of thinking, "taking" a picture involves snapping the subject, properly composed in the viewfinder and properly exposed, using little or no post processing. "Making" a picture involves much darkroom skulduggery or digital post processing. It's like the difference between the way one's wife looks when she arises in the morning and how she appears after several hours of preparation for an evening out, or spraying a cheap paint job on a junk car ! I prefer the natural look to my pictures, as the digitally altered images are becoming trite in their own way and the manipulation is all too obvious at most times. Nevertheless, I must concede that the "smoke and mirrors gang" is taking over the craft, to its detriment. Best regards, Bill
  86. In the end, it's about having an open mind - and being willing to learn and accept ideas
    that are different.
  87. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Once again, the comments seem to be made in ignorance of photographic history. "Smoke and mirrors" is over 100 years old in photography.
  88. Once again, for someone preaching an open mind and a liberal view/adaptation to photography, why not accept that some people like to avoid heavy post-processing, regardless of it weight and history to any art-form.

    People takes/makes images for different reasons and with different goals. There is no right or wrong.
  89. rj


    Galen Rowell comes to mind as a photographer who used little if any post production, prefering the image look as close to reality as possible. I would hate to call him a half baked photographer.

    Patrick, when you say "It seems like it is mostly/all about the end result ? the image ? and less and less about the journey of taking that photography?" I agree with you to some extent, but here is my take on this issue. The "journey" or process of photography is more important to me as a photographer. This is why I am a photographer, prefering to spend my time shooting and playing in the darkroom. (I prefer to get a good negative in camera than screw around with it in the darkroom.) The final result is more important to the viewer than it is me. I enjoy when others enjoy my work, but it is not the main motivation for me and I don't shoot for the purpose of pleasing the viewer, I am way more selfish than that. It goes without saying that if I were a professional and shot for someone else my motivation would be different.
  90. "Taking" images is a pedestrian activity, "making" them through an evolved knowledge of processing is a creative activity. Doesn't matter whether that process involves wet printing or digital manipulation, in the end it's whatever an audience walks away with that matters.

    BTW I use my photos for painting reference so they are only one step in an evolved process, naturally the end results are distinct and seperate.
  91. After two days of flying fur it seems to me there are two points of view. There are photographers -those who just want to take pictures, and Photographers -those who want to show the very best pictures they can.

    Let me argue from the point of view of the Photographers--

    Post processing skill has always been important for all who desire to show superb final prints/images. Ansel Adams shot his fine compositions with the right composition/lighting/film/camera/exposure/processing to give him a negative suitable for printing/burning/dodging/bleaching/toning/mounting. His skill supported his eye. Without either the skill or the eye, the pictures would never have been.

    For every quality photographer after the old Mathew Brady days, post processing/lab work/print making has been more than half the effort. If making good prints is too much trouble for you, buy a pawn shop Polaroid.

    As Jeff put it -- . . .The idea that photography is somehow disconnected from the final product comes from people who haven't ever had to really produce a fine print, show a fine print, deliver a finished image. I think a lack of craft on the finishing end results from a half-baked view of photography.

    The Jeff Ascough work is excellent. I suspect he works hard at post-processing to produce those artful results. If he sends it out (and I suspect that if he is a wedding pro he does) he has the right lab and he is directing them to produce high quality results.

    And to reply to Meryl Arbing, I confess that I too downloaded photo.net photos to edit and polish as a way of learning to run my software. Not every good shot shown on this website is adequately completed. I?ve been out of photography for a long time, and I?m (re)learning the craft.

    The computer/software/printer is just the new tool. Quality, finished work always trumps ignorant and lazy in every style category you examine --street shooting, landscape, portraiture, car magazine, home and family, travel, wedding.

    Sorry for the long rant, but this is a topic a care about. I hope I don't sound like too much of a grump.

    The question --At what point does manipulation make a photo untrue? should be split to the news/documentary photography forum Or maybe Philosophy of Photography.
  92. jtk


    IMO most of the demonstrated "pre" and "post" photos here lost what worth they had in processing...several were actually interesting before ego-diddling took over. Once they were photos.
  93. ""Taking" images is a pedestrian activity" -

    I've seen an awful lot of printers who obviously think that way, given the rather pedestrian ideas that go into the actual capture.

    There seem to be quite few of you who must hate slides - unless you are required to use Velvia, a circular polarizer, and several grad filters.

    Speaking of Galen Rowell, how many of you know the story about the huge print of the grizzly in his gallery - and why he took it down.
  94. rj


    I re-read the article and can say that I disagree, one does not need a computer to make an image. The author states "What I am suggesting is that the real power of photography in our modern digital age is in using the computer in making an image" and "We need not take beautiful pictures, we can make beautiful pictures ? and the computer is the tool that lets us perform the magic." This is like saying that you can't shoot a photo without a Leica, or even without a lens. I am surprised the posters above who constantly shout about equipment envy have completely overlooked this bias. Plenty of images have been MADE before the computer was even thought of.
  95. Galen Rowell comes to mind as a photographer who used little if any post production, prefering the image look as close to reality as possible.​

    Really? With his use of his 15/3.5 lens? His 16/2.8 fisheye? Polarizers and a passel of filters? That's reality? You guys must have a great mushroom contact.
  96. ...several were actually interesting before ego-diddling took over. Once they were photos.
    And what are they now?
  97. rj


    Boy Z, you sure socked it to me. Thanks for putting me in my place, I needed that.
  98. One of the more interesting discussions I've seen here, with less acrimony than usual. :) Claudia, I have a personal relationship with my cameras too, but I haven't gotten around to naming them yet. :)
  99. These discussions always seem to be about what people think other people *should* be doing or not doing. In terms of photographic tools we live in a golden age. We have many new tools and we still have access to many of the old tools. Just use whatever tools and workflow meets your personal needs and move on.
  100. O.K.,guys, I surrender. Go and make your pictures however you wish. Why not quit using your cameras entirely? With the software available today, cameras are not really needed at all. I guess the "natural" image is a dead horse! Best wishes, Bill
  101. They used to joke years ago that some of the printers at the Life Magazine lab were so good that they didn't need a negative. The photographer would describe the scene as the printer would dodge and burn in with the white light from the enlarger, then darken some areas with cotton swabs dipped in heated stock paper developer, followed by lightening other areas with potasium ferracyanide.

    Just about every magazine and newspaper office had an airbrush artist on staff who could "Photoshop" what the lab guy couldn't accomplish with chemistry, slight of hand, and outright magic.
  102. I guess the "natural" image is a dead horse!
    The natural image is an imaginary horse. People are comfortable with BS about photography recording reality--they'll conveniently ignore the role of pre-exposure manipulation and how inherently abstract even the most "realistic-looking" photo is. Some lies give comfort; some lies cause distress.
  103. What Jeff Spirer and Bob Todrick have written. If you understand the history of photography, you realize that photographers -- at least the good ones -- have been doing extensive post-processing since the beginning. And the people who eschew post-processing, be it photoshop or careful darkroom practice, are usually the ones who are just too lazy or unskilled to make good prints.
  104. and/or maybe people will simply lose interest in looking at photos. could happen. take/make...won't matter. basically you have to be saying something that connects with the literate part of the brain. otherwise it is just "eye candy." and you need a literate audience, which seems to be dwindling.
  105. If all photos are manipulated, then the word becomes meaningless. Everyone posting here could easily write a very long list of factors that make a photograph different from the subject shot, but to imply that there's no distinction between the lens used and a collage, for example, is just plain silly.

    . . . as is the assertion that no one cares about the deception due to manipulation except for a few misguided souls on this site. There are too many famous examples, from the pyramids, to OJ, to 'migrations', to the Kent State shot.

    It's not a question of whether or not we are attracted to a particular pre- or postprocessing technique as photographers or viewers. It's about what purpose the resulting photograph serves. It isn't always about 'art', after all.
  106. "Speaking of Galen Rowell, how many of you know the story about the huge print of the grizzly in his gallery - and why he took it down.
    Come on Carl, you can't leave us hanging.
  107. . . . but to imply that there's no distinction between the lens used and a collage, for example, is just plain silly.
    I don't think the implication was that there is no distinction between the lens used and a collage--the implication was the decision about what one considers acceptable or valid is usually quite arbitrary.
    A notable context in which that decision isn't arbitrary is when photos are used as legal evidence. For evidentiary uses, whether the photo is accepted as a "true" representation depends on supporting testimonials from those who made the image.
  108. "I don't think the implication was that there is no distinction between the lens used and a collage..."
    I'm not sure Mike, it seems to me there are quite a few people here that wouldn't have a too much of a problem calling a collage a photograph, even if it hasn't been explicitly stated in this thread.
  109. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    If all photos are manipulated, then the word becomes meaningless.
    Carl, this is just plain ridiculous. For example, virtually all books are "edited," and that word still has tremendous value. However, unlike here, nobody argues over it. The words on the page are on the page. If a famous writer has a ruthless editor who pulls words/sentences/paragraphs/chapters out and rewrites etc etc, nobody says the book is "edited." It's just part of the process.
  110. jeff, that reminds me of when we during the last year in high-school got a new English teacher, who actually happened to be a philosopher/philosophy-teacher who also taught English. A week after we handed in papers for some assignment he handed them back to us without having looked at them. He asked us to edit what we have written, we could make any changes we wanted as long as we kept them visable. And after that we would give them to a classmate for input, then that 3rd/4th version was to be handed in and finally graded. Of course there was an uproar, especially from the A grade students that didn't want other people to compete for the higher marks.

    I was so impressed by this approach as a young man when i realized that it was about improving the final product, not how good the first iteration/draft was. That philosopher/teacher made an impression on me.
  111. Mike: "I don't think the implication was that there is no distinction between the lens used and a collage--the implication was the decision about what one considers acceptable or valid is usually quite arbitrary."

    I maintain that every effort is being made to lump them all together and then assert that manipulation is 'unavoidable', as Jeff has just done. While I agree that shooters of similar subjects may not agree on what is or is not suitable, most would fall into a range that would not necessarily be the same for another style. The absence of clear lines of demarcation does not lead inevitably to "everything is manipulated - end of story."

    Very little of this discussion attempts to address Patrick's question. I read that he's embraced a style of photography that employs minimal manipulation . . . . . . and then he gets besieged with all these posts suggesting that what he's doing is inferior . . . . . . and maybe impossible.
  112. Dear Jeff,

    I really don't think that a competent writer could become famous if they were subjected to a ruthless editor. You're buying the writer's talent, not the editor's. If anyone's writing is improved AT ALL by ruthless editing, then they weren't even competent to begin with. They certainly weren't good.

    Possibly a great editor can make a mediocre writer famous, but it's worth remembering that writers take top billing, while editors are rarely remembered. Admittedly there's a cultural divide here -- Americans seem much more willing to accept editing than people who have English as their native language -- but I know from extensive experience that the majority of competent published writers are even more touchy about their creations than the majority of competent published photographers.


  113. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Roger, it's not about making a mediocre piece of work better. However, just like many photographers, writers are sometimes their own worst editors. Many have a friend or family member help before they send it out, which is similar to an editor.

    By the way, my mother was a book editor. I've seen the process close up.
  114. My wife is an editor.

    Consistent with my argument, there are different approaches to editing depending on the content and publication.
  115. Dear Jeff,

    A good editor is a blessing -- but certainly not to the extent of ruthlessness. An editor's job is to spot inconsistencies and SUGGEST possible rewrites, not to carve up well-considered work or rewrite (without permission) as if they were the writer.

    I fully take your point about reading the work over to someone else: my wife and I almost always do that. After that, if it needs heavy editing, it's incompetent.


  116. Dear Carl,

    I fully take your point about the different degrees of editing that are required for different subjects and publications, but as someone who has been paid for both fiction and non-fiction, I cling to the view that the writer's intention and style must be paramount.

    I have dealt with scores of editors since my first paid piece appeared (in Penthouse International, of all things) some 32 years ago. I don't know how many million words I've had published: certainly, not as many as your wife has edited. But always, there has been a line across which I will not go: I have refused permission to publish (which much surprised the publisher) and cancelled the contract unless they were willing to publish something closer to what I had written.

    As I said in an earlier post, American writers on all subjects appear to be willing to accept much heavier editing than those writing in English. Both my wife and I attribute this to the American educational system, which is vastly more inclined to impose uniformity than the English, using heavy-handed and incompetent authoritarianism if necessary.

    She went to school in New York State and to university at the University of Southern California, and as she says, "I knew how to read and write when I left high school in NY state, but by the time I left USC my confidence had been destroyed. Since then I have has many hundreds of thousands of words published -- and I am absolutely sure that the teacher who 'taught' me has never been paid good money by an editor for publishing anything."


  117. My wife is mostly involved with government work from people who have the position and the information, but not necessarily the writing skills. Many of them seem not to care much for sentence structure, knowing it will get fixed later.

    I used to play music professionally. Most piano technicians - my current profession - used to play professionally as well, but often in very different circuits. An approach that flies in one place falls flat elsewhere.

    Same with pictures.
  118. There's nothing wrong with getting it right the first time- there's nothing wrong with working on it to get further either---instead of sharing and teaching others your techniques in Patrick's other nw thread about processing so that all can benefit we chose to type pages and pages here instead talking to the sky
  119. Sometimes the truth hurts, RJ. :)

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