Have I been brainwashed by the post- prod hype?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by falcon7, Jan 26, 2011.

  1. First, I'm not seeking a photo critique, so please don't bother checking out any of my photos owing to this question.
    A few months ago, I posted a portrait, and listed under details that I didn't use any post-prod like photoshop with it. I got a positive response that since the photo was fine the way it was, and the ideal is not to use post if you get it all "right" via the lighting and camera. I thought how logical that was, but my initial posting of the photo was to see how to improve it since I figured that since I couldn't find any way to "improve it" via post, that there must be something wrong with it. Have I been brainwashed by the hype on all the software programs -- that every photo can use some improvement in post (even if subjectively the photographer sees no need for it?
  2. I think whether something is "improved" by doing something to it is subjective.
    Maybe the way to look at this is whether we choose to "personalize" it as we might with cars, food, clothing, etc., and to what degree.
  3. The entire digital photo evolution of the past decade is predicated on the concept that if you buy it you will be more. Have more. Get more. Accomplish more. Isn't the whole thing a snowjob?
    Some guy a couple forums over has been hired to shoot a wedding in all black and white and he wants to know the best conversion method. Conversion method! A salesman somewhere is laughing all the way to the bank.
  4. The entire digital photo evolution of the past decade is predicated on the concept that if you buy it you will be more. Have more. Get more. Accomplish more. Isn't the whole thing a snowjob?​
    No, it's not. Because you're saying that it's something that it isn't (and pretending that when we didn't have digital devices/processes that at least some people weren't fixated on better film, better paper, better enlargers, better lenses and other hardware/process additions and expenses that could improve their results). Having come from shooting film and untold hours in the darkroom, I can tell you that the "digital revolution" is about me being more efficient, having more latitude, using and wasting less materials and time, and delivering what I need to deliver in ways that were mere fantasy a decade ago.

    As for picking on the guy who wants to know the best way to render B&W results from that wedding gig? I suppose that when you shoot B&W, the light actually comes out of the rear element of the lens without any hues? Or is it possible that you also think in terms of filters, film stock, chemistry and technique when shooting to B&W film ... and are just as interested in how to convert a color world into compelling B&W results as the other guy is?
  5. It can certainly be an unlimited object for tinkering by guys with cameras - and unlike tinkering with carburators and distributors like some did in the past (every guy had a car but comparatively few people had darkrooms), you don't even get your hands dirty. Personally, I think that many times the improvement is only in the eyes of the tinkerer. I was influenced by the image editing hype myself after I first got a digital camera, but I've since seen the light. So the pictures aren't perfect. So what? I don't like them too perfect anyway.
    Nothing pleases me more than a good picture straight out of the camera. The rest, I don't bother "editing".
  6. I'm with Matt on this. While the chosen process gets you to the end result, there is not one process that is inherently better than another - there's only what's best to get to the final image. With film, I can remember stocking at least 15 different B&W developers because the photographers all had their "special process" - and how is that different than the supposed "hype" surrounding software? Then there were the proponents of stand development, pyro, etc., etc. Only uninformed people fall for hype whether it's related to film or digital methods.
    Please, processing is just that - processing whether done with software or chemicals and photographic printing paper. Whether you are using film or a digital workflow the basics are the same - seeing the photograph, and then using the entire workflow process to get the final image you envisioned. If you're trying to make more out of it than that, you're wasting your time on issues that are of little, if any, importance to making a successful photograph.
  7. I have to agree with Matt on this one too.
    A "snowjob"? It's just another way of doing things to achieve the results you want. I had a twenty five year love affair with film which included shooting many different types of film stock with various filters, gelling lights, endless darkroom work (including B/W multigrade printing with multiple exposures per print using different contrast filters and soft edge masks), B/W print retouching, dye retouching on transparencies, etc. It was never a point and shoot proposition.
    I am now 100% digital and have a different set of tools at my disposal, but the same mission statement - to produce the best images that I can. I have embraced a digital workflow and love the results.
    Regarding the guy shooting the wedding, and B/W conversions. If he is shooting digitally, with all the advantages that entails for a wedding photographer (switching ISO from shot to shot, RAW capture so WB, etc. can be addressed after the fact, not having to switch rolls every 36 shots, etc.) then B/W conversion methods will be something he has to deal with. Simply desaturating at the RAW stage or converting to grayscale in Photoshop do not produce the best results and he is right to be asking questions. However, unlike shooting B/W film, if the client later wants a color version of a shot, that can be done quickly and easily. That sounds like a step forward to me.
  8. I read that as brainwashed by post-prod hypo, and it sort of made sense
    I'm so used to needing little tweaks, it surprises me if I don't immediately see anything that needs doing.
    I don't think its brainwashing, its just a fact of life, most of mine either need forgetting or tweaking, you just get used to it.
  9. When I was in Photography 101 in college, long before digital, my instructor taught us that 99% of photographs could be improved in the darkroom from what came out of the camera. Dropping film off at the lab for an automated machine to process and print is the lazy way, not taking control of the entire process of creating a photograph. Use previsualization. Imagine your finished print or whatever display. How will you use your tools, materials, and techniques to get there. Sometimes much of it can be accomplished in the exposure step. Other times weakness of the tools and materials or even shooting situation will require taking control of the processing and printing to get what you want. The important thing is to know what you want to achieve, and how to get there.
    "It is rather amusing, this tendency of the wise to regard a print which has been locally manipulated as irrational photography – this tendency which finds an aesthetic tone of expression in the word faked. A manipulated print may be not a photograph. The personal intervention between the action of the light and the print itself may be a blemish on the purity of photography. But, whether this intervention consists merely of marking, shading and tinting in a direct print, or of stippling, painting and scratching on the negative, or of using glycerin, brush and mop on a print, faking has set in, and the results must always depend upon the photographer, upon his personality, his technical ability and his feeling. BUT long before this stage of conscious manipulation has been begun, faking has already set in. In the very beginning, when the operator controls and regulates his time of exposure, when in dark-room the developer is mixed for detail, breadth, flatness or contrast, faking has been resorted to. In fact, every photograph is a fake from start to finish, a purely impersonal, un-manipulated photograph being practically impossible. When all is said, it still remains entirely a matter of degree and ability." -Edward Steichen, Camera Work 1 (1903)
  10. Matt - great quote there, apparently the discussions have remained pretty much the same for more than a hundred years! It's hard to argue with anything he says and, if you substitute digital technique for his stated techniques, the quote still stands on it's merits.
  11. I think that many modern "photographers" think they know more than Steichen did a hundred years ago. I personally don't think so.
  12. Well, I can't say whether you've been brainwashed, Alan. But it's not difficult to let feelings of inferiority creep in when you hang out in places where the 'latest and greatest' gear and techniques are advocated and celebrated day in and day out.
    What's that? You didn't optimize your histogram? Your images must be inferior!
    Don't have a full-frame camera? Clearly inferior!
    Didn't use HDR? Oh, the inferiority!

    Just take all of this sophomoric chatter with a grain of salt. Everyone means well. I'm certain that your portrait work is just fine, and if there IS a way to improve it, it's probably something that you would do BEFORE clicking the shutter - different lighting, poses, wardrobe, make-up, backdrop, etc.
    My digital photos start life as RAW files, so there's always some post-processing to be done - a contrast tweak, fine-tuning white balance, some sharpening, etc. But I've never subscribed to the notion that you can't make a good photo without a Ph.D. in Photoshop technique. Lighting, composition, and exposure (plus some really nice lenses) are the only "magic bullets" that my work will ever require. If it looks good before you shoot it, it's probably going to look good when you print it.
  13. Digital photography is all about computers and post processing. Just snap up some pictures and photoshop them and be happy. It is reasonable to think that high quality software is desireable for that purpose. Those boys in China appreciate the business as it's very good for their economy.
  14. if it is done right, it's done right. end of story. I fell into that trap always trying to "improve" the original in some way. yes a lot can be tweaked, but I have one example that was played with in many ways and leaving it as is worked the best.
    being a nature / outdoor photographer, I try to leave the images a natural as seen with my own two eyes.
  15. Alan G, is this the straight out of the camera/no Photoshop portrait you were referring to?...
    If so, that woman has quite a unique looking red-ish tan to where I can't tell if she's African American or Tahitian. Did you intend for her skin to look that red? Is your display calibrated and profiled?
    There's a whole bunch of complicated "naturally occurring" optical phenomenon that goes on in determining whether an image looks correct/pleasing or as intended with about half of it based in emotion and psychology the other half mostly color perception and the tricks opposing hues have on the eyes. Renaissance painters had to become very aware of both phenomenon.
    Below shows one of these phenomenon concerning what determines "pleasing" looking colors in a Luminous Landscape discussion on the color characteristics of scanning Kodachrome. In a nutshell it demonstrates how our eyes can perceive the appearance of the overall look of an image's colors depending on the surrounding "undercolor" of the entire image and how relying on the technical definition of neutrality of R=G=B can't fix or make the image look better. This sort of thing was dealt with centuries ago by master painters and subsequently adopted by colorists in developing the "pleasing" color appearance of film which has nothing to do with scene accuracy which relies on numbers to make the image technically correct.
    The only difference between the bottom and top image is that I applied a Split Tone setting in ACR that made the shadows red. The bottom image is how my DSLR rendered shadow tint which looks kind of green but its RGB readouts are around 50,40,30 which should look warm but it doesn't. The golden highlight of the sun streaming through my window onto my wall's RGB numbers are the same on both but they look different.
    This is one of the reasons for post production software.
  16. I'm so used to needing little tweaks, it surprises me if I don't immediately see anything that needs doing​
    I agree. Some of this is simply your personality type. In 30 years of making photographs both film and digital, I would have a hard time thinking of ten serious images, as opposed to simple snapshots, that didn't need something in post. But I'm a hard-nosed, pain-in-the-neck, fuss budget. Others with a different personality type may feel OK without any post work. Heck, there are folks that post in the forums that don't even spot their work. So what. Whatever works for you. If Mr. Leonard above thinks his nature shot is better for his untouched approach, gawd bless. Personally, I think it could be improved considerably but it's the maker's opinion that matters.
  17. About the photo in question that I don't want critiquing -- I'm not going to 'go there' as they say. I used to tackle with the issue regarding the subjectivity versus objectivity of visual phenomena -- photographic or otherwise -- until I read a research study conducted in Australia (I don't have it at the moment, but I'll try to find the link), which found that all things being "equal," (which of course they can't be) the typical human has more acute focus in the morning than in the evening. So, does that mean, we shouldn't fine tune images during the morning, or use a technological device that can override the physiological changes? The same researchers found that acuity of vision was correlated with the amount of reading an individual engaged in -- not because the eye is staying focused on one distance (as is often believed), but because when people read, they tend to look downward causing the eyelid to exert a small amount of pressure on the upper edge of the eye, and that pressure eventually causes a loss of acuity. I guess that may mean that reading by staring straight ahead with the eyes at a right angle to the page may prevent this problem. Of course, the differences may be so minimal that they don't make a difference in regards to engineering issues (BTW, Gregory Bateson's definition of information was "Any difference that makes a difference.") However, in aesthetic judgment, these differences are of a different order than those in engineering. Even in engineering, critical measurement and prediction isn't that stringent as it was predicted before the space shuttle program (by NASA), that about 2% of space shuttle flights would end in disaster. With 132 flights and two disasters, that was a fairly good estimate. Regarding aesthetics, Kant's definition of the aesthetic in his Critique of Judgment, i.e., "What is pleasing is that which is pleasing to me" doesn't seem much improvable upon, although contemporary culture would seem to favor McLuhan's definition of art, which is "Art is anything you can get away with," implicating a cultural/social belief system that can be implicated in the idea of "brainwashing."
    In any case, I don't mean to imply that many or even most images couldn't be "improved" via post-processing. I meant to inquire whether there is such a plethora of "information" about how images can and should be improved that many people will feel apprehensive about that rare image that seems just right intuitively, thereby casting doubt (if not color) on all images.
  18. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    if it is done right, it's done right. end of story.​
    Some people have a vision of what they want, some are happy to let the camera and medium do the choosing. Photographers like Avedon, Adams, Moriyama, Laughlin, they all see a vision of what a photograph can be instead of what the camera cranks out. The statement quoted is so far removed from the history of great photography that it's hard to believe it's posted here.
  19. >>> I think that many modern "photographers" think they know more than Steichen did a hundred years
    ago. I personally don't think so.

    Why is that relevant or matter at all what another photographer knew 100 years ago and if a photographer
    today knows more or less? For me, I could care less. I shoot and process in a way that makes sense for
    me and that gives me results I want.

    And why do you have "photographers" in quotes? Are you suggesting they aren't? Perhaps I'm a "photographer?"
  20. Alan, I'm not judging or critiquing your image. I'm making an observation from what I see and asking if you intended to have that model have that color of skin?
    Is it pleasing to you?
    If so, then you're the one responsible for it regardless if you post processed it or caused it to look that way in front of the lens.
    Deciding is part of photography (image creation). Every photographer acts as their own art director which can't be escaped from no matter the amount of rationalization.
  21. >>> Have I been brainwashed by the hype on all the software programs -- that every photo can use some
    improvement in post (even if subjectively the photographer sees no need for it?

    Brainwashed and hype? I've yet to discover any sort of conspiracy suggesting that.

    But I can say that *every* photo I've taken has benefited from some post processing.
  22. @OP: Bottom line is, your photo, your vision. If it meets your vision or what you want to express, I think that's it. There is no need for post once you've got what you've wanted down pat, be it screen or paper.
    tldr: I think post allows oneself the freedom of expression.
  23. I think that many modern "photographers" think they know more than Steichen did a hundred years ago. I personally don't think so.​
    I'd be surprised if they actually knew who Steichen was...as the history of photography seems to be a total void for a lot of people who claim they are interested in photography.
  24. jtk


    I admire Steichen's work, and a lot of other historic work. Actually, since I see it in 2011 it's not just historic, it's part of contemporary imagery.
    It's clear that some of us are more interested in technology than images, and that's always been true. Some of us explored developers (Steve mentioned that), but others of us (me) only used developers that we'd seen producing something we admired in the work of others. Years ago someone recommended Edwal FG7 because someone we both admired was reported to use it. So I did. But because I've never liked grain-dissolving (Sodium Sulfite) I refrained from that. In other words, I knew how chems related to results before I tried them.
    Today, when I do use film, I mostly stand-process with Rodinal @ 1+100 or 1+200. Why? Because it reliably produces a look that I like with Neopan 400 (of which I still have a stash).
    Now that I use film much less than DSLR I use the same approach with Photoshop and Elements the same way I've always approached film: I look at the mostly minimal and conventional-looking post processing results of photographers that most closely relate to my aspirations and I emulate their techniques. I'm not interested in being technically unique or innovative because I'm a photographer, not a technical hobbiest.
    I produce images with characteristics I've anticipated before making the exposures. That's not hard to do because I prioritize image over technical gymnastics.
    If I scan silver film I slightly reduce grain, keeping it grain sharp. B&W, like color, film or DSLR, usually benefits by some dodging and burning as well a contrast adjustment. Scans and DSLR files both require sharpening (maybe wouldn't if I shot JPG and lived with what the camera wanted to deliver).
    We all have our own visual goals if we're photographers, that is to say we know what we want to see in prints or wherever. If we're technical hobbiests more than photographers we may be guided by something other than visual goals: novelty, play, maybe even aversion to thinking much about our images.
  25. >>> I'd be surprised if they actually knew who Steichen was...as the history of photography seems to be
    a total void for a lot of people who claim they are interested in photography.

    Fortunately, knowing who Steichen was is not a requirement for being interested in photography.
  26. Fortunately, knowing who Steichen was is not a requirement for being interested in photography.​
    Well that's lucky, because I'd never heard of him until I saw the quote - which I loved by the way, not only for his sentiments, but also because it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same!
    I do "claim" to be interested in photography by the way. I've been a professional advertising photographer for over twenty years, on both sides of the Atlantic, I studied photography in London for four years before that and had my first darkroom at age 10. I'm not sure how Steichen failed to come across my radar before this quote, but I don't think that means that the history of photography is a "total void" for me!
    Clearly I need to apologize to Mr Steichen and to art historians everywhere.
  27. "Have I been brainwashed by the post- prod hype?"
  28. It sounds, Alan, that you have made up your own mind and are firm and content with that approach. I would say Good. And are now sort of 'challenging' the forum respondents to disagree with your opinion and perhaps to justify their disagreement. Not quite so good, IMO only. Of course I could be wrong, and if I am, take my reaction as kindly as possible. (I usually do some PP as routine. Not always. Never feel put upon to do so.)
  29. Steichen's 8x10 print of his "Pond-the moonrise" sold for $2.9 million at auction back in 2006. Pretty good for some guy back in 1904. I continue to believe that he knew something about "photography".
  30. You are the artist photographer, images can come out of the camera perfect all the time, but if you want to do something different to them, do post production, it is just another tool for you to create your image.
    The purist will want the perfect image from the camera untouched. Selling photos to consumers, they may not care at all, it is just what the final image looks like that they want. If they like vignetting they won't care that it was done post production, they just want a piece of art to hang on the wall that goes with the color scheme of their room. Others may just like that the photo is B&W and looks old or an old style. Most consumers don't care, they just want what looks good to them.
    You as the artist / creator must decide what you want to do, there is no right or wrong, it is just a choice.
    I do know every photographer loves it when the image comes out of the camera perfect, no desire or need to do anything.
  31. A thread on this general subject nevers fails to draw some posts about Ansel Adams... as here, in support of post-production. Of course, we all know that it's a technical medium, and that some basic adjustments to contrast and colours might be appropriate. However, I get tired of the name Ansel Adams being carelessly bandied about like this. If you look at the history of photography and of Ansel Adams, he was very much in the school of realism. In fact, along with Weston, he fought quite a battle in favour of it.
    What he did in the darkroom was merely to translate what was already on his film to the photographic papers available. I don't think it can be said that he was into photo manipulation.
    There are different levels of post-production. Moving a simple slider in Lightroom or whatever is one thing, but have you looked at some of the incredibly complex and esoteric "techniques" many people spend hours on in order to tweak sharpness and other things to the n'th degree?
  32. Times have changed. Technology today captures much more than the eye can see. Viewing the same image on two different monitors produces two different results. I don't know if there is such a thing as an unprocessed image. Digital cameras have so many options in how they capture the image to begin with that there already is much "processing" in every image captured. My wife prefers the "unaltered" image, but I have no idea what that is anymore. It certainly is nothing like it was when I was using film and my own darkroom. Even then, I had options in the contrast level of the paper, how I processed the film, etc.
    If you close one eye and then the other you will notice a different color balance between each of your eyes. All images are subjective in nature.
    I think the "unprocessed" image is a figment of the imagination. We need to recognize that this is a process of many steps, each of which influences the outcome. How you do that as a photographer is a personal choice. All of the really good photographers I know have completed the vision of the final image in their mind before tripping the shutter. It is the effort to produce that image conception that matters. My view is the closer you get to that preconceived image, the closer you really are to an "unprocessed" image.
  33. I think most people have been brainwashed by the post production hype, 99.9% of them are digital shooters.
    As a traditionalist I shoot slides and just scan them with dedicated film scanners. Sometimes retouch a hair (no, I don't have Photoshop, I don't need it and I don't want it!), sometimes a dirt spot on the street. Sometimes I just modify the contrast (not with an image editor) and crop if I think it will serve the photograph. That's it.
    BTW, I never sharpen, insert a 'new sky' or perform any other modification.
    The image (on my ground glass) is the image (the slide) is the image (the print) - which is achieved considerably easier with film than with digital.

Share This Page