What's your opinion on editing photos?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by bretaincrab, Apr 21, 2020.

  1. For myself, I make a clear distinction between shooting 'raw images' en producing 'photos' from these. I first review and rate the raw images, select the couple of best ones, correct/enhance these as necessary (for example to reduce the effects of harsh outdoor lighting, especially on people). Then I crop to the required format before exporting in the required size (in pixels).

    When I have a camera in my hand, I'm fully aware that I'm shooting 'raw images', though I do have final 'photos' in mind. Most of the photo's I take these days are for publication on-line or in a local newspaper. They're of people who move around, blink, yawn, etc. Their body language and expressions changes from one second to the next. So I usually take 'bursts' of images in which - hopefully - there'll be at least one that's usable. For the newspaper, the photo's need to cropped to formats that are non-standard. I have a camera with a 3:2 sensor but I also have to deliver photos in (not quite) 3:2 and 4:3 formats. All my edits are non-destructive so that I can deliver multiple crops for different media.
    Two recent examples:
    - a photo of a 91 year-old woman standing on her 4th floor balcony of a care home and taken from a distance with a 400mm lens (!). I couldn't get closer to her and she couldn't get closer to me due to corona restrictions
    - a photo of a moving woman blowing bubbles; even in close-up, the bubbles were pretty transparent and it only by boosting the clarity and saturation of the bubbles that you could clearly see them in the photo

    David_Cavan likes this.
  2. Read these:

    History of Retouching: Photographers and Retouchers Synergy in the Analog Photography Era – Retouching Academy
    Marked Up Photographs Show How Iconic Prints Were Edited in the Darkroom

    Alterations that are deceitful are one thing; alterations that are part of the photographer's artistic tool set are quite another. Photographers, including the greats, have been doing extensive editing for generations. Adams had in his mind an idea of what he could create from the capture that became Moonrise. Was he supposed to stick with the original capture, which is quite boring, instead? If you are outdoors and happen to have lousy light, should you leave your image looking drab because the light wasn't better?

    Also, keep in mind that NO digital images are unprocessed. If you don't process them yourself, they are processed by the algorithm you chose when you shot, which is just a recipe an engineer working for the manufacturer created. Most of these recipes increase contrast, sharpen, fiddle with color balance, etc.
    mikemorrell and movingfinger like this.
  3. There are many excellent reasons to edit a photo, from expression to correction to experimentation to amusement. I have no problem with a photographer's altering his or her images in any way at all, if the purpose is to better communicate the concept being presented. I'm no fan of wildly dramatic edits that turn an image into a bizarre caricature of the content for no purpose obvious to me. The makers of photo editing programs may think that they can turn anyone into Picasso or Dali, but I respectfully disagree. Nevertheless, I'm fine with doing it if it says what the artist wants to say, even if I can neither figure out what that is nor find a story in it myself. And I sometimes overdo it just for fun, to see what comes up.

    Even documentary, scientific and forensic photography are limited by the simple fact that no imaging device or medium renders a perfect image of the subject. No photo provides perfect color match, perspective, or freedom from the many aberrations that affect various parts and characteristics of an image. Thoughtful, measured editing can bring these and many more photographic parameters closer to perfection, and editing may in fact be absolutely necessary to create a consistent, durable record of anything from a pathology slide to the tilt or shifting of a building over time.
    Not only is this true, but no emulsion-based image is unprocessed. The emulsion itself edits the image in many ways, e.g. color characteristics & apparent sharpness. I've always preferred Ektachrome's characteristics to Kodachrome's, and there have always been staunch supporters (and haters) of every emulsion ever made. I absolutely loved Cibachrome because the process enhanced contrast. But some of the prints I made in 1975 now look a bit like HDR to me, and today I'd use it only for images in which I want a bit of color drama.

    If there were any camera, lens, film and chemistry or digital process capable of perfect rendition, we'd all be using it wherever accuracy is desired by the photographer or demanded by the job.
    mikemorrell and movingfinger like this.
  4. I guess we can take all the discussion in this thread to the ultimate limit by including the variability and uniqueness of the sensors and processors with which each human being views an image: our own personal eyes and brains. They too 'edit' what is presented to them.

    So just was is the "perfect image of the subject"? Each of you reading this have unique and different (from me and from each other) ways of seeing and processing what your eyes see and forming feelings and opinions of what you see. There are the easily obvious differences such as color blindness that separate individuals but how about something more subtle like color saturation in a photograph? Who doesn't know two people A and B, where A can't get enough saturation and B is easily offended by the slightest tweak upward of the saturation slider. What's going on in their eyes and brains that account for the differences? Their (our) sensors, eyes, and processors, brains, are real time editing what's presented in ways unique to their individual nature and nurture formation.
    mikemorrell likes this.
  5. I do wonder, though I agree that a form of ‘editing’ can be said to take place at all times during the process, if there isn’t a reasonable case to made for distinguishing ‘editing’ that amounts to decisions, perspectives, framing and exposure choices, etc. from ‘editing’ that is post processing? (While I reconfirm and encourage the freedom for all but photojournalists and forensic photographers to do what they want at any stage.)

    Editing itself can be a different art from writing even though they are intertwined and together complete the process whereby a book gets written and published. Something similar is true for photography. The skill set I use out in the field seems related and in sync with but still different from the skills I use once I’m back home post processing on the computer.

    This is why writers often work with expert editors and photographers may hire someone to do their post processing work. And even when the person doing the shooting and post processing is one and the same, I think there are important differences in the stages to be recognized. What gets done in planning to go out and shoot, in the actual shooting, and once the shooting is complete seem like reasonable dividing lines to work with even though there’s a kind of seamlessness to the process as a whole.

    My answers remain the same to the OP’s question even as I am mindful of drawing a distinction (even with the overlaps) between shooting and editing.

    I may take a more deliberate approach to my first draft, which is the shooting, than the following quote suggests. Nevertheless, part of post-shot editing is also a matter of culling, knowing what shots to elevate and what to get rid of or at least keep private. And sometimes, you are shooting toward the choices you will make later.
  6. Tony Parsons

    Tony Parsons Norfolk and Good

    Since the OP has not been back for over a week, and this was their first and so far only post, I fear we may all be whistling in the wind.

    However, surely the first step in the editing of any photograph is deciding what to photograph. All else has perforce to follow on from that.
    sjmurray likes this.
  7. In forums, I generally feel and act as if I'm talking to everyone in the room rather than just the OP, so it may be the OP's loss, not ours.

    And, at the ripe old age of 66, I still simply cannot whistle; missing a gene I guess, or not a very good human. :)

    I've always envied Mrs. Anna ...

  8. Tony Parsons

    Tony Parsons Norfolk and Good

    I'm glad you too feel that providing information benefits all of us, not just the OP. BTW, 'whistling' was intended as a euphemism for another activity (usually male) where wind direction can affect results ...
  9. Indeed, an almost spontaneous art many of us perfected a whole bunch of decades ago. No editing necessary!

    And it seems even Rodgers and Hammerstein had a bit of innuendo fun in their musicals as well. As the seemingly innocent but perhaps more experienced Ado Annie sings in Oklahoma's "I Can't Say No":

    Whut you goin' to do when a feller gits flirty,
    And starts to talk purty? whut you goin' to do?
    S'posin' 'at he says 'at yer lips're like cherries,
    Er roses, er berries? Whut you goin' to do?
    S'posin' 'at he says 'at you're sweeter 'n cream,
    And he's gotta have cream er die?
    Whut you goin' to do when he talks that way,
    Spit in his eye?
    I'm jist a girl who cain't say no,
    Cain't seem to say it at all
    I hate to disserpoint a beau
    When he is payin' a call!
    Fer a while I ack refined and cool,
    A settin on the velveteen setee
    Nen I think of thet ol' golden rule,
    And do fer him what he would do fer me!
    Tony Parsons likes this.
  10. Unless you know what you are doing, heavily edited photos usually wind up in the round-file. At least mines do. Some pictures require heavy editing such as Composites, Fine Art, Special Effects, Fashion, Restoration etc., but if you are going to apply heavy edits to portraits and landscapes photos, because you made a mistake in your focusing or exposure metering, that's when things start sliding down a slippery slope.

    Even during film days those that developed their own pictures in the darkroom, or had them sent to a custom-lab, sometimes performed or had minor editing done to either fix a problem, or draw out a certain mood in the picture. Sharpness, Light/Dark, shadows, exposure, even removing unsightly objects, dust, dirt, dodging/burning were performed, but I don't consider those heavy editing. Many wedding photographers spend hours and hours a week just editing their images concentrating on the minor stuff and throwing out the major blunders.

    With the advent of Digital and Photoshop we got a lot more leeway on how we edit our pictures. I mean there is not much left out there than we can do to an image if we know all the tricks of the editing software. Which to me is a good thing, but then come the question of intrinsic value. Why do people value a painting in a museum more than they do a photograph, even though the photograph might be truer to life. That's because of the intrinsic value meaning the picture was done by hand and it was the painters skills that created the beauty in the painting. Same thing for photographs ! Was it the photographer's skill, or was it Photoshop ?
    Last edited: May 8, 2020
  11. It's time to again refer people to a favorite book of mine -

    Long before Photoshop, there was the airbrush, re-invented in the late 19th c. by Charles Peeler or Burdick or....

    "Forensic" photography in the Workers' Paradise had to alter pictures to correspond to the reality of the Party Line:

    Of course, the lessons were not lost on American photographers. Here is an ad from the Winter 1994 issue of Paranoia magazine:

    I particularly liked their slogan
    "Altering the visual record since we found out we could."

    It finally showed me what Photoshop (then version 2 something) was good for.
    Last edited: May 8, 2020
    michaellinder and samstevens like this.
  12. True, though long before Photoshop, tools of either art or deception (depending on how they were used) weren’t as easily accessible to masses of people. The current tools may make smaller differences in terms of what those tools can physically accomplish but may make a more vast and sometimes troubling difference in the ease, prevalence, and widespread aesthetic (or, in many cases, unaesthetic) and cultural effects they may have.
  13. I'll also mention that a version of the airbrush was used thousands of years ago by Paleolithic cave painters (LINK).

    Ain't I just a fountain of knowledge?

    At the meetings I say

    I am a professor and I haven't professed in x days.....
    michaellinder likes this.
  14. Tony Parsons

    Tony Parsons Norfolk and Good

    And of course, in '1984', the 'Ministry of Truth' was concerned solely with providing the residents of Oceania with all the news printed to fit.

    Funny how nothing much changes ...
    michaellinder likes this.
  15. "What's your opinion on editing photos?"

    You do what you want.

    Why would you be bothered by some toss post?
  16. waffles, without opinions.

  17. Anyway, a photo.

    On a photo site.
  18. Sometimes, I could cry, that my photos are so good.

    Look, you are there. Really

  19. Okay, I need to work on the modesty thing.;).

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