What's your opinion on editing photos?

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

  1. Who said I was a gentleman? I might just be ... pretending!
  2. "Actually, I'm not all that interested in the subject of photography. Once the picture is in the box, I'm not all that interested in what happens next. Hunters, after all, aren't cooks." HCB
  3. I like to cover the spread, so ...
    ... and everything in between.
  4. One look at HCB prints brings the quote into question. I have seen some very beautiful prints of his....
    looking behind the curtain reveals why they are so well done.
    Sid Kaplan, Pablo Inrio & Pierre Gassman. All master printers of the highest level. I am of the mind that the printers name should be referenced. In particular when their touch is so influential that the images would often be useless without their work. Bresson's negatives were known for being very challenging to work with. Often grossly underexposed. To hand off your negatives off to the very best gives you a rare advantage to downplay the significance of the process.
    samstevens likes this.
  5. I recall an interview with one of HCB's lab technicians (forget which one) who said HCB insisted on lowering contrast through numerous proofs until one suited him. He didn't seem to consider a photographic print to be 'art' like a painting or drawing. I also would like to know what his sentiment expresses to a native speaker of French.

    I think my point is that not all photographers consider the print to be the final act of their photography. A very broad generalization would be between photographers who think in terms of a print matted and framed as their goal and end, and those for whom (back in olden times of negative film) the print was the penultimate stage for publication. Today (digital times), the print is unnecesary for publication.

    Since I don't display photos in galleries what prints I make are stacked in a drawer with a few on the walls of my house. Sometimes I make a print of a photo a visitor admired or for friends. Until 2013 I developed websites including for painters, cinematographers, and photographers. Today. the web is the common form of publication and the requirements for a photo on the web is different from a print on the wall.
    mikemorrell likes this.
  6. I think regardless of whether the final product is a print on the wall or an image on a website, a photographer can choose just how much post processing to do. Some prefer to hunt and not cook. Others prefer to hunt and cook. To each his own, but for HCB to have said that hunters aren't cooks misses many, many points, because so many hunters are.
    IPSfoto and mikemorrell like this.
  7. And, i think, hunters should be cooks. (And they probably are.)

    Photography is a medium that allows us to create pictures. What a camera and film or sensor can do is both limited and underutilized when we do not also consider what needs to be and can be done in post to get the picture we aimed for.

    Now if your taste is perfectly met by the images as they come out of the camera, no further cooking is necessary. That does not mean, however, that there was no cooking involved in getting there. Choice of camera, capture medium, lens, focus, framing, perspective, depth of field, shutterspeed, perhaps a filter or two to spice the broth. Et cetera. We never use an image as it comes out of the camera anyway. There is always a light table, a loupe, a projector, an enlargement/print, a digital screen with a particular colour and contrast, and downsizing. Again: et cetera.
    A lot of cooking going on there. But no, not in post, as understood as in the darkroom or photo editor. Not a fundamental difference. Just less work.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2021
    mikemorrell likes this.
  8. "I recall an interview with one of HCB's lab technicians (forget which one) who said HCB insisted on lowering contrast through numerous proofs until one suited him." don

    "I think a print should be signed. That means a photographer recognizes that the print has been done either by him or according to his own standards." HCB

    Like most of us His primary objective was getting the shot but it also sounds like he cared about how his prey was served.
  9. The HCB quote seems a rather snobby one, like "sharpness is a bourgois concept" or a bon mot for amusement. I wonder what the connotations are in his original French. Images à la Sauvette may not translate literally into The Decisive Moment. I wonder about what is unsaid but assumed, and the context. It reads like an answer to an interviewer's question. I think for some time he was the hunter on safaris and that was the metaphor in his mind at the time he said the above. Images à la Sauvette may originate from it, too.

    To answer the subject question. I think editing is necessary, and a good editor is one who knows when to leave well-enough alone. Also, when not to struggle against all odds, accepting that the image just doesn't have in it what you want. Reshoot, if you can. I try to take what the camera captured and convert it into what I believed I saw when I pressed the button.
  10. Thanks for furthering the discussion. Since HCB isn’t here, I was less concerned with what he meant by it than with what you meant when you quoted it.
    Certainly a reasonable approach. I don't love the term "editing" if we're talking about post processing, since editing can carry a connotation of correcting which I think post processing is often not about. I know editing doesn't have to carry that connotation.

    I see post processing in several lights. There is sometimes minimal call for it. There is sometimes call for a lot of it, though it will seem like a minimal amount has been done. There is sometimes enough passion at play that will take it to all kinds of extremes. In all these cases, there will be successes and failures, mostly owing to the particular execution rather than to the amount done.
    Cool. That happens for me, too. Though probably as often it happens that I transform what I saw when I pressed the button into something else, something I foresee in what I'm seeing at the moment of capture.
  11. edit. Like most of us His primary objective was getting the shot but it also sounds like he cared about how his prey was prepared and served.

    It does not. 'The decisive moment' was a substitute title chosen for the English version.. It was a plagiarized phrase that HCB used in the introduction to the book.
    He once explained the French title to mean hurried, with haste, sneaky (or stolen?) .... often translated as 'on the run'+++.
  12. Interesting discussion. I think the Ansel Adams's analogy between the 'score'(negative) and the 'performance' (print) works well for (my) digital photography too. As do probably other analogies between film development from negatives (which I know nothing about) and digital image development and publication from raw sensor data.

    Most of my photography is as a volunteer for a local social welfare 'umbrella' organization that publishes 2 bi-weekly articles in a local newspaper. Our articles are based on interviews with local residents, volunteers and professionals. At the moment, I'm also taking photos for a series of articles that the same organization is publishing in a magazine. My main aim when taking photos is to get raw data into the sensor that will enable me (if called for) to deliver one or more 'performances'.

    An important form of editing is to crop an image to match one of 2 different article formats. Another is to adjust a (neutral) image for printing. Experience has shown that the color prints in the local newspaper tend to have less saturation and contrast than the 'digital previews' that our editing team looks at. So we now deliberately (and slightly) bump up the saturation and contrast in advance knowing that the photos will look 'neutral' in print.

    At the request of our editor, I've photoshopped a couple of photos taken by my colleague (volunteer) photographers. Almost always to reduce the harsher effects (highlights/shadows/reflections/uneven lighting) of flash photography. Or sometimes to remove some distracting detail (an empty food wrapper, used tissue, etc.) that the photographer hadn't noticed at the time.

    I recently (by exception) 'Photoshopped' one my own photos to:
    - 'remove' a walking stick that was lying horizontally across the floor in the foreground of a (semi-circle) group portrait; I should have removed it at the time but I didn't notice it and it just stuck out like a sore thumb in the photo
    - tone down a glaring reflection of one of the windows on the screen of a black TV screen; again, I hadn't noticed this at the time; our editing team asked me to 'tone down the reflection' and I did

    I try to get the best possible images straight out of the camera. But as I've stated before on PN, I consider 'post-processing' to be an integral step in my photographic process to get the best 'performance'.
  13. The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind. -- Bob Dylan
  14. I used "editing" because it is the OP's language, but also because 'editing' or 'processing' can mean more than 'post', such as choice of lens and, in film photography, the film. They are more 'pre-processing'. Of course, I agree that the kind and amount (I guess) of post varies. The 'amount' of post work isn't measured by the time taken to do it. Getting the contrast and tonal range the way the photographer desires might take more time than some might think for a minor incremental change.
    I think we agree on the issue.
  15. That may be so. More important are the thoughts expressed and insights shared.

    I'm honestly still not clear on why you quoted HCB with no comment as your singular entry up to that point in a thread about going too far with post processing. It led me to believe, perhaps incorrectly but with some logic, that you thought the idea of a photographer as a hunter and not a cook was one not only worth introducing but emphasizing in an isolated manner. I think, especially out of context, it's not a very worthwhile quote, as seems to be evident from the subsequent discussion, especially some practical info supplied by @inoneeye on how much was done to HCB's prints by others and how much room he intentionally left for that in his shooting.
  16. I've understood it to mean photography in the wild or in the field, "on the run" is pretty good, too.

    I prefer Doisneau's metaphor, not hunting but finding treasure.
  17. Correction. It wasn't sneaky or stolen it was on the "sly". As it is used for 'street vendor'.
  18. I was commenting on Terry Kelly's comment about making prints. I think he also made a distinction between making photographs and making prints. His comments seemed...um disputable. He can argue with HCB. It wasn't an answer to the OP. I should have been clearer.
    inoneeye likes this.
  19. Ahh, that explains a lot. Thanks. I just laughed when I read Terry's comment ... why I answered with a joke. "Disputable." I like that. You are charitable! :)
    inoneeye likes this.
  20. I'm scanning my old slides at the moment. I realize now that it was almost impossible to get everything right with only film... the reason I didn't do much with them all these years. Either the camera meter was off, or the film speed was too low, or the contrast range too wide, the light too harsh or dim, or, or, or....
    Now that I have experimented a little more with different digital PP programs, I am slowly rescuing the less defective images. It's amazing what these programs can do. But it's best to disclose that digital manipulation has been resorted to. Ultimately, if the image pleases, surely that is justification enough.

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