|Wrestling action captured at 1/50th second while zooming the lens to enhance the movement recorded. This is one of my favorite images captured that day. Chikara champion Eddie Kingston versus Tim Donst.|
So imagine my surprise at some of my own recent attitutdes that I recently expressed in December of last year. As loyal readers of my blog may already know, I do have a preference for getting my images as close to "done" in camera (see my post "Why I Like Getting it Right in Camera".) It is not because of an anti computer or photo purist attitude, but rather because I don’t really like spending too much time fixing images, especially images that could have been better had I just made more of an effort at the point of capture. Plus I just like being out there in nature, enjoying its beauty and experimenting with camera techniques to capture an image that expresses the joy that I feel in the presence of nature’s beauty.
Because I am not a photo purist, I use many "tricks" in my photography. I never hesitate to experiment with different lenses for the visual effects they will render. Fill flash, optical filters, compositional techniques, exposure variations, filters, and movement of subject or objects in a found scene are all techniques that I regularly take advantage of. And I am not shy about using a few tricks at the computer end of things either. Many of my images don’t require much computer editing, if any at all. But many also do, and if an image can be made better in the computer I will not hesitate to take advantage of the tools available to me. I am a notorious spotter of my images. I frequently use the clone tool and healing brush in Photoshop to clean up small flaws, especially spots on flower petals, and to remove any distracting background elements. In "You Can Always Fix It In The Computer Later", I discuss my favorite computer techniques.
So why did I get a little bit annoyed when a few people asked me what computer filter I used on some of my wrestling photos? I had just experimented with zoom and panning effects in camera at a wrestling event last December. It was a bold move on my part as I risked ruining, and did ruin, some once in a lifetime images that could never be reshot. Anybody that shoots wrestling or any other fast paced action/sport, can imagine how hard it is to capture a great shot using those techniques. There are so many throw away shots taken just to capture one great image. Plus I was shooting the event professionally and the pressure was on. I needed to make sure that I didn’t lose too many of those never to be repeated moments. But even as a professional, I still needed to fill my need for artistic expression and experimentation. I was very proud of those experimental shots. I had experimented with those techniques before with varying degrees of success, and that was the first time it worked out that well.
When a few people assumed that I took the easy way out and rendered the effect in the computer, I felt bad. It was almost like all the hard work that I had put into capturing those images meant nothing. I had wondered how many other people seeing those images also thought I used computer trickery to render the effects. Professional photographer Tom Till also expressed this very same view in his book "Success With Nature Photography." There is a photograph of a temple in Egypt bathed in red. He used slide film and the printed image is as it came out of camera. He expressed disappointment over how that image, which he put a lot of effort into getting, was considered a product of digital trickery.
Bottom Left: The zooming technique works well with still nature subjects too. Here I zoomed during a 1/6th second exposure.
Bottom Right: Although I captured this soft and dreamy image of Snapdragons in camera, using my Lensbaby. Some photo purists would probably disapprove.
|This is about as close to those fantastic butterfly|
photos that I have been able to capture in camera.
But I will not give up trying, even if there is a
chance that photos I use as inspiration may in fact
have been composites.
So where am I going with all of this, other than to doubt my own actions and opinions? I think it’s an important subject that all photographers should consider regarding their own work. It is not only a question of artistic expression but also of taste and ethics.
Sometimes photographers can go too far with the manipulations and the image no longer resembles a photograph. Taste is a subjective matter, and it is up to the photographer how far they want to take their own images. Viewers will make their own decisions as far as to whether they like the image or not, but unless you are creating a photograph for a client, it is really up to you how far you take your images with in camera or in computer techniques.
|Quiet Shades of Striped Gazania. |
Here I used Photoshop to create this tinted
black and white photograph.
What about advertising? That’s a subject too big for this post. In the case of advertising it is usually up to the advertiser how retouched an ad is. I’m not sure if there are any legal regulations on advertising photos, there surely doesn’t appear to be any. Extreme skin smoothing, hair cloning, digital weight loss tools, and more all seem to be acceptable in the world of advertising. All that can be said about that is buyer beware. If you are marketing your work to an advertiser, be sure to find out how much manipulation is acceptable before logging in the computer time.
So, are you a photo purist? Or do you take a more liberal view and feel that any techniques should be used to reach the goal of creating an image that expresses the artist’s vision. Or perhaps you are like me, a little of both? And if you haven’t thought about it before, I hope this post gets you thinking about it. There is a lot of good reading online on variations of this subject and some time on an internet search engine will lead you to more writings on this subject. Let me start you off with this great article by Tom Till (yes, again) from Outdoor Photographer magazine: