Beware the Honest Photographer …

Today, I stopped by one of the Facebook photo groups to which I belong. I stayed to enjoy some of the recent shots there. Then I came upon a beautiful photo, and the note with it said “unedited”. Someone had posted a comment to the effect that “unedited photos are best” – and I moved on. It saddens me when groups erect barriers between members. Divisiveness is heartbreaking. Right away, all the other photographers – the ones who might pop the saturation a bit, or adjust lighting, or refine sharpness, or crop their shots to remove an unattractive detail, or reduce noise in the shadows, straighten a horizon line that’s tilted, remove a stray insect that has left a spot on the sky – are dismissed as being inferior somehow. Only those who create “unedited” shots and proudly declare this fact are to be applauded? Really?! What’s wrong with this picture?

Every photo is edited. As soon as it comes out of a camera and is converted to a JPEG file for printing or sharing, it’s changed from the way the camera initially saw it. It’s compressed and there is an automatic loss of detail. For many photographers, shooting in JPEG to begin with, their cameras have already applied editing of one kind or another. We can store the original RAW shots as TIFF files to avoid detail loss (as I often do) but few sites allow TIFF uploads. They are enormous files. But there is no unprocessed, raw shot ever posted on Facebook or anywhere else online that I know of. Not ONE. Even a cellphone shot – especially a cellphone shot! – has been processed by the phone’s own program. In many cases, heavily processed.

Therefore, I’m mulling over the implications of being party to a lie. And it IS a lie, no matter the motivations. People feel pressured to make claims that are simply untrue. I find this terribly discouraging. Why not just look at an image and enjoy it for whatever reasons it’s been shared? Or pass it by and go on to another? Why judge its merits on a false premise?

I don’t mind seeing people share their camera settings by way of information. This choosing of settings, too, is an editorial process but knowing the specifics can be helpful to others who are trying for similar effects. And all cameras have settings. One can see them by viewing them in whatever photo program is being used. Time, date, shutter speed, exposure time, ISO – all are there. Very useful details they are, indeed. And then there’s Image Stabilization. It eliminates a fair bit of camera shake; some of us have none-too-steady hands. So isn’t this an artifice as well? It’s certainly a form of assistance!

Still, there’s this implicit disdain for those who avail themselves of photographic tools and refuse to state otherwise. I wish I knew why this is happening. Ansel Adams manipulated his photos, decades ago. Nobody found them lacking or unworthy of praise. Why is it that now – with the remarkable technology that has been created for our use – it’s apparently wrong to take advantage of it?

Would we want to undergo abdominal surgery by kitchen knife as opposed to laser? Or refuse to refrigerate seafood and chicken because it’s not natural? Or entirely avoid our vehicles in order to travel on foot? Or paint only with our fingers because, well, brushes are artificial? Or write a book but reject the idea of proofreading for errors? I could go on but I’m sure that’s unnecessary.

Call me confused. And somewhat downcast as well. But at least I’m upfront. I edit my shots, period. I won’t try to fudge the issue by stating otherwise.

Here, by the way, is a photo I took this morning – overcast, calm, a tad dull. It was RAW to begin with and got converted to JPEG. I’ve post-processed it, of course, to share it here. How I did that, and what I chose to adjust, I won’t divulge because it shouldn’t matter. In any art form, the means to the end makes little difference. The end ought to be all that counts.

FB IMG_7194eds_edited-1

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3 thoughts on “Beware the Honest Photographer …

  1. Ahhh Brenda. I like the pair of glasses you are looking through (and your vision/commentary seems 20-20 to me!) Some folks are simply self-righteous. More’s the pity for them.

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