Slightly OFF Topic..when does it stop becoming photography and become post processed 'art'?

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by the_niner_nation, Jul 19, 2007.

  1. Having bypassed film all together and entered the world of SLR into the very
    contemporary 'digital' age, I have been looking at lots of people's work
    posted on line, spectacular photos and amazing visuals.

    I oftentimes wonder just how much post processing ( photoshop, etc, et al)
    are responsible for making a good photograph into a jaw dropping work of
    art? I reckon probably more often than not...

    What are the attitudes of tradional 'film' photogaphers towards photos that
    have been digitally enhanced and manipulated to the stage that the end photo
    is a million miles away from the original photograph?

    Do 'traditional' photographers frown upon such artifical asthetics and
    measure a *good* photograph by more 'tradtional' metrics, such as effective
    use of lighting, camera settings, compostion, etc?

    Personally, I think that post processing is a wonderful way of enhancing a
    photograph in terms of correcting any adjustable 'flaws', but I feel
    somewhat retcinct to mutilating a photograph to the point where it

    resembles nothing of the original exposure....and when i see some of the
    outstanding photo's in people's online web galleries, i wonder if the photo
    is a bona-fide photograph with the minimal adjustments

    made in post processing or if it is a totally mutilated version of the

    I like the fact that post processing can genuinly help in making the photos
    you take look like how you *want* them to look...

    but some of the shots i see...well thats just plain old showing off how good
    people are at post processing and perhaps not as good as photographers ;-)
    the_niner_nation, Jul 19, 2007
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  2. the_niner_nation

    Bob Salomon Guest

    No more so then the dodging, burning, toning, manipulation that has been
    part of darkroom work.

    What is the difference to you if the manipulation is done in the
    darkroom with film or in the computer with PS?
    Bob Salomon, Jul 19, 2007
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  3. the_niner_nation

    Jeremy Nixon Guest

    While I have no problem with "digital art" as an art form, it's not what
    I'm interested in doing -- and it bothers me a lot when it's passed off
    as photography.

    As for "when" it goes from one to the other, I think that happens at the
    moment the image is no longer honest. Of course, there is no fine line
    you can technically define for that, so there is a lot of room for debate.

    Much of the usual processing we do, both with digital and with film in the
    darkroom, is still honest -- and can actually be necessary to *make* the
    final image honest. Of course, even things like color and contrast
    manipulation can cross the line into dishonest, but there is a lot of
    gray area there, too, and partly due to different peoples' visual
    perceptions being different. But for me, the test is whether something
    is an honest representation of the scene.

    Of course, a representation can be both honest and biased, or honest and
    completely out of context, or honest and any number of other things that
    would be bad from a journalistic perspective, but that's a whole other
    That's what bothers me, personally. If it's not a real photograph, it
    shouldn't be passed off as one -- doing so hurts photography as a whole.
    It reduces the confidence people have in photographs, while simultaneously
    increasing the expectations people have for them.
    Jeremy Nixon, Jul 20, 2007
  4. the_niner_nation

    Ben Brugman Guest

    The difference between the two is the amount. Nowadays,
    most pictures in most glossy magazines have been shopped.

    Allthough darkroom 'shopping' was possible and done, it wasn't done
    to the extend that photo shopping is done. Why because it was hard
    or impossible to do compared to digital shopping.

    With film it was almost impossible to alter shapes, with photoshop
    it's almost easy. Shaping is done a lot with pictures of especially

    Ben Brugman, Jul 20, 2007
  5. the_niner_nation

    Bob Salomon Guest

    Then you should see what John Sexton or Jerry Ulesman, among lots of
    others, can do in the darkroom.
    Bob Salomon, Jul 20, 2007
  6. the_niner_nation

    Pete D Guest

    This is easy.

    A photograph is what you take with any camera and then do a direct print,
    this is a photograph.

    Anything else is simply not a photography, it will be a digitally altered
    Pete D, Jul 20, 2007
  7. the_niner_nation

    N Guest

    From a raw image?
    In camera JPG have some processing done before being saved.
    N, Jul 20, 2007
  8. the_niner_nation

    Pete D Guest

    Yes from jpeg. I guess that from RAW would qualify if all you did was use
    defaults and maybe a bit of exposure adjustment then print it.
    Pete D, Jul 20, 2007
  9. I agree! But, didn't we already cover this a couple weeks back?

    Rita Ä Berkowitz, Jul 20, 2007
  10. the_niner_nation

    frederick Guest

    Agree 100%.

    BTW, what sharpening, white balance, and saturation settings should I
    apply to best achieve this?

    Would it be cheating to set the exposure time to freeze or allow motion
    blur to be used as a feature, or use the aperture settings to control DOF?

    Would shooting in monochrome be cheating?

    Would correcting distortion be cheating? What about perspective - can I
    use a PC lens? Should I use rectilinear corrected lenses or fish-eyes?
    Can I even use different focal lengths?

    I think that the only way to avoid cheating with a dslr is to fit it
    with a standard prime lens, then glue your camera mode dial to "P",
    smash the pop-up flash off if it has one, and thenceforth only ever use
    the shutter button.
    frederick, Jul 20, 2007
  11. the changes you are referring to dont actually distract from the 'ethicical'
    spirit of your's not like you are pinching the sky from an
    arizona desert landscape to make up for blown highlights you got from a
    waterfall in the lake district ..
    the_niner_nation, Jul 20, 2007
  12. So by people's definition of "photograph" in this
    thread, are slides from Fuji Velvia photographs?

    What if you use a polarizer?

    What grade paper MUST you use in the darkroom?

    People seem to reject a lot of conditions/processing because
    it ;s "digital." yet more extremes were and are done with traditional
    film and darkroom work.

    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Jul 20, 2007
  13. the_niner_nation

    frederick Guest

    So is it ethical to use a large aperture to obscure/blur out something
    in the background - something really was there, but not ethical to do
    the same using pp techniques?

    IMO the "ethical spirit" is mainly crud. The "legal spirit" matters if
    you're taking forensic photos and can apply to photos used as records,
    journalism etc, but I can also think of perfectly legitimate uses of
    digital pp for those - that are also entirely ethical.

    As for photography as an art, then IMO any criticism of pp is precious
    crock, probably purveyed mainly by luddites and other fixer-sniffers who
    don't know how to use a computer.
    frederick, Jul 20, 2007
  14. the_niner_nation

    frederick Guest

    When there is less than 2 pixels in the work as it is finally presented,
    that could be traced back in origin to capture by an optical imaging device.
    frederick, Jul 20, 2007
  15. The problem with these debates is that several physical factors
    are usually ignored by so-called purists.

    1) The human eye sees a greater dynamic range than any film or
    digital camera.

    2) The human eye has unusual properties in perceiving color,
    having both non-linear and negative response. Both film
    and digital do not have negative response; digital is linear;
    film is non-linear but different than the eye.

    3) Added to #2 the eye's spectral response is different to
    some degree than all film or digital.

    4) When viewing an image obtained with film or digital,
    the output device (monitor or paper) has reduced dynamic range
    than most digital cameras or film.

    All the above means all images must be precessed in some way
    to try and approximate what the eye actually saw, including
    compressing dynamic range (e.g. dodge and burn sections of the image),
    and maintain color balance, and even modify color balance for
    each different output device (e.g. paper is different than a
    transparency. is different than CRT, is different than LCD....).
    This leads to colort management, which means processing for each
    output device.

    5) Fixing defects. whether it be dust on sensor/film, light fall
    off in the lens, distortion in the lens, all these are something the
    eye did not see, but manufacturted by the camera.

    Every film is different in color as well as contrast, every digital camera
    is different both in color and contrast (and can be changed to
    do so "in camera." Just look at slide versus print film for
    major color differences, for example.

    All of the above requires some processing to make a captured
    image similar to that perceived by the eye.

    Finally, in my experience, processing can make a photograph
    better (or worse), but no poor photo can be turned into a
    "jaw dropping" image. You can correct for underexposure and to
    some degree, overexposure, but jaw dropping images, in my
    opinion are subject, composition, and lighting.

    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Jul 20, 2007
  16. the_niner_nation

    Jay B Guest

    Jay B, Jul 20, 2007
  17. the_niner_nation

    Rebecca Ore Guest

    Not that film photographers didn't dodge, burn, and use masks to get the
    results they were after. Unless someone wants to argue for
    daguerreotypes as the only true photography, we've been in a manipulated
    visual universe from the beginning.
    Rebecca Ore, Jul 20, 2007
  18. the_niner_nation

    Rebecca Ore Guest

    I've seen two different copies of a photograph of Billy the Kid. One of
    them is not the way the Kid really looked. People could do interesting
    things to negatives in the day and did, or retouch photographs and then
    copy them and use the negatives to make unretouched originals.
    Rebecca Ore, Jul 20, 2007
  19. the_niner_nation

    Jeremy Nixon Guest

    All digital pictures start out raw and are subjected to post-processing.
    The *only* difference is which post-processing software you use -- the
    stuff that is built into your camera, or something else. And why are
    the default settings okay? They are arbitrary and could be anything.

    If shooing jpeg is okay, then by definition post-processing is okay, so
    you really need to get past your misunderstanding of how digital
    photography works. And film photography, for that matter, since most
    of it was subject to post-processing as well. Ansel Adams was the
    most famous post-processing master.

    Was it no longer a "photograph" back in the day, if I left the film
    in the developer for a couple minutes longer than the instructions
    said to? Were all the things the snapshooters were taking not
    "photographs" because they sent them to a lab that adjusted color
    and contrast, which every single consumer photo lab in existence
    did routinely?
    Jeremy Nixon, Jul 20, 2007
  20. the_niner_nation

    Pete D Guest

    I think you have missed the point here, pretty much every image we as
    photographers print up these days are digital images, not photographs. Never
    did I say anything about ethics etc, I simply said basicly print from the
    camera and that is a photograph, do more than that and it is a digital
    image, whatever you want to do is fine by me, you have to look at it.
    Pete D, Jul 20, 2007
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