When is a photograph not a photograph

Discussion in 'Digital Cameras' started by Mike Warren, Aug 17, 2005.

  1. Mike Warren

    Mike Warren Guest

    At what point does graphic manipulation convert a photograph
    into graphic creation?

    We start by perhaps burning in the sky and changing the white

    Intermediate stages would be things like adding a colour cast
    or removing faint telephone lines.

    What about removing a background digitally to achieve the same
    result that could have been done by placing a piece of black card
    behind a macro shot?

    Adding a better sky is now easy and seems to be fairly common.

    I'm curious about what people think about this.

    PS. I'm talking about art photography not photojournalism.
    Mike Warren, Aug 17, 2005
    1. Advertisements

  2. Mike Warren

    Celcius Guest

    Hi Mike!

    To me, everything revolves around "one's conception" of photography. In a
    world where manipulation of a photo has become common place, the
    photographer has the leeway to express him(her)self through the taking of
    the photo and subsequent "arrangement".

    While some painters would painfully "recreate" a certain scene, others would
    seek more freedom and express themselves in other ways. This opened up the
    way to many schools of painting. This is referred to as art (rubbish to

    In the same way, photographers are free to express themselves if they so
    wish, using different lenses, filters and post photography manipulation.
    This is not the same as modifying the photo to "trick the observer" or in
    short, a photo that "lies". Sometimes, a particular scenery has "burned
    itself into my mind". It is possible then to try recreate a particular mood,
    say one of peace and tranquility. Arranging the photo to give the observer
    this same feeling is indeed art, at least to my mind. This is NOT "trick

    However, although Photoshop and the likes of it are in many people's houses,
    although simple to operate, they do not confer good taste to every user. All
    we need to remember is the advent of desktop publishing and the atrocious
    flyers that people produced, with too many fonts, bolds and underlined, not
    forgetting thick lines around text, etc.

    PS This should be an interesting an vigorous thread.
    Celcius, Aug 17, 2005
    1. Advertisements

  3. Mike Warren

    Mike Warren Guest

    I mean changing the sky completely. Darkening it by using
    orange or red filters on B&W is less severe since just having
    the picture in B&W is already changing it.
    Changing tone and contrast etc are mild forms of manipulation
    which I don't have a problem with but adding a rock from one
    picture into another is going too far.

    I just can't decide where to draw the line.

    Removing power lines and other man made objects from a
    landscape to me is just as fake but the picture is destroyed by
    leaving them in.

    Mike Warren, Aug 17, 2005
  4. Mike Warren

    Mike Warren Guest

    When I see an amazing landscape I don't initially notice the car parked
    in the middle of it but if I were to look at a photo of the same scene the
    car would jump out at me.
    That's the problem. With Photoshop anything can be done. I took
    a photograph of my niece and her husband a few years ago when
    they got married on a tropical island and placed them in a snow
    scene as a joke. It looked real but should it be presented to a
    viewer without explanation?

    Mike Warren, Aug 17, 2005
  5. Mike Warren

    Don Stauffer Guest

    This question has a long history. It is not unique to digital
    photography. An accomplished darkroom person can do a LOT to a film
    negative or transparency.

    In fact, one of the earliest questions was, "is it art?" That is,
    painters felt there was no such thing as an art photograph. If it wasn't
    done entirely by hand, it wasn't art. Thank goodness we have come a
    long way from that.

    However, I think the question is of philosophical interest only, and is
    not really an important question for art photography. For
    photojournalism, though, it is indeed an important question.
    Don Stauffer, Aug 17, 2005
  6. Mike Warren

    Proteus Guest


    An art teacher at my college once told me that even photographs are a form
    of abstract art-- less so than a painting perhaps, but still abstract. Even
    when you take a picture of someone, it is not real; tones, shades, lens
    distortion of object size, loss of color if b/w, and so on make all
    photographs a form of abstraction of the real world. So there is no "point"
    at which manipulation of photo changes it into a graphic creation, the
    original photo already is a graphic creation.
    Proteus, Aug 17, 2005
  7. Mike Warren

    Mark² Guest

    The real question is one of purpose.
    If the purpose is to represent a captured piece of reality, or "moment in
    time," then the manual exclusion or introduction of any subject/object
    element would negate the legitimacy of that true moment of reality. White
    balance and other minor adjustments are not relevant to that question so
    long as the goal is to render the most humanly-perceived rendition of the

    In this most strict sense, this "rule" would be limited primarily to
    documentary photography.

    Any area other than documentary is entirely debatable, and will never be
    settled in mutual agreement.
    This is why one must understand one's own intent as a happy-snapping
    photog...AND...one's audience/client/end-use as a pro or PJ.

    The rest of the palaver is all moonshine because it's entirely dependant
    upon who is asking and who is answering the question. Opinions will forever
    remain all over the board, and will continually ebb and flow with the times.

    Mark², Aug 17, 2005
  8. Mike Warren

    Stuart Noble Guest

    I wonder about some of the images people have been sent to prison for
    here in UK. Seems to me that pixels arranged in a certain way on a
    computer screen cannot logically constitute a criminal offence,
    particularly if no one can identify the participants. How is it
    different to a picture I might paint and, if it was in the style of
    Picasso, who could say what the underlying sentiments were?
    I'm all in favour of the police clamping down on this stuff but I wonder
    if the basic concept has been seriously challenged in the courts.
    Stuart Noble, Aug 17, 2005
  9. Mike Warren

    Proteus Guest

    I totally agree. Completely a matter of degrees, how much a photo is
    distorted for the sake of art, from the original portraying the subject as
    closely as possible regarding shape, features, etc to distortions of object
    edges, colors, introducing new objects or removing objects from a photo,
    etc. Even the mere fact that a photo crops out subjects is a form of
    distortion-- the human head/eye can pan and scan a scene and take in more
    info than the limited cropped subjects of a photo that tell a story.
    Proteus, Aug 17, 2005
  10. Mike Warren

    Celcius Guest

    Goes well with the approach "All that is passed is a ruin". Does it matter
    to anyone how one sees that ruin? It does for the one concerned. So why not
    make it as one wants to remember that ruin? ;-)
    Celcius, Aug 17, 2005
  11. Mike Warren

    Ron Hunter Guest

    Technically, any manipulation would make it a 'graphic creation'.
    However, adding, removing, or changing any significant picture element
    would do that, in my opinion, which manipulations of color, and lighting
    to make the picture better represent what the photographer saw would
    retain the 'photograph' designation. Just my opinion.
    Ron Hunter, Aug 17, 2005
  12. Mike Warren

    Mark² Guest

    By your definition, a hand-painted painting based on a photograph (an
    activity many painters do) is still a photograph. So there it is.
    Mark², Aug 17, 2005
  13. Mike Warren

    Mark² Guest

    OK--I know Bret is Butthead...
    ....Should we assume you're Beavis?
    Mark², Aug 17, 2005
  14. First let's define what you call a "Photograph". Are Moholy-Nagy's
    Photograms, Photographs?

    Is directly minipulated Polaroid film, a photograph?


    "It is a good thing to read books, and need not be a
    bad thing to write them, but in any case, it is a
    pious thing to collect them."

    Fredrick Locker-Lampson
    John A. Stovall, Aug 17, 2005
  15. Mike Warren

    Nostrobino Guest

    Oh, good grief.

    Talk about dragging your political agenda in by the left hind foot . . .

    Nostrobino, Aug 17, 2005
  16. Mike Warren

    Andy Clews Guest

    Thus spake Mike Warren unto the assembled multitudes:
    I would contend that a photograph stops being a photograph as soon as *any*
    manipulation is done to the originally captured image. After that, it's
    just an image with photographic origin. I think the word is Greek in
    origin, translating literally as "light written" or "light writing" or
    something like that.
    Andy Clews, Aug 17, 2005
  17. Mike Warren

    imp Guest

    imp, Aug 17, 2005
  18. Mike Warren

    Mike Warren Guest

    Not with a photo of a newly married couple in the snow.

    Mike Warren, Aug 17, 2005
  19. Mike Warren

    Mike Warren Guest

    Have you been sneeking a look at my photos?

    Mike Warren, Aug 17, 2005
  20. Mike Warren

    Mike Warren Guest

    No. Digital just makes it easier. I'm talking about created art as opposed
    to recording a scene because the scene itself is the art. (as seen by the

    Mike Warren, Aug 17, 2005
    1. Advertisements

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.