View Full Version : Photographic Philosophy

A Spoon
12-07-2008, 01:54 AM
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http://img168.imageshack.us/img168/6681/61320405ff8.jpg | http://img527.imageshack.us/img527/5219/p1012781hi4.jpg

I probably don't need to ask which photo you think is better. I'm sure a good 80% of the population, if not more, prefers the photo on the left. After all, it's "pretty". I, however, found one very, very small problem with it: It's fake. It's not real. Photography was first introduced as a means of accurately portraying a person, place, or thing. It was instant (not quite) portraiture, or a painting made in seconds of a landscape. The first photograph, or "heliograph" because the 'sun' was making a 'picture', was taken out of the window of Joseph Nicéphore Niépce towards a mountain range, due to the long exposure. It utilized chemicals that reacted to light on a pewter/silver plate to create shades on a monotone surface. This process, after being refined, would be used to accurately capture the beauty of faraway lands, of wonderful people, and even of the antithesis of beauty, as seen in war photographs. Through photography, we received an accurate, permanent view of the world as it is -- beauty, flaws, and all.
The problem arose when people began to view photography:
"Huh... I don't remember it being those colors..."
"Hmm... I don't like the place that person is standing."
"Argh -- my mole looks huge."
"I don't like that branch where it is."
At this point, I digress. Let me explain to you the photographic process: There are four components to any piece of art. They are, the subject, the artist, the finished piece, and any viewer. The artist (in our case, the photographer), begins by imagining or viewing his subject. He gets an image in his mind of what the scene or the subject means to him and attempts to recreate it for the viewer. At this point, he acquires his tools (the camera) and transcribes his mind's vision to his medium. A painter can change the seasons, the shapes, and the composition in his work. A prose writer can add or remove elements. A sculptor has complete control over the shapes of the body. Poets have millions of words and structures to string together to evoke emotion (especially English poets, with twice as many words as the next verbose language). Everyone seems to be able to portray the scene evoked in their mind accurately to their medium and present it to the viewer, using their artistic tools, except for photographers.
We only control what the camera sees and how light/dark and sharp/blurry it appears. Photographers have no direct ability to change their subject.
This is where photographic manipulation becomes a factor. Even though we cannot control the order of our subject and the way it naturally appears, we have control over depth of field, through aperture. Early cameras only had one aperture setting, which was "everything in focus". Through the usage of artistic lenses, we create distortion. Through the use of filters, we change coloration and create higher dynamic ranges (with graduated ND filters). With the invention of dark room manipulation, we could filter out all but infrared lighting, to create ghastly colors. Now, with Photoshop and other image editing software, we are able to directly edit the composition of our photos.
All of these allow photographers to accurately represent what feeling and mental image they receive when they see a scene. This creates "art" in the "pretty" sense, in the "wow factor" sense, and in the "that's nice" sense. Unfortunately, this creates "artistic inflation", as I like to call it. Consider this: if you are only exposed to Photoshopped pictures of models, you will never be able to understand natural beauty. In the same way, if you are only exposed to Photoshopped pictures, the artistic value in natural photos will begin to diminish -- as will your skill. If you rely on Photoshop to create a stunning picture, you'll wind up cheating yourself in the long run and miss out on on-the-spot techniques that will greatly improve your photographic career. You'll begin to forsake natural lighting for Photoshop levels. You'll begin to forsake proper aperture usage for Filter>Sharpen. You'll begin to forsake someone's natural beauty for the sake of using the clone tool to hide freckles or moles, and in the process of presenting these edited works, you are raising the expectation of the fourth aspect of art -- the viewer -- to an extra-ordinary standard and debasing the beauty that exists in the world as it is, thus veering away from the original goal of photography.
This is not to say that one should never open photo editing software -- art is how you perceive a scene, and if you see in high-dynamic-range in your mind, go ahead and produce HDR photographs.
My point is this, though: the sky is not yellow-green, and it's wrong for the artist to fool the viewer into believing that extra-ordinary effects exist in the world, for it diminishes the value of the real beauty on Earth.

With this in mind, I present my "non-Photoshopped" gallery. Thank you.

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http://img184.imageshack.us/img184/2403/p1010525xn6.jpg | http://img67.imageshack.us/img67/8421/p1010531fw1.jpg


http://img361.imageshack.us/img361/5341/p1011687re8.jpg | http://img380.imageshack.us/img380/8135/p1011942zv2.jpg

http://img114.imageshack.us/img114/124/p1012886ct5.jpg | http://img116.imageshack.us/img116/4687/p1013146mt7.jpg | http://img117.imageshack.us/img117/659/p1013170fz8.jpg

12-07-2008, 03:19 AM
A well written and good standing. I do disagree on some points, but such is life, and I'm not about to argue with you when this is a personal thing. I'll lay down some stuff, and I will say that there is far to much photo editing going on. I am guilty of some of it, but I generally ask myself how much I want to change the photo, and already have an intention when I open the program. There are some accidents that I have which I like and go with though, lol.

Some editing, however, is necessary. To convey a certain message, you will probably have to edit the photo to remove distracting factors and improve upon factors that strengthen your message. Sharpening, for me, isn't used when an image is blurry. Those are hopeless. I use it because my camera will blur the images itself. I don't sharpen blurry spots (God forbid! That would add horrid noise!) or anything like that. Sometimes I can't figure out the exact exposure I need because the lighting is weird and I'm shooting high/low key, so I fix it in PS (which you can do in a darkroom as well). Lately, I've been doing a lot of black and white conversions, and those definitely need editing to look good. My goal was to imitate older black and white film photography as well as focus on the lighting, so I manipulate the curves quite a bit.

There will always be a little bit of editing. Like I said, your camera will do it on its own. It automatically performs noise reduction and will manipulate the saturation based on your settings. If you use film, there's bound to be editing in the darkroom, whether you like it or not. The goal is not to avoid editing, but to avoid glamorizing the truth. Certain photos of mine I edited to make them how I saw them. HDR, within limitations, will make the photo look more realistic. People misuse it to give a surreal look.

It bothers me that on deviantART, all the popular photos are heavily manipulated. The only ones that are not are from zoos.

You should look into photojournalism :). You'd probably like it. Photojournalists who do more than the basic editing can get in huge trouble and blacklisted.

Nice gallery :). I love the framing in all of them. My favorites are the one with the white boats and the first one. Just seems to be more in those photos. I can't see the first B&W one very well on my monitor, I don't know if it's just me or what, but it's too dark for me. :S

It does go to show that you don't need photoshop to get a good picture :)

12-07-2008, 03:50 AM
i read the first paragraph
but i think i realize where you were going with that :D

so yeah personally i like the photo on the right as the one on the left is overly edited and looks fake.

i know with my photo's i tend not to edit them cause well if i have to edit them it means im not happy with the shot i have taken.


anyway i really like

but why so small?

A Spoon
12-07-2008, 03:13 PM
I made them small so that they would fit on Gamerenders without using up too much room.

"The goal is not to avoid editing, but to avoid glamorizing the truth." That is an excellent line. Thank you a lot for the input and the compliments, they're greatly appreciated.