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Landscape photographers opinions requested

Discussion in 'Landscapes, Architecture, and Cityscapes' started by Doug, Mar 26, 2007.

  1. Doug


    Jan 17, 2006
    East TN
    Certainly, we can all use photoshop to varying degrees for our photos. But at what point do you feel that photography as an art form has been violated by fancy editing technques?

    I saw a photo from someone. A photo very close to what I've shot in Cades Cove, but yet very different. I don't think it's VERY different due to photographer skill level, angle, time of day, or any other REAL reason. However, the Photoshop massaging when viewing the other person's photo is quite evident. So, what's enough? What's to much? What's your take.

    Maybe one is more sellable, but is a sellout to the photographer's art?

    or maybe being a photoshop artist is as important as the photo itself to the photograph in our current times, or is it even a photograph after this heavy level of " photo doping" as I will call it, in a sense, you are doping up the photo to be something it isn't.

    I jokingly told someone in a post the other day, the best photos I took were with the lens cap on, and I photoshopped the whole thing. Well, some people are not to far from that, is it still really photography or is it just art then?

    I know the yard was photoshopped, the trees have all been, what dithered to soften them? I swear I even think the back porch was kicked out some to show it better. I could be wrong.

    my photo:


    The artistically massaged photo by someone else. NOT my photo:


    I'm really curious what responses people have on this. I guess the whole issue is, at what point in photo modifications has the photographer sold himself out. Or has he sold himself out at all?

    The purist in me, feels like it's compromised the true art of photography, and converted it to just art. Art has value in and of itself certainly, but it is not photography when it no longer matches the original digital image, or the negative as it was shot. Do we not owe something to our photographic for-fathers, to not sell out our art form and become the Thomas Kincaid of the artworld?

  2. OrvSal


    Nov 8, 2006
    Carlsbad, Ca.
    Hi Doug. As you can see by the number of my posts that I don't comment in too many posts here much but I do follow along often. The effect you found on the other photographers site is one that I like to use on selected images that I really like. Basically it looks like a Gaussian blur was added with reduced opacity to suit his taste. My way is similar but I use the erasure tool to keep selected parts of the scenes subject sharp. The great thing about Photography in my opion, is that neither methods, Straight shots or Altered is wrong, we just get to present our vision of the way we see the scene we captured. I haven't been at that location, but I'd love to have either image hanging on my wall.


    Apr 30, 2005

    The degree, in which one utilizes post-processing techniques in one's creation, is all a matter of artistic license. Photoshop manipulations are just an electronic form of standard darkroom practices that we have been using since the beginning of photography.

    Looking back over the past 20 years, my definition of ‘photography’ has grown to encompass many different forms of expression. There is no superiority in purist goals :) 


  4. Gr8Tr1x

    Gr8Tr1x Guest

    I agree with RFC. Doug, do you conisder a judicious amounT of dodge/burning in a darkroom a photographic sellout? How about special films that really pop the colors in a not-necesarily natural way?

    By the way, a soft look like the one in the second photo can be achieved as easily as smearing vaseline on the front filter, or placing a soft focus filter on it....What's the difference if it is achieved via analog or digital means?
  5. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Doug you raise an interesting question, but I'm not sure your example is the best because I much prefer your version. The editing in the other version is poorly done IMHO.

    That said I don't have a problem with "intensifying reality" a bit, to me that's no different than shooting with Velvia, color-enhancing filters, etc.

    IMHO Editing doesn't really become "dishonest" until you start adding/removing compositional elements that alter the reality of the scene. And even then there's a somewhat gray line there....

    BTW the creation of 'dreamy' or impressionistic images is not new or unique with digital. Just check out some of the slide sandwiches and multiple exposures from Orton or Sweet for examples on film.
  6. Gr8Tr1x

    Gr8Tr1x Guest

    Perhaps when it pertains to PhotoJurnalism, but I contend (my personal opinion and take on it) that a you can still have a photo where you've removed or added items, simply from a compositional point of view...for arts sake. Definitley not for a an AP Photographer or other PJ shooters.
  7. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Doug :




    My perspective's perhaps a little different than most photographers here at the Café. I really cut my photographic teeth shooting as a forensic photographer as a Crown investigation officer in Canada. I still do forensic photography, but as a consultant investigator. Forensic photography's all about being to attest under oath in court that the photograph accurately depicts the scene you were investigating.

    Even back in film shooting days, I was regularly questioned about whether I had "altered" a photograph, and it was a favourite tactic of defense attorneys in arson and arson-homicide cases (the area I worked within) to make it sound like everyone in law enforcement spent hours in the darkroom rigging shots for the trial.

    So, I tend to be more of the "this is what I shot" school of photography than the vast majority of photographers who you meet. I really really want my shots to be, as much as humanly possible, "in camera" photographs with little time spent making substantive changes.

    That said, I have no problems with people Photoshopping the daylights out of their photographs, so long as they are clear about their manipulations.

    Add a third eye to Hillary Clinton's forehead, edit out the wrinkles on great aunt Matilda, make yourself look more muscular than Arnold Schwartzenegger, go stark raving wild with digital manipulations, but please don't thentell me that the picture that you produced is "just like I saw it".

    There's a clear barrier in my mind (please note italicised section) between strict journalistic/forensic photography and "art" developed using digital tools. So long as the two are not confused nor attempts made to play one as the other, I'm quite content.

    Now, soft filter shots (e.g., vaseline on a plain filter back in the 'forties), high contrast developing, cropping, or such things aren't per se a big issue with me. People use GNDs, CPs, warming filters, etc. without changing the basic image to be found, although I suppose there's an argument that colour alteration is making a substantial change. But in that case, we're left without any mechanism for imaging, as the various films and digital sensors have distinct characteristics, some of which we actively pursue.

    But I don't consider that such developing/processing actions are a wholesale alteration of the image in the way that seeing Zellig or Forrest Gump in every historical photo would be. There's a clear distinction in my mind on this issue.

    Interestingly enough, I was musing over this exact point in a thread on an artistically oriented shoot yesterday (Santuario) because I had a certain degree of trepidation in cloning out two extraneous notes on a door. Notes on a door were my concern.

    But that specific inhibition is part of my personal vision for my photography, and I do not have any problem with someone else's artistic vision being what their photographs show to the viewer.

    YMMV, of course... :wink:

    John P.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  8. What is right or wrong and what is truth or false. Photography from the very beginning was a method by which one person communicated his/her vision to others. Black and White photography is neither right or truth but it was the basis for what we understood as true photography. For years we used different chemicals to change contrast, we used dodging, burning, multiple exposures and even solarized negatives to create images that expressed or view. As tools, equipment, processes, paper and chemistry changed, so did out understanding of what true photography is. The equipment, paper, ink and now software continue to change what we believe is truth in photography. It still is a means for one person to communicate his/her vision to others. The only exception is when we use photography as a truth. In many cases it is all in the angle of view. If it looks unnatural, it probably is, whether you like a photo or not depends on our view. I personally don’t like high contract in color but I do like high contract in B&W (very unnatural). Take what you like and leave the rest for others.
  9. In general I don't have a problem with digital darkroom techniques. Myself I do wonder how far to push my images. I prefer that they be believable.

    As to the one you linked. Well overdone and not to my taste. It screams photoshop and frankly the greens are pretty well blown....... etc. I would go with your shot.
  10. mikeyd86

    mikeyd86 Guest

    I don't think any level of photo manipulation is selling out. I do think, though, that refusing to manipulate your photos on principle is selling your photography short. On the other hand, if you simply don't like the outcome of effects and photoshop tricks, or you take pleasure in your photography as a completely accurate or "pure" experience, then by all means, don't use photoshop.

    I think it's short-sighted to think of post-manipulation as selling out, or cheating, or violating or comprimising photography. I believe the final image should reflect your vision, whatever that may be. If it does that, it's never selling out.
  11. Doug


    Jan 17, 2006
    East TN
    Ok, I knew this post would draw fire, I knew it would stir emotions. I did think it could be calmly discussed without emotions running wild as it is being done. I guess let me just say, rarely, is such a comparison easy to do, not often do you find a very close representation to your own art, even if, a rather standard photo site like Cades cove. So, it created some internal questions in me. Did I like what this person had done, or is my attempt to strive for clarity, and exactness in detail, more to my liking?

    First let me say, I do not know this person, I Can say, they had a pretty nice gallery, so I'll take nothing away. I do think the grass seems way overdone here, and artificialized. the trees are a nice softening effect to the image, yeah, I'll go that part reasonably ok. But what's right what's wrong, tough call.

    Yes, I will do minor tweaks in photoshosp, but generally, I don't consider changing the chemical make up of every leaf, minor. I consider that "artifying" an image, and personally probably not something I'll do at this point in my photography. Call me a purist, I really don't mind.

    Thanks to those that said they much prefer my version. :) 

  12. Gr8Tr1x

    Gr8Tr1x Guest

    Where do you see that happening?
  13. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Hmm, were some posts added and then later deleted? Looking at this thread now I really do see where anyone ran wild.:confused: 
  14. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Doug :

    From my perspective, no emotional response, I'm actually closer to your POV on this than you might think. But, as I noted - perhaps not whimsically enough - this is a large writhing can of worms in the photographic community.

    I think the key for most folks is that they don't mind PS activities so long as these things are not done deceptively. We all know that the models have been PS'd within an inch of their lives for some shoots, and pretty much accept it. OTOH, if I present a photo of a major political figure in some kind of sexually compromising position as "fact", it's not going to be sweetness and light when my superior Photoshop skills are found to be the only probative link between that politician and the other person !

    And there are a lot of purists - many coming from the era of film - who are aghast with how easy PS makes all of these things become. Doing this stuff in the darkroom was something of an art in years past, and perhaps it's the ease of alteration that makes some people so uncomfortable...

    In any event, no nastiness or hard feelings on my side of this discussion, and, I hope, none on yours.

    John P.
  15. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Yes, everybody has their own line in the sand. It's not a matter of right/wrong IMHO. For me personally, I don't mind cloning out stuff of a transitory nature (ie that's not a permanent part of the landcape), such as debris. And of course I'll make tonal and/or color adjustments if I feel they're needed. But I won't move a tree, or paste in a sky, or do other compositing techniques; partly because it feels like cheating - to me - but mainly because doing these things well is often very difficult. And IMHO nothing ruins a photo more than obvious traces of heavy-handed digital manipulation. So if you're good enough to fool me, that's great; but if I can tell that you cloned out a tree branch or used gaussian blur on someone's face my opinion of the image will suffer for it.
  16. I tend to attempt to shoot it right in the camera in the first place and then am happy when I only need to do minimal post-processing. I am not coming from an artistic background with training in painting, drawing, etc., but I am a photographer, and I think that while photography is an art form, there is still a difference among those who practice it. I prefer to present the images I shoot just as they came out of the camera, with appropriate editing (sizing, maybe levels and exposure adjustments, possibly a bit of cloning or cropping if there is something distracting in the image that I could not avoid while shooting, and of course sharpening). Basic editing as far as I'm concerned is quite different from modifying an image by using special filters and special effects, If I shot that scene at Cade's Cove I would not be altering it (even just to add Gaussian blur or some other effect) because I'd want to present the image very much the way I saw it. I'm old-school, having started lo these many moons ago with 35mm SLRs that held film and that did not have autofocus or much in the way of metering.

    I've seen some really stunning examples of digital photo art and I admire the creativity and talent of people who can do this sort of thing. In my mind there is a separation on many levels between a straightforward photo which is minimally edited and that same photo which has been modified in a fairly extensive way to reflect the artist's creative vision. IMO neither approach is right or wrong -- they are just different.

    That said, though, where I find things problematic is when images are entered in competition. To me it is comparing apples and oranges if people are reviewing and voting on images which are "straight" photos or are digitally enhanced/manipulated/modified. I don't think that they should be in the same category. My reasoning is: are people voting for an excellent image which reflects the photographer's skills at handling his/her camera or are they voting for an excellent image which reflects the photographer's skills in working with Photoshop? Many juried shows separate digital art out from more traditionally edited images, but not all do. I left an online group because of this very issue and disagreements among us about where to set parameters. No one else seemed to care that when voting for "the best" image(s) each month that we were comparing apples and oranges. This was a photography forum, not an digital art forum. Shouldn't we have been voting on images based on the skills of someone to take good photographs rather than on their ability to do magical things with Photoshop?

    Definitely forensic and photojournalistic images need to be 100% as they came out of the camera, with very little post-processing done (image size, maybe a little sharpening, etc.). The rest of us do have a lot more freedom and latitude in how we handle our images. I lean in the direction of producing images which pretty accurately reflect what I actually saw at the scene, while others prefer to shoot something and then play around with it in a creative way to produce something entirely different. Both are pleasing, both are demonstrating skills -- but not the same skills.

    I think for us old-timers it is important to acknowledge the incredible changes we've seen in technology over the past ten, twenty years and to acknowledge the wonderful ways that programs such as Photoshop have allowed people's creativity to flourish..... For me, the key issue to simply acknowledge that there is no "right" or "wrong," but just a difference.
  17. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    I might agree except that I think it's unnecessary to include any sort of disclaimer with work detailing what editing I did or did not perform. It would be one thing to proclaim that an image had not been altered at all when in fact it had; such deception is clearly wrong IMHO. But I prefer to let the images stand on their own; whether I shot Velvia with an ND grad or combined multiple digital exposures in post is irrelevent IMHO; and anybody who would value the former over the latter as being more "pure" is just being silly.

    I think that is probably true, although if they tried it for themselves they might find it's not quite so easy to do really good post work; just look at all the poorly edited images floating around on the web. I think maybe some of these types just resent the fact that they've spent decades learning a craft that has been made less relevent my new technology (technology which they no doubt find intimidating :smile:) 
  18. Masa


    Feb 27, 2006
    San Jose, CA
    It depends on my intention. 99% of the time, I don't apply that kind of effects in Photoshop. I don't normally like too processed looking pics, including HDR.

    That said, I use some effects sometimes for two reasons.

    1. Just for fun.

    This was actually processed from a real picture that I took in Roswell, NM.
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    2. Some pics (not many) look better with some kind of effects applied. I think this is the similar effect that the guy used.
    View attachment 87165
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2007
  19. Doug


    Jan 17, 2006
    East TN
    Josh, perhaps I chose the wrong words, however, I said it wasn't happening, didn't I? I thought people would be strongly entrenched one way or another perhaps and that it might generate quite a bit of discussion. That's all, nothing more.

    Connie, you bring up a VERY valid point, about competition. Agreed. Once you modify the chemical make up of a photo beyond the minor/standard saturation/brightness/shadows type settings in photoshop, I too feel that you should no longer be competing in photo categories, rather, it's art then. Digital Art.

    I guess I felt quite a bit of involvement here, since I'd shot almost the same shot as someone that applied the brush heavily to their work, so to speak. Me, I shoot something 2 or 3 times, or as many times as necessary to get what I want if possible.

    Randy Forshey's lava falls come to mind. You know, Randy probably could have digitally enhanced any shot he's taken over the years to approximate the Lava Falls. But he didn't. Randy is a photographer, and wanted to get it right, he wanted to take the shot himself. and he did.

    I'll still not say, that it's wrong to digitally enhance to make the shot what you think it should be, but by the same token, I think you sort of owe it tot the artistic and photographic communities to not try to pass one off as the other, and vice versa.

    Perhaps their needs to just flat out be a 3rd category of work, and it should be always declared as such. Their's photography, there's art, and there's Artistically enhanced Photography?

  20. Doug,

    This is a very interesting subject.

    I tend to shoot a photograph and keep it as "realistic" as possible. But if we are to consider all aspects of photography an art...........which I do.............then I think it's important to remember creativity is a major part of art. We have some people here on the forum who can take the most mundane (my opinion only) photograph and turn it into something which makes me gasp with pleasure. We also have people who can take photographs which make me gasp at their realism. I really believe that art is a creative and inspired expression. I don't think my way is better than another. But art has to breath, and for it to breath it can't be put into a little box with a neat lid on it. It needs expressing.
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