Friday, May 2, 2008

The Great Postwork vs Image Manipulation Debate!

Desert Light Landascape in HDR

The Sandia Mountains outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico at dusk....the light simply shines this tme ofthe year in the "Land of Enchantment" as the storms start to blow in, leaving traces of snow on the peaks

Before I start this, please keep in mind I am talking about photo-manipulation.

Ok enough is enough, I have had it and well it is high time I speak my mind. I 'spose I was a tad astonished at some of the replies I have seen lately floating around DA how "HDR is image manipulation" and so forth. So here I am, about to address this and other issues which fall under "The Great Postwork vs Image Manipulation Debate!"

Now I am sure that a few of us (maybe more than a few) are aware of the controversy that started a couple months ago about one of DA's biggest and most popular photographers who seemingly took part of an image, added in areas and mirrored parts of the image. Yet, the photo was submitted under the photography category. Myself along with a couple other photographers were quite amazed by this and we asked ourselves, "isn't this technically a manip?" I still technically hold true in saying that yes it was.

So what defines a manip from a photo you ask?? Well personally, MOST hold to the notion that if can be done in the traditional darkroom, it isn't a manip. Well, hate to tell 'em, but I would wager a guess that people who have said this have never actually spent time INSIDE a real darkroom. I have seen things done with film that is utterly mind blowing, long before Photoshop came onto the scene, when B&W was hand developed in the sinks. Image manipulation in the actual darkroom is just about endless. My take on it is this---if you change the scene so much to where you are adding elements which didn't readily exist when the photo was shot, then you creating a manip. I see nothing wrong with taking out a powerline, cloning out dust spots, burning ad dodging, using gradients (as the same can be attached to the camera lens itself) and so forth. Basic stuff pretty much. And I see nothing with HDR processing either. The minute you start adding in an entire crowd of people into a scene, well, hello manip! The minute you start having to mirror the left side of an image so the right side matches, hello manip! I think you can see where I am going with this huh?

The one thing though that I am having a VERY hard time understanding is how some see HDR as a manip. Say again???? Yes, some see it as a manip. All because it is done with software and not with a camera. It isn't? To have an actual HDR you have to have multiple exposures of a shot, correct? Generally you do that in the camera, though you can do it in a good RAW converter as well. Ohhh yeah.....RAW files, gee, those have to be converted using software to, so are all us RAW shooters then image manippers as well? Give me a break. The whole purpose of an HDR image is to catch the dynamic range in a photo which the camera a can not, to see things how the human eye sees them. And it is with that I think why so many have an issue with HDR and the way it often looks. Now don't get me wrong, I have seen stuff that is so overprocessed it looks like someone Skittles just went to take a shit! But people are used to seeing traditional photos that don't have so much dynamic range in them, after all, our brain and eyes know what they know and have been trained for YEARS that a photograph looks a certain way...flat. HDR challenges this and changes how we see things, and in that, people jump to the conclusion that it is wrong.

Here is the bottom line and the real deal folks. Look, if you are using PS to make your photo look so much BETTER then chances are you are more a photoshopper than a photographer. Sure, we must edit in RAW and all that, but if you are going totally overboard in PS and don't have a single clue how to even switch your camera to where it is shooting in RAW, NOW would be a damn good time to start investing in your self by READING YOUR CAMERAS MANUAL!!!!! First and foremost, is the camera, always, forever. The shot itself, the click of the shutter. Pay attention to cropping in camera, and maybe you won't be accused of image manipulation in the future. Always the camera first, take your time shooting, setting up your shot, don't rush it. Study your manual and get to know your camera inside out. Treat it like it is your lifeline! Photoshop is always second, no questions asked, and is meant to compliment YOUR photos, not add to them!

/off my soap box for now.



  1. I agree entirely :)

    Can't even add to it :)


  2. Although i always consider the camera first and although i don't think for one milisec about PS editing afterwards, i don't agree that this is really important. It works for me and it may work for you, but everyone is free to choose his/her favorite method of creating images. Why is it important to label someone as a photoshopper and not a photographer? Maybe we can say "looking at his work, i think he's 35% photographer and 65% photoshopper". It's just plain ridiculous. And why would a photographer be better than a photoshopper? Nowadays, shooting photographs with the correct exposure is easier than it used to be anyway. For me, the *only* important thing is the final image, the result that was created: is it interesting and/or pleasant to look at? Does it evoke emotion? Is it worth your attention? Then the person who made the image succeeded. Whether it's a 16 year old kid photoshopping his Rebel shots all night (and adding stuff) or a 35 year old girl using a second-hand Lomo (doing only some color tweaks and curving) or a 65 year old photographer using an analog Hasselblad and never touching his negatives... i just cannot care. Just show me some cool and creative images! :)


  3. Well Kris, by going with that idea, then you would have to kinda ask yourself what is the roll of a graphic designer these days?