Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Your photos aren't real!"

Recently I had a rather "interesting" discussion shall we say with someone, and also came upon this blog post titled "Are your colors manipulated" (a fantastic read by the way) from photographer Jay Patel The discussion I had was kind of heated at times, and centered around one of my photos specifically and how about this person was there with me and how this scene didn't look anything like it does in the photo itself. This is quite an interesting take on things I thought, because I have never really wanted to captured a scene "exactly" how it looks. If I wanted to do that, I would use an instamatic camera and simply point and shoot. Wildlife photography aside, when it comes to landscapes or lifestyle images of the rural and country, all that especially matters in the end is the image, not if the colors are exactly the same as they were when you were standing at the scene photographing it. 


It is not to say that I feel that such things are wrong and indeed there are many photographers who try to emulate and capture the scene just as how it looked. Heck, now and then I do that as well, too. It is all up to myself and how I want to portray things. Creative expression is good, and sometimes if by using a Tobacco filter in front of my lens to warm it up looks better than the actual scene, I will go for it. The same can be said for using ND filters to slow down the motion of the water to give it a more silky look and feel, or using custom white balance to bring out colors more. I often do this during Autumn to capture the vivid greens and golds and often also shoot on a white balance setting of "sunset" in camera when I am photographing them (an old trick I learned years ago). 


What I find really intriguing is a recent quote I came across that seems to fit things perfectly; 


‎"I am not interested in showing my work to photographers any more, but to people outside the photo-clique. My pictures are not escapes from reality,

but a contemplation of reality, so that I can experience life in a deeper way." - Bruce Davidson


Now I think that really has a tendecny to hit home on the situation here, big time. In much of my work I strive to add a deep sense of feeling and emotion in to them. I am not in this to market to other photographers but to to the general public with an image that they can relate to. Something that gives a person a sense of bonding and tie in, something that they can feel from past experience. Not other photographers. The thing is, I like my own work and I am happy with it most of the time. Isn't that what many strive to do, simply be happy in their own creative endevours? The thing is, you are only allowed to see what the photographers lets you see and that is all. So it goes, that first shouldn't we see the image for what it is and not look at it under a microscope, evaluating it on it's technical merits, and instead enjoy what the photographer is presenting us? Photography has the ability to transfer you in to a whole other world, an escapism for just a second, to see things in place you would never get to see, to feel things like you have never felt, but first we need to take off the glasses of cynicism to experience that all. 


Who cares if I "warm up" an image, who cares if I crop something for better composition, who cares....really. Other photographers generally care, are they buying my work and hanging it on their walls? Nope. It isn't to say that you shouldn't listen to your fellow photographers as they are a key instrument in helping you become better and grow as an artist, but just know that you being happy in your own photography is where success lays at. You acheive that and you are well on your way. Keep in mind as always, that every photograph you see has been "worked over" in some way, shape or form. Whether it is old skool burning and dodging in the wet darkroom, printed on different papers to bring more color out, or if it a newer shot of a gorgeous landscape, shot with Grad NDs and processed inside Lightroom, everything is worked over. In the end all that matters is the image, you being happy with a photo which you took and how it is presented to the viewer. From Velvia to Lightroom presets, you only see the artistic vision presented before you, for if we all shot the same, life would be rather boring, not to mention photography itself. A world would be rather vanilla flavored if we had no sense of vision or artistic style. 


For the record, this is the image in question, ironically one of my most popular photographs I have ever taken, a larger version can be seen on my website here and prints of it are available for sale on my site on redbubble


Old Fords And Farms-HDR



  1. Here here!! This is very similar to what I recently told a "purist" photographer who has yet to sell a print. When I explained that I sold enough prints from my trip to South Dakota to pay for the trip, she didn't have a lot to say after that. :D

  2. You have nothing to apologize for, John. Not ever. I had a very similar discussion with an egghead "expert on everything" who argued that sharpening a photo is "cheating". How ignorant.

    Just do your work as you see fit and let the rest of us enjoy it, even if we are photographers. LOL!

  3. Hi John,
    I think the confusion arises because people think that photography is capable of an unbiased depiction of the real world. That could never be true, for two obvious reasons (image is flat, and ends at the frame limit) and many less obvious reasons (color, sharpness, saturation, perspective to bane a few). Even documentary photography doesn't really depict reality, but rather represents it!
    To me, photography is just what it is - painting with light, and has no reason to be faithful to reality any more than traditional painting. Photography is a medium based on capturing light reflected from objects - the photographer uses this reflected light as the raw material for creating and image, and as you so rightfully stated - at the end there is an image, which should be evaluated as such. The debate about being true is simply irrelevant, IMHO.
    Thanks for this blog,

    Yori1976 of dA (if you reply, please copy it there, as I will post this in your journal directing to this blog too). Thanks.

  4. seriously, If I was standing in that field by that car my eyes would see just what your photo depicts. Fact is a camera on its own can't reproduce what our eyes see so lets give it a little PS help I say!
    David Sydney

  5. You are my Hero!! On every level!! It is because your images evoke emotions that makes you so brilliant!!

    Thanks for writing your blog.


  6. I completely agree with you, John.
    I see no reason for uncivil arguement over a person's personal choices.
    However, that freedom to present anything that we please carries a responsibility.
    We must accept, without complaint, differing views.
    If I say that your sunflowers look garish or you think my skies are too bright, so be it. We accept the subjective criticism, say "Thank you" and move along.

    The simple fact is, nobody ever changes another person's mind.

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  8. @Lightrae Words of sheer wisdom my friend! Spot on!

  9. Hi, John. I'm too tired for a really good rant tonight. Suffice to say that if someone cannot appreciate the stunning effects you achieve with your camera, filters, and best of all, your mind's eye, with the materials this earth provides you to work with, I can only pity the soul so shallow it would scarcely get your feet wet. "REAL"? REALLY? Oh yes, my dear, just as magic is real, just as love is real...Just as beauty is ALWAYS in the eye of the beholder. I love what you do with reality. Thank you. ( I wonder what he would have told Rembrandt? LOL) Tell Anonymous I adored their comments.

  10. Couldnt have said it better John my thoughts exactly. Thankyou for posting this :)