Photographer?

A fellow photographer posted an interesting article asking “Does Photo Editing Dilute True Photography?”. It raises a number of questions that are now swimming around my head demanding answers.

In camera

Lynda uses a term “straight out of the camera (SOOC)” and argues that there is no such thing. I see what she is saying, but I disagree. From the reading I’ve done on the way that digital cameras work, they are somewhat more complex than a lens focusing light onto a sensor. I recall that Canon had a problem (with the 5D?) that caused image defects under certain extreme conditions; it must be quite a complex process.

I would hope that I could pick up any digital camera and obtain a similar result from each. There will be differences, the closely guarded proprietary secret algorithms used to convert sensor data to (usually) JPEG. So all digital cameras do some processing to convert light to a digital image. The processing is done in camera and there is little that the photographer can do to influence it.

Except that the photographer can influence it. With an SLR the photographer can alter the image. They can change the exposure level, add flash, change white balance, effectively crop the image by changing/zooming the lens. Even point and shoot cameras allow the image to be captured in monochrome. All of these changes are “in camera”.

Post-processing

So, is there anything wrong with altering images once they leave the camera? I don’t think that there is, images have many difference uses. If a camera provides the easiest starting point to create an image then so be it. So, as Lynda asked, is photo-editing just a cop-out for the untalented photographer? I don’t know. So I asked myself this:

If you were asked to judge a photography competition then (1) what would be your submission criteria and (2) how would you score the submissions?

Would your entry criteria be point and shoot cameras only? No post-processing? Colour only? Would these criteria exclude a potential Ansel Adams from entering? So what if you allow printed submissions? The film photographer gets a second bite (or nibble perhaps) to influence the image when printing it from the negative.

Pre-processing

D.O.G.So would you allow monochrome submissions to the competition? Would the photographer be allowed to use coloured filters? These can significantly alter the way the camera “sees” light. Is this pre-processing??

Might the composition of the image be considered pre-processing. The image to the right doesn’t truly represent what I could see when I took it. In front of me, out of frame, was the horse box. To my right a wall, my left the steps down to the field. I may have set white balance to daylight, but that’s because cameras struggle with that (see my previous post Whiter than white).

Okay, so I think most would agree that the photographer should be allowed to point the camera where he pleases! But what about a different lens?

One of my favourite photographers is Henri Cartier-Bresson. He is best known for his candid street photography. He used a Leica with a 50mm lens. He didn’t crop the captured images. He never used flash. He didn’t post-process during developing/printing. In 1957 he is quoted as saying:

Photography is not like painting, there is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative, oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.

Perhaps I shouldn’t call myself a photographer?

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