This is the question which comes so many times on photography related forums and blogs, topic of so many Facebook discussions and debates. I have been hearing this question so many times while talking to photographers and decided that this deserves a dedicated blog entry.
So let’s first start by explaining what the argument seems to be all about. A photographer captures a digital image, then downloads the picture into his/her computer and starts a digital post-processing in Photoshop. This might include replacing the background of the image, adding additional light sources which were not in the original image, removing subjects or objects from the image, adding objects into the image from another image, combining exposures, etc. All form of digital editing used by nowadays photographers.
On one side of the debate there are the so called “purists”: photographers who believe in pure documentary style of photography and that the main purpose of a photographer is to capture the reality unaltered and unmodified. No changes to the digital images after being captured whatsoever. On the other side of the debates are the “artists”: photographers who don’t like to be constrained from what the reality has to offer and like to add their own vision and touch to each image. They believe that reality is fine by itself but the role of the photographer is to use the reality and communicate the photographer’s vision by altering the digital images.
Each side has their logic behind their choices of course. The photojournalists are trained to capture the events as they unfold, set the stage and wait for the moments to happen, communicate the truth about the moment and emotions as they really happened. While the artists are creative minds, which are bored to death to see the same images of the same subjects or objects over and over and need to express themselves, not just capture the reality.
For me, I am more of the mix from both. Capture genuine moments and emotions and use all tools available to enhance the image and bring the viewers attention to the focal point if the image. A picture needs to have a story with both interesting subjects or objects but also with refined post processing to make an impression.
Why I think so. Simple. Ask yourself: Is adding special effects to movie cheating? Don’t we all enjoy the movies with special effects exactly because they invoke certain feelings by enhancing the main story?
Is painting the walls of our homes cheating, or dressing in different clothes every day cheating? We were definitely not born with clothes or our the walls of our homes didn’t come painted with the colors we like. Are women dressing their hair and putting make up cheating? The examples, go on and on.
The point is that photographs need to be genuine and not fake. The photographs are intended to documenting the reality and it is what the photographer should do but in the same time a photographer need to be able to inspire the viewers, provoke their feelings and generate ideas. Adding digital effects or altering digital images is not a sin but a creative process in which the photographer creates their own masterpieces from what seems to be everyday reality. It’s what differentiate one photographer from another photographer. It’s what makes one picture to look different and communicate different ideas from another.
Agree, disagree, have comments or feedback? Drop me a line in the comments section and if you like this post, share it with your friends so they can also benefit from information.
Written by Trifon Anguelov
Trifon Anguelov Photography is a premiere Wedding and Events Photographer, Mountain View, CA
Photography Portfolio at: http://www.trifonanguelov.com/Portfolio/