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Thread: Real

  1. #1

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    Real

    What is a 'real' photograph?

    I have a colleague (none camera obsessed) who insists that she likes a photograph to be 'real' rather than photoshopped or adjusted (even in camera) in any way.

    So I asked if (in film days) the choice of film stock to change the tonality or colour saturation or some other aspect of the captured image was still a real image. Or if the choice of DoF or shutter speed, which therefore changed the captured image from our day to day perception was still a 'real' photograph.

    So, what do you consider a real image?
    How much post processing (wet or digital) is acceptable to retain an acceptable level of 'reality'?

    Graham
    (I tend to use image rather than photograph to emphasize the lack of 'reality)

  2. #2
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Real

    I think your friend meant an image straight from the camera. Some would even argue that applying contrast, brightness, noise reduction, hue enhancement all fall under the category of an altered image. You will have some magazine editors who will alter the tonality of an image to suit the purposes of a story, example black and white image for war images, or enhancement of hues for stories related to love or depression. I have seen photography contest requirements that do not allow any photo manipulation at all except for cropping of the image. So the emphasis on "real" photography falls on the individual or entity who wants final use of the image.
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 19th November 2011 at 07:45 PM.

  3. #3
    tbob's Avatar
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    Re: Real

    I draw the line at the point where compositional elements are added, subtracted or changed in position in the image. This degree of manipulation renders the photographer no longer an observer and alters reality; hence no longer real. An observer can alter their view point and perspective, even change their "eye" (read lens) to be wider or narrower than the human eye and the final image is still real. I will accept even subtle change in colour and lighting as real; HDR sometimes pushes over my internal limit. But changing the essential reality by removing,adding or changing relative positions steps over.

  4. #4
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    Too much manipulation in post processing?

    Aside from IS vs. Non-IS; or Canon vs Nikon; arguments; this is probably one of the most frequently debated points in digital photography because just about anyone can adjust their images for better or for worst in post processing.

    There are some "purists" who seem to argue that just about any manipulation of an image is wrong.

    OBVIOUSLY THESE "PURISTS" WOULD TRASH ANSEL ADAMS' IMAGES SINCE HIS IMAGES WERE THE RESULT OF CONSIDERABLE MANIPULATION IN THE DARKROOM... Or is computer manipulation the only thing that the "purists" object to

    I personally think that old Mr. Adams was a pretty fair to middling photographer Too bad that he had to do so much work to produce a decent print and could not print directly out of his camera like the "purists" seem to demand

    I am of the opinion that the photographer begins to manipulate the image by selecting focal length, shutter speed and f/stop and ISO, then continues to manipulate by composing the image and selecting the DOF. The photographer then manipulates the image by deciding at which moment to press the shutter.

    Since, the image has already been considerably manipulated, I frankly do not care what other manipulation that the photopgrapher adds in post processing. I only care whether I like the finished product or not! I am not a fan of overly processed images any more than I am a fan of the out of the camera trash that some folks call "street photography".

  5. #5

    Re: Too much manipulation in post processing?

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    ...
    There are some "purists" who seem to argue that just about any manipulation of an image is wrong.




    OBVIOUSLY THESE "PURISTS" WOULD TRASH ANSEL ADAMS' IMAGES SINCE HIS IMAGES WERE THE RESULT OF CONSIDERABLE MANIPULATION IN THE DARKROOM... Or is computer manipulation the only thing that the "purists" object to...


    Since, the image has already been considerably manipulated, I frankly do not care what other manipulation that the photopgrapher adds in post processing. I only care whether I like the finished product or not! I am not a fan of overly processed images any more than I am a fan of the out of the camera trash that some folks call "street photography".



    Could not agree more! My sentiments exactly and I have said so often.




    The most highly regarded photos have typically, been manipulated either in the chemical darkroom or the digital "lightroom." In the good-old-days , even if the photo was not chemically manipulated the choice of film type, ASA, DOF, shutter speed, etc. as well as the lab one chose along with paper on which to print all affected the “reality” of the shot.




    Then again, who cares if the "purists" produce fair-to-midlin' pixs that are “real”? There will always be someone who loves the “natural” look.




    To be really, specific and technical, no photo or art piece is “real.” The reality is in the eye of the beholder. Each brain experiences and responds to reality differently.




    Perception is reality.




    I try to convey the sense of place and the feeling that I experienced with my photos. Often I try to make them a piece of art with heavy PSP while I keep others more SOOC.


    Others have a different objective. It is all valid.

  6. #6

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    Re: Too much manipulation in post processing?

    I think the OP's distinction between Photograph and Image is a good one and if a purist wants to say that an image is no longer a photograph if it has been manipulated in any way I can live with it being called and image.

    However when it comes to manipulation of any kind, I think it depends on the purpose of the shot. If the shot is documentary it MUST stay as shot. If a shot is from a course on composition or lighting or getting it right in the camera well, then you're not really going to learn anything by taking a badly composed or badly lit shot and then fixing it up on the computer.

    Otherwise I think it's up to the owner of the photograph to do what pleases him or her, and if it makes anyone or everyone feel better it can be called an image afterwards. I think that seems like a good solution to the issue.

    Wendy

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    PhotoRob's Avatar
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    I think real vs. not only matters if the photo falls into any definition where the viewer is expected to 'trust' the photo / the photographer (documentary, street to an extent, etc...). For example, removing Hillary Clinton and another female staffer from a war-room photo is being dishonest to the original event and therefore I believe violates that trust. That said, adjusting characteristics of an image, such as brightness and contrast, are generally inconsequential and would be fine.

    As for artistic shots, sky's the limit because there's essentially no 'agenda'...

  8. #8
    PhotoRob's Avatar
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    (Sorry for repeating you a bit Wendy, was drafting my message at the same time, just a coincidence...)

  9. #9

    Re: Too much manipulation in post processing?

    This is akin to discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.




    Absolutely no photograph, even a documentary photo, can ever be “real”—because, it all depends on the camera settings, the angle, POV, etc. All of those choices already manipulate the photo and make it “unreal.”


    Every photo is therefore an image.




    Consider people watching an event, a game, a crime. The most unreliable testimony is that of an eye witness. Everyone “sees” and observes differently. This is where instant replay comes in. Even that depends on the camera angle and all of the above as to what one will see.

  10. #10

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    Re: Real

    Quote Originally Posted by PhotoRob View Post
    (Sorry for repeating you a bit Wendy, was drafting my message at the same time, just a coincidence...)
    No problem, I think someone (Steven Colbert maybe???) said if something is repeated 3 times it becomes the truth - or something like that.

    Wendy

  11. #11

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    Re: Real

    If I am honestly pleased with the image (pre or post) then that is what really matters to me, and I can accept what the camera, lens, or computer and I have done together as a good job. If others who are more experienced than I am with photography, Pre or Post, and they offer me there constructive opinion, I am always open, and I will go back to the Computer Dark Room and or camera and lens to apply what advice they have given me, and if I like their result beter than my origional work, then I have learned something that will help me in becomming a better photographer. Further I make a note in my "Field Photography Hand Book of the information I have learned. "Real" to me, is what I can accept either through my own experience and or through the eyes and experience of more seasoned photographers, that is why I joined CIC in the first place, to learning from others who are more seasoned in photography, and to hopefully share my limited experience with everyone on CIC. No matter what your goal is, what ever you do, how experienced you may be, or not be, there is always something more to be learned. "My Goal in Photography" is to be best I can be, from what I know, and learn from the more experienced Photographers who are willing to constructively offer advice and share their secrets with me.

    Tom Williams

  12. #12
    PhotoRob's Avatar
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    Viana, as soon as you introduce perspective/POV you're essentially describing the theory of relativity - important to distinguish between an event, and the description or account of an event (an image for example), which as you mentioned can vary from observer to observer...deep stuff...

  13. #13
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    Re: Real

    Quote Originally Posted by GrahamH View Post
    I have a colleague (none camera obsessed) who insists that she likes a photograph to be 'real' rather than photoshopped or adjusted (even in camera) in any way.
    I understand her position and respect that for her, it is a valid viewpoint. As long as she doesn't insist that I convert to her viewpoint, I have no problems with her holding such an opinion. Now, where did I put my copy of Photoshop?

  14. #14

    Re: Real

    Quote Originally Posted by PhotoRob View Post
    Viana, as soon as you introduce perspective/POV you're essentially describing the theory of relativity - important to distinguish between an event, and the description or account of an event (an image for example), which as you mentioned can vary from observer to observer...deep stuff...Real

    Shall we also discuss Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, Robert?

  15. #15
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    Re: Real

    It is sometimes said that documentary photos need to tell the truth with no varnishing. That is not always the case. I could easily have gone to one of the "Occupy" demonstrations and shot it to look like the occupiers were heroes or I could have made them look like bums. I could have shot the police as the "thin blue line of law and order" or I could have made them look like Gestapo. It would have depended on how I "made" the images which is what we, as photograaphers do. In all four cases, my images would have been documentary but, truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

    Now, if I superimposed an occupier who I shot lying on the ground under the foot of a cop or some other thing that never happened, that IMO would have been morally wrong.

    However, if I am shooting a zoo animal and clone out obvious reference to the enclosure, I don't think that there is anything wrong with that... unless I try to pawn of that image as a shot of an animal shot in the wild. Then that would be dishonest.

  16. #16
    PhotoRob's Avatar
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    Good points Richard - as for pics. of the protestors how can you 'make' them look one way or another? I get that catching someone shouting at someone else could be taken out of context, that sort of thing, but unless the event you're referring to ( or the angle, etc... ) didn't actually happen, you're still getting a shot of something real...unless you change the content it is what it is, and the rest of the interpretation is up to the viewer.

    Or put another way without context ( a photo title, run along with an article, etc...), an image isn't 'made' to be anything other than what it actually is...

    Interesting discussion, no doubt
    Last edited by PhotoRob; 20th November 2011 at 03:42 AM.

  17. #17
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    Re: Real

    Perhaps what's "real" depends on whether one considers photography an act of creating (art) or an act of recording what is seen.

    If one considers photography to be art, and that art is expressive, then perhaps anything is real if someone sees it.

    If one considers that photography should just record, then it becomes extremely limited in scope, and this may not be possible in any event:

    We don't all see the same because of our eyes; and our brains certainly don't process images the same. If there is variance in what we perceive, then who's interpretation is the definition of reality?

    An extreme example is a friend of mine and his older brother. Dale is partially colour blind - the classical red/green case. His brother is totally colour blind - can't tell a colour TV from a B&W TV. Neither of them see the world the way I do.

    Who wants to take an accurate photograph of something that the three of us saw?

    Can anyone be sure that an image is an accurate depiction of reality - what is reality if we all see things differently?

    Are there any absolutes in life?

    Glenn

  18. #18
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    Re: Real

    It doesn't matter how you capture, alter, create an image it is the final image itself that should be judged.

    No one would stand in front of a painting, even from one of the greats, and say " Thats not how the subject looked" they would look at the painting, the style, the way the artist interpreted what they saw and come to a conclusion as to whether they liked it or not. I don't see why a photograph should be any different.

    I understand where the discussion comes from and I understand why some think nothing should be done to alter what was originally takeni but at the end of the day it's the photograph that has to stand up all by itself and be judged.

  19. #19
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    Re: Real

    Quote Originally Posted by GrahamH View Post
    What is a 'real' photograph?

    I have a colleague (non camera obsessed) who insists that she likes a photograph to be 'real' rather than photoshopped or adjusted (even in camera) in any way.

    So I asked if (in film days) the choice of film stock to change the tonality or colour saturation or some other aspect of the captured image was still a real image. Or if the choice of DoF or shutter speed, which therefore changed the captured image from our day to day perception was still a 'real' photograph.
    Hi Graham,

    You didn't say what her answer was

    Generalising horribly here; I might guess that she's fed up with seeing attractive photos of celebrities which she knows are 'photoshopped'.

    Being "non camera obsessed";
    a) she doesn't know what's involved in image capture and hasn't 'thought it through'
    b) I bet she'd like the results of what say, Colin could shoot of her

    Beyond that, Richard's summary is, as usual, very well put - as are many others

    Cheers,

  20. #20
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Just add 'MacKenzie'

    Re: Real

    Pressing the shutter is the end of the first part of making an image. The second part starts when you begin processing in the darkroom (if you're shooting film) or on computer (if you're shooting digitally).

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