Helpful Posts Helpful Posts:  0
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 23

Thread: How much manipulation is too much?

  1. #1
    rogerb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Plano, TX, USA
    Posts
    121
    Real Name
    Roger

    How much manipulation is too much?

    As landscape photographer I often run into beautiful landscapes but the sky may be a boring cloudless sky.

    On two occasions I have gone into Photoshop and swapped out a boring sky for one loaded with interesting clouds I had shot at some previous time. Technically, the job was perfect. However I've regretted it ever since. After having posted the pics on my pbase site I went back and pulled one completely and on the other one I added a disclamer comment. A few days later I pulled that one too.
    I think one of the challenges in landscape photography, besides all the other things you have to do right, is be at the right place at the right time. Swapping out a sky just seems like cheating. I don't mind making any adjustmentds in post-processing that could have been made in the chemical darkroom. But completely changing a scene by swapping out a sky, although extremely tempting, may be too much.

    Am I just being old fashioned?
    Last edited by rogerb; 3rd July 2009 at 02:12 AM.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Sydney, Australia
    Posts
    361

    Re: How much manipulation is too much?

    As I am only focusing on landscape photography, I have faced many similar issues regarding manipulations, so I can understand your concern.

    I always try as hard as possible to get things right in the camera. If I could not capture a nice sky, I just gave up, and tried next time. I don't accept to swap the sky in order to make the picture pretty. I know there are some online sky databases for people to use. But I think this is too far from the basics of landscape photography.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    17,662
    Real Name
    Have a guess :)

    Re: How much manipulation is too much?

    I've had many such debates with the "purists" - but the bottom line is that you can't present an image without some kind of manipulation. If you draw a parallel with beauty treatments it's kind of like "lipstick and makeup" at one end and "extreme makeover" at the other ... or something in between.

    Usually conversations with the purists go something like this.

    Purist: "all kinds of manipulation are bad bad bad"

    Me: "Well ... when the camera captures the image the anti-aliasing filter introduces a little bit of unsharpness - would it be OK to correct that since it's making it closer to how the scene really was?"

    Purist: "Errr - well - I suppose that would be OK"

    Me: "Great Also - the camera white balance often records slightly different colours to the ones that were actually there - would it be OK if I adjusted the white-balance of the shot to make it more accurate?"

    Purist: "Errr - well - I suppose that would be OK"

    Me: "Cool Also, when I took this particular shot I accidentally under-exposed it a little - would it be OK to adjust that since it'll make it look more like it should, and it really wasn't the scenes fault that I mucked it up?"

    Purist: "Errr - well - I suppose that would be OK"

    Me: "Excellent - also - you'll see in the shot that someone has carelessly left some rubbish on that ledge. Normally I'd remove it, but on this occasion it would have been very dangerous - and since the rubbish shouldn't be there - and in fact isn't normally there, would it be OK if I cloned it out?"

    Purist: "Errr - well - I suppose that would be OK"

    Me: "Marvelous Also - you'll notice that some of those shadows look too dark ... they didn't look that way when I was there, but it's an unfortunate reality that the camera just doesn't have the same dynamic range as a human eyeball. So would it be OK if I were to lift those shadow areas so that it looks more like it did when I was there?"

    Purist: "Errr - well - I suppose that would be OK"

    ... and so on and so forth.

    (so in summary the purist is OK with sharpening + white balance adjustmants + exposure adjustments + cloning + curves etc!)

    The issues get more involved ...

    - Is it OK to adjust the colour of grass because you happen to arrive during a drought and normally it's much greener?

    - Would you want the overall contrast and saturation to me closer to the way it really was, or the way the human brain remembers it? (they're two different things - the brain typically remembers more contrast and saturation than are actually there).

    - If it's nornally a cloudless day and on this occasion you've got some very unflattering cloud, is it OK to remove it?

    Hopefully you can see where I'm going with this. The purist approach just can't be achieved - and this was the case even in film days.

    So - where does one draw the line. Having thought about it a lot, I think about it like this ...

    ... as an artist, I will do whatever I like to my photos! - but - I don't lie about it. For me that's where I think one should draw the line; trying to make someone believe something that really didn't happen that way. Classic example is the photographer in Iraq who cloned in additional smoke to make the results of an airstrike or bomb blast look more "impressive".

    In my case, I'm out to make my images look the best I can - consistent with my style - and I'm more than happy to tell people just how I do it if they want to know.

    Ablsolute purism just doesn't exist with photography - some is closer to this unachieveable goal than others, but as I see it, so long as you don't try to dishonestly mislead then what you choose to do is up to you.

    Keep in mind also that often the camera captures a scene in a different way to the way our eves do; eg you may need a 4 minute exposure to capture the colour of a sunrise - that in turn will flatten out water (which may not be that flat in reality) - bottom line is there's nothing you can do about it (and why would you want to).

    Just some food for thought anyway
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 3rd July 2009 at 04:56 AM.

  4. #4
    rogerb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Plano, TX, USA
    Posts
    121
    Real Name
    Roger

    Re: How much manipulation is too much?

    Thank you Yan and Colin.

    Yes, I realize that image manipulation was around even in the old film days when people were added or deleted from a political shot.
    More recently (1982) the "reputable" National Geographic magazine did it digitally when they moved two pyramids much closer together in order to fit them on the cover of their magazine.

    I don't subscribe to the purist camp because I will do certain things to an image (some perspective correction, for example) and I feel that it is not altering the image in any fundamental way, so I don't lose sleep over that. I guess it should just be left up to the individual since there are no laws or "code of ethics" governing amateur photography, or the creation of "fine art" photography. There I think that a fair amount of artistic licence is expected.

    So, I suppose it's up to the individual. If it doesn't seem right to the individual then he or she shouldn't do it. Photojournalism and commercial photography (if its sole purpose is to try to sell whatever is being misrepresented in the image) however should be another matter.

    It's amazing to listen to people not familiar with photography when they express disbelief that famous film photographers like Ansel Adams did considerable enhancement during processing of the negatives and the during the printing process. Somehow there is the perception that film photographers were all purists. I suppose one would have to come up with a definition of what being a "purist" really means. If being a purist means limiting yourself to whatever could be done in the chemical darkroom, then that opens it wide open. Extensive imanipulation in the film days was certainly possible and actually performed, although it was far more difficult and time consuming than doing it digitally.

    Thanks again for your responses.
    Last edited by rogerb; 3rd July 2009 at 11:40 AM. Reason: Added last sentence

  5. #5

    Re: How much manipulation is too much?

    I personally would not worry about it. If it looks good to you (or your customers if it is business) then all is well. I suspect purists have an axe to grind about most things in life and since nothing in life is perfect I would would expect existence could become pretty dull. The difficulty with photography is that it attracts the techno head, the mathematician and the artist. All have their ideas about what makes a good image but I suspect the vast majority of us fall somewhere amidst these disciplines. We live in a world that needs to compare success against accepted norms but the artist in us wants to take a sledge hammer to the calipers and really let go

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    17,662
    Real Name
    Have a guess :)

    Re: How much manipulation is too much?

    Quote Originally Posted by rogerb View Post
    It's amazing to listen to people not familiar with photography when they express disbelief that famous film photographers like Ansel Adams did considerable enhancement during processing of the negatives and the during the printing process.
    Just ask them where the term "unsharp mask" came from

    ... not to mention using coloured filters to enhance greyscale captures.

  7. #7
    CNelson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    USA - California
    Posts
    731
    Real Name
    Chuck Nelson

    Re: How much manipulation is too much?

    A good question but not one with a universal answer. In the end, I think every photographer must answer that question with each picture they take. There are some images where everyone would agree but there is a lot of room for manipulation.

    When I first started seriously taking pictures I thought of manipulation in a negative way. It creates a phony scene. I don't think that way any more.

    Photographers play with lighting, camera setting and post processing to remove, alter or enhance many parameters (color, contrast, light, grain, unwanted objects, etc.). Very few photographs look exactly like the actual scene photographed. We may drag the shutter to creat an effect or use a fast shutter to freeze something we wouldn't see with the naked eye.

    If I want to document something as close to possible as it looked at the time I took the picture I would likely do little manipulation. However, if I want to creat an image with appeal and interest I may want to play with it.

    Some people don't like the painterly look that can be achieved with post processing but I think it really enhances some pictures and I just sold several to people who agree. It was too much manipulation for some but just what someone else was looking for.

    I think it usually boils down to what you are hoping to accomplish with an image. Do you want to document a scene as it was or do you want to creat something "better." When I manipulate an image in a way that is not obvious I protect my integrity with a comment in the image description. When I place a critter, such as a goose, into a scene other than where I originally photographed it, I usually put a comment in the image description like "goose and lake photographed separately...." I want to keep my integrity but I alo want to create something that appeals to the senses. People have bought many such images knowingly so I feel OK about it. We all clone out the occasional wayward object but when a major but not obvious manipulation has been applied you may want to find a way to let people know.

    For me the objective is usually "art" or "interest" over documentation. Many images need no significant manipulation but I don't hesitate to go for it if I think it helps. I have no quarrel with the photographic purist who insists that the image be left as it was when it came out of the cammera but then, who are we kidding. Today's cameras can be adjusted in many ways to get many different images "straight out of the camera."

    Use your artist eye and judgement, protect your integrity and go for it. (I could have said this at the start and saved a lot of words.)

    Chuck

  8. #8
    rogerb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Plano, TX, USA
    Posts
    121
    Real Name
    Roger

    Re: How much manipulation is too much?

    Thanks for the comments to all who contributed.

    Like most of you said, it really is up to the individual. Trying to use the film analogy as a guide in limiting manipulation is ludicrous because, as we all know, image manipulation in the film era was alive and well.

    The point CNelson made about the difference between documentary and artistic photography is right on. After all, painters do 100% manipulation (Picasso, Van Gogh, etc) and, although there must have been a lot of "purists" criticizing them at the time, their art lives on.

    Perhaps the only difference is the public perception that photography is whatever comes out directly from the camera (quite a distorted view of what professional film photography was all about!). As a photographer, I don't suffer from that distorted perception. However I do wholeheartedly agree that an accompanying disclaimer should address this concern and now I think I will be more comfortable exercising artistic license as long as I am not deliberately trying to deceive anyone.

    This discussion has been extremely helpful and if anyone has anything in addition to contribute, please don't hesitate to do so. I haven't seen much discussion on this subject in any other forums. What really got me thinking about it again was a book (by Ritkin, I think?) I saw at a book store addressing this very issue, although it tended to deal more with commercial photography rather than fine art photography. After thumbing through it quickly it looked like the author was presenting image manipulation as a new phenomena, in a negative way, as a result of the digital age. At that point I felt the $45USD he wanted for his book was more than I wanted to spend!

  9. #9
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Windsor, Berks, UK
    Posts
    16,234
    Real Name
    Dave Humphries :)

    Re: How much manipulation is too much?

    Quote Originally Posted by rogerb View Post
    I saw at a book store addressing this very issue, although it tended to deal more with commercial photography rather than fine art photography. After thumbing through it quickly it looked like the author was presenting image manipulation as a new phenomena, in a negative way, as a result of the digital age. At that point I felt the $45USD he wanted for his book was more than I wanted to spend!
    I don't blame you Roger. Of course, you could always write a book about (and for) people who jump on bandwagon's to make a fast buck and sell that to them

    Or maybe we should simply see it as recycling and therefore ecologically sound

    I don't mean to be-little the views in this thread (or ecologists), I'm just having a bit of fun, I agree with the substance of and the views in here (and I do recycle, honest).

    Back on topic:
    I was wondering at what point removing 'the odd wayward object' becomes something to confess to? Is it related to the size of said object in the frame? For example, in another thread I have recently posted a picture of a Cormorant, now I couldn't get the shot without a huge branch in front of it, so I coloned it out. Now IF it were vastly better quality and IF I were to sell the image to Nat Geo for a cover (), should I admit to the cloning away of that?

    How relevant is it?
    One could argue that if by chance the Cormorant had landed on another branch, I would have had the unimpeded shot, so it's irrelevant.
    However, for all I know, Cormorant's wouldn't land in such an exposed position for fear of attack by bird of prey, so a Nat Geo reader would know it was in some way 'fake'.
    That said, their art department would probably get rid of it to leave room for copy!
    Or I could camp out and wait several days for the right combination of luck, time of day and weather to occur.

    I have one with its wings spread, but that is going to take rather more accurate clonig to extract the spread wings birds from the clutter of the branches behind it.

    I guess we just each do what we feel is right under the circumstances for each particular shot.

    Not sure if that has furthered the discussion, or not

  10. #10
    rogerb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Plano, TX, USA
    Posts
    121
    Real Name
    Roger

    Re: How much manipulation is too much?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    One could argue that if by chance the Cormorant had landed on another branch, I would have had the unimpeded shot, so it's irrelevant.
    However, for all I know, Cormorant's wouldn't land in such an exposed position for fear of attack by bird of prey, so a Nat Geo reader would know it was in some way 'fake'.
    I suppose that if the image was intended for documentary/scientific purposes, then the image should be accompanied by a disclaimer (as you did in your post), since you would also be documenting its habitat. However for "normal" uses, I don't hesitate to clone out interfering objects from an image, unless the resultant scene is totally unrealistic. Then, I suppose, I could call it fine art

    I mentioned in my first post that I had pulled the two images from my web site where I had swapped out the sky. What prompted me to do it was that I received compliments about how good the one image looked with that "awesome" sky! I had not put any disclaimer statement, so I that point I felt like I had cheated the viewer.

    However it is hard to include disclaimer statements in printed images. I think that's where it gets a little trickier.
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 4th July 2009 at 01:45 PM. Reason: fixed quote tag

  11. #11

    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    17,662
    Real Name
    Have a guess :)

    Re: How much manipulation is too much?

    Quote Originally Posted by rogerb View Post
    I suppose that if the image was intended for documentary/scientific purposes, then the image should be accompanied by a disclaimer (as you did in your post), since you would also be documenting its habitat.
    I reckon that even when photographing crime scenes they're still need to do some basic manipulation (eg levels - perhaps WB and sharpening) - I guess cloning would be a no no!

  12. #12
    Davey's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    530

    Re: How much manipulation is too much?

    I personally think purists often don't understand the technicalities and generally have pretty weak undertsanding. The cheating think is madness, simple argument winner for the breed who wont allow any of colins previously listed reasonable proceedures is ask any so called purist "off camera lighting yes or no?", and I don't just mean studio setups as that includes flash. Then follow that up with chanting "one nil" with a smug grin to rub it in a bit

    Some consider it cheating but who cares, if it does the job and everyone who matters in the process is happy then who cares. Technically all photographs are lies as they never look like what we see with our eyes, and we all see things differently anyway so were do you stop? I say don't even bother with a disclaimer unless it's a situation where misleading people is not ok (misleading as far as aesthetically pleasing wall prints go is fine, but pshopping in a missing roof in real estate photography is probably not ).

  13. #13

    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Gorokan NSW Australia
    Posts
    408

    Re: How much manipulation is too much?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    I reckon that even when photographing crime scenes they're still need to do some basic manipulation (eg levels - perhaps WB and sharpening) - I guess cloning would be a no no!
    Puts a whole new meaning on "Shopped" eh?

  14. #14

    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    17,662
    Real Name
    Have a guess :)

    Re: How much manipulation is too much?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill44 View Post
    Puts a whole new meaning on "Shopped" eh?


    Actually, it would be interesting to learn more about this side of photography. I know that Canon have a data verification kit to prove that the image hasn't been tampered with ...

    ... not sure how that ties in with basic corrections though (perhaps it doesn't?).

  15. #15
    Steaphany's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    The far off Country of Texas
    Posts
    827
    Real Name
    Steaphany

    Re: How much manipulation is too much?

    It's my opinion that there is more to this discussion than just a photographic purist versus a photographer to performs image manipulations. I agree that these two categories blur together, but let me add a complicating factor of what I refer to as Fantasy Photography.

    By Fantasy Photography, I'm referring to the creation of an image by combining elements extracted from separate individual photographs or synthesized images. I've personally done fantasy photos like this years ago as a family joke. My uncle sent a photo of the abundant yield of his back yard vegetable garden, bushel baskets over flowing. The photo that I sent back was from three separate images assembled in my chemical dark room showing my father standing behind the house with a six foot cucumber leaning up against the house on one side and a three foot diameter cherry tomato on the other. Later, we learned that the photo of my uncle was similarly "faked" by crumpled news paper filling the baskets and the vegetables only covered the top.

    In November of last year, I submitted this post to another forum:

    Yesterday, I picked up the November 2008 Digital Photo magazine, issue 109, which included a CD with an assortment of additional features. I just viewed the two videos from the CD on the subject of creating a panorama in Photoshop. Kingsley Singleton did well introducing Photoshop's auto stitching functions, but what bothered me was his exposure alterations done to darken the sky. Kingsley wanted to bring out greater detail of the clouds, but his method left the sky bright near the horizon and the character of the sky was not carried through to the light reflected from the water in the scene. His resulting image looked pretty, but lacked components characteristic to the physical interaction of light and matter.

    A few weeks ago I saw a book on digital photography and Photoshop in particular, I forget the author and title, and every chapter covered techniques to "synthesize" an image, something that I find in just about every book on digital photography. One example was a photo of a women descending stairs combined with a photo of the front of a building to create the look of a photo of the women in front of the building. This theme seems very common, potentially too common, with the contemporary books and magazines on photography.

    Can anyone please explain why digital photography has evolved so heavily in this direction ?

    I know photo mosaics and composites are not new. I also know that both are essential tools of the trade for advertising photography and come into play often in cinematography. I have also played with photo composites years ago as a child when I was doing analog photography. With the multitude of software tools available, nearly anyone can create what ever they want in a photograph.

    In contrast, I tend to lean towards a bit more technical side of photography, as a means to record what I see. In infrared or ultraviolet photography, to record what can't be seen. Likewise, to bring into view the unsean with a telescope used for terrestrial or astronomical photography. Timed or time lapse photography to compress or dilate the passage of time, and panorama photography to permit a view of what was behind the camera. I have never taken any classes in photography and I'm self taught, mostly from a U.S. Naval Photography Training Manual given to me by my father. I also have a life long interest in physics and the study of quantum electrodynamics provides a great insight on the interaction of light and matter. Whether purely technical or for asthetic appreciation, I do have an artistic sence in regard to subject matter and composition. So, I consider my efforts along the lines of illustrative or documentative photography.

    I just find it so increadably common for digital photographers to create fantasy photographic images instead of simply documenting the beauty so prevalent in nature.

    The views of others will be welcomed.
    Last edited by Steaphany; 5th July 2009 at 02:13 PM.

  16. #16

    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    17,662
    Real Name
    Have a guess :)

    Re: How much manipulation is too much?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steaphany View Post
    It's my opinion that there is more to this discussion than just a photographic purist versus a photographer to performs image manipulations. I agree that these two categories blur together, but let me add a complicating factor of what I refer to as Fantasy Photography.
    To be honest, I really don't "get" what complicates it. If it's something that we as artists want to do then - so long as we're not trying to be dishonest about it - where is there a problem? On the other hand, if your trying to get into the guiness book of world records with a 10 foot tall (Photoshopped) carrot then yes, that's clearly dishonest.

    Perhaps I need to put a little disclaimer on the back of my work that says "This image has been processed to make it look it's best"?

    Perhaps part of the problem is people have this mindset of "the camera doesn't lie" therefore it's what we do in Photoshop afterwards that's creating the "problem", whereas in my mind the camera is only one part of a multi-step process, and "lies" as much as any other part.

  17. #17
    Steaphany's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    The far off Country of Texas
    Posts
    827
    Real Name
    Steaphany

    Re: How much manipulation is too much?

    Colin,

    Please understand that I'm not passing any sort of judgment.

    What took a bit to get past, and what I'm still working on, is translating my knowledge and skills from dark room photography to digital. When I first got photoshop and recognizing the need to hit the books, all I found were books going into methods to composite images together. Those skills can be nice to know, but are hardly relevant to adjusting the exposure and saturation to get a Sunset right. (Sunset chosen as a generic and common example)

  18. #18

    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    17,662
    Real Name
    Have a guess :)

    Re: How much manipulation is too much?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steaphany View Post
    Colin,

    Please understand that I'm not passing any sort of judgment.
    No worries - I wasn't disagreeing with anything you wrote - I just couldn't quite understand the angle you were coming from though to be honest!

  19. #19
    milleniummuppet's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Island Bay, Wellington, New Zealand
    Posts
    179
    Real Name
    Matt Fannin

    Re: How much manipulation is too much?

    I think the ultimate answer to this question is knowing what the original intent for the photograph is.

    In fact, I don't always use the word photograph because often my images - and that is what I call them - have been photo-shopped beyond recognition.

    The truth is you don't need to worry about what you do to an image in post processing.

    It goes like this:

    You figure out what image you want to make.
    Then you set about making that image.
    It might be that you want a particular light, a particular colour, a particular mood - all of this is considered weather it takes a long time or a short time.

    Then some other things get factored in.

    Do you want the image to be 'real' or does it not matter for this particular image?
    Will you get a chance to come back at the right time?
    Or is this a one off visit? - if so, some post processing may be needed.

    I guess what im trying to say is that you need to make the image that you WANT however you want to - and if your not initially happy with it - go do it again .

    And darkroom photo-manipulation has been around for a long time.
    I have even done some recentally - taking an interesting photo and completely blackening the sky using various burning techniques in the darkroom to achieve the effect I was looking for .

    Might post this at some stage for anyone keen at having a geez ( will have to scan the print though )

    ps. as an after thought I don't know weather they say that outside of New Zealand?
    Geez?

  20. #20
    milleniummuppet's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Island Bay, Wellington, New Zealand
    Posts
    179
    Real Name
    Matt Fannin

    Re: How much manipulation is too much?

    lol - huh?
    don't think I got that comment, I mean geez as in take geez at something.
    Or look at something etc?

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •