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Thread: Why so much Post Production?

  1. #1

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    Why so much Post Production?

    Hi,
    This topic has probably been discussed in detail in many photographic forums. A rather controversial topic I would think. It is something that has been bothering me for some years now.

    Post processing in photography. Is it still Photography or has it become Photoshop art? How much Post Processing is too much? Should post produced photographs still be considered the work of a Photographer or does it become the work of a Computer (software) Artist?

    Camera manufacturers spend millions on research and development of equipment to make it possible to capture images as closely as possible to what the eye sees. In many reviews on cameras the reviewer would criticize Nikon for not supplying a full version software program for manipulating images, free of charge with the camera. Why does Nikon not offer such software with their cameras? Perhaps Nikon wants the photographer to master the art of photography in mastering the tool in his or her hands – THE CAMERA.

    The camera in the hand of the Photographer is in fact a very sophisticated small computer. This tool is offered with so many features to be tweaked to get the shot looking as good as you can get. By mastering the art of knowing your tools a good photographer should not need to Photoshop his/her work to get the desired effect. If the Photographer has to go back to another computer and use another software program to completely change the image into surreal shades of colour, why then use such costly cameras to capture images. Maybe camera manufacturers should develop a fully automatic camera that only shoots in RAW, at a very low price. Images captured with such a device can then be manipulated, on computer, into whatever impression the artist wants.

    I think it is very clear to all of you that I am an activist against manipulating photographs into images that reflect a world of colour that does not exist. Perhaps too many have become so dismayed with the world we live in that they want to change it into something it is not. Capturing an image of a bird, a tiger, flower, tree or any other natural object without rendering the colour correctly is a false image. Removing the speckles from a girls face would turn her into someone she is not.

    I still want Photography to be the art of capturing reality in reflections of light. Light changes constantly and colour changes as light changes. A good Photographer should be able to capture images at the moment the light reflects the colour and mood he or she wants to depict. Our passion becomes hard work when we really want the WOW images.

    Should we not measure our ability in Photography by the amount of post production needed to make our images portray what we want others to see in it?
    I know there are many of you who are going to disagree with me. Would there be anyone who will agree with me? The challenge is for those doing lots of PP is to convince me to upload Lightroom or Photoshop and start using it.

    Thanks,
    Andre

    EDIT: Added 14 July

    http://www.fno.org/may97/digital.html

    Extract from WIRED –Print And Digital Access.

    There is no such thing as true objectivity, of course, in photography or any other medium. By its nature, a photograph is an incomplete and therefore slanted picture of reality - a stylized depiction that represents exactly what the photographer wants you to see, and no more. Each photograph is like a story, and we have to remember that behind every story is a storyteller.

    It's also worth recalling that conventional photo-manipulation has been around as long as the camera. Cropping alone is a powerful tool, and there are plenty of basic darkroom techniques for removing or altering aspects of any photograph. Surrealist art photographers like Jerry Uelsmann have captivated colleagues and collectors for decades by creatively embedding exotic foreign images into natural landscapes.

    Thankfully, though, Uelsmann doesn't try to pass his work off as reality. Nor is he under pressure to spike up sales on the newsstands. But in photo editors' hands, this new digital sandbox threatens to cheapen journalism and even further undermine news consumers' confidence in the media. By making dramatic manipulations simple to effect and difficult to detect, photofiction threatens to exacerbate the climate of distrust.

    Fortunately, there's an easy antidote, in the form of a full-disclosure proposal by former New York Times Magazine photo editor Fred Ritchin. Ritchin has developed a new icon, a tiny crossed-out camera lens, which he would like to see affixed to any published photograph with digital alterations.

    Whether or not Ritchin's proposal catches on, there is likely to be one beneficial byproduct of the digital poisoning of photojournalism. Sooner or later, the mass consumer audience will catch on to the manipulation, probably through a major celebrity scandal. When they do, consumers will permanently say goodbye to their image-naiveté. A new variety of skepticism will flourish. Critical awareness of photojournalism's subjectivity will spread far and wide.

    But let's not allow that to justify the stupidity. If we let the system break down completely, skepticism will yield to destructive cynicism. And if that happens, we will all be sorry. Today, a good picture is worth a thousand words. For the life of me, I can't figure out why we would want to devalue that, and make a picture worth nothing more than a lie.

    David Shenk

    Is this applicable to us, the members of CiC? Think. Are you contributing to diminishing our passion to be worth nothing more than a lie?
    Please protect our passion by simply being honest? If you had to “Photoshop” an image label it as a “Photo Illustration.”
    Last edited by AB26; 14th July 2012 at 04:59 PM.

  2. #2
    rtbaum's Avatar
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    Re: Why so much Post Production?

    The flaw in your argument, as I understand it, is that the digital image captured in jpeg is still 'manipulated' by the algorithm within the camera. By capturing in Raw, you have the latitude to manipulate the image to better reflect what my eye actually saw. This is the reason that I use Lightroom or Photoshop. I tend to agree with you when comes down to replacing sky, removal of stray branches, introduction of elements to an image.

  3. #3
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    Re: Why so much Post Production?

    Post a couple of your best images and see if we agree with your "No PP Policy"

  4. #4
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    Re: Why so much Post Production?

    I try to get an image to as much as possible reflect what I saw through rose tinted glasses. Last year I visited my main full time university and it was sunny.

    The only decent shot was into sun, I would have to walk around a mile to get a better angle, so I did HDR on a monopod while kneeling; because I can keep the camera steadier that way.

    Unfortunately this left rather obtrusive drains in shot, which I cloned out since I wouldn't remember them if later tried to visualise the view. Then I applied a red tint which was wronge, but...

    Returning to redo them this time I left out the red tint and although an HDR tonemapped image the sky was still too bright; so I removed it, lowered the brightness and added a little cyan to cover the blown area, then put it back in the image.

    It was quite difficult but worth the effort because now I have an accurate representation of what I saw on the day.

    I can remember at school in the sixties we had a rather large double enlarger and I was always messing around with bits of shaped paper covering things to vary exposure in different parts of an image, and messing about with chemicals to achieve certain effects. I think Orton messed around with slides didn't he.

    Duffy got some amazing effects considering there wasn't any photoshop; none done in camera.
    Last edited by arith; 6th July 2012 at 12:44 PM.

  5. #5
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    Re: Why so much Post Production?

    Quote Originally Posted by AB26 View Post
    I think it is very clear to all of you that I am an activist...
    This forum is dedicated to learning all aspects of photography, including post processing.

    If you don't want to learn, that's OK. It is a personal choice. But please, don't troll for aguments just to discourage others from learning.

  6. #6

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    Re: Why so much Post Production?

    Too many times this newbie question comes up, and the answers tend to be the same.

    And the flaw in the reasoning behind "so much Post Production" is primarily that the opponent assumes that "so much Post Production" work is done and that no such work is done on the images directly out of the camera. This stance is also reflected by the false premise that an image without the necessary tweaks before presentation would be more true to reality. Often this misunderstanding is vividly worded by the person that claims there is too much post production and that it alienates the image from "real" photography.

    So, the first misconception is stated in the sentence about Nikon's software.
    Nikon bundles a crippled RAW conversion software with their cameras, and if you want the uncrippled version, you must buy it. There is no image at all, without conversion, so essentially, this software is not for altering the image, and that is also not the way it is generally used. The software is for developing the image, much like the way film had to be developed in a chemical soup before any image could be extracted.

    So Post Production is a natural step to render what you actually saw when you took the picture. The camera cannot do that by itself, and it is not even intended to do that. The camera is an instrument to capture impressions of light, and post production utilities are used to render that capture visible to the human eye in some form, be it on a computer screen or on paper. It is quite analogous to photography on film in this respect. Nobody would expect a photographer to present the latent image on film as the photograph. As stated, modern cameras share the capability of the older Polaroid cameras, to render an image as soon as it is taken, although just as in the Polaroid case, that image has many flaws compared to what actually was in front of the camera.

    One thing that we have to live with as photographers. is that we can never get an image true to reality, it will always have larger or minor flaws compared to what was before us, the light that hit the lens and our eye. What we do in PP in most cases is to render an image as true as possible to our visualisation at the time of capture, a visualisation, which for a seasoned photographer will always deviate from what is actually seen in the scene. An experienced photographer knows what can possibly be done, and will accept what is impossible. Whether the camera should render that image is moot, as long as we have a better option in post production. It simply does not make sense trying to tweak the camera into doing what is much easier to do back home in the computer. You don't become a better photographer by doing that, you only get fewer pictures.

    It is true however, that well conceived images will require fairly little post production work. But in the art of image making, post production is an integrated part, and those claiming that you should get the image ready out of the camera mostly won't show a single great picture, or even one that truly renders what was before the camera at the moment of capture. All images are edited, whether you do it yourself or leave the task to a machine that is programmed by someone else. In the latter case, you lose control over the process, much in the same way as you lost control when you left your roll of film for processing by a laboratory.

    And an ill conceived image, whether the flaws are purely technical or they mainly regard composition and treatment of the light, will not become a great image, no matter how much post production you put into it.

    So, photograps are not created in post production, they are created in the camera, and post production software is a primary tool to render the image presentable to the audience, not to alter its content, even if the latter is possible and sometimes done. The image below is an authentic wildlife shot that is unaltered, but where a pp tool has been used. It is not "made" in post production, but the tool has been used to enhance sharpness somewhat after shrinking it to web size. Those are things that must almost always be done in order to present the image on the web. Colours are not the same as those that were before the camera, only as close as it is possible to render them. The image stands out also with the in-camera jpeg file, as will any great picture that is saved as a jpeg. But when saving your images only as RAW, there is no way at all to avoid pp work; it is absolutely necessary to render an image at all, otherwise it is akin to the latent image on film, it cannot be seen. And the Nikon softwares that are often mentioned is the tool to render the image visible. Unlike for example Canon, Nikon supplies only a crippled software, while most other manufacturers offer a full software, and none of those is image manipulating software. It cannot be used to alter the content of an image.

    Why so much Post Production?

    And now, that I have shown you an image of mine, that I regard as one of my best (taken yesterday), I second the suggestion by black pearl:
    Quote Originally Posted by black pearl View Post
    Post a couple of your best images and see if we agree with your "No PP Policy"
    Last edited by Inkanyezi; 6th July 2012 at 11:43 AM.

  7. #7

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    Re: Why so much Post Production?

    Andre,

    You bring up some really good points insofar as how they apply to your enjoyment of photography. However, it's not up to you or me to decide what should be enjoyable for someone else, whether that pertains to making or viewing photographs.

    Quote Originally Posted by AB26 View Post
    Should we not measure our ability in Photography by the amount of post production needed to make our images portray what we want others to see in it?
    For me, that's a false premise, as I'm not at all interested in measuring anything, much less a person's ability. Instead, my primary interest is to make and view photographs with the expectation that at least some of them will move me. I don't care what process is used to make those photographs.

    By the way, I make a point of seeking out photographs made using every photographic process that has ever been used since the medium first became available. I wonder if it's pertinent to this discussion that not one of the processes used since the beginning of photography has been limited to mastering the camera itself.

  8. #8

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    Re: Why so much Post Production?

    Does your camera realy sees what your eye sees? Does your eye even see what the reality is? Ok, we have two ingredients to make a picture here.
    First, the human eye. This is a vast subject. Someone presented here not too long ago a scientific paper on the fact that some women could see much more colours than man! Would their representation of the reality be qualified the only "real" version? Humm. Does that make the rest of us absolite as photographers?
    My point is that as human our perception of our environment is different for each of us. It is not a pure science where 1 plus 1 equals 2. If you take a group of photographers on an outing and place them in front of a subject to take a picture, no two picture will be alike. Why? Can't they not represent the reality correctely? Is one picture more true than an other?

    And there is the cameras. I will ask this question: when you take a picture, are you always satisfied that what you get represent exactely what you saw? Why not? Could it be that this little machine that manipulates pixels ( yes, it is already a manipuation) is soooo deficient compare to the human eye!

    For my part, I have pictures that I kept pretty close to SOOC (streight out of camera), other that I have plaid with just for fun, and others that I tweeked to get the colours that my eyes saw. Until they make cameras that compare to the human eye, I will have to tweek a little.

    And you?

  9. #9
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    Re: Why so much Post Production?

    Hi Andre,

    A topic that has been covered more than once in just about every forum you can find and you are unlikely to ever find a definitive answer. Every image is different and unique and each indavidual will have their own ideas of how much if any PP is required to improve it in their own personal opinion.

    I would certainly disagree that ones ability in photography should be measured by the amount of PP that has been put into the finished product. To produce just about any finished picture that is going to get a viewer to say WOW even when PP'd it has almost certainly started off by coming out of the camera pretty good.

    Looking through the images within CIC in general there are very few that I would consider over PP'd. There are some that I'm sure as an activist against PP you would consider as photoshop art but they started as a good photo and does it really matter what we call them in the end if they are appreciated by so many.

    Like Robin, I would be interested to view a couple of your non PP'd best images to help me understand if to my eyes there has been an advantage to not undertaking any PP.

    Cheers, Grahame

  10. #10

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    Re: Why so much Post Production?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buckley View Post
    Andre,
    my primary interest is to make and view photographs with the expectation that at least some of them will move me. I don't care what process is used to make those photographs.
    ... exactly.

    Example :-
    No post production - no image, simple at that (not without cruelty to animals or missing fingers anyhow).

    Why so much Post Production?

  11. #11

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    Re: Why so much Post Production?

    It's all art. And it all depends on what tools you choose to use. Would the modern painter be discounted because they use synthetiic brushes, canvas and paint because DaVinci had to grind his pigments and didn't have the color choice we have now? Or are Da Vinci's less than early man's cave paintings? Personally I like photos that are less PP. But that may be because I don't know how to do much of that and it has been a steep learning curve for me-but I enjoy it when I do learn to do something. Also my tastes change-what I thought looked good before doesn't now. But I'm always fascinated by what others can do. I think it just comes down to each individual's taste.

  12. #12
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    Re: Why so much Post Production?

    As someone who takes more landscapes than anything else I can understand your view, Andre.

    I don't want to enhance a photo, via software, to be something that far from what I saw (or has already been put very well, "what I saw through the rose tinted glasses") when I took the shot.

    However, for me "...far from what I saw.. " is the important point. I won't add elements that were in the original scene (though Paul's excellent image of the kittens shows that there are times when what some may consider to be too much pp is definitely justified), but I will clone out distracting things I did not notice at the time, straighten the horizon, crop to get a better composition, adjust levels and saturation and sharpen to get a view which, if I am honest, is probably somewhere between what I thought I saw and what I would liked to have seen, without going over the top, which of course is a subjective opinion.

    PP has been a part of photography for about as long as photography has existed. I recall pushing the processing of B&W film, using test strips in the darkroom to judge the time to expose the photographic paper and dodging and burning to get what I wanted.

    It is all a matter of how much pp you want to use. If you are happy with no (or virtually none) pp then fine but pp is definitely a part of photography.

    Dave

  13. #13

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    Re: Why so much Post Production?

    Thank you all for the responses so far. I knew this topic would be controversial and I expected some members would rip me apart. I can take it, and I am learning a lot from this.

    I am not sure if everybody understand my perception of Post Production - or maybe I do not understand it.
    Never knew a camera does PP.
    I was under the impression that a camera was the instrument to produce the photograph. No matter what is happening inside the camera or what it uses to produce images, the camera is capturing image producing data. RAW data is just not processed to the extent it can be printed. This raw data has to be converted either in camera or on a computer, by converting software, to be printable.
    If data captured by a camera is altered by any human interference after it was downloaded from the camera, I call it Post Production.

    Thanks

  14. #14
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    Re: Why so much Post Production?

    My view is that the only thing bad about post-production is misleading others on the techniques used.

    If you declare how you processed the image then anything is fair game. If you try and pass off an image that has been manipulated without stating so then it is unethical. Perhaps you will be found out by a keen eye. Perhaps not. But it is lying and you should be more proud of your work than to lower yourself to that level.

    People have known for a long time that models in magazines are PhotoShopped. But they fail to recognise the enormous effort that has gone into make up, wardrobe and lighting. They also do not count the large number of images that were thrown away. In many cases the photographer will not do the post-production. So they create the image, someone else finalises it.

    This applies to most images you see that have been PhotoShopped. I would be willing to bet that the image looked good straight out of camera. It has just been polished to improve it for best effect.

    One area where post-production is not heavily used is in news journalism. The picture is often required immediately by internet upload and the heavy manipulation of the photos is not allowed so that the true scene is represented. I attended a talk by the chief sports photographer at The Sunday Times (UK) and was told that they are only allowed to do what is known as basic dark room techniques. This would be cropping, exposure and levels adjustments for contrast.

    It is also shunned by some street photographers where even cropping is viewed as a bad thing. It just makes it harder to get a great shot and so increases the satisfaction when you can do it right.

    I have no problem with anyone stating that they do not do any post-production. I sometimes ask 'Why not?' because the answer can be very informative about the individual and their aspirations. The flip side of which is that no-one should have a problem with lots of post-production. I'd just like to not be misled about it.

    Alex

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    Re: Why so much Post Production?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vrgl View Post
    It's all art.
    Well, is it? Is it all art? I do not profess to be an artist, but I do strive to represent reality as I recall it. I do not attempt to alter the scene or image in any manner, save for altering the colours/brightness to closer to that which I remember. But for me, the prime use for my images is to recall and share my memories, and not to misrepresent these memories (or reality) in any manner. Having said that, I do not condemn art and do appreciate the "artwork" and ability of others, in all its forms. Some may consider a few of my images "works-of-art"; to me, they are simply memories....

    Each to their own. I do not use Photoshop (yet), but do use the basics of Lightroom to take my images closer to reality. However, I do not condemn those that use these and other tools for major image manipulation. They are the artists and it is their works-of-art. Some artworks I enjoy, and others I do not. It is generally the stories that surround the images that I find most interesting and intriguing ... each to their own

  16. #16

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    Re: Why so much Post Production?

    We had a large and sometimes heated discussion in the Nordic countries recently over this issue, when it was revealed that one of the major proponents for the idea of no pp had falsified images over many years, where he had nicked pictures on the web to compose animals into shots of nature, and always declaring that he never did any pp to alter his pictures, everything was presented "as it came from the camera". It is no wonder if one develops a bit of allergy over the issue after that.

    Normal "post production processing" is necessary to present an image. Manipulation is something completely different, and does not pertain to the same discussion. All photographic images are processed, there's no way around it. So whether you like it or not, also those that are altered by using settings in the camera are processed by human interference.

    And the main proponent for the "no pp" movement was a fraudster that nicked other's images to put lynxes and other animals into his own pictures. (Terje Hellesø)

  17. #17

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    Re: Why so much Post Production?

    Quote Originally Posted by AB26 View Post
    Never knew a camera does PP.
    The manual of my secondary camera, which is so old that it is no longer being manufactured, explains 7 types of alteration that can be made to an image in-camera after the shutter has been released. The manual of my primary camera explains 16 types of alteration that can be made that way. It also explains how to display the original image and the altered image side-by-side in the camera.

    If data captured by a camera is altered by any human interference after it was downloaded from the camera, I call it Post Production.
    So, if the human interference takes place after the shutter is released and before the image is downloaded from the camera, do you not call that post-production?
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 6th July 2012 at 03:00 PM.

  18. #18
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    Re: Why so much Post Production?

    I am responding without reading any of the other postings so bear with me if I repeat what others have written.

    For the purpose of comparison to others: I don't use Photoshop or Lightroom so I cannot speak to those programs. I currently use Aperture to process my RAW files to produce JPEGs. So; some manipulation of the RAW file to remove sensor spots, correct the exposure, white balance and some work on colour saturation and light curves to ensure the image takes full advantage of the cameras limited ability to "see" the scene. I would rather I did this stuff then relying on the computer in the camera to make these decisions for me and produce JPEGs on it's own algorhythms.

    I admire you for being a purist and accept no image manipulation post pushing the shutter. But you fall somewhere on the distribution curve of image manipulation just by using a camera. You are already manipulating the representation of reality the instant you choose aperture, speed, exposure compensation, your lens (wide,midrange or telephoto), the particular part of the sphere of the visual world available to your eye (ie you are choosing for the future viewer what part of the world you want them to see and not giving them the freedom to see the entire image). As well; the camera does not have the ability the human eye has to accommodate for the dynamic range within a scene with shadows and bright areas. So you have to choose how to manipulate the representation of reality with the camera. More shadow detail; hence less bright area detail or the converse.

    If you like the camera to make the penultimate decisions on how the image looks, based on what some computer whiz in Japan has decided for you; then it is fine to stop at that point of manipulation of reality. However if you suspect you might be better equipped to decide on what you actually want the viewer to see then I am afraid you will have to post process. The extent then becomes a matter of artistic judgement. Where you fall on the curve of distribution of image manipulation is a matter for you and your soul at that point. And if you send it out into the world; of course everyone is free to pass judgement on the result as they will for any artistic expression.

    However it is the kettle calling the pot black to disparage others for artistic license when you have already compromised your purity by pushing the shutter.

  19. #19
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    Re: Why so much Post Production?

    I agree with you that pp destroys the charms of pic sometimes.But is camera capable of truly capturing an image that our eyes see with the best technology available today?If answer is yes, there is no need for pp.Another thing i would like to mention is we see colour because we have receptors in our eyes.Does other animals see same things in the same way as we do?NO.So everything is relative in this world friend.If someone wants to see maroon sky instead of azure what is the harm?

  20. #20
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    Re: Why so much Post Production?

    For a few moments just give a little thought to the basics. Photography literally means writing or drawing (-graph) with light (photo-). It is clear that the fundamental meaning of photography does not in any way prescribe the methods used to create its products. Therefore, anything that anyone does involving light to create any image must be a valid photographic activity.

    Philip

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