During the time period of film photography people rarely commented on the fact that professional images were manipulated or retouched. Photographers used oils, dyes, special pencils, small paintbrushes, and airbrushes. These tools were used to open eyes that were closed, to whiten discoloured teeth, to improve hair and clothing colours, to remove and replace backgrounds, and to turn black and white images into colour photographs. To increase the contrast one could select special filters, paper, or chemicals. However, in all my years of using film to make photographs I do not recall anyone being critical of that post-processing by saying that the work done by photographers to original images, after shutter release and processing negatives, removed that image from the realm of photography.
I bring this up because last week a friend stopped by and told me that after showing some of his work to a local camera club, that he was criticized soundly because he advised members that when he made the original exposures he always kept in mind how he would finish the photos using PhotoShop. He said that he always “tweaked” his studio photography and was surprised that it bothered some people. Personally, I think it is that “tweaking” that help make his images so good, and they are very good photographs in my opinion.
Since the introduction of digital many photography contests and exhibitions exclude images that have been post-processed. I do understand that those organizations want to show the photographer’s talents at capturing an image and not retouching skills. However, it must be very hard to apply that restriction when many of the latest cameras can post-process (reprocess might be a better word) the original images in-camera using computer software supplied by the manufacturer.
There are those that consider themselves purists and loudly denounce programs like PhotoShop, although I don’t know what a purist really is in this technological time, because most images are no longer made on light sensitized material and are now computer generated image data files.
Photojournalists are expected to capture the truth about some event or subject and should not be altering the original image in any way. But artists? The work in question was studio photographs of custom motorcycles, which in my view easily fits in the realm of photographic fine art, and, certainly, not photojournalism. I suppose it depends upon whom the photograph is for and who the viewing audience will be.
I do not usually work as a photojournalist, and those that do get my respect when they are able to pull interesting photographs out of what are sometimes are pretty crappy conditions for a photographer. In my opinion, those photographers that don’t work for magazines or newspapers should include post-processing as part of photographic methodology. It’s all about making the best possible photograph for others to see.
My portrait clients expect that I will post-process, and I usually tell them I intend to. I try to light in a way that not only looks good at the moment the shutter clicks, but makes it easy for me to enhance in post-production. I employ not only PhotoShop, but I also use other programs made by NIKsoftware.com and OnOnesoftware.com. And personally, I would never let anyone see images of mine that were not post-processed, because I know I can improve and enhance them in post-production.
My point is that photographers have been retouching their photographs for years, perhaps since photographers started making pictures for the pleasure of others. Now it is just easier than ever before, and so is taking a photograph for that matter. There may be instances where the way an image is produced should be limited to how the camera’s sensor captured it, but I think something must be left to the photographer’s vision, and producing that vision might need a little help from post-production programs like PhotoShop. There is nothing like a well-executed photograph hanging on a wall for the enjoyment of all to see.
My website: www.enmanscamera.com