BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Lisa Marie Jones
 

How to win when most photos are manipulated?


Hello,

I have a question, how can one become a finalist in a contest with so many photos that are not "real" meaning they have been altered? Better Photo seems more like contest of artistry..who can alter there photos the most wins.


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5/25/2005 1:39:49 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  Think if you actually counted the "not real" as you call it, to the "real" proportion is being skewed by your dissapointment.


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5/25/2005 3:03:10 PM

 
Julie M. Cwik
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/2/2005
  Several people make it into the finalist stage without actually altering their photos at all.


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5/25/2005 3:06:36 PM

 
Sherry S. Boles
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/28/2005
  I can see your point, Lisa. I've only been a member for a few months, but when I first started I felt the pressure to try to conform to the contest. I tried different things to try to make my photos more like the contest finalists. What I discovered was that I hated it! I didn't enjoy the photographs at all. So, now I photograph the way I want to and don't worry about the contest. Since the ones I like very rarely win, I see no point trying to be like the winners. I'd rather take pictures like I want and enjoy taking them!


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5/25/2005 8:41:55 PM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  i kinda agree with sherry and lisa.but gregoroy has a good point.some altering,slight color adjustment,a little manipulation.advantage or disadvantage,film or digital?i checked out the panning section of this website and I was amazed at what I found.they were all blurry and artsy.
didn't help me a bit on race cars,truck pulls,aircraft flying,or birds flying.i've never entered a contest so I can't judge.
sam


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5/25/2005 9:27:27 PM

 
Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  Lisa,
Don't follow the masses if it violates your principles. Shoot what you like and enjoy what you have created.
If your passions are evident in your work they WILL get noticed,...even without the alterations.
Bob


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5/26/2005 5:32:24 AM

 
Kerry L. Walker   Sherry, I applaud you. You should always shoot to please yourself, not someone else. If YOU like what you shot, it is a winner, regardless of what any judge says. Everyone's style is different and everyone's likes and dislikes are different.

Lisa, not all images are altered. Kerby just won second place with a beautiful photo of a beautiful child and I don't think it was altered in any way. No all of us alter our photos. I am a film shooter and am so inept at software manipulation that I have no choice but to shoot it the way I see it and print it the way it was shot.


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5/26/2005 5:51:18 AM

 
Kerry L. Walker   BTW, I've never won either but then I've never entered.


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5/26/2005 5:52:19 AM

 
Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/13/2004
  It's weird because the first picture I ever entered back in August 2004 I think was a finalist. It's my only finalist to date (the flute under the yellow/gold cast). I have also seemed to notice, especially with April's photo contest, that many of the photos are extremely saturated with color. Unless it's, of course, the few black and white or sepia photos. It seems like color is a VERY LARGE factor in deciding winners and finalists. At least last month. I, myself will try to saturate my photos a little more before I enter them. Also, you might check into going to walmart or someplace and buying Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0. It's not too expensive and it can really add something to pictures that may have been printed a little lower than your expectations.


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5/26/2005 9:43:35 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  Is there anybody who dosen't know that Kerry Walker is a "film photographer"?


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5/26/2005 9:50:28 PM

 
Pat Wimpee   I don't think you should talk about middle-aged bald guys like that :)
Sorry I couldn't help myself!


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5/26/2005 10:02:12 PM

 
Kerby Pfrangle
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/19/2005
Contact Kerby
Kerby's Gallery
  Lisa,

I got a second place for my image called Windy (It the small image you see next to my name) in the contest and I cropped mine because it had a date on it.

But other than that there are no alterations.

Yes it is possible to win without altering your images.

Kerby


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5/27/2005 6:43:38 AM

 
Karma Wilson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
  What do you mean by "alter" exactly? I do some color correcting, sharpening, etc... Enough to make the photo the best it can be for sure. But three of my finalists this month required almost no alteration and the one that I did alter a lot was entered in digital darkroom.

If color tweaking and sharpening are considered big altering then I'm afraid I'm out of the contest. My camera was designed to take pictures that are digitally processed. Photoshop is my darkroom!

Karma


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5/27/2005 7:38:31 AM

 
Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  Minor tweaks of color saturation, contrast and sharpness are not alteration. These steps could be better described as "enhancement",...and the original has to be pretty darn good to start with.

"Alteration" entails adding (or cloning out) key elements within a scene, changing backgrounds to something more appealing than the original, drastic color changes to create something surreal, using your software abilities to correct deficiencies in exposure,...etc.

The Contest rules list clearly that all these things are allowed,...as long as the steps used are disclosed.


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5/27/2005 3:40:32 PM

 
Debbie Truesdale
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/25/2005
  I don't think making touch ups makes a photo not real. I only have one photo that was a finalist. All I did to it was add contrast and crop. I haven't really played with photoshop that much. I do agree with Bob C. take what you like. I don't really care if I win. (It would be nice) I just like getting comments on my photos and learning from others. It seems to me that there are a lot of professional photographers on this site. I love to look at all the galleries. I get ideas from all of you. Thanks!! Hey Gregory... I didn't know he was a film photographer!! I use both. Debbie


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5/27/2005 6:58:48 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  He'll tell you again
and again




and again











and again















and again.


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5/28/2005 12:45:09 AM

 

BetterPhoto Member
  Hey, the film is so touched up at the lab that the photographer that I worked for pissed of the lab, because they had to do so much to make them perfect.


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5/28/2005 6:33:20 AM

 
Antony Burch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/23/2005
  Lisa,
As julie and others have said manipulating your images wont win you anything on its own, I do very little editing with software and try to get it as right as I can in camera, I shoot raw most of the time so if you shoot jpg`s you could say the camera is altering the enhancing the image. have a look at my gallery I have only increased colour saturation, sharpness and cropped a litte to help composition, the 3 finalist images I have not touched also all the flower shots are un edited.


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5/28/2005 6:46:39 AM

 
Karen E. Michaels
karenemichaels.com
  Gentle People, I come from the days of using my own darkroom. I manipulated exposure, saturation and color with my own hands and chemicals when I was in a darkroom..........it's called art. Peace, karen e michaels


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5/29/2005 7:26:46 AM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  And a case of "if I didn't win, somebody must've cheated"


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5/29/2005 9:46:01 AM

 
Chuck Inglefield
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/7/2004
  This is an interesting discussion, but not necessarily a new one. My views about good photography have changed dramtically in the last year in which I have been taking Betterphoto classes. My tastes in photography have also changed over that time. What I consider good photography has changed too. It is completely a matter of personal taste.

For example, my girlfriend loves abstract paintings...to me, they look like something a 3rd grader did one day when they were bored in art class and spilled the paints on the canvas. That thinking means I am more concerned with technique than effect. This perfectly describes how my tastes have changed in photography over the last year. I used to be awed by wonderful technique (i.e. sharp focus, good dof and shutter speed choices). Now, after seeing so many wonderful photographs on this website, I find that good technique is really just the price of entry into the creation of a stunning image. And it's also not just as simple as putting something in the right spot using the rule of thirds. It's more about the message, mood, idea or beauty a photograph can bring. It includes the tension or lack of it, the negative space and the positive space, the rhythm and so on.

I have no idea how they judge photos on this site, because frankly there are so many amazing ones. I don't know if some of these people are pros or not either (whatever that may mean). All I know is that by looking at all of the photos that have become finalists over the last year, I have greatly improved my ability to "see" a potential photograph that I find compelling. Again, it's something "I" find compelling, not necessarily anyone else. And that's the beauty of it...it doesn't need to be for anyone but me.

Now I must admit, I enjoy recieving nice feedback about my photos (who doesn't). Many more of my photos have not been choosen as finalist as those that have. I still like the ones that haven't been picked just as much. I still have them hanging on my wall at home. They are part of me and my vision. But I'll emphasize again that by looking at other good photographs (and there are over 1000 new ones on this website every month)I have learned from others and refined my technique to greater capture the idea/mood I am going after. I learned from how others see...and that is the beauty of this whole place we call betterphoto.com.

Winning a contest doesn't make you a better photographer. Learning to see does. Translating what you see through the use of your camera is an exhilirating and challenging art. And since it is an art...it's completely subjective. I don't like abstract paintings or flower photographs...that doesn't mean they aren't good, or don't win photo contests. Frankly, I think it's cool that there are so many categories on this website with which to explore your own personal interests.

Now as to the subject of using photo editing software to enhance/change photos. I think that's a personal decision for each person. I shoot RAW format which absolutely requires editing to even start to look like what I saw through my viewfinder (most raw files have low saturation and contrast).

I freely admit in my photo descriptions that I will boost saturation/contrast/ remove unwanted elements, etc. I don't think there is a right or wrong on this issue. For example, Ansel Adams was a wonderful photographer, but an even better artist in the darkroom. Imagine what someone with his eye would create with the tools we have available today.

One of the things I realize early on last year as I began shooting digital, is that the photographs I liked the most were ones that not only had a good photographer behind the camera, but also had someone who was talented with Photoshop. For that reason, I have spent the last 6 months learning as much about PS as I can. It's my "darkroom". The benefit of processing my own photos with PS, is that now I begin to see potential problems before I shoot and adjust for them before releasing the shutter....meaning actually less PS work in the long run. Either way, for the type of photography that interests me, PS is a must.

My feeling is that BP.com is a great place to learn. The contests are a fun way to get some feedback on your photos, by having others see and comment on your work. I may never have another finalist photo...but I know I'm a better photographer than I was a year ago and that I will be even better a year from now because of all the knowledge and experience shared with me from instructors and students on this site.

Sorry for the long post. Happy shooting.

Chuck


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5/31/2005 7:54:33 PM

 
Sherry S. Boles
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/28/2005
  Chuck repeated an interesting point: photography, like all art, is very subjective. (By the way, Chuck...congratulations on your great success in April!!)
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." The way I see it, every photo that makes you (or someone else) happy is already a winner!
If you haven't already checked it out, check out this link: http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/QnAdetail.asp?threadID=16206
It's a fun link...admiring and comparing our likes! Reading this one can certainly help you focus on some positive... :)


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5/31/2005 9:47:08 PM

 
John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
  Lisa,
Work to get it right in camera. It is so much easier if as much as possible (ideally all of it) is done on the front end. Chuck gave quite a few tips of good advice.

Photography and the photographic process is the recording of light. It's light; always think about light, how you want to use it, and how you want to record it to communicate to others aspects of the subject material you find compelling.

Regarding Ansel Adams, the biggest things I have learned from his work and how he created what he did:
(a) Control . . . that's what the Zone System and his other methods are all about . . . whether or not you use it (or any part of it) . . . or choose to use some other methods. It was his method for precisely controlling exposure and print density. This philosophy of calibrating everything he used for exacting control of it is found throughout how he did everything.
(b) Visualization . . . composing and creating a mental vision of the finished print first and working backward from that through everything required technically to achieve it before setting up the camera to make the exposure.
(c) Limitations . . . film (and now CMOS/CCD's and print materials) are much more limited in what they can record compared to what the human eye can see and brain interprets . . . in brightness level range, perspective, depth and dimension (human vision is stereoscopic) and in rendering of colors. Visualization wasn't just composition of the subject matter in terms of its formal elements, it included consideration of all these limitations of the medium to translate what he saw into what he wanted to portray in the print. His working life is a progression of greater and deeper understanding about the relationships of light in the field and what it would ultimately render in the print.

When you arrive at "seeing" . . . the skill of visualizing a 2-D static print that is a slice of time and space from the 3-D dynamic and immersive environment, you'll know it . . . and how you look at the world around you will never be the same.

Kerry,
Non carborundum est. ;-)
Verichrome Safety Film and Kodachrome Rule!

-- John Lind


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6/1/2005 5:14:49 AM

 
brigitte stahre
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/27/2004
 
 
 
and then you turn around and there is "THE SHOT".. since kids are involved you know they're not going to stay in that position long.. so you "point and shoot".. then you get home and see that "the shot" is out of focus and not fixable even with p/s.. so, you get creative and while not "good photography" or even "so so photography" I ended up with a nice gift for both the girls in the picture.. altho' I have a release for all 3 kids, the boy was not interested in the pic and was highly offended when his mother asked for a copy.. here is before and after


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6/2/2005 4:14:03 PM

 
Kerry L. Walker   You did well. It looks like an oil painting.


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6/3/2005 5:49:50 AM

 
brigitte stahre
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/27/2004
  thanks kerry, I couldn't let that setting go to waste..


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6/3/2005 1:48:02 PM

 
Sharon  Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
  I have 2 first place wins, and 3 second place wins. None of them were "altered" in Photoshop, however, all had basic editing for color, saturation, etc. in PS.

www.betterphoto.com?sharond

Check out Ant Hill on page 2 top row of my gallery. I had a blast creating that image, and I laughed as I created it as well. I'm sure no one who views it takes it seriously. It isn't intended to be taken seriously.

I enjoy capturing images that are fine straight from the camera, but I enjoy working with photoshop equally so you'll see a number of finalists I've entered that have been modified and manipulated by different techniques.

I especially enjoy photographing images that require a little bit longer shutter speed to blur movement with subjects such as flowers. Some people don't consider that legitimate photography either, but they are challenging as well as fun and no PS manipulation.

It's all about fun! Surely there must be some quote somewhere about taking life too seriously? or I should say photography!


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6/3/2005 6:32:31 PM

 
Rachel Scott-Renouf
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/20/2005
 
 
  Edited version
Edited version
© Rachel Scott-Renouf
Nikon Coolpix 8700...
 
  original
original
© Rachel Scott-Renouf
Nikon Coolpix 8700...
 
 
Well I have to agree with you Sharon, its all about fun!
I have lots of photos in my gallery that are not manipulated, but I have quite a few that are too... and since I have been a member here, I have looked at other people's manipulated photo's and learnt such a lot. I spent ages changing a pic yesterday in photoshop and I like the results, although I am sure alot of people will hate it... I will post the original and the edited version just so you can see.... but most of all I really enjoyed doing it!

Rachel


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6/4/2005 1:40:07 AM

 
Gena A. Tussey
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/26/2005
  I so agree with many of the opinions list above. First we need to remember that while the contest is blast, the most important issue is to learn from what others are doing right....and not so right and adjust it to fit our vision of what we are looking at. There is no right or wrong. In order to break the rules, you must know what they are. And I will be the first to admit that a good portion of my shots I look at and thing "UGH" but maybe something in it made me think about how to get it better. Most of the images I manipulate in photoshop are photos that I already love or take because I mean to make them different on purpose. It's not cheating, it's taking a long look at your toolbox and finding the right tool for the right job. But if you don't want to change your style to "win" that's ok too. But you only learn when you step outside the box, look at it, stomp on it, kick it aside and find a new box! I personally like the big washer and dryer boxes...they make excellent forts!!! peace be with you.


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6/4/2005 8:15:57 AM

 
Jason Gehrman
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/12/2005
  Sherry B. and Chuck raised interesting points. I'm betting most of us have submitted photos and thought "Why the hell didnt I win". (I sure as hell have). And like they said...art is extremely subjective. "one mans meat is another mans poison", so to speak. If you feel that manipulating your images is a cop-out.....then dont. I too feel that overly manipulated images should be classed as more digital art (and this site has a category for that)(yes I know my portrait photo is manipulated, but it isnt for competition purposes). But somewhere along the line that image had to be snapped.
Stick to your guns, and take shots that you want to take. My images arent for everybody, but there are those that like them and comment on them. Sure it sux when another month rolls round and you havn't won....but the way I see it is like this....just because I didnt win doesnt mean my photo is bad, it just means that the judges (subjectively) liked someone elses better. If we all started copying each other, where would our artistic vision be.


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6/4/2005 8:23:51 AM

 
brigitte stahre
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/27/2004
  1st. rachel, I like them both.. have looked at both several times and am glad nobody is asking me to chose.
2cd.. speaking of boxes, my job requires me to think outside of the box all the time .


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6/4/2005 9:06:08 AM

 
Carolyn  M. Fletcher
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/6/2001
Contact Carolyn
Carolyn 's Gallery
PickYourShots.com
  I've had as many unaltered finalists as altered, so who knows what they are going to like? I just shoot what I like and do the best I can with whatever "tools" I know how to use. Chuck has a great response back up the thread a ways.


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6/4/2005 11:25:41 AM

 
ADILSON F. FERREIRA
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/7/2004
 
 
 
Hi Lisa!

I am an amateur photographer, I love photography and don't have money to by expensive equipments, I just have my cameras, one with film and another digital, a polarizer filter and a 70-300 Sigma macro lens that I can use in both cameras and the best prize I had was a first prize winner with an image made with film and not altered by any program. So the best prize was with film and the digital and enhanced images just could get the finals or second prize.

I think that the best thing is to do what you like and not worry about prizes, some of my most commented and appreciated images didn’t get any prize.

This is the image I got the first prize.


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8/23/2006 2:53:21 PM

 
Natalie J. Manuel
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/30/2005
  Why does it bother you?

All the matters is the final image and that you enjoyed taking it. Personally I LOVE altering images to make them the best they can be, rather than get caught up in the silly "if you do THIS, it aint a real photo" arguments. All that should matter is the image.

Not ALL photos can be made perfect in camera. I do a lot of zoo photography and I often have to clone out reflections of bars. Why miss out on a fantastic shot because you are too proud to fix it up and make it better?

I have only won once (though had finalists every month since I joined), and the photo was unedited apart from burning out the background. The black background made the photo BETTER!

You can't save a very crap photo in photoshop. Just relax, if you're photos are good, what do you have to worry about?


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8/30/2006 6:44:23 PM

 
brigitte stahre
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/27/2004
  i've joined several photoshop help lists and tutorials since this thread began .. have also signed up for a photo journalism class.. have learned a little more about ps from the help lists and been having a lot of fun .. used to enter a pic every day and became very discouraged when none of them ever got chosen or even commented on by the judges.. which was silly, because I liked my photos and so did the people I gave or sold them to.. so now I occasionally enter one just to see if I get any feedback..


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8/30/2006 7:50:28 PM

 
Mike Rubin
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/15/2004
  I will edit WB,Exp,Contrast,highlights and shadows, even convert to B&W. But I just do not care for editing the image into something that no longer resembles a photo. I will admit that there are people here who creat works of art in PS, However with my own work I rather keep it looking like a photo.


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8/30/2006 7:59:03 PM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  well it bothered you natalie..after over a year.she had an opinion..i gave two years of my life so we could have an opinion.big deal.
final out come huh.
did,did not.
happy labor day weekend.and I hope my friends sons and daughters come home safe.ya wanna try to fix that?
oh some kind of perspective thing I guess,sam


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8/30/2006 8:56:13 PM

 
Ariel Lepor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/8/2005
  I didn't read the whole thread - just the question (so I hope I'm not getting into anything to touchy) - but I'd like to put in my two cents.

Number one, how much altering would you consider to make a photo not "real"? Removing some minor imperfections or correcting colors is in fact altering the picture, but it's just to better bring out the original scene and I would call it "real". For lots of crazy editing, of course, there is a separate category.

Number two, I just became a finalist with my Broad Tailed Hummingbird picture, and I didn't alter that one aside from cropping, which would hardly make a picture fake. (As stated in the description, I also reduced noise and sharpened it, but that was just to counteract the way information is lost during downsizing, and it doesn't really change the picture.) And if I can make it, so can you!

Number three, it does seem that lots of pictures in all categories have been digitally enhanced (which often makes it better and pushes ahead of unaltered photos) but there are also tons of unaltered photos that win!

Have a nice evening,

Ariel
ScrattyPhotography
ScrattyPhotography Blog


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8/30/2006 11:27:09 PM

 
Mário  Ferreira
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/25/2006
  Tks Gregory to "remake" this discussion on day.
Realy its interesting read all the posts here, we can learn more and more.
I've been here last year all days , and i've learned so much...
I think the most interesting on a picture is the final result; creative photography is not a photojournalism or documentary photos.(that are valid forms too).
From the begining, photography is a personal vision of reality; all you decide (point of view, wide-angle or tele, and so onn, are manipulatinos of the reality front of us).
What is important is what you transmit, or what the viewer feel seeing your photo.


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9/25/2006 4:16:44 AM

 
Mário  Ferreira
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/25/2006
  I agrre with Chuck,Natalie and Ariel


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9/25/2006 4:19:16 AM

 
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