BetterPhoto Q&A
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Photography Question - exploring beauty

Editing photo's in photoshop fair?


Over the last couple weeks I have been entering some pictures in the online contest and looking at the other entries I see that a lot of people use an image editor (Photoshop) to edit their images and give it more colour, dim certain parts, lighten up certain parts, remove unwanted objects etc.

I use a traditional 35mm Dynax 505si Super SLR camera and all my pictures I have to scan in to my computer before I can enter them in. I'm computer geeky enough to work Photoshop perfectly but I refuse to enter manipulated photo's as I don't think it is fair. Photogrpahy for me means taking a picture of something normal or beautiful or sad or happy but always with a dream of how to picture will be in my head. This encourages me to work hard, to think about aperture, shuttertime and composition before taking a picture and to take what eventually comes out as the result and to not edit this when your photo doesn't turn out to be what you wanted. That's tough then....try harder next time.

This has been going through my head a while and I thought I would share this is such a way that people can react and maybe change my mind or have their mind changed.



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6/9/2004 1:28:56 AM

Rebecka Franklin   I also have similar feelings, but I also see the other side. First I will say that BetterPhoto sends out a news letter to anyone who wants it. In the news letter they have been telling us that starting in July there will be a new and improved photo contest. They haven't said much about what the changes will be, but I imagine it has something to do with what you are talking about. This subject has come up in the past, and has had a lot of feedback from a lot of people that feel strongly one way or the other. There is no definitive answer. I try to stay as traditional as I can, but I do admit to using photoshop to whiten my fathers teeth! My personal opinion is that if I am going to create a work of art I will use what ever I can to get the result I want. However I would not enter one of my watercolor paintings in the same catagory as one of my oil paintings because they are different mediums. I consider film base and digital two different mediums. But that is just an opinion. I am content to wait and see what changes come next month with the contest.

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6/9/2004 1:40:30 PM

Nirmal Hasan   Hi Corniel, Rebeccka,

Glad to find that I am not the only one with such thoughts - Being reatively new to this forum, I guess missed the previous discussions on this topic... :)

I try to digitally adjust my scans only up to the point that they look like the prints or slides that I have but never better (I have a relatively inexpensive flatbed scanner so scanning my negatives/slides does require additional adjustment)...

Anyway, I too am waiting to see what the changes to the contest are going to be...

Cheers and happy shooting..

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6/9/2004 2:44:23 PM

Carolina K. Smith
  If we look at the root words of photography, i.e., photo (Greek for 'light') and graphy (Greek for a 'writing') we see that photography is the writing (recording) of light. Thus, BOTH film based cameras and digital based cameras are mediums of photography.

I used to process film in my own darkroom, 'manipulating' the outcome with dodging and burning. I still have my Nikormat film based camera, along with many lenses and some filters (gee, who would dare say a telephoto lens is not normal, but could even be considered a manipulation of reality...and how about flash, another manipulation? I don't think so...) and in many respects, Photoshop and other editing programs is analagous as the 'electronic' darkroom.

Having said that, clearly PS can go where no chemical darkroom could probably go, in terms of creativity, as well as the possibility for mischief.

Does having and using PS preclude thoughtful composition setup (aperture/shutter/DoF) making sure my equipment is at it's best, (clean filters, etc)? Not for me.

I entered a photo at, Desert Light Fantasy, and a gentleman suggested similar concerns (you can get to the Discussion through the electronic version of Digital Darkroom #014, where it was featured).

Here is most of my response, which I think is very germaine to this discussion:

"One of the things I love most about digital photography is that it can capture AND enable one to produce something not only what the human eye can believe, but WHAT THE HUMAN MIND CAN CONCEIVE...

Much of art, no matter what the medium, comes from the mind and people resonate with it, or are moved by it, precisely because we are more than the sum of the natural elements.

I do think you hint at something which is important in photography, since such 'mind concepts' were not as easy before the advent of programs such as Photoshop. That is, that I think it is preferable that when an image is heavily manipulated, like doing composites, it should be noted, so people can know what was real (the way photography used to be thought of as capturing reality. That is why I labeled mine a 'Fantasy'. Just my thoughts..."

It should not be film vs digital or inkjet vs silver gelatin or darkroom vs Photoshop!

We should use what we are comfortable with, what brings us joy, and what enables us to 'record that light' in a way meaningful to others.


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6/9/2004 9:43:56 PM - exploring beauty   Thanks for everyones responses. Thanks Carolina for showing me some things to be said in favour of PS.

I think in the end it will come down to some of the things you mentioned about conceiving and art. I would not hesitate to say that in today's world of photography we will have to make a strong seperation between digital (manipulated) imaging and traditional film based photography. I'm not saying that the basis of imaging is not photography but actually editing the picture in such a way that fantasy takes over from reality is no longer photography and I think it becomes imaging.

Just like Rebecka and Nirmal I am too excited to find out whether the renewed contest will make a similar seperation.

I've looked at desert fantasy and I think you did a good job getting 4 pictures in one and editing it with PS. Still I call this imaging, no offense.


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6/10/2004 1:53:26 AM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  There are many sides to this issue, and this discussion could be debated forever.

There was a statement quoted by photographer Marc Muench in the June issue of Outdoor Photographer which read: "Once you press the button of a digital camera, the process of creating the photograph is beginning, not ending."

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6/10/2004 5:06:45 AM

Rebecka Franklin   I really hope that everyone understands that I have nothing against digital or PS. I just see it as taking two different paths to get the desired results that one wants for their photo.
I saw a movie a few years ago that fasinated me. Peter Jackson did a Mockumentary called Forgoten Silver where to get the effects and feel of really aged film, he took the film down to the basement of the studio and dragged it around on the floor. He got the desired effect he wanted. He could have taken the time to ditgitally alter the film and gotten the same result. One way is not better than the other, it's just a matter of what you enjoy.
Anyway I have a lot of respect for those who do Photoshop. I have seen some magnificent images that come from that program. For myself, I still get a thrill to see my photos magically appear before my eyes in the darkroom.

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6/10/2004 9:18:52 AM

David L. Shannon
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/23/2003
  Fascinating subject. Photo enhancement and manipulation didn't begin with computers and software programs such as PhotoShop and Corel PhotoPaint. Photographers and darkroom technicians had been doing it years before computers were a glimmer in Bill Gates' eyes - even before Mr. Gates was a glimmer in his parents eyes. Many of Ansel Adams ever magnificent photos are not only the product of an absolute Master of exposure, composition and proper film development, but also of one who was a Master at printing, including dodging and burning etc.

Years ago when I had a darkroom, I spent hours upon hours playing around with creative processes such as solarization, posterization, bas reliefs, reticulation, texture screens, toning, high contrast films and others.

The only difference between then and now is that computers have made darkrooms available to a whole lot more people and creative processes that took hours and hours to learn along with a whole lot of film, photo paper and chemicals, can now be accomplished with the click of a mouse.

We who are fascinated with photography are (or should be IMHO) interested in more than your everyday snapshot. We want our photos to touch an emotion, to tell a story, be pleasing to the eye, to make someone go wow, etc., etc. As much as anyone, I like and even cherish out of the camera, technically perfect photographs, but if it takes a little cropping or dodging and burning or outright and obvious manipulation to achieve the desired results, I say go for it. A photograph can be as much of an artistic creation as can be a drawing, painting or sculpture. ~ Dave

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6/10/2004 6:35:20 PM

Michael Warnock
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/3/2005
  Well, I stumbled on this thread whilesearching for something else but I think I'll throw in my 2 cents.

I've talked at length with many people, photographers, graphic designers, sales and marketing and have remained unwavered in my stance on the pros and cons of image editors.

Firstly, yes its fair.


A) When digital became available to the average consumer, the old school traditional film crowd cried "Cheat" and complained that the technology will make it easier and faster to produce images requiring less skill and vision as a photographer. To that I say bull! Image editors are not magic. They can only manipulate what is already there, what the photographer has already captured. They can not make a horrible image beautifull nor can they make a talentless photographer into the next Ansel Adams.

B) The technology is available to everyone! Chosing to work without it, though admirable on many levels, does not give one licence to call "cheat". That would be akin to a big wall climber calling foul because their peers utilise the latest in equipment technology like "sticky" rubber climbing shoes, anatomically designed harnesses and stretchy nylon ropes when they refuse to use anything but hobnail leather boots, swami belts and hemp ropes.

C) the time will come when the digital practitioners of now become the "old school" and the future practitioners of whatever photographic technology find an easier, more efficient and less costly method. Then the question of fairness will once again rear its ugly head and old school film shooters will be avenged, the world once again in ballance.

By the way, I'm neither pro or anti digital. I see it as a tool on my bench. It has its place in photography just like any other technology.

The question should not be "is it fair?", but will you step up and either embrace it or work that much harder to show you don't need it.


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2/7/2006 10:27:13 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  Not that fascinating of a subject. You're not doing anything anybody else isn't doing by the picture taker or the film manufacturer. Or even the one hour photolab.

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2/7/2006 12:03:56 PM

Craig m. Zacarelli
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/3/2005
  it all in the eye of the beholder.. its up to the artist (photographer) as to what HIS (or her) final vision of the shot is. People have been using filters and editing photos for years in the film world, only now with digital, its cleaner, cheaper, faster and you can do more. its like saying there is a difference between someone who paints with a brush as opposed to someone who paints with an air brush.
its all good.

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2/7/2006 2:03:54 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  "People have been using filters and editing photos for years in the film world, only now with digital, its cleaner, cheaper, faster and you can do more."

You can parallel darkroom editing procedures to digital software. Though quite different in practice they both work toward the same end; correct, enhance, or otherwise improve an image after it was taken...(You can add "easier" to that list as well.)

Filters "in the film world", are (were) used to correct imbalances between natural or artificial light and a films' unique chemistry or to create a particular effect...with the results of either or both having to be pre-conceived.
These same corrections and/or effects are now a mouse-click away while analyzing at our original image on a screen.

Through the advancements of technology we can accomplish these and other photographic tasks faster and more efficiently but are we really better off?

To coin Mike W's analogy, I don't have a problem with someone acquiring the best equipment possible to make them a more competent mountain climber but I do object to those who will hire a helicopter, point to the top and say,..."Just drop me off up there."

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2/7/2006 3:18:51 PM

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