Thursday, September 18, 2008

What's the difference between a duck?

The debate rages on as to whether photographers should work to get their best shot straight from the camera or shoot their photos with a mind to enhance them later in a photo editing program like Photoshop.

Those in the “no edit” camp feel that untouched photos are somehow purer than a post-processed image. Those in the post editing camp feel that the very process of photography itself distorts reality, so why not work to get the strongest possible image that technology will allow?

I usually try to create the best image possible within the confines of whatever camera I’m using. Anything else is just laziness. Every photographer should know the limits of their equipment and what it is capable of producing in any given situation.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t post process my images, either. A camera doesn’t always capture the range of tones available in a scene. Colors can get lost. More often than not, I will adjust the light levels and color saturation of my photos, sometimes selecting specific areas of a photo to adjust. And sometimes, a particular effect will enhance a photo, like the Orton processing used on this photo above of a female mallard duck.

Orton is a process of creating a duplicate image, blurring it, layering it over the original image then blending it with the original. The result is a soft-focused photo with richly saturated color.

Here is the same duck photo before processing, as it came straight out of the camera.

What’s your preference?

Want to see more before and after photos? Lev Kolobov produces a photo blog with a twist. Lev's blog, LEVitation, gives a before and after glimpse of each image he posts. The trick is to place your cursor over the red "Kolobov" under each image to reveal what the photo looked like before processing.

Click on pictures to enlarge. Photographs © 2008 James Jordan.


HeyJules said...

I'm all for enhancing photographs with tools like Photoshop. If burning and dodging were good enough for Ansel Adams, well they are certainly good enough for me...I just do them digitally now.

Yes, getting the photo right in the camera is one thing - we have to learn how to use that instrument for all it's worth...but you are right on when you say things get lost or diminished and pp can bring that back.

I also think there is an "art" to photshopping an image. When someone sees one of my photos and says, "Did you Photoshop this?" I think YEAH, BABY, and I did it well enough that you can't tell!

DaveM said...

In this case I'm for leaving it alone as the image is realistic, and the water really is that colour. If you out the enhance picture in a bird watchers book then it wil not give the reader a true impression of what a female mallard looks like. Your untouched picture does. Do you want realism or art?

engloy said...

Excellent shot as usual, James :) I have no qualms about digital imaging-editing if the purpose is for creative or artistic intent (and I do that a lot with the pictures I take!). If the picture is meant for journalistic or documentation purposes, or for use as legal evidence, editing and manipulation should then be a no-no.

Dan said...

Idjust like to say Photoshop isn't a noun it's a verb to all those "no-edit" camp.

Photoshop is our dark room of choice for most of us.

The "no-edit" camp would be akin to back in the film day of them saying "no you can only shoot flat colour negatives, and have them processed at BigW/K-Mart/etc, no dark room work, middle grade photo paper, no black and whites, no "exposing for the highlights, developing for the shadows", no colour filters, such as warming or cooling, no gradual filters (like grad NDs or blue, orange, etc), and certainly no velvia.

That mindset isn't far from wanting no creative use of exposure, "18% grey only!", no narrow DoF either :/, this is all summed down to "the camera takes the photograph, not the photographer".

Id just like to say to all "no-edit" camp, that images straight from my camera are in fact not originals, they are altered, and photos I finish processing with Photoshop are unaltered and are the originals.

Because, I am the photographer, I create the photograph, the camera is my tool and a technical process, not a creative one, I also create my photograph because touching anything on the camera, photography begins well before the push of a button and it certainly does not end with the push of a button on the camera either.

James said...

Hey guys, thanks for the comments and your opinions. I started out ten years ago shooting slide film and got very good at adjusting my exposures to get the greatest impact out of an image - after all, you only got one shot to get it right. With the advent of digital scanning and storage, I began to experiment with some image editing to see what could be done beyond careful metering and exposure compensation. I think that a thorough knowledge of exposure plus the tools of the digital darkroom can create more powerful images than either one method alone.

I need orange said...

Thinking about the fact that different films are better with different colors, and betting that different cameras with different sensors also differ as to what they remember.........

I think the whole notion of taking "what the camera remembers" as some sort of Gold Standard of Reality is just hooey.

I can look through the screen on my camera and SEE that what it sees is not what I see, with some colors.........

Agreeing with the person above who said "if it's journalism and meant to reflect the truth, then it shouldn't be enhanced, but if it's about making a more interesting/striking/focused-on-the-subject/whatever image, then, why wouldn't we use all the tools we have at hand?"

My own preference is to spend my time taking more pics, rather than striving to make any individual pic "better." I let the cameras make their decisions about what to do, rather than controlling them, and take several shots of everything I aim at, so I have something to choose between when I get home...............

Is that morally inferior to controlling the camera more and making the shooting decisions myself?


Don't care, really.

I get enough images that I am happy with, using my methods.

NĂ¡dia Bastos said...

nice photos, great tip! thanx