Where do you stand on ma­nip­u­la­tion?

The Photographer's Mail - - Editorial -

In the age of fil­ters, fine-tun­ing, and Pho­to­shop, it’s dif­fi­cult to come across an im­age that hasn’t had some tweak­ing car­ried out on it to make the colours pop or to make it more ap­peal­ing. I’m def­i­nitely guilty of a tweak of and a fil­ter ap­pli­ca­tion on the ma­jor­ity of the im­ages I up­load to my var­i­ous so­cial-me­dia chan­nels. But is ‘guilty’ re­ally the right word?

Af­ter reading Adrian Hatwell’s in­ter­view with Simeon Pa­tience on page eight and not­ing that Pa­tience men­tions a trend to­wards au­then­tic and nat­u­ral im­agery, I came to the con­clu­sion that this doesn’t mean there’s ab­so­lutely no edit­ing ad­min­is­tered to this im­agery; rather, there’s just fine-tun­ing rather than com­plete im­age ma­nip­u­la­tion in order to keep the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a sub­ject — whether it’s a land­scape or oth­er­wise — true to its nat­u­ral ap­pear­ance. The ma­jor­ity of the time, there’s some mi­nor edit­ing to do to present the fin­ished prod­uct in a per­fect con­di­tion, but this does not take away the truth fac­tor from an im­age as some forms of edit­ing can.

I think the cir­cum­stances call for dif­fer­ent lev­els of edit­ing. Ig­nor­ing news pho­tog­ra­phy, I feel the at­ti­tude to­wards overly ma­nip­u­lated im­ages is chang­ing, head­ing in two po­lar di­rec­tions de­pend­ing on the ap­pli­ca­tion.

On one hand, if Pho­to­shop is be­ing used to com­pletely al­ter the way a sub­ject looks in terms of body im­age, I tend to lean to­wards the opin­ion that in­stead of mak­ing some­one look com­pletely dif­fer­ent, you should just find some­one else to work with who al­ready has the fea­tures you’re af­ter. And if you can’t, maybe the look that you’re aim­ing for doesn’t ex­ist be­cause it’s phys­i­cally im­pos­si­ble to achieve (sorry, rant over).

On the other hand, there’s the idea that be­ing able to edit im­ages in any way you like so you can achieve your vi­sion is fan­tas­tic for cre­ativ­ity ad­vance­ment. I agree with this, as it would not be pos­si­ble to cre­ate im­ages that look painterly with­out an el­e­ment of ma­nip­u­la­tion, and it al­lows the photographer to ex­pand what they can achieve in-cam­era to cre­ate an art­work that is beau­ti­ful.

Of course, I ab­so­lutely ad­mire those who can vi­su­al­ize an im­age then cap­ture it in­cam­era with­out the need to do any edit­ing at all, but I don’t think we should avoid em­brac­ing the world of im­age edit­ing just be­cause it may be viewed as al­ter­ing re­al­ity. I think that as long as the cir­cum­stances are taken into ac­count and the cor­rect level of edit­ing is ap­plied — that is, with con­sid­er­a­tion as to whether we are cap­tur­ing an im­age to rep­re­sent some­thing the way it is or to have a bit of fun — why not em­brace the growth of tech­nol­ogy and see how pho­tog­ra­phy can di­ver­sify even more?

Lara Wyatt

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