Saturday, November 07, 2009

Photoshop and Nature Photography: How Far is Too Far?

Here's a link to a brilliant article written by Darwin Wiggett and Samantha Chrysanthou on online magazine/forum:

Photoshop and Nature Photography: How Far is Too Far?

Entertaining and thought-provoking, they tackle the great debate between the "Purists" and "Processors". Their photos are, of course, excellent too. Kudos to Darwin and Samantha for hitting this one bang on!

1 comment:

  1. Carolyn10:27 AM

    Really great article, Ethan. A filmmaker friend of mine told me he'll never do a documentary because it's impossible to convey information impartially, as he feels a true documentary should. Things as subtle as camera angle will determine how the viewers relate to a subject.

    With regards to photography, if we do it well, we are conveying something to our audience, so that means we are going to point our cameras at something in such a way to do that as best we can. Which right there makes it subjective rather than objective.

    I think how much manipulation is acceptable, however, has to do with use of an image. Really, there's no difference in the end if someone uses a filter while taking a photo or manipulates it after the fact to achieve the same result. But … if it's documenting something, I think it's important to the integrity of the photographer and publisher that the image be representing something that is real. Doesn't mean no afterwards manipulation, but that there is not as much room for "creativity." If it's meant as an art piece, something standing on its own or something that's conveying emotion, then post processing is an artistic tool.

    And while I'm rambling, I saw a documentary a while back about nature documentaries that was very disheartening. We watch these shows and think that the behaviour we are seeing is the animal's behaviour. But it seems there is more than a little "artistic license" being taken. One shot they showed was of an animal playing along a shoreline in the day time. The animal was in fact nocturnal and this wasn't a typical habitat. Because it was a nature park, the videographer had access to close up and personal shots, of animals outside their usual habitat, so that's what he shot. But since it in no way represented the real life of the animal, and no mention was made of this, this particular nature show was nothing more than a lie. And this apparently is not uncommon enough. It really turned me off watching nature shows because now I really have no idea if what I'm seeing is in any way accurate -- and one would expect if you are watching a nature show that you are being educated about the subject matter.

    So this is where I personally think the line should be drawn. There is nothing wrong with shooting a cougar in a park as if it were in the wild. As long as the "wilderness" surrounding it is something that really would be around him.

    Heh, as for tone-mapped HDRs, I wish more people actually understood what they were doing. I've seen some beautiful tone-mapped images -- some realistic (just increasing the dynamic range of the image), some fantastical (making things look like illustrations or painterly), but I've seen more really horrible stuff.