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04-29-2022, 02:47 PM   #1
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Does the "perfect" shot matter anymore

Before digital, unless you had your own darkroom and became proficient at developing, you had to rely on trying to capture that "perfect" shot because there was no post editing. (Correct me if I am wrong here). With all the improvements in both digital cameras and editing programs, do you still try to get that "perfect" shot that needs no editing, or is the theory of "close enough counts" is all that you aim for. I ask this because as I follow different threads dedicated to photos, there are countless references of "after editing, or I had to bring this out with editing, or you can improve that with editing, etc."

I also ask this because I observe both my wife and my daughter-in-laws different approaches to the art of photography and am amazed at the differences in approach. My wife, while wanting to learn and use an editing program, still hasn't taken the time to do so. She still works hard to get that "perfect" shot. I know that because she uses a dslr, she can run off as many pics as she wants and then go back through them after downloading. My daughter-in-law on the other hand is very proficient at editing and everything she does could be counted as a "perfect" shot due to post editing. She even wanted to get into film, so I provided her with a nice outfit. When she got her first rolls back from processing, she showed them to me but noticed something odd on a few. I asked if she compared them to the prints. She didn't even get any prints, just the digital copies.

So I ask you this.(redundant I know) Do you still try to achieve that "perfect" shot, or have you found that you don't worry about it because you can edit it later.

I used parentheses on the word "perfect" because that is subjective to each and every one of us.

04-29-2022, 03:05 PM - 6 Likes   #2
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I thought you only need editing for the "not perfect" shot .
04-29-2022, 03:12 PM - 3 Likes   #3
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If you think that the perfect shot existed before digital then you would be wrong. With film there are all sorts of that go into how the final shot turns out including your choice of film. Most of those great photographs there was a lot of editing in the darkroom to get them right. This ignores those decisive moment shots that are so famous not because of how perfect the image is but because of the story or even that the picture captured. So setting that aside getting it right in camera is still important but that means something such as preserving all the necessary data that a digital sensor can capture, getting the framing right, having the right light, etc. Granted some of those can be corrected in post processing but the results are better if the starting material is better. The same can be said for film as well. My goal is to get as much out of each shot as I can and paper over by taking lots of shots and then binning the bad ones. In writing this I think I like the concept of most out of each shot as I think it does fit how I try to shoot, especially when doing astrophotography.
04-29-2022, 04:01 PM   #4
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Well, I guess this all depends on the definition of the "perfect shot". For HCB fans, that's a moment. For other photographers, there's a lot more massaging involved.

04-29-2022, 04:55 PM - 6 Likes   #5
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Very many "perfect" shots are not capable of being captured by any camera, digital or film. The dynamic range we see with our eyes/brain has not yet been replicated by the recording medium of an emulsion or a sensor. Even if it did, it would not necessarily produce the image that the creator wants to convey.

There is a reason the photographic greats of the last century spent hours in the darkroom, dodging and burning (or had someone else do it for them). The digital "darkroom" is just an extension of the same idea.

Photography is an art. I take my camera out to create images, not to use it as some form of portable photocopier.
04-29-2022, 06:28 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sam_I_am Quote
Before digital, unless you had your own darkroom and became proficient at developing, you had to rely on trying to capture that "perfect" shot because there was no post editing. (Correct me if I am wrong here).

Pro's use(d) pro labs for many reasons, some of which involved 'post (editing) processing.'
04-29-2022, 07:26 PM - 1 Like   #7
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I think one difference is how pictures are being shared. If you are just posting images on the internet, the media is a lot more forgiving both as far as sharpness and color. If you are doing a 16x20” print or bigger, it is much easier to see small defects or lack of sharpness. It is also harder to get as much color range on paper compared to on-screen.

Is it easier to remove small defects with digital? It sure is! If you have a great shot but there is a stop sign or power line in the way, you can fix that in post processing. Can you make the sky better? Yes. However, you can’t bring back details that aren’t in the picture to start with… you can make an out-of-focus image better in post-process but you won’t make it tack sharp. However, on a 2x3” iPhone screen you may not notice.

I have also seen photos posted on our town’s local FB group that I know are photoshopped. People say, “Oh what a great picture of the moon.” However, I know the picture has been modified because I know the moon does not rise In the south! Is it a pretty picture? Yes. But don’t give the photographer too much credit because he didn’t really compose the picture in the field—he created it in his home office. I give him credit from an artistic standpoint but I don’t give him full credit from a photographic standpoint.

I also agree it is much easier to start with the best picture you can, rather than to spend lots of time in post processing. I used to shoot 120 medium format photos… 12 shots per roll. I would spend lots of time composing and manually focusing those shots to conserve film. I think that made me a better photographer. (And you get some great detail from a medium format negative that is scanned on a drum scanner at 5000 dpi. Oh, the good old days…)

04-29-2022, 07:27 PM - 7 Likes   #8
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"The negative is the score, and the print is the performance." Ansel Adams.

PP is nothing new. Only the tools have changed.


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04-29-2022, 11:30 PM - 2 Likes   #9
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A friend used to berate me for editing digital images, saying 'I get better prints from my disposable cameras without all this mucking about'. I tried to explain to her that the 'mucking about' with her photos was done by the equipment in the mail order lab she used, and a straight print from her negs would look nothing like the prints provided. I asked her for some negs to scan so I could show her the difference on a screen, of a straight(ish) rendition and an edited rendition. 'Oh', she said 'I don't keep them. I don't need to - I have the photos I took'. She is, as is everyone, entitled to her own damned fool opinion - me, I'll keep editing until I get the result I like.
04-30-2022, 12:13 AM - 3 Likes   #10
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When I was in high school in a small town on the prairies I came up with a scheme to make money with my photography hobby which was only costing me money so far. I'd go to sporting events and other area happenings, take black and white photos, run home and develop them in a bathroom darkroom, then sell the prints to the weekly newspapers in area small towns for 25˘ each.

Basketball was the easiest. Set up under the basket, shoot away, then crop, "edit," and otherwise adjust the photos so they'd print "perfectly" in the less advanced half-tone systems at the small newspapers.

I only had a 50mm lens and a 135mm "long" lens. I had to edit the photos a lot, especially cropping. But also adjusting contrast, etc, so that the images would work when published in a newspaper. To be honest, they printed a number (at first) that were less than ideal, simply because no other photos were available. Once a few sessions went full circle from me attending the event then seeing the resulting photos published, I could see what needed to be done to make the photos better in the final product. But the fact is that a lot of things happen, particularly with action shots. They're rarely perfect.

Some weeks, I made $5 to $10 US dollars. Well, the minimum wage was around $2.25, so that was decent. I had fun seeing a lot of things. I could afford gasoline (around 30˘ a gallon), I could afford film. Life was good.

"The perfect shot" then involved a tripod, Kodachrome slide film, plenty of planning, note taking (especially exposure settings, since the film didn't record them -- needed to see what went wrong if a scene was over- or under-exposed). It was rare that a perfect shot came off. Bracketing was a common technique for shots that couldn't be repeated. That got expensive though. And that wasn't everyday photography work either. Everyday was "get what you can."

I'd say that considerable editing of photos has been done long before the digital era. Honestly, I find I have to work harder -- or be more conscious of what I'm doing -- in the digital era. There's no per shot cost threat hanging over my head. So, I might pop off a bunch of shots, get home and discover that I don't like any of them. Also, after the fact, I see different angles that I might have liked better. Also, I sorta dislike most photo editing programs. Once upon a time, I really got into Paint Shop Pro, but at some point, they (sold maybe?) changed the program for an update and ruined it.

All this said, no, everything cannot be fixed by editing. If the light is on the wrong side of the subject, you might be out of luck. Even with RAW, there are limits to what can be done. You do have to "try" still. I find myself still trying for good shots. Not 'perfect' though.
04-30-2022, 12:26 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by MaineNative Quote

I have also seen photos posted on our town’s local FB group that I know are photoshopped. People say, “Oh what a great picture of the moon.” However, I know the picture has been modified because I know the moon does not rise In the south! Is it a pretty picture? Yes. But don’t give the photographer too much credit because he didn’t really compose the picture in the field—he created it in his home office. I give him credit from an artistic standpoint but I don’t give him full credit from a photographic standpoint.

This sounds like my daughter-in-law. Now in all honesty she and my wife capture some amazing photos. This one time she(daughter-in-law) was asked by a friend to photograph him when he proposed to his girl. She showed me the photograph that she took and it was breathtaking how it caught the beauty of the moment. I had been to the same spot that the proposal took place and was impressed with the effort that she took to get the "perfect" shot......only to find out that the low hanging full moon did not occur on that night, but on another night. She new what she wanted the photograph to look like but it took two separate nights to get the shots, and then edit the full moon into the finished photo. Props for capturing a truly touching moment in her friends lives....but yeah, a little disappointed at the same time. My wife, on the other hand, when she posts a photo on her Instagram, always ends it with #nofilter. She is proud of the effort she took in capturing the moment without any editing. Each one approaching from different directions, yet with a singular end result...the "perfect" photo that they envisioned.


So it does look like no matter what your equipment is, or the developing process, the consensus is that you still try and get the best shot you possibly can, before contemplating editing. Kudos to everyone 👏

So riddle me this:
For those that were photographers before the digital era, did you actually spend the time needed for editing(or paid a professional lab to do the same) to get the results you wanted. If so, what percentage did you do it versus not wanting to mess with the added effort or expense. Now, think about your digital camera and your editing program. Many programs are free, so the cost might not be a factor, but it still takes time to learn how to use your program and then actually put it into practice. So how many times do you put the effort into editing your photo versus not wanting to take the time to mess with it. Then compare the two to see if your habits have changed pre digital versus now. No change, change for the better, or change for the worse.

---------- Post added 04-30-22 at 12:42 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by yucatanPentax Quote
When I was in high school in a small town on the prairies I came up with a scheme to make money with my photography hobby which was only costing me money so far. I'd go to sporting events and other area happenings, take black and white photos, run home and develop them in a bathroom darkroom, then sell the prints to the weekly newspapers in area small towns for 25˘ each.

Basketball was the easiest. Set up under the basket, shoot away, then crop, "edit," and otherwise adjust the photos so they'd print "perfectly" in the less advanced half-tone systems at the small newspapers.

I only had a 50mm lens and a 135mm "long" lens. I had to edit the photos a lot, especially cropping. But also adjusting contrast, etc, so that the images would work when published in a newspaper. To be honest, they printed a number (at first) that were less than ideal, simply because no other photos were available. Once a few sessions went full circle from me attending the event then seeing the resulting photos published, I could see what needed to be done to make the photos better in the final product. But the fact is that a lot of things happen, particularly with action shots. They're rarely perfect.

Some weeks, I made $5 to $10 US dollars. Well, the minimum wage was around $2.25, so that was decent. I had fun seeing a lot of things. I could afford gasoline (around 30˘ a gallon), I could afford film. Life was good.

"The perfect shot" then involved a tripod, Kodachrome slide film, plenty of planning, note taking (especially exposure settings, since the film didn't record them -- needed to see what went wrong if a scene was over- or under-exposed). It was rare that a perfect shot came off. Bracketing was a common technique for shots that couldn't be repeated. That got expensive though. And that wasn't everyday photography work either. Everyday was "get what you can."

I'd say that considerable editing of photos has been done long before the digital era. Honestly, I find I have to work harder -- or be more conscious of what I'm doing -- in the digital era. There's no per shot cost threat hanging over my head. So, I might pop off a bunch of shots, get home and discover that I don't like any of them. Also, after the fact, I see different angles that I might have liked better. Also, I sorta dislike most photo editing programs. Once upon a time, I really got into Paint Shop Pro, but at some point, they (sold maybe?) changed the program for an update and ruined it.

All this said, no, everything cannot be fixed by editing. If the light is on the wrong side of the subject, you might be out of luck. Even with RAW, there are limits to what can be done. You do have to "try" still. I find myself still trying for good shots. Not 'perfect' though.
You answered my question before I finished typing it out. lol

When my wife was in high school she fell in love with b&w photography while being part of the school newspaper staff. She became proficient at developing and editing the pictures for the school newspaper. This led to purchasing her first slr (pentax me super which we still have). Since she had access to the darkroom she was able to develop her own photos. She showed me the difference between the original and the finished results, I was amazed. So many things have changed in her life in the 32 years since high-school, she does not know if she would bother with developing her own even if she had access to everything again.

---------- Post added 04-30-22 at 12:47 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by AfterPentax Mark II Quote
I thought you only need editing for the "not perfect" shot .
Love it ! 😀


Let me say this once again. The "perfect" shot only exists in the mind of the individual photographer.
They are the only one, when viewing the end result of their hard work, can say that it came out just as envisioned, that it was perfect.

Last edited by Sam_I_am; 04-30-2022 at 01:04 AM.
04-30-2022, 01:11 AM - 1 Like   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sam_I_am Quote
So riddle me this:
For those that were photographers before the digital era, did you actually spend the time needed for editing(or paid a professional lab to do the same) to get the results you wanted. If so, what percentage did you do it versus not wanting to mess with the added effort or expense. Now, think about your digital camera and your editing program. Many programs are free, so the cost might not be a factor, but it still takes time to learn how to use your program and then actually put it into practice. So how many times do you put the effort into editing your photo versus not wanting to take the time to mess with it. Then compare the two to see if your habits have changed pre digital versus now. No change, change for the better, or change for the worse.

I shot B&W and processed my own prints, so yes, I spent the time needed to get the results wanted. That’s what was such fun about it! Whatever results I had were only from the effort put in.

Nowadays I shoot digital and run the images that seem successful through post processing to get what I want: since I don’t simply accept the camera’s opinion of my image, there might be quite a bit of processing involved or there may be almost none. So I never compare an original with a processed version because I haven’t got some “original” to compare it to, only a generic preview.

I hope everyone’s stocks of popcorn are holding up!
04-30-2022, 02:21 AM - 1 Like   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sam_I_am Quote
Let me say this once again. The "perfect" shot only exists in the mind of the individual photographer.
Debating the definition of a perfect shot is a red herring. Instead, I took your original question to be whether digital users still tried to get framing, composition and exposure optimised when they took the shot, like they were more inclined to in film days, or whether they now blazed away and sorted it out in post-processing. There was more incentive to get it right first time in film days partly because film is expensive and partly because PP of film shots requires either your own darkroom (and a lot of time and skill) or an expensive pro lab. Digital PP still needs time and skill, but not as much as film did.

To answer your questions :
QuoteOriginally posted by Sam_I_am Quote
For those that were photographers before the digital era, did you actually spend the time needed for editing(or paid a professional lab to do the same) to get the results you wanted. If so, what percentage did you do it versus not wanting to mess with the added effort or expense.
I did a significant amount of film PP. When younger I helped my father (a weekend pro) develop and print the wedding photos he took, and I also took some courses. But the vast majority (99%?)of the film photos I took were processed by run-of-the mill labs. Most were simply family and holiday snaps for the album, with no fine art pretentions.

QuoteOriginally posted by Sam_I_am Quote
Now, think about your digital camera and your editing program. .. it still takes time to learn how to use your program and then actually put it into practice. So how many times do you put the effort into editing your photo versus not wanting to take the time to mess with it. Then compare the two to see if your habits have changed pre digital versus now.
I take photos in exactly the same way with digital as I did with film. However, my type of photography is landscape and townscape which is not rushed anyway. If I did sport it might be different. I do some digital PP but not in much depth; I don't like recognisable PP such as over-saturated colours. I might crop a bit, brighten a bit, and sometimes I remove some litter from a street scene. The majority of the photos I post here on PF are straight from the camera.
04-30-2022, 02:46 AM   #14
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I strive towards the perfect shot out of laziness and a feeling that to much editing, even cropping takes away some of the immediacy of a photo.

However, I very often dramatically underexpose to avoid clipping when photographing buildings and spaces. Then a perfect shot is the one that fits the dynamic range on the sensor.
04-30-2022, 04:14 AM   #15
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I try to get the composition, exposure triangle, lighting correct before I open the shutter and capture the image. This is a habit I learned from my film days when I didn't have much money for film, and had to send everything for processing.
I don't want to spend a lot of time performing post-processing, so I don't, though I have come recognize there are occasions when more post processing will make an image much better. I am making an effort to gain more skills to that end.
Analog or digital, one of my first steps in processing is cropping. I have come to realize that I often recognize an interesting scene and capture it too quickly, only in review do I realize which elements made the scene catch my eye, perhaps my "mind''s eye"? that is when I will crop accordingly.
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