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01-23-2019, 08:04 AM - 3 Likes   #1
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Too much postprocessing?

In a discussion relating to the selection of a winning picture in a monthly contest, I said:

QuoteOriginally posted by dlh Quote
Most of that lot seem too "gimmicky" for me. Waay too saturated, too much postprocessing. Although one might use a photograph as a "canvas" for his artistic use of software, the result is artistic use of software, not photography. Lots of whizz-bang doesn't improve a photograph, because what one notices is the whizz-bang, not the subject. Ok, these mostly had lots of great whizz-bang, and I do appreciate that skill. But post-processing (and especially that which messes with hue, saturation etc.) should be thought of like a ladie's makeup, or like theatrical lighting for a play - if you notice it, it's too much; if it exemplifies the beauty of the subject, it's good. If you're watching a play and thinking about how good the lighting is, then you've missed the play.
To which BobL replied:

QuoteOriginally posted by BobL Quote
Sorry, but I have to disagree. If you shoot in Jpeg the camera is already doing the processing for you, the way that it thinks the image should look. Shooting in RAW you get a pure rendition of the basic photo which you can then interpret as per your vision. Do you really think that a painting is a true rendition of what was there, or an interpretation of how the artist saw it. Photographers are no less the artist, post processing is an integral part of photography, it's not cheating it's a matter of using the skills that have been learned to create the image of your vision. No disrespect intended, but an artist exercising their skills is in my experience more often criticised by those who don't have the skills or are too afraid to step out of their comfort zone to learn something new. As for watching a play & enjoying the lighting, it's mostly the lighting that creates the mood & reinforces the actors skills, without the dramatic or subtle lighting being applied half of the atmosphere would be lost.
I thought it best to move that stuff here - out of place (mea culpa) in the contest voting thread.

My comment wasn't about raw v. jpeg, it was about what I regard as too much CGI, which can be artistic as all get out, but the end product isn't a "photograph" in my opinion. Knowing how to compose the shot and how to work the camera to record the scene as the photographer sees it, that's photography. Postprocessing software is a good way to "recover" from mistakes, or to touch up the photo - after all, "burning and dodging" were invented by people who wanted to do postprocessing as they're printing an image on an enlarger. My comment was about doing so much adjustment to the parameters of the photograph (whether from raw or jpeg source data) that it ceases to be a faithful representation of the photographer's vision at shutter-time and becomes the software-artists creation based on something pre-existing. Sort of like a movie based on a book - it's not the book, it's not like the book, and doesn't say what the book said, even though some of the original source were retained, and the result has elements in common.

And, as to BobL's comment about the importance of lighting to the play, I'd say, no question about that. But the issue isn't whether or not to have stage lighting, it's about how much is enough. If the lighting is noticible, then you're not watching a play, you're admiring stage lighting. (I'd worked in that field, myself, for some years, before I went to college, got a degree in history, and spent twelve years as a software engineer before having become an attorney.) And my other analogy had to do with women's make-up: I get distracted watching TV news because the female news-faces look pre-embalmed - the fake eyelashes give them the appearance of someone who's having his eyeballs eaten by centipedes; I just want to know about the news, I don't want an evening with a TV tart.

I have also complained about too much "sharpening" people do in software. To me, excessive contrast and sharpening makes the same effect of shooting at very high ISO values with a slow shutter speed - it's just noise, to me. But I think I've figured out why that happens. I have red-green color blindness, but my wife has better than superb color-vision. But our "sensors" are very different. The photoreceptors for color ("cones") in the retina take up a lot of real estate, whereas the black/white receptors ("rods") are pretty tiny. So I'm packing in a whole lot more resolution than does my wife. I can see in what other people think is total cave darkness, while my wife can discriminate between hues that normal people can't tell the difference between. And, because she has more cones than most folks, it's like having a camera sensor that has a "pixel" that's about a hundred times the normal surface area every so many pixels. So to her, the world is like an impressionistic painting, she sees everything in blobs of color, while it's more like very high resolution gray-scale to me (an exaggeration, but you get the drift). So my theory is that the people who sharpen up their images making them excessively "crisp" and harsh by my lights must be people with unusually good color vision. They need artificial granularity to make up for the fact that they have low-resolution eyesight. And it hurts my eyes to look at those pictures because they have way more granularity than does a natural scene. My pictures must seem awfully washed-out and dull to such people, because we are all compensating for deficiencies in the way we see things.

01-23-2019, 08:42 AM - 5 Likes   #2
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Of course everyone is free to do as much or as little processing as they like, but for me things have gone too far when a photo looks like something that cannot ever possibly have existed in the real world (although I think it's different for B&W, which is intrinsically abstract by nature).

I live in an area that's heavily photographed, and the shots that I see of it in places like Flickr often bewilder me: photographs that have been carefully post-processed to look just like a modern landscape photograph should look, popping with contrast and saturation, and not looking anything at all like the way Dartmoor actually is.

Around here there's quite a lot of resentment towards photographers from many of the locals, exactly because there are so many shots published online and in print that badly misrepresent the place. For me, the greatest compliment one of my photos can receive is for a non-photographer local to give it a nod of recognition that it truthfully captures the way Dartmoor looks.

But here's the really ironic thing: sometimes it takes a lot of work to undo the high contrast and saturation levels that are built into digital cameras these days and make a photo look natural. It can take a lot of processing to make a photo look like it hasn't had much processing.
01-23-2019, 08:44 AM   #3
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The unwritten Prime Directive of the Photography Internet is: thou shalt not criticize, unless expressly asked to by the poster of the photograph in question. Seems odd that it would apply even in a photo contest, but so it is. As interesting as such issues as you and BobL have raised are, or might be, too often the ensuing discussion is just a lot of talking past one another, as seems to be the case here. It's all very subjective, hence another internet Prime Directive comes into force: everything's relative, no one opinion is more valid than any other, so don't dare argue otherwise.
01-23-2019, 08:59 AM - 1 Like   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by baro-nite Quote
... It's all very subjective, hence another internet Prime Directive comes into force: everything's relative, no one opinion is more valid than any other, so don't dare argue otherwise.
Absolutely right, I couldn't agree more. What I should have stated more clearly is my opinion that there are physiological bases to our preferences; a corollary would be that we ought to be sensitive to the ways in which others will view our work, as well, as their own perceptions will be varied to no end, too.

01-23-2019, 09:12 AM - 3 Likes   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dartmoor Dave Quote
Of course everyone is free to do as much or as little processing as they like, but for me things have gone too far when a photo looks like something that cannot ever possibly have existed in the real world (although I think it's different for B&W, which is intrinsically abstract by nature).

I live in an area that's heavily photographed, and the shots that I see of it in places like Flickr often bewilder me: photographs that have been carefully post-processed to look just like a modern landscape photograph should look, popping with contrast and saturation, and not looking anything at all like the way Dartmoor actually is.

Around here there's quite a lot of resentment towards photographers from many of the locals, exactly because there are so many shots published online and in print that badly misrepresent the place. For me, the greatest compliment one of my photos can receive is for a non-photographer local to give it a nod of recognition that it truthfully captures the way Dartmoor looks.

But here's the really ironic thing: sometimes it takes a lot of work to undo the high contrast and saturation levels that are built into digital cameras these days and make a photo look natural. It can take a lot of processing to make a photo look like it hasn't had much processing.
Much of the world, most of the time, is flat, grey, boring, and with bad lighting. Photography doesn't have to be about perfectly representing reailty.
01-23-2019, 09:16 AM - 2 Likes   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by dlh Quote
What I should have stated more clearly is my opinion that there are physiological bases to our preferences

It's certainly possible that aesthetic preferences have got physiological bases. After all, Monet's famously blurry late paintings are a truthful representation of the way he saw the world with his failing eyesight.

And it would do my ego no harm to believe that the reason why I find most modern photos to be horribly oversaturated is that I've got more acute colour perception than the masses.
01-23-2019, 09:20 AM - 3 Likes   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by ThorSanchez Quote
Much of the world, most of the time, is flat, grey, boring, and with bad lighting. Photography doesn't have to be about perfectly representing reailty.

Well, yes, but there was a time when a photographer's job was to go out and find the good light in the real world, rather than faking it on a computer.
01-23-2019, 09:22 AM   #8
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It's entirely subjective, in my opinion.

If the starting point for a finished image was a photo, the end result is still a photograph... even if it's a heavily processed one. Individually, we may have different views on the level of processing that was applied, but the photographer makes his or her choices based on artistic intent, not on what we may or may not like.

The photographer is free to do as he or she pleases... and we, the viewers, are free to like or dislike their work accordingly. What we can all probably agree on is the skill and technique involved

01-23-2019, 10:01 AM - 2 Likes   #9
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No good comes of criticizing artistic taste.

QuoteQuote:
Around here there's quite a lot of resentment towards photographers from many of the locals, exactly because there are so many shots published online and in print that badly misrepresent the place.
A few years ago when I got my K-1 I took some pictures of a sunset around Whitney. One of the baseball diamond and my friend Elaine's parent's house is just to the left of the diamond. She said "That's the best picture I've ever seen taken of my parents house." Those are the kinds of locals I like. Not the ones that say "you photoshopped that." Truth be known, the light was great, it needed hardly any photoshop, but I have absolutely no doubt, I was the only one who stopped and took in that sunset. The probability that the long time locals have never seen anything like it is irrelevant.



It may not be representative, it may not be what it looks like all the time. But Elaine wanted a print to hang on her parent's wall. But no one has ever had the nerve to say they were unhappy with it because it misrepresents Whitney. On the contrary, it highlights the possibilities.

People who don't spend a lot of time in nature tend to not believe what's out there.
And regardless of any alterations, if you don't have decent images to start with, you're getting nothing. So I have to ask, how much of what your locals think is mis-representation is simply jealousy? They think, if images like that were available they'd have seen them or would have them. Like the people at craft shows who asked me where I took the pictures, planning to go there and take the same picture I took.

You can go to the Whitney baseball diamond at sunset from now to you die, and you may never see anything like this night.
As I say to prospective clients, "If you like this picture, buy this picture." It's unlikely I can reproduce it myself if I lose it, forget about someone else with different training, experience and gear.

And if you don't like a portrayal, no sweat, someone somewhere who shares my sensibilities does. And I do. That's all I care about. Everyone else has the right to think what they want. But as the old saying goes. "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything."

Last edited by normhead; 01-23-2019 at 10:10 AM.
01-23-2019, 10:02 AM - 3 Likes   #10
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Part of the problem is that people feel, probably rightly, that a straight picture ith minimum processing won't stand much of a chance in a landscape competition (especially) - people do what they see other people winning with, so blame the judges
01-23-2019, 10:19 AM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by ffking Quote
Part of the problem is that people feel, probably rightly, that a straight picture with minimum processing won't stand much of a chance in a landscape competition (especially) - people do what they see other people winning with, so blame the judges
You forgot the other part of that. It's not just contest judges, it's the photo buying public. People won't buy ordinary images they could have taken themselves. Getting into competitions and selling to the public is different from taking snapshots of your vacation. I once heard someone say they could judge the quality of an image from the contact sheet. If it doesn't stand out as a 2cm x2cm reduction, there's no point in opening it up.

There is a whole step to be taken. You start producing images of your memories, they can be any old flat looking unprocessed thing, as long as it reminds you of what was there. To doing something that will mean something to someone else who wasn't there is a whole different process. That's when you start to understand composition, post processing etc. and start looking for what it is people find attractive.

Last edited by normhead; 01-23-2019 at 04:00 PM.
01-23-2019, 10:31 AM - 2 Likes   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by dlh Quote
My comment was about doing so much adjustment to the parameters of the photograph (whether from raw or jpeg source data) that it ceases to be a faithful representation of the photographer's vision at shutter-time
....


But the photographers "vision" only starts when they set up, scan the scene, and then click the camera shutter. You can't say there is only one valid representation of a scene, as "seen" by the photographer at the moment of capture. A vision for a final image can develop and expand after the camera capture stage ... this might be pre-planned or it might develop based on what the captured image data reveals when expanded onto the computer screen.


And even taking "vision" in a more restricted sense, as in what the photographer's eyes could see at the time, it is very few images whose output will be able to truly represent the scale of DR, tones and depth in a scene without some good processing work.


Where I'm sure we would agree is about the extents of it all .... a good landscape shot, with nice low sun, side lighting and natural contrast, will only need mild processing inputs to look great. But it will still need processing.

Last edited by mcgregni; 01-23-2019 at 10:36 AM.
01-23-2019, 10:41 AM - 2 Likes   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by ffking Quote
Part of the problem is that people feel, probably rightly, that a straight picture ith minimum processing won't stand much of a chance in a landscape competition (especially) - people do what they see other people winning with, so blame the judges
I stopped voting on (or entering) this forum's photo contests when enough experience convinced me that not only would my photos never make it past the first round, but neither would most of the photos I voted for. Fine and dandy, it's instructive to learn that, but I don't need to learn it any more.
01-23-2019, 11:01 AM - 1 Like   #14
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I do not wish to take any position (I reckon I will in this post), but while art is art and it lies within artistic vision, art itself can be defined and categorized. I am not really going into contest mode, but just in general....


With this said, what I can gather is that the original poster (and this is my position) is trying to separate between the art of photography and the art of image "composition" (not the photography composition, but the art of creating an image/manipulating a shot). Photography being the raw art of shooting/composing/framing/lighting, while image "composition" being manipulating the image to achieve a desired look.

I understand that image manipulation, thanks to digital, is more vast and accessible than what it used to be. Hence, the need for some folks to sub-categorize the art of photography.

Either way, while we can sub-categorize the end product of the art of shooting, a shot is not a "good" shot simply based on post processing. Location elements (lighting/composition/framing) as well as post processing (image manipulation) are both likely necessary to achieve a pleasing result. I understand the concept of wanting to sub-categorize photography into shooting vs post and to try to determine on which category does the final product belong (is it straight photography or is it a manipulated image) = but who's to say where the line is drawn? I cannot bother with that, as I won't be good enough in either realm to win a contest or have an exhibition. I just enjoy the hobby. Cheers.
01-23-2019, 11:19 AM - 3 Likes   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by dlh Quote
Too much postprocessing?
Some post processing on the raw image is needed due to the abrupt response of digital sensors, film did not have this particular problem.
And I agree that more and more digital images are overprocessed in a attempt to compensate for lack of interest in the composition itself (old b&w photographs with images look great because they tell a compelling story, even if the contrast and sharpness are average). The problem is, the stronger the post processing is, the more we get used to surreal photographs, stronger and stronger post processing is then needed to keep images standout. It's analogous to the food we eat, nearly every transformed food sold in supermarkets contains preservatives, additives, sugar, salts, and taste enhancers needed due to desensitization of people taste, and also the lower taste on basic food before chemical are added.
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