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This Must Be Photoshopped


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#1 cor

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 04:04 AM

In the thread about image manipulation Alex mentioned something that ive noticed as well. Too many people, not just new generation photographers, seem to think that all good, clear, crisp digital photos are photoshopped. It can be very annoying to be accused of using photoshop even though images are straight from the camera, or at best bulk-processed through Lightroom.

I recently saw a comic that made me think of people that make these kinds of remarks.

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#2 loftus

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 05:01 AM

Mostly this is a result of ignorance; but who really cares.
On the other hand, except for RAW, there is no such thing as a totally unmanipulated image - it's only a matter of degree. With more and more in-camera manipulation becoming possible (even cropping) the lines will blur even more.
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#3 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 05:30 AM

I agree Jeff, but I'd put a much earlier start date on it than the proliferation of digital cameras. Ever since the late 1980s/early 1990s nearly all magazines and books have been laid out and printed digitally. And a great deal of manipulation to colours was done under the excuse of the RGB to CMYK conversion.

People seem to forget that Photoshop was in wide use well before digital SLR cameras. I'd also add that perhaps the most well known underwater photographer for total polishing of images in Photoshop actually shoots film. And also that I'm sure his shots are great out of the camera - he just likes that Photoshopped look.

The other point I'd make is that actually a relience on photoshop will hold your images back. IMO no amount of adjustments can be used to turn a poor image into that "just right" look that you get from doing everything right in camera (be that on slide or digital).

I wrote an article "The Photoshop Cycle" about this issue recently in FiNS Magazine (Issue 6.6, page 48-49) - which you can download from iTunes for free. Here is an extract:

Each time I’m lucky enough to dive with really talented underwater
photographers, I see this for myself. I recently went diving with FiNS Magazine
regulars Tony Wu and Eric Cheng in the Bahamas, and their images looked the
same on their cameras’ LCD screens as you would see them on their websites
and in the magazine. Curiously, other photographers on the boat spent hours
on their computers trying (and often failing) to get the same “right looking”
balance of colour, contrast and impact.


Alex

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#4 cor

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 05:52 AM

Even though this has no bearing on my original post, it does bring me to another point, partly brought on by loftus' choice to use the word manipulation where I would have expected the word 'processing'.

What if you frame an image larger with the intent to be able to crop it for different print sizes? You are imaging crap on the edges, but as you take the image, you know thats not what your final image will hold because you intent to crop it in different ways. As a photographer you can actually make decisions about the final image even before the shot has been taken. Is that manipulation?

I agree fully with Alex that no amount of post-processing is a substitute for taking a great image.

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#5 loftus

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 08:08 AM

This is obviously a very broad discussion; and I think that first off, no one can argue that getting the best possible photograph initially in camera is the ideal and most important consideration. If nothing else it means less work in post, and the image will most closely resemble the way you saw it. Having said that, there are few photographs in my opinion that can never be improved in post-processing. I would argue that just about any photograph out of the camera can probably be improved, even if ever so slightly, with a slight crop maybe - even if it's to fit a standard print size, sharpening, local and overall contrast changes (curves and HILOAM sharpening), minor color tweaking, minor spotting. I may not spend much time on web images, but before I send a 17x22 print to the printer, that image has to be immaculate, and the best it can be. Fine art printers spend hours working on an image - I knew someone who took ten years working on his prints in the darkroom to gain acceptance to the British Photographic Society (I cannot remember the acronym, but it was at the time the very prestigious royal society in Britain)
This type of approach is well accepted in every genre of photography except possibly photojournalism and natural history photography because of course one does not want to be accused of manipulating an image to present something that was not there.
My approach underwater is to try to capture and if necessary post-process an image the way I remember it, without presenting something that was not there, but tweaking it to obtain the finest possible image, especially for prints, is not only acceptable, but desirable for me.

Edited by loftus, 31 December 2007 - 08:13 AM.

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#6 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 08:36 AM

it does bring me to another point, partly brought on by loftus' choice to use the word manipulation where I would have expected the word 'processing'.


It was hoped a few years ago that the OEM scale - Optimization, Enhancement, Manipulation - would be taken up to describe the level of processing on digital images. ButI haven't heard it mentionned for ages.

I think that the main division we (and our audience) are concerned by is images that accurately record the scene we photographed (nothing added and nothing taken away) and manipulated images. I think people like to know that what they are looking at represents something that the photographer actually saw. And when it is not, and the content of the frame is manipulated, then this shoud be communicated.

That way you have two categories of images:
1) straight images of unaltered frames - optimised with correction to colours, brightness and contrast. Ideally this should be minimal and global adjustments (RAW converter).
2) images that have had their content manipulated

The problem is that I can immediately think of 100s of images that fall in the grey area between these to poles. That said, this division works reasonably well for me. Type 1 are allowed to be entered in the Wildlife Photographer competition - which to my mind is a fairly good standard as what constitutes a fair unmanipulated nature image. I generally process all my images within these limits. In my recent book I also included a note in the photographic details, listed by each photo, as to whether an image was manipulated for content. I think 7 were in the whole book - and this is made clear in the caption next to the image.

I hope that this becomes more widespread in underwater photo books. It would help address Cor's original post that everything good must be photoshopped.

Some may argue that their digital photos or scanned slides are not post processed at all, but this is unavoidable. Cameras and scanners optimise their output files, and if these images are converted to be printed in a magazine or book then they are adjusted to make sure they print well. Everyone here who has had an image printed in a magazine will know that they rarely if ever appear exactly as they should. You can never get them to print 100% true to life. Just as an example, Tauchen magazine printed the same photo of mine twice in one issue and each time it looked different! It was the same file.

Alex

p.s. an enjoyable topic to save me helping my girlfriend and her grandmother, who are making pasta al forno on the other side of the kitchen! The are certainly manipulating those ingredients...

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#7 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 08:48 AM

I would argue that just about any photograph out of the camera can probably be improved, even if ever so slightly, with a slight crop maybe - even if it's to fit a standard print size, sharpening, local and overall contrast changes (curves and HILOAM sharpening), minor color tweaking, minor spotting.


Jeff, I do agree with you - but is it actually improving them? I certainly think that there is a growing trend in underwater photography that people like to see "warts and all" images. Now everyone can produce perfectly clean black backgrounds, even in Lembeh, with the help of photoshop, I get fed up seeing them. And I know others do too. The real ocean has bits in it, the real world is not perfect, so does cleaning out a few specks of backscatter really improve an image or does it actually tell us less?

This is an image of mine from my new book. If you look carefully this shot still has speks of backscatter in. They are much more obvious in the full page reproduction of the book. These would have been simple to remove, but I chose to leave them in - as they were there at the time.
Posted Image

Maybe the image would have been improved by removing the specks? The best analogy I can think of (bearing in mind I am sitting in a kicthen) is the different between machine processed food and hand made food. The processed food is all same size perfection, but there is something real, something more complex and rewarding in hand prepared food.

Alex

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#8 echeng

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 09:05 AM

What if you frame an image larger with the intent to be able to crop it for different print sizes? You are imaging crap on the edges, but as you take the image, you know thats not what your final image will hold because you intent to crop it in different ways. As a photographer you can actually make decisions about the final image even before the shot has been taken. Is that manipulation?

Cor brings up a very important point. I have quite a few shots that are most effective when printed very large. These are framed further back than I would have framed them had I been targeting a smaller display medium.

It's important to periodically look at your images this way: on a large monitor, or printed out large. I periodically look through my images at full screen on my 30" LCD, and it changes the way I shoot.

If you look at your images most often on a camera's LCD or little Epson back-up drive/LCD, you may end up framing too close for large prints.

Cor's point, too, is that we should be "allowed" to frame larger with the intent to crop, either for different print sizes or for depth of field. According to the rules in "traditional" categories of some photo contests (ours included), we don't allow cropping. I sometimes wonder: if I could mask my viewfinder somehow in a certifiable fashion to "prove" that I framed wide® with an intent to crop, why shouldn't those images be allowed?
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#9 loftus

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 09:14 AM

Cor's point, too, is that we should be "allowed" to frame larger with the intent to crop, either for different print sizes or for depth of field. According to the rules in "traditional" categories of some photo contests (ours included), we don't allow cropping. I sometimes wonder: if I could mask my viewfinder somehow in a certifiable fashion to "prove" that I framed wide® with an intent to crop, why shouldn't those images be allowed?

Eric,
I brought up this point in a thread questioning the 'traditional' rules of the Wetpixel competition. One of the rationales given or this is to even the playing field for those who do not know Photoshop. I would argue that cropping (not allowed) is probably the simplest maneuver, available in all basic photoeditors like iPhoto etc. Contrast and color adjustments etc (allowed) can in fact be far more complex and really define the amateur from the pro photoshopper. I think for the 'traditional' category to be as fair as possible, requiring straight JPEG out of the camera for traditional would be the best.

Edited by loftus, 31 December 2007 - 09:15 AM.

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#10 echeng

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 09:18 AM

Hey, Jeff -

All photo contest rules are arbitrary. You have to decide at some point what to allow. And if you're shooting in RAW, you don't need Photoshop, but you do need some sort of RAW converter. Since everyone needs to learn RAW conversion these days, it's as valid a standard as anything.

A lot of the rules have to do with that is possible to audit. RAW files are easier to audit than JPG files. How are you going to prove that a JPG file came straight from the camera unless you control card downloads? (like they do at on-site shootouts).
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#11 loftus

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 09:22 AM

Maybe the image would have been improved by removing the specks? The best analogy I can think of (bearing in mind I am sitting in a kicthen) is the different between machine processed food and hand made food. The processed food is all same size perfection, but there is something real, something more complex and rewarding in hand prepared food.

Alex


You are obviously being a purist in this regard, which is admirable, but the argument can be made that you did not actually 'see' these specs, rather they are actually artifacts introduced by your strobe. To some degree I guess introducing a strobe actually changes the way the image is presented as compared to the way it actually looked.

Hey, Jeff -

All photo contest rules are arbitrary. You have to decide at some point what to allow. And if you're shooting in RAW, you don't need Photoshop, but you do need some sort of RAW converter. Since everyone needs to learn RAW conversion these days, it's as valid a standard as anything.

A lot of the rules have to do with that is possible to audit. RAW files are easier to audit than JPG files. How are you going to prove that a JPG file came straight from the camera unless you control card downloads? (like they do at on-site shootouts).

Yeah, I understand, I guess with time though these rules may change.

Edited by loftus, 31 December 2007 - 09:28 AM.

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#12 TheRealDrew

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 10:39 AM

Hey, Jeff -

All photo contest rules are arbitrary. You have to decide at some point what to allow. And if you're shooting in RAW, you don't need Photoshop, but you do need some sort of RAW converter. Since everyone needs to learn RAW conversion these days, it's as valid a standard as anything.

A lot of the rules have to do with that is possible to audit. RAW files are easier to audit than JPG files. How are you going to prove that a JPG file came straight from the camera unless you control card downloads? (like they do at on-site shootouts).



I think it is difficult to come up with one rule fits all and to that extent there will always be some level of being "aribtrary" no matter what. For instance there is now point and shoot catagory in contests, which I think is great due to the differences between cameras (dSLR and non-dSLR) and a delineation that is clear cut.

But then you can continue on and on trying to make other delineations to cover all combinations and permutations in an effort to make the contest accessible and fair. One strobe vs 2 strobes. Full sensor dSLR vs non-full, etc. I think that as long as the rules are clear and consistent that is all that you can really ask for and the point and shoot/dSLR a good one.. There may be one or two other catagories that can be added, but it seems that BTS and OWU (since these are two coming up) have done a good job to try to balance these items.

If more catagories are needed though, I suggest it would be for photos taken by people named Drew on dives that I was on, and hopefully no one else named Drew is on the same dive :)

#13 cor

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 10:39 AM

Alex, that division works for me as well. I rarely need to go outside of the raw converter (Lightroom). If i do, it's because there is something I especially like about the image, and it's not easy to try again. Ever since I switch my workflow Lightroom, I have absolutely no patience for anything that needs more work :) (thanks to Eric, who I watched fly through Aperture one time...)

The distinction Lightroom (or Aperture) vs. Photoshop as least gives you some idea of how far you're going. I do realize though that lightroom has added some pixel level processing to its set of tools (spot remover for one), but generally it works on the image as a whole. But still, even without the spot remover, LR probably already allows too much for some. Which is an interesting subject all by itself. The Raw converters are becoming more and more elaborate, so it may not be possible for much longer to allow 'raw converter processing'.

There is one exception, and that is images meant for print. I do take significant amount of time there to get things right. Printing is a science all by itself, and I think it needs significant amounts of 'help' to be presentable.

Also, to be fair and not falling into the same generalization, not all seemingly black backgrounds are photoshopped :D Your image here looked pretty much black to me, and if you hadnt mentioned it i might have thought it was. I had to go looking for the backscatter. Computer screens (on my laptop now) are not the best place to judge those things. I like that you said what you did in your book!

Lovely thread :P Only 5 more hours till midnight!

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#14 loftus

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 11:51 AM

Lovely thread :) Only 5 more hours till midnight!

Cor


For me it's 7 hours, but I already have a single malt and a nice Dominican (cigar that is) at my side.
Happy New Year guys
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#15 craig

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 03:54 PM

Considering photography as art, why does it matter whether anything was added or anything was removed? All I dislike is when something is represented as something it isn't, and that wouldn't happen if people didn't insist on photography being competitive. Keep in mind this is art, not journalism.

Likewise, people speak of photoshopping as though it were a bad thing. Once again, people look at it as cheating because they view photography competitively.

The downside of photoshopping is that it is often used as a crutch. We know that the best images result when we pay attention to each step in the process. Learning how we prefer to do raw conversions, how we optimize color, sharpening, backscatter removal, etc. in photoshop or any other post tool is just one of the many steps we take.

Would we accuse someone of cheating if he used a lens to advantage that none of us had access to? Sadly, yes we would, because many of us view this process as a means of proving our superiority and we would move to ban that equipment from competition. Yes, people are that petty, not just in photography but in all competition. Increasingly I despise photography competition because it negatively influences how people feel about what a photographer should and should not do.

I don't care whether anyone feels what I do to my images is cheating or not. I do what I do purely for the pleasure of it. If people don't like my images then that's OK. I take interest in the techniques of others, whether I agree with them or not, because I view photography as an activity best enjoyed cooperatively. The best way to learn is to participate with other experienced photographers, and my preconceived notions on technique may be wrong. I would say generally that all of ours are at one time or another.

Of course, for those that insist on having contests, beyond the POTW variety that I am in favor of, there have to be arbitrary rules. With film it was easy because you had a final product you could hold in your hand. We have to accept rules that limit what we can do with digital when we compete, but we should not let that cloud our judgment as to what is acceptable in general.

P.S. I've had the opportunity to do a trip just once since Lightroom/Aperture has been available and using Lightroom was entirely new to me at the start of that trip. Nevertheless my experience was that 95%+ of my images didn't leave Lightroom. That's not because I viewed exporting the image to PS was bad but simply because it was not needed. I'd expect that if I didn't have such a long layoff since my previous diving that the ratio would be even more imbalanced. Nevertheless, if an image needs more specialized tools than Lightroom offers (and I consider it a keeper), I won't hesitate to use them. When we dive many months out of the year, we can afford to me more choosy.
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#16 ce4jesus

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 05:22 PM

Just because I have nothing better to do I'll throw in 2 pennies worth from the naive beginner catagory. Photoshop does make me lazy and I'm often too addicted to its ability to fix my mistakes. Like Craig I only get to dive about 4-6 times a year. When I hit the water for the first time in months I usually suck down a tank like an air junkie needing a fix. My housing usually fogs within minutes from all the shots and I hop from subject to subject like an excited puppy needing affection. The lack of any sound technique usually dawns on me like a cheap beer hangover when I get back to the hotel. Normally while studying how poor strobe position, composition, and no white balance can ruin a perfectly good photo-op. By the time I've got it down, I'm usually heading back home. Photoshop becomes my best friend and I salvage enough photos to make the family ooh and aah.
As for competitions, I'm all for them. It allows guys like me to establish reference points for success. In theory, Competition makes us better. It forces us to evolve, change our strategies and refine our techniques in order to remain at the top of our game.
As for some of you like Alex, I guess you'll have to bear the weight of your crown, so to speak. You are so good at what you do that your photos will forever be labeled as impossible to achieve without "help".
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#17 Steve Williams

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 11:05 PM

Folks,

Just a slight spin on the conversation. I got to tour the Nelson Art Gallery in Kansas City yesterday. They were having an exibition of early photgraphy from 1839 up until the early 1900's. Facinating, well done show. One image especially caught my eye. It was called "Brig on the Water" taken by Gustave Le Gray, probably the most well known French photographers of the period. He used two negatives, one to expose the sky, and one for the ocean to get the final print. The man had invented layers in 1856! His images are still seen as art today, 150 years later. Allposters.com has it for sale if you want to take a look. I bet Gustave would have loved Photoshop. His intent was to create an image that best represented what he saw. Does the question of what is acceptable really come down to intent?

Happy New Year! :) Steve

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#18 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 01 January 2008 - 04:37 AM

But still, even without the spot remover, LR probably already allows too much for some. Which is an interesting subject all by itself. The Raw converters are becoming more and more elaborate, so it may not be possible for much longer to allow 'raw converter processing'.


Cor, I agree that the likes of lightroom actually allow for some fairly extensive post processing.

Considering photography as art, why does it matter whether anything was added or anything was removed? All I dislike is when something is represented as something it isn't, and that wouldn't happen if people didn't insist on photography being competitive. Keep in mind this is art, not journalism.


I think that this is a very useful point. A great majority of the pictures we take underwater are of natural history subjects, but different photographers (thankfully) have different intentions on how they want to portray these subjects. Some want beautiful natural history images, others want beautiful artistic images (where the biology provides the subject matter, but the image is not trying to communicate biological stories). Both are very valid areas of underwater photography. Many of us take both types of images, and it is clear that each would have a very different level of acceptable Photoshopping.

Photoshop becomes my best friend and I salvage enough photos to make the family ooh and aah.


Those of us lucky to dive more regularly almost end up with the opposite problem. You end up with so many images that you only get round to touching the ones that aren't going to take you more than a moment to process. If I dived less, I would probably use photoshop more.

Alex

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#19 cor

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Posted 01 January 2008 - 05:33 AM

Cor, I agree that the likes of lightroom actually allow for some fairly extensive post processing.


With the exception of the spot remover they are all functions that are applied to the image as a whole. They could probably be done in a darkroom by a specialist as well. They dont add or remove any content. LR's functionality is actually identical to photoshops raw converter. So it that too extensive? And if so, why? Are you altering natural history by applying a curve? If the answer to that is yes, are you not also altering natural history by the mere fact of strobe positioning? Surely those strobes didnt grow there :)

I know im almost defending both sides of the equation. I dont like being 'accused' of photoshopping images that were not. You can make beautiful, crisp, clear images right out of the camera, and like Alex said, that is what everyone should strive for because else you are limiting your own learning curve. But at the same time I dont like the fact that many people seem to want to limit themselves to natural history style photography. And want to impose that limit on others. Many of the discussions going on now in different threads are imho based on that premise.

Why should I have to defend myself when I take a picture a certain way and then crop it to fit my intent. Some people look at you like you've just clubbed a baby seal. I dont understand that.

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#20 MikeVeitch

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Posted 01 January 2008 - 05:43 AM

Clubbing baby seals? hehe.. Canadian bashing eh? :) :D

Yea, tis funny how often can get the PS label and stuff. My mantis shrimp photo always gets deemed as a crop, although it isn't...

Although it used to bother me I tend to just ignore those comments now.

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