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Time For A Major Philosophy Change?


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#101 Andy Morrison

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 11:39 AM

Alex had a vision, he knew what he wanted to show, which was the subject in its environment. Yes it meant compositing but it presented a powerful image that he was not able to make in a single shot. In over-unders we used to rely on neutral density filters and split diopters to achieve what can now be done more effectively with a fisheye or a wide-angle lens. Althought it is technically possible to make such images in a single shot, compositing is not a bad approach either, especially if the information is disclosed.


Never said it was a bad approach. In fact I was commending him on disclosing the technique as many don't. That's the difference between a true pro and others IMO. Stand by your work. Do whatever you want but disclose it if need be.

#102 BotSO

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 01:38 PM

I was watching Eric Johansson's TED talk tonight, and he hits on an intersting concept at about 1 min, 40 sec:

...it's about capturing an idea, not a moment...

For me, a great photo captures an idea IN the moment. Sometimes, an idea needs help reaching full expression.

http://www.ted.com/t...hotography.html

#103 Otara

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 04:13 PM

From a practical perspective I suspect many of us get to spend a lot more time in front of a computer than in the water, or may even never get to return to take pictures of some locations.

So having ways to still work with images to make them closer to what you envisaged or experienced it to be is fantastic. Its still your memory and experience, regardless of what standard it would be held to in a competition or the like.

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#104 newmanl

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 04:21 PM

Alex, a very interesting question and resulting discussion. Thanks for putting it "out there".

I wasn't going to respond only because of my limited knowledge of all the aspects related to the use of digital images taken underwater. However, I too am from the 35mm slide era (aquarium specimens and landscape) and prefer to get as much of it "right" in the camera at the moment of capture. I really feel Andy's post is a good summary of how I approach the topic in general. If I can't add just a few tweaks to get the photo to look like I want, then I trash it. I'd rather try again than dress a 3 up as a 9.

But that's the thing. The media does not demand "perfect shots." In fact, nowadays the media is more focused on getting free shots that will do the job as opposed to paying for perfect shots. Anyone who makes their living with photography will tell you that. We are competing with inferior images that are free versus whatever is a perfect shot. Don't get me wrong, certain publications will still pay for good photography. But there are less and less willing to do so. Personally I think most pros are more apt to deliver what's demanded without resorting to the overuse of Photoshop. Yeah, I know, what constitutes overuse? ;-)

I see this a couple different ways. And I wasn't going to comment on this thread because this question is a dog chasing its' tail. That said, there are three kinds of photographers. There is the photographer who strives to get the perfect picture in camera. They're not afraid to post process a little, but just to the degree where the meaning of the image isn't really changed. Are they a purist, maybe, maybe not.

Then there is the photographer who is more artist than documentary photographer. The raw images is the palette, and Photoshop the bucket of paint brushes. They want to create the perfect with Photoshop or whatever.

Then there is the photographer who's ego won't let them take a flawed photograph. They take the image into Photoshop and do their best to make it perfect.

What's the difference between the artist photographer and the ego-driven photographer? Intent. The artist will let everyone know their image was made in the camera and Photoshop. Their proud of their efforts behind the camera and computer. The egoist keeps it hidden. It's their dirty little secret. They'll pawn it off as all done in camera.
They can't stand it when they miss a shot because their focus wasn't locked, the exposure was off, or something undesirable was in the background. These are the dangerous photographers. They have to right that wrong. They change the landscape for the rest of us and erode viewer trust. When the first photographer does manage to make that perfect image most now assume it was done in Photoshop. I lost a co-worker and good friend because they couldn't leave well enough alone and had to have "perfect" images. It cost him his job. I've seen too many examples of ego-driven photographers.

My point is that who is it that really demands the perfect shot? What are you willing to do to make the perfect shot and are you willing to reveal what you've done? People like Alex Mustard are great photographers because of hard work, not their Photoshop skills. I once had the pleasure to intern for NatGeo photographer Joel Sartore when I was in college. The most important thing he ever told me was " there is no magic secret to making pictures. It's hard work and time in the field." I choose to believe that is still true. I'm sure others don't.

Part of being a working daily photojournalist has taught me that not every photo can be perfect. In fact few are. Being a professional means I have to accept that not every photo is perfect but my name still goes under them. The beautiful thing about photography is if you take a bad picture you get to take another.

So to answer Alex's question, is it time for a philosophy change? Not for me. Technology is part of evolution. As photographers and humans we need to be open to evolution, accept what we're comfortable accepting, and ignore the rest. The loosening of photo morals is up to us as professional photographers to decide. Personally I'm going to keep doing things how I've always done them. I shoot, edit which includes, cropping and toning within reality, and that's it. The camera and Photoshop are just tools for me to keep doing what I've always done. I good yardstick, or meterstick for you Euros, is to ask yourself, can you disclose everything you've done with the photo? If not there is a problem. Do whatever you want to your pictures but fully disclose what you've done.

For me the challenge of photography is telling a story with my camera. Sometimes those pictures are perfect, most times not. I'm OK when they are not. I'll get another chance the next time.


As for the composite images... I know some great images can be made and I appreciate when the technique has been disclosed, but to me that's crossing the line from photography to a digital art of some kind. Not the same thing at all in my mind.

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#105 loftus

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 04:52 PM

I think most people want to get as much of it right at the moment of capture, if nothing else it saves time, and ensures the best possible image quality. The concept of ideal capture and post-processing are just not mutually exclusive.
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#106 hult

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 08:53 PM

Are we really ready to cut the apron strings to the slide film era?

[snip]

This is all a hang up from the slide film era.


This has been a 'hang up' -- or not depending on individual inclination -- since almost forever.

Counter-assertion: All photographs, including slides, can be both pre-visioned and instantiated as an immutable object _and_ re-explored and re-discovered in post processing as new creations -- and this has always been so.

For example, not so long ago, using a Kodalith intermediate, an original color slide could be the source of countless high-contrast black-and white variations -- all of which were embedded in the original, waiting to be found. (Think Andy Warhol).

Now we can do this in PS, but the exploration is the same. Just as cropping and burning and dodging and shifting contrast are the same -- but different.

Do check out this "Blow-Up" mind-bender :
http://www.tedxcincy...tricia_vanskai/

Here eight original daguerreotypes taken 1848 in a panoramic view of Cincinnati's Ohio River frontage were re-discovered by microscopic gigapan ( www.gigapan.org) techniques in the 21st Century (1400 separate frames of each photo averaged over 9 exposures each) to create an image with 100x the apparent resolution of the originals -- revealing dates and times (to the minute) and people and places long lost.

(Think D800 DX crop times 65.)

Would even a static picture of a nudi really be so boring if we could blow it up 50x? What would we see that wasn't new(ish)? ).

Plus ça change ... Marc

Edited by hult, 06 March 2012 - 09:12 PM.


#107 Paul Kay

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 01:14 AM

Actually we do have the simplest of ways of satisfying all philosophies. Shooting in-camera jpegs will yield files which must essentially be correctly captured, whilst RAW files are seen (correctly in my view) as a starting point. I just wonder though, how many 'serious' underwater photographers simply shoot jpegs and nothing else. Shooting RAW IMHO effectively suggests that the philosophical change has, to a certain extent, already taken place.....

And Marc's point is interesting. I have in my possession some glass plates taken in the late 1940's by my father-in-law whilst he was working on a whaling station in South Georgia. One was broken - snapped clean in two - but by carefully photographing it on a light box and then stitching and cleaning up the damaged area in Photoshop I have produced a file which prints up better than it ever did in the past. Call it what you will, I can't see that this is falsification in any way whatsoever.
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#108 davichin

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 02:45 AM

I think most people want to get as much of it right at the moment of capture, if nothing else it saves time, and ensures the best possible image quality. The concept of ideal capture and post-processing are just not mutually exclusive.


Shooting in-camera jpegs will yield files which must essentially be correctly captured, whilst RAW files are seen (correctly in my view) as a starting point. I just wonder though, how many 'serious' underwater photographers simply shoot jpegs and nothing else.


Getting it right at the moment of capture, if we want the best copy (highest information/low noise) out of a raw file, means we should have an exposed-to-the-right image. The correspondent camera jpeg (if we shoot raw + jpg) will look somewhat overexposed etc... so, more than not mutually exclusive, I would say raw post processing is mandatory and should be part of the whole plan.

Straight jpeg shooting is something for uwp shootouts and competitions but leave us with almost no correction latitude.
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#109 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 03:10 AM

Frankly I was quite impressed with Alex showing his split level basking shark shot with the land in the background - a composite image of course. That's not something I'm comfortable doing. I think it took big balls for him to throw that out there being an editorial photographer. But again, it's all about disclosure.


The basking shark shot is certainly an interesting one, which unlike my well known pygmy seahorse shot (that is pretty obviously a composite because the same individual is in the frame 4 times) the basking shark is photo real. There is nothing in it to indicate that it is a composite.

Posted Image

This is why I have endeavoured to see it published with full disclosure (and I am sure many of you have seen it in print) - which has happen most of the time it has been published. And many photographers have written to me to complement me on my honesty.

It sells really, really well, but I have turned down several very high profile opportunities for it to be published where disclosure wasn't possible. When I show it in talks it is also marked with an M for manipulated image, as are the seahorses (I don't know any other photographers who do that, BTW). And it is also now in stock libraries - the description says it is manipulated - but stock sales mean that I don't have the chance to ask the magazine for disclosure. BBC Wildlife magazine ran it without stating it was a composite - despite them being aware it was from the library description.

I would also make the point that the basker shot does not misrepresent the subject. Both halves were shot on the same day, with the same lens, in the same area. The sharks were right below the castle. Doug Perrine, who I was sharing the boat with that day, said he would vouch for me that it was not unrepresentative.

Anyway, the shot is out there now. So I am happy for people to make their own decision on it. I am happy that I have been honest and open with how it was created. I see a great many UW photos that have the same amounts of photoshop in them - where the photographers never say anything...

The basker shot would be possible as a straight shot, given ideal conditions. I hope to get that one day - I just need a shark, close to shore in the middle of the day, in the sun. Which is actually quite possible. It was taken with my 550mm dome and I hope one day to nail a similar shot (not with the castle) in camera. I have a similar shot of a grey seal, that is not a composite in the Telegraph newspaper this week.

I am also hoping to take that dome to Mexico for the Wetpixel Expeditions whale shark trips this summer.

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#110 loftus

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 03:54 AM

The basking shark shot is certainly an interesting one, which unlike my well known pygmy seahorse shot (that is pretty obviously a composite because the same individual is in the frame 4 times) the basking shark is photo real. There is nothing in it to indicate that it is a composite.

Posted Image

This is why I have endeavoured to see it published with full disclosure (and I am sure many of you have seen it in print) - which has happen most of the time it has been published. And many photographers have written to me to complement me on my honesty.

It sells really, really well, but I have turned down several very high profile opportunities for it to be published where disclosure wasn't possible. When I show it in talks it is also marked with an M for manipulated image, as are the seahorses (I don't know any other photographers who do that, BTW). And it is also now in stock libraries - the description says it is manipulated - but stock sales mean that I don't have the chance to ask the magazine for disclosure. BBC Wildlife magazine ran it without stating it was a composite - despite them being aware it was from the library description.

I would also make the point that the basker shot does not misrepresent the subject. Both halves were shot on the same day, with the same lens, in the same area. The sharks were right below the castle. Doug Perrine, who I was sharing the boat with that day, said he would vouch for me that it was not unrepresentative.

Anyway, the shot is out there now. So I am happy for people to make their own decision on it. I am happy that I have been honest and open with how it was created. I see a great many UW photos that have the same amounts of photoshop in them - where the photographers never say anything...

The basker shot would be possible as a straight shot, given ideal conditions. I hope to get that one day - I just need a shark, close to shore in the middle of the day, in the sun. Which is actually quite possible. It was taken with my 550mm dome and I hope one day to nail a similar shot (not with the castle) in camera. I have a similar shot of a grey seal, that is not a composite in the Telegraph newspaper this week.

I am also hoping to take that dome to Mexico for the Wetpixel Expeditions whale shark trips this summer.

Alex

So is this shot then any more manipulated than David Doubilet's nudi series that caused a stir here a couple of years ago? I think not. And I like them both.

Edited by loftus, 07 March 2012 - 03:56 AM.

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#111 Andy Morrison

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 09:17 AM

So is this shot then any more manipulated than David Doubilet's nudi series that caused a stir here a couple of years ago? I think not. And I like them both.


See that's the thing, it's not so much the manipulation that's the problem, it's the deception that can occur. That's the danger. I get leery of composites and any over manipulation because it opens up the question "is this shot possible." If you put that question in the mind of the viewer, the impact on the photo can be lost, especially now that everyone assumes every great shot has been "Photoshopped."

Frankly I've been discouraged by some of the comments on this thread that people assume pro photographers will do anything to get the shot. It's just not true. Some pros will just like some amateurs will. And those that cross the line are often called out as they should be. The end doesn't always justify the means.

#112 decosnapper

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 02:34 AM

See that's the thing, it's not so much the manipulation that's the problem, it's the deception that can occur. That's the danger. I get leery of composites and any over manipulation because it opens up the question "is this shot possible." If you put that question in the mind of the viewer, the impact on the photo can be lost, especially now that everyone assumes every great shot has been "Photoshopped."


Alex did the right thing by making it clear it was a composite image...but seeing the image published in BBC Wildlife magazine lacking any disclaimer or note to that effect made me feel very, very uneasy indeed - to the point of making my moral compass wobble and start to wonder what else in the mag is a composite....There is a circulation of 50,000 or so readers...but how many would know the reality?

At all times, its not the taking or manipulation of the image that is likely to cause any issue whatsoever. The responsibility lies in how the image is published.

Frankly I've been discouraged by some of the comments on this thread that people assume pro photographers will do anything to get the shot. It's just not true. Some pros will just like some amateurs will. And those that cross the line are often called out as they should be. The end doesn't always justify the means.


Agreed.

Here's something else I have been pondering; If anyone goes back and nails the split level 'St Michaels Mount with Basking Shark' image in camera will the image be ranked in the 'seen it before...nothing new' category by the readership of BBC Wildlife? I have no idea, but welcome the views of others.
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#113 Paul Kay

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 03:13 AM

At all times, its not the taking or manipulation of the image that is likely to cause any issue whatsoever. The responsibility lies in how the image is published.

There are several categories that photos could be put into:

Image as seen and shot in camera
Image not as seen but perfectly possible (even if unlikely) - Alex's basker is a good example
Image not as seen and impossible.

Add in perhaps; Image as seen but not as shot in camera - because grey areas do exist!

But thinking that publishers are going to add riders onto the copyright captions (when they bother with them) is wishful thinking. Philosophising about images and their integrity is one thing but reality, especially where commercial pressure come into play, is generally quite another. FWIW I do shoot for composites but these are generally 'informative' and are obvious composites (although some designers are very good indeed) so need no rider adding.

In all honesty, what worries me is not whether an image is regarded with a 'seen it before' attitude, but whether it depicts potential actuality at all. Images which don't are the ones which we have to worry about and in some ways the suggestion that many images have been Photoshopped actually makes general viewers more aware that not everything that they see is in fact a representation of the truth, so many viewers are wary of 'incredible' images which even if depicting reality, can lack credibility. Not so good for us as photographers though.
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#114 Steve Williams

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 11:18 AM

Actually we do have the simplest of ways of satisfying all philosophies. Shooting in-camera jpegs will yield files which must essentially be correctly captured, whilst RAW files are seen (correctly in my view) as a starting point.


I'm a little confused by the whole idea of camera ready images. When we do that aren't we still "post processing" the file? It's just that we're letting some Canon or Nikon technologist define the presets for us. As I understand it the light hits the sensor creating electrical pulses captured as a set of data in a RAW file format which is then processed in the camera and output as a jpeg if you ask it to. Why give away the control of our images to someone who may have never seen the blue of the Bahamian bank water or the color of that orange frogfish? I would argue my "truth" is more powerful than a software designer's presets given that he has never seen what we have.

I put together a slide for one of my classes that tries to define the spectrum of changes we make to our images going from "Processing" to "Manipulation". I'm seeing a few folks here confusing the terms, so I thought I'd throw it out there and see if it helps. A simplistic view perhaps but makes the point that there is a whole spectrum of possibilities. I think we cross a line when we remove anything from an image and another when we add anything.

There is no value judgment being made here. I was just trying to capture the spectrum of changes.

What do you folks think?

Processing.jpg

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#115 davichin

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 11:57 AM

I'm a little confused by the whole idea of camera ready images. When we do that aren't we still "post processing" the file? It's just that we're letting some Canon or Nikon technologist define the presets for us. As I understand it the light hits the sensor creating electrical pulses captured as a set of data in a RAW file format which is then processed in the camera and output as a jpeg if you ask it to. Why give away the control of our images to someone who may have never seen the blue of the Bahamian bank water or the color of that orange frogfish? I would argue my "truth" is more powerful than a software designer's presets given that he has never seen what we have.

What do you folks think?


Well, IMO part of the fun is in knowing how to preset your camera in order to get the results you want i.e: understanding white balance and predicting the results before shooting, which presets yield the correct contrast and saturation depending on the subject etc... is just a part of the sport that some people like or care about and some don´t...
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#116 Andy Morrison

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 01:46 PM

Here's something else I have been pondering; If anyone goes back and nails the split level 'St Michaels Mount with Basking Shark' image in camera will the image be ranked in the 'seen it before...nothing new' category by the readership of BBC Wildlife? I have no idea, but welcome the views of others.


Not something I'd thought of but it's an interesting question. Are we manipulating images so much to set the bar so high that it's impossible to reach using traditional techniques? Shooting ourselves in the foot so to speak.

#117 MikeVeitch

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 04:43 AM

When I show it in talks it is also marked with an M for manipulated image, as are the seahorses (I don't know any other photographers who do that, BTW).
Alex


As you mention Doug Perrine in this post, the nature photo stock agency that he founded (and still contributes to but no longer owns), Seapics, has rules for all of their contributing photographers that any manipulation such as digital composite, captive animal etc etc must be stated in photographic information before it will be accepted. They are quite strict about this.

Obviously, again as you state, they, like you, can't control the final output whether the final output states (DC: Digital Composite, captive animal etc) or not, but it's in the photo information of all their stock photos on their website. So the final end product of the photograph such as a textbook or magazine can't say "oh, we didn't realize it was a composite" if someone calls them on it. Have a look at some of the late Jim Watt's photos of orcas and whale tales in the sunset photos on the Seapics website and you will see DC in the file information...he was honest and forthcoming when he was playing with photoshop.

I am glad you readily state when your photos are manipulated like that, I believe that nature and journalistic photographers should be held to that higher standard and should have to state that about their photographs if they enter the public realm via publication in contests (wolf jumping over fence in BBC etc) or magazines etc. (photos on peoples flickr site, personal websites, facebook etc is a different category) Creative and other forms of photography don't need to be held in that regard in my opinion as it's a different form of photography.

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#118 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 01:01 AM

An interested and related discussion on land photography:

http://www.flickr.co.../in/photostream
http://www.facebook....414167315265357

Which raises related questions and discussion.

I think it is worth a look, because it shows land photographers are facing similar decisions to us. This discussion suggests that they feel that they are going too far at present. But like this discussion people want to know if there is a consensus. And what it is.

I feel a lot of what drives these discussions is that people want a level playing field.

I think someone who believes in no cropping, no cloning (because they believe in a truth of representing what was there) doesn't want to see someone else's images lauded above their own which don't play to the same rules. Of course, everyone is going to set their own limits, and as the examples I have posted above show, people's personal limits might vary over time.

One point in my original post was about super macro. Is it worth doing? Considering that we now have sensor resolutions that allow us to crop extensively - and most images are shared (and in contests even judged) entirely as screen res digital files. And increasingly the market is following - with more and more publications having online versions or even going completely online. If you took a D700 file - you could crop away 90% of the image and still make a very good quality cover shot for an online magazine. Is there any point bothering with super macro (which is both difficult and depth of field limited). Should we just shoot macro and crop?

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#119 jtresfon

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 04:27 AM

My bread and butter photography work is architectural photography, most usually paving and building installations commissioned by the product manufacturer. Every 2 years in South Africa there is a massive industry wide competition called the "Awards For Excellence" where project teams submit their projects under various categories (Paving, Masonry, Roofing etc) for judging and the winners are awarded major prizes and much prestige within the industry. As the judges cannot be expected to travel the length and breadth of the country to visit every site, the judging is based on photos of the projects submitted. One of my clients spent a great deal of money on his entries and I spent many hours shooting and processing images for him. I was very chuffed when his company won the overall prize based on my photos, but my ego-stroking was short-lived.

One of his major competitors lodged an official complaint (through an attorney) that he cheated by having his images "photoshopped" and broke the rules of the competition. They demanded that the results be nullified and a new winner announced. This caused a stink in the press and looked to turn messy. The competition rules were very vague stating that the photos "should be submitted as a colour print (untouched)". The client asked me to respond in writing to the competition organisers and in doing so I gave some though as to what constitutes "untouched".

My reply touches strongly on the topic under discussion so I have included part of it here:

---start---

As I understand the complaint, the three issues at stake are that:

1. The images are not in the “original” format
2. The images have been modified using a computer program
3. The images do not fit the Oxford Dictionary definition of “untouched”

If indeed these are the official rules of the competition then it is patently obvious that neither the complainant nor the person that set the rules has even a basic understanding of photography, and especially not modern digital photography.

Please allow me a brief (and simplified) explanation of the modern photographic image making process, starting at the moment the digital camera’s shutter button is pressed. Millions of bits of information regarding colour and light levels are recorded digitally and stored in a RAW file on the camera’s memory card. Much more information than is needed for the final image is stored during this process. RAW files however cannot be used to produce a final image and this information now has to be converted to the final image format (JPEG or TIFF) and this can be done in camera or on a separate image editing computer, either automatically or manually. The recorded information has a number of criteria applied to it (assignment of a colour profile, levels adjustment, sharpening, contrast adjustment etc) and much of the original image information is discarded during this process. The final image is then used by the photographer. This is the process that happens with each and every digital photograph ever taken.

The digital camera itself fits the definition of a computer as it is a piece of hardware controlled by software, and in fact most of the digital cameras available as I write this (including my own) have the ability to conduct advanced image editing within the camera’s own software menus. In reality it makes no difference whether an image is edited in camera or on an external computer as it generally amounts to the same thing.

So before I continue, I can state the following as fact, without fear of contradiction:

Not one image submitted to the competition by any competitor is in the “original” format.
Every single image submitted to the competition has been modified using a computer program.
Not one image submitted to the competition by any competitor fits the Oxford Dictionary definition of “untouched”.

In the case of a professional photographer, the images are usually shot in RAW format and then downloaded to a separate computer for editing using advanced and purpose designed software (such as Adobe Photoshop). The editing process is carefully controlled and images are adjusted by the professional for maximum accuracy taking into account a myriad of factors (even to the extent of soft-proofing using the photo printing shop’s colour profiles for their printers).

In the case of the most basic amateur, the camera is set to Auto mode with the picture quality set to JPEG. The button is pressed and the picture appears, which is then taken to the printing shop and printed, supposedly “untouched”. But even in this case there is plenty of “touching”. The conversion of the RAW information to the JPEG file format is done automatically according to a pre-selected set of criteria. Editing operations such as sharpening, contrast control and assignment of a colour profile happen whether the user is aware of it or not. Again when the JPEG image is taken to a print shop it is loaded onto their print software which automatically edits the image using correction software before printing. This happens with all print shops unless you specifically ask them not to correct your photos (most photo pros will have already done the corrections themselves and are aware they need to do this).

If the existing rules of the competition are to be strictly applied then every single image submitted by every single entrant has to be discarded, including those taken by the complainant.

Ultimately the problem that is highlighted by this complaint is that in the past people were aware that paintings where fanciful creations but photographs were expected to portray reality. However modern day photographs can be altered beyond recognition. So where should the line be drawn?

A distinction needs to be drawn between image editing on the one hand and image manipulation on the other. Both are as old as photography itself, in the past having taken place largely in the darkroom with difficult to perform techniques. Nowadays with modern photo editing software the techniques are much easier to perform and are much more commonly done by even skilled amateurs.

Image editing is usually taken to encompass aspects such as colour correction, exposure correction, contrast adjustment, sharpening etc, which in some instances take place automatically as has been mentioned.

Image manipulation (or photoshopping as it is often called) is a much more explicit alteration of an image (for instance putting a different head on some person’s body) and generally encompasses aspects such as the adding or removing of portions of the image with the intention to change the content of the image. The resulting image may have little or no resemblance to the RAW image from which it originated.

The ethics of photo manipulation are widely discussed and in some instances it is an acceptable art form. However it is frowned upon for most journalistic and documentary practices and I would consider that the Awards for Excellence Competition fall into this category. The National Press Photographers Association in the US has even gone so far as to set out a Code of Ethics promoting the accuracy of published images advising that photographers “do not manipulate images […] that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.”

Most professional photographic competitions have a set of rules that are well documented and strictly applied, and although these differ from competition to competition, most share a common theme. Generally image editing is allowed and image manipulation is not (except in specific categories such as creative photoshopping). I would strongly suggest that the CMA follow a similar practice.

Lastly it must also be remembered that the portrayal of so called reality has already been skewed before the shutter button on the camera was even pressed. The scene has already been edited by the photographer’s own interpretation and resulting choice of angle, lens, lens filters, lighting and composition. Often what is done to an image comes down to intent. Was the intent to mislead the judges or was the intent to produce an image that represents as closely as possible to the actual reality of the site? Is sweeping the paving on site before taking the photograph an alteration of reality?

---end---

As it turns out the competitor had not wanted to "waste" money on a photographer when he already had a perfectly good camera. He went to his sites and took the photos himself thereby saving a lot of money. And then could not understand why he didn't win! (and the photos were properly crap!) The competition organisers agreed with my response, upheld the results and rewrote the rule book with comprehensive digital guidelines for future entries.

Regards
Jean.

#120 Paul Kay

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 05:24 AM

I would like to add that each photographer's perception of the scene seen and photographed may well be different (as a simple example, colour shifts occur as eyes age). Trying to recreate an 'as seen' (or rather 'as remembered') image, viewed stereoscopically and with an eye/brain system which distorts colours based on the viewer's experience, as a two dimensional one captured by an electronic device which still has substantial technical restrictions (dynamic range for example) which can be viewed under varying viewing conditions, is of course fraught with difficulties. In fact its more or less impossible. So all we can do is to view an interpretation of the scene which implies that we always have to modify it somehow. Trying to define the degree of viable/acceptable/minimal adjustment allowable to produce a final image is equally impossible. As I tried to illustrate in an earlier post, simply using raw conversion tools can result in a potentially pleasing but thoroughly unrealistic image, whilst using focus stacking of many images can yield a perfectly reasonable looking image (perhaps not to photographers but certainly to non-photographers) where everything is in focus from 1 cm to infinity. Any consensus on acceptable levels of adjustment will be short lived, and I doubt that there can be one at all myself.
Paul Kay, Canon EOS5D/5DII, SEACAM/S45, 15, 24L, 60/2.8 (+Ext12II) & 100/2.8 Macros - UK/Ireland Seacam Sales underseacameras & marinewildlife & paulkayphotography & welshmarinefish