Recently I have been talking a lot about camera so I want to redress the balance a little. I have been having a couple of email exchanges recently with people who don’t like my photography. I have no issue with this, I just can’t understand why they feel the need to tell me. What I do think is important though is that I’m expected to conform to another person’s view of how an image should look.
The issue in question appears to be that my images are “over processed” because the scenes can’t possibly be captured in camera, the way they appear. The fact that I don’t add or remove items and generally only process my work from a single RAW file is irrelevant. If it can’t be captured with a single shot and without processing, then it’s wrong in their eyes.
I am a landscape photographer. I view the landscape as a thing of beauty and I want my images to reflect the beauty I see. I love to be in the landscape and if ever I could, I would want others to share this experience through my work. If this means I that I need to modify the tones in my image to make it appear as I see with my eyes and mind, then this is acceptable; painters have been doing it for years.
This brings me to the age-old question of should we process our images. My view is that if we shoot Digital and capture in RAW, we must process them. A RAW file without any processing is flat and unappealing. It doesn’t do justice to the subject. If you shoot JPEG then your images will probably look much better initially than the RAW file equivalent. But all you have done in choosing to shoot JPEG is abdicate responsibility for the processing and turned it over to the camera.
As for the “purist” who thinks everything should be done in camera, consider this. If you shoot colour negative film, then the processing of the image and its look has been engineered into the film emulsion. If you shoot colour slide film, again the same is true but you must also modify exposure with graduated filters (in the case of landscapes) due to the limited dynamic range. Is this acceptable as its not in camera? If you shoot black and white negative, then exposure, tone and contrast are controlled not just in camera and when shooting with filters, but also during the developing and printing process. For some reason the same people who criticise image editing see the manipulation of traditional black and white print film as acceptable.
I’m not going to ramble on for much longer other than to make two points:
- As photographers, we should strive to develop our own vision of how the images we shoot should look. We also have a responsibility to develop our editing skills to be able to deliver this vision or we are doing our subject a disservice.
- We must also learn to appreciate the work of others, even if it differs substantially from our own style and preference. Don’t seek to change others to conform to your vision but ask what can I learn from this other person’s view of the world.