I wanted to share this recent video I posted on YouTube and ask an important question.
Is what I’m doing in this video “cheating”?
Personally, I think it falls into a grey area. I’m not sure it’s exactly “cheating” but I do feel that it’s starting to cross a line. It would be good to hear readers thoughts.
Published by thelightweightphotographer
I am a Landscape Photographer based in the North West of England. Unlike most photographers I believe smaller and lighter is better when it comes to cameras and equipment.
View all posts by thelightweightphotographer
21 thoughts on “Dramatic Sunset Processing – Have I Crossed a Line”
These kinds of choices are a matter of taste and intent. We all struggle with this. Every raw photo needs extensive editing to look anything like the original scene. The question is how far to go? A natural, but dull, image really doesn’t do anyone much good. I dislike hyper-saturated fake looking images too. In between lies taste and intentions, I guess.
There are times when I also like a highly altered look to create a sense of unreality or fantasy. So many choices no real guidelines other than our own.
Nice techniques, btw. I don’t generally use technique even this complex, but I’m sure I’ll apply some aspect of them in my own work.
Thanks. I agree that I don’t want the images to look like a fantasy when they are a representation of the landscape. I’m still undecided on this technique.
I think the technique is fine, when used in moderation. After all, what is real any more. There’s no such thing and there never has been. We used to use highly saturated films and processes to get these effects; now we use software. Perhaps the big difference is that now the public is aware of how much processing is or can be done. They don’t trust photographs to be “real” any more. But I agree, for the most part I want my images to feel natural and realistic.
Great blog, by the way!
Thanks for the comment and great to hear you like the blog. You make an interesting point about the public not trusting photographers today. But, I think there has always been an element of mistrust. Even before Photoshop and digital photography became popular I would receive comments like “that’s a great shot, you must have a special camera”. I think my concern over the use of this technique is that I have introduced a colour into a scene that wasn’t there at the time. Odd really because I can do that anyway using the Temp and Tone sliders in Lightroom. In fact, I begin to wonder what I’m worried about.
I realize that I often feel that i am creating a landscape from the raw material of the photograph. Not much different from when I’m painting. I’ll go quite far in a direction I want to take things. I just don’t often go for hyper saturated images. I often drop the color altogether and add some sepia tint. It’s really an abstraction of the original image. I guess I just use my taste and artistic goals as my guide and don’t worry too much about major changes. But when photographers hyper saturate images they are often trying to convince a viewer that a sunset was more spectacular than it was. That’s where I have trouble.
This is no more “cheating” than for a painter to choose whatever colors he prefers for the image he envisions. Unless you are a photojournalist, the photographer may do whatever he wishes to make the image into whatever he wishes. Thank you for the technique.
Thanks Frank. I understand what you are saying but there is still something that doesn’t sit well with me.
I remember when someone else was accused of ‘going too far’ when processing an image – his response was to say if you hung around long enough then sure enough the scene would look like his interpretation at some point in time, even if it took decades, but he just he didn’t have enough time to hang around in order for nature to deliver on it. It’s your photograph, your choice of interpretation.
Thanks. I don’t think anyone has said to me that I’m going too far. It’s more that I seem to be saying it to myself.
It is down to personal preference. If we view our photographs as art, i.e. as a picture and not a forensic record, then we are free to manipulate the raw data to recreate what our mind saw at the time or enhance that image. My only overriding constraint is that the image should look “believable” to represent a landscape photograph.
I found this technique quite fascinating to watch; I don’t know how you came up with it!
Thanks, I’m pleased you liked it. I came up with it as I was experimenting with the Split Toning sliders when writing my recent book. I liked both the warm and cool renditions of the image. I also know that I like to see the warm and cool tones together in the same image which is when I thought why not combine the two images.
I agree with the comments of others so far. Your video helped me with a problem that I have been struggling with, namely whether or not to color grade at all, ever. While chasing this question I have learned over the past year to enjoy the yellow/blue combination and have experimented a little to work that into my photos. I enjoyed seeing how applicable split toning with those colors can be to sunset photos, and thank you for it. I have not yet discovered other color combinations and situations that I would also enjoy – hopefully my tastes will continue to develop.
Thanks. I really like colour grading but not normally on the Landscape. I think it’s a case of it can make a scene appear artificial. For me that’s important in a landscape scene and I think that may be why I feel I have gone too far.
I agree with the preceeding comments that photography is a form of artistic expression and it belongs to the photographer to decide at which point the enhancement is enough. However, art is a form of communication and the viewpoint of the observer should also concern the artist. Thus the enterprise is intersubjective, and my personal feeling is that this example is a little overdone, i.e. I would like it more if it were less punchy. As a general rule, I prefer my images to be on the “less” than on the “more” side.
Thanks. It’s not the feeling that I have overdone the treatment that worries me. It’s more that I have introduced a “synthetic” colour into the scene that bothers me (I think).
more you are skilful more easily you can cross that line. And you are very skilful!
I have decided to go back to slide times, I shoot JPEG(+raw). But it isn’t for a landscape photographer.
I think too much pp (also well done) can make images like each other.
Best regards. Sergio
Thanks Sergio. I also think there is too much Photoshop at times in the Landscape world. I see images on sites like Pinterest and they are just unreal creations. Skillfully done but still a lie. What I can’t quite understand is the point at which I feel my work is crossing that line.
No you didn’t go too far. There are two kinds of photography, documentary and artistic. You decide which it would be.
Thanks Fred. I think I’m going to have to ponder this further. I’m still not feeling entirely comfortable although I like the result.
It cannot be classed as cheating, plus there are plenty of folk out there will buy into that style of image. Personally for me I love the composition and texture but the colour tones and saturation are OTT IMHO.
The below link says it far better than myself
I agree the effect is overdone and mentioned this in the video. It was intended that way to help people see what was happening. It’s more the technique that has me “concerned”. It just feels wrong.