Monday, April 06, 2015

Reflecting on photographic manipulation

click photo to enlarge
A recent prestigious photographic competition received much wider coverage than such events usually do because the winner was disqualified for claiming that one of his photographs was taken in a particular town when, in fact, it was taken somewhere else. What was less widely reported was that 20% of the photographs that made it through to the final round of judging were disqualified for excessive post-shot manipulation. Comparison with the RAW files was made at this stage and the judges were able to see where objects had been removed, added or moved, and where other adjustments had been made that resulted in photographs that were considerably different from the reality that the cameras initially captured.

I've said elsewhere in this blog that cameras do not faithfully reproduce what the eye sees and if that is the aim for a particular image then post-shot manipulation is frequently necessary. It's also true that the history of photography abounds with images that have been manipulated. The consensus today, is that heavy manipulation is fine as long as it is stated by the photographer, and that "traditional" manipulation - dodging, burning, global increase and decrease of contrast, vignetting etc - are acceptable. The competitors mentioned above did not follow these conventions and also ignored the competition rules forbidding the removal, moving and addition of objects.

I began my photography in the days of film and chemical processing and I find myself in agreement with the consensus. So, in this blog you won't find much "heavy" manipulation, and where it is done it will be stated. But, quite a few of my shots have the contrast selectively and globally adjusted, or vignetting applied, or saturation adjusted (more often down that up, contrary to modern tastes!) Moreover I frequently apply the digital equivalent of black and white filters and sometimes use actual polarising and neutral density filters of one kind or another. I sometimes, but not always, mention when I've made a "traditional" adjustment. Today is an occasion when I will. The photograph above has a global adjustment of contrast and a little blur applied because I liked the painterly look that it confers on the image. But then you could probably have worked that one out for yourself!

photograph and text © Tony Boughen
Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 38mm (57mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f4.2
Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On