Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Are You Guilty of Using Post-Prod to Excuse Poor Camera Work?

No sooner do I write and post my last update, The War on Photography, do I discover an almost simultaneously posted article on nearly the same subject on the Light Stalking web site. Must be something in the air wafting about. You know, something to do with photography and post processing and digital art and that sort of stuff.

On the Light Stalking site, British-born-but-now-living-in-the-Ukraine travel photographer, Jason Row, penned an article -- should that read "keyboarded" an article? -- titled, "How Much Post Production is Too Much?" While my War on Photography update generally speaks to portraiture, Jason's article is more about photojournalism and landscape photography. But who cares? Photography is photography and post production is post production and, these days, the twain often do meet in humongous ways, for better or for worse regardless of genre.

While my article on the subject seems to trump Jason's short article in word count, who's counting? Not me. It's the thoughts that count and Jason's thoughts are, well, thoughtful. They also ask some pertinent questions about post production. Questions many photographers should be considering when applying varying amounts of post processing, manipulating their photographic images into things other than what the camera actually captured, and regardless of those images being landscapes, portraits, or just about anything else. As I mentioned in my article on the subject, I'm not down on heavy-ish post processing and photo manipulating. I'm not down on digital art. I'm about knowing when it's appropriate to use that stuff in major (and often obvious) ways and when it's not.

One of the more important questions Jason asks is: "Are we guilty of using post production to excuse poor camera technique and, if we are, is that a bad thing?"

From my perspective, the answer is yes... and no. 

Post processing is a wonderful thing! And it certainly allows us, beyond many other uses, to frost turds. Turd-frosting can, thankfully, save an image. And there are times -- no matter how good or celebrated a photographer might be -- when they snap turds. In fact, it happens more than some people might think. Still, if turd-frosting is all that's left to save the image, and you really do need to save that image, well, frost away.

But, if you're a photographer who cares little about camera technique and learning the craft of photography because, in your mind, you can always add enough wow value in post, you can't really call yourself a photographer. You are a digital artist. Whether you're a good digital artist, i.e., a creative and highly-skilled post-production aficionado, is another matter. The goal for good digital artists who are lousy photographers, I suppose, is to be one who is able to routinely produce silk purses from sow's ears. That can certainly be a good thing. A very good thing. (Even if it takes quite a bit of work and digital effort.) But personally, I think that people who are able to produce silk purses from swine ears would be way better off learning how to produce silk in the camera before making those purses in post... you know, silk purses from silk, if that makes sense.

Anyway, just a bit more random thoughts on the subject of photography versus digital art and the pros and cons inherent in these two elements of modern day digital photography.

The naked chick at the top, the one covering her nether-regions-lady-parts with her hands and fingers while quickly snapping her head from one side to the other, seemingly trying to give herself whiplash, is Cameron. (Click image to enlarge.) I shot Cameron last night during one of my ongoing, twice-weekly, gigs I've been shooting lately. I only had two models to photograph last night during my 25 minutes with camera in hand.  (As opposed to 3, 4, or 5 of them.) So, they weren't the usual 5-minute sets I've been shooting for this gig. Last night, they were more like ten or twelve minute sets. Consequently, that gave me a bit more time with each of the models, i.e., a bit more time to get the job done a bit more right and maybe just a bit more creatively. Here's another shot of Cameron from last night.


Jay said...


My update yesterday was supposed to be about retouching and the good and bad, glad I didn't do it! LOL. LOVE the images! beautiful work as usual friend!

And I agree,there are those that use retouching to correct bad and there are those that get it right in cam. I know some photographers that use HDR on their portraits!

jimmyd said...

Thanks Jay!

I think the present state of digital post-processing can be summed up by the title of that famous Sergio Leone spaghetti western starring Clint Eastwood: "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly."