Monday, September 01, 2014

When it Comes to Good Photography, There is No Instant Pudding

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With all the many ways to manipulate photos these days, especially applications that are almost completely automated, is there a line where a photographer's photos cease being something they can take much of a pic's credit for? Or, should that credit, at least a big piece of it, go to whatever application(s) are mostly responsible for a big chunk of the finished results?

If I snap a fairly cool picture and I then add some automated treatment to it -- one that, in my mind, enhances the picture's coolosity -- am I reducing the satisfaction I should be feeling for snapping a cool pic or am I increasing that satisfaction because I increased, leastwise in my mind, the photo's coolness?

I regularly see pics by other photographers where it's obvious they applied auto-treatment(s) to the photos. Often enough, very obvious auto-treatments. Sometimes, I think the treatments are cool. Other times, I think they're not.  Most often, I'm neither impressed by the addition of the treatments nor put off by them. They simply are what they are and what they are doesn't alter my reactions to the photos one way or another. There's an oft-seen internet comment which describes my response to those sorts of pics: Meh.  (Meh: Indifference; to be used when one simply does not care, one way or the other.)

When I'm shooting, I work hard at snapping pics that have as little meh to them as possible. I'm not always successful, of course. No one is. Also (no surprising observation here) meh is quite subjective. One person's meh is another person's cool.

There are times when meh is beyond a photographer's control. If I'm hired, as an example, to shoot subjects who are (or that are) intrinsically meh, I'll still try to shoot them in ways that reduce their meh-ness. Unfortunately, given the available time, resources, and more that may or may not be allotted to me at those times,  there might be only so much I can do to reduce the subjects' meh-ness.

In the situations like the one I described in the paragraph above, i.e., where the subjects are rather meh, should I, for the most part, automatically use an application to somehow, later in post, try to overcome or reduce those photos' meh-ness?  You know, with a (supposedly) cool treatment?  I'm not just referring to obvious treatments. They can be rather subtle treatments as well.  I don't know. Should I? Should you? Should anyone?

Many people do, of course, add those treatments. Some of them add them just about always, whether the photos seem to need them or not. Those folks tend to be people I don't consider as being serious photographers. But some of them who use those treatments, leastwise who use them occasionally,  are serious photographers. Often, quite good serious photographers. And those are the shooters who make me think about whether I should be adding auto-treatments to otherwise meh pics.

The pretty girl triptych at the top is one I processed three different ways: Normal processing, converted to monochrome, and one with an obvious treatment added to it.  The original image is, IMO, a pretty good image. The B&W also works well for me and the decision to convert was purely aesthetic. But the treatment I used for the pic's third rendition... well, the jury is still out (in my mind) and likely will remain out. (Note: The image was snapped with a Canon 17-40 f/4 L on a Canon 5D classic. It's all natural light via late afternoon sun. She's facing into the sun. Not even a reflector was used, much less needed... which isn't my norm but that's a different story.)

Do I think that third treatment adds any cool value? Yeah. Sort of. I guess. Maybe not. Who knows? Did the original pic need any added cool value? Well, that's the  more important question, isn't it?

Personally, I don't think it did. But thinking that way doesn't automatically mean the treatment is bad, does it? In some ways, it's simply different, neither improving or degrading the image. It simply makes it different.  Has the treatment, in this case, turned a decent image into a bad image? I'm not sure. I don't think so. Certainly not entirely. I suppose that's a question better answered by others, i.e., the image's viewers.

Bottom line: When it comes to good photography, there is no instant pudding, all the available auto-treatments notwithstanding. Leastwise, for those who pursue photography seriously as a hobby or professionally as a career.


Bill Giles said...

Just because you can doesn't mean that you should.

Brett said...

Just because many can doesn't mean you shouldn't. ;)

Brett said...

Just because many can doesn't mean you shouldn't. ;)