Internet, Rants and discussions

Finger Painting in photography

Agfa Isolette I folding camera, Shanghai GP3 film, developed in Rodinal.

I picked up this quote (I haven’t been able to check it’s authenticity), alleged to have been made by the renown photographer, Harry Benson: “Boundaries of photography are changing, the Royal Photographic Society will show digital photography that’s been Photoshopped to hell. That’s not photography, that’s finger painting“.

The heavy use of PP (post process software such as Adobe Photoshop or LightRoom) has, and continues to be much debated.

The critics will say that good photography is made in the camera, that post process is a crude way of trying to cover poor technique, that it can not make a bad photograph good, but frequently makes a good photograph bad.

The defenders of post process software will insist that it is nothing new, that even before digital photography, many acclaimed photographers made edits using traditional dark room techniques such as cropping, dodging, and burning.

Either way, both camps will recognise that unless in the hands of particularly skilled, experienced, and creative artists, heavy photoshopping is not a very good idea.  It often causes eyes to bleed.  The current fashion for heavy HDR or faked HDR, are two examples of eye-bleeding gore.  Well, at least in my humble opinion.

Yet so many people do it!  This leads me to wonder how we see our own images, and how others see them.  That we can make a good image dreadful, in post process, suggests that we must see our own images differently to others.  We need to listen to our critics more than we listen to our own egos.

I mentioned the fashion of HDR.  I saw a digital photographer recently suggest, that if you can tell that it is HDR, then it is too heavy.  I agree with that.  It’s not just online.  I’ve seen rows of gory, vac packed HDR images on display at camera club galleries.  Just as we use to see rows of selective colour (color splash) on display.  A fashion.  In fifty years time, we will be able to date images by their post process mistreatment.  “Ah yes, the Horrible Dynamic Range style, early 21st Century.”.  Maybe we also need to listen to the imagined critics of the future.

I’m being cruel.  I am aware, perfectly, that taste is personal, that photography styles are horses for courses.  It’s unfair to pick on the HDR crowd.  It isn’t just them.  Look at the digital glamour photographers, that plasticise the faces of their models, the virtual botox style.  I’d better shut up before I upset everyone.

Do I use post process / scan software on my hybrid film photography?  Hell yes.  The first level occurs in the digital scanner software.  Even switching all available controls to manual, the scanner software cannot resist correcting and balancing the scan for us silly humans.  Rather like a full digital camera does, in microseconds after we press the shutter button down.

I’ll sin even further.  I scan fairly big, then open it using an Open Source post process software package called Gimp 2.8.  I’ll more often than not, correct levels, curves, heal dust and hair, maybe straighten or crop, then resize and compress a little for upload to an online web server.  That might make me a bit of a hypocrite then.  Except for one thing.  I still want my images to look natural.  I don’t want people to notice my post process corrections.  I want them to see a photograph, hopefully sometimes, a photograph with feelings.  A photograph that was captured using the technique of silver salts in an emulsion, painted onto a film of plastic.  Not a glossy supersonic image painted with virtual pixel brushes.

That is what I want to do.  Make photographs.

Dogs and animals, Internet, Monochrome, Rants and discussions, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

New Flickrites – what not to post


The dog that drinks Mexican beer. A distinguished dog on the streets of Norwich. Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 80mm f/2.8 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus medium format film. Home developed in R09.

I said in yesterday’s post, I still consider myself to be a very much a novice, and I’m perfectly happy to be an amateur photographer.  I have no pretences of professional status.  I prefer to climb around in power station boilers than photographing poxy weddings.  But that is my choice.  So what’s provoked this post about even more novice photographers on Flickr?

I’ve had a popular week on the old Flickr website.  Six of my meagre, poorly exposed and scanned photographs (or rather their digitalised representations), have made it into that mysterious Explore category.  Subsequently lots of misguided new Flickrites have started to Follow my Flickr persona.  And a few more experienced members I might add – perhaps in order to chuckle at my attempts to produce images.  Thing is, I do try to be a good community member, and therefore I check out every new follower, and their photostreams, and usually pay the compliment back.  Subsequently I’ve been exposed to more than usual, lets call it,  fresh talent.

Some of it is genuinely good, and in the majority of cases, I can find an image or two that I’m happy to Fave and add to my highly valued (I’m serious here) Flickr Favourites stream.  Now, there are some bloody good images in there to share company with, by Flickr photographers and artists with far more skill than mine.  However, having scanned through so many new Flickrite’s streams so much lately, I’d like here to lay down some guidelines as to what I would not add to my valued favourites stream.

  1. HDR.  Ok, sometimes, if done correctly with a number of independent exposures, sometimes it works.  Personally though I think it too often looks fake and awful.  In fact I loath most of it.  It’s done too often, too much, too badly.  It’s a trend that will go away.  Just like mullet hairstyles.  Future generations will snigger and date an HDR photo to our period.  Well that’s my opinion anyway.
  2. Colour splash.  Another trend that is struggling to die away.  Again, it was cool for five minutes.  Hands up, I’ve done it in the not so distant past.  But open your eyes, does it make a dour photo any better?  In same cases, its utterly horrible.  Pale grey faced models with badly colour splashed dresses.  Ugh.
  3. An extension of 1 and 2.  People should be forced to take tests and have a licence before being allowed to use post process software.  So many badly chopped up, messed up, photocrap images!  Back off of the software.
  4. Subject.  A common Entry Level failing.  Does the photo have a subject?  Is it interesting?  A car park is rarely interesting. Don’t e-publish photos of car parks, uninteresting foliage, grass, etc.  Ok, I’ll admit, I’m sure you’ll find plenty of dross in my photostream.  But please!
  5. Imagination.  It’s my number one problem.  I don’t have enough of it.  Neither do many other novices.

Ok, enough moaning.  Just please understand that photography is not only a way of Life, but also a journey.  Peace to you.