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.

Band and Concert Photography

I still screw up

Bronica SQ-A. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4. Ilford FP4+ 120 film. Developed in LC29. Scanned on a V500. Repaired in Gimp.

I took this photograph at an open air event in Wisbech last weekend.  The past year, we’ve both been learning music and stringed instruments.  Never too old to learn.  I’m 52 years old, and Anita is … considerably younger.  I’m dedicated to learning the mandolin.  I’ve ordered a hand made mandolin from a local luthier.  I wont receive it for at least a year, so for now, I’m dedicated to practice with a much cheaper mandolin.  Meanwhile, for Anita, it has been guitars – acoustic, electric, and now an electric bass that I recently picked up used.  So when I saw this local rock band playing, I felt drawn to the bass guitarist.  And I think that he made a cool subject.

I still screw up refers to the fact that my photography is far from good, never mind perfect.  I still make silly mistakes.  On this medium format film of FP4+, I didn’t give it enough time to dry.  I was impatient.  I’ve got away with it before, but perhaps this time, I just didn’t leave it enough time hanging in the bathroom.  I cut it, stored the strips in a negative binder.  Next morning I scanned it.  Some of the strips “stuck” a bit in the binder, needed a little tug out.  When I scanned them, there was damage – vertical lines where I guess still sticky film scored in the negative binder.

I did some repair work to the digital scans using Gimp 2.8 software.  Its not perfect – you can still see some scoring on this scan.  However, I have learned a new lesson.  Wait!

Internet, Monochrome, Pentax K110D DSLR and SMC Pentax-M 50mm F/1.7 prime lens, Post process and software

Free Photoshop!

Danny Shine at St Pauls London. Pentax K110D DSLR camera. Pentax-M 50mm F1.7 lens

Now, I’m a big fan of Open Source software, rather than of supporting the big software corporations.  That means that I usually promote the Gimp 2.8 image editing package over the expensive Adobe Photoshop bloatware.  However, my credentials as a tight fisted photographer would be damaged if I didn’t pass over the following information.  Adobe have decided to close their activation servers for an old version of Photoshop – CS2.  How I understand it, this version is at the moment effectively freeware (NOT open source).  Ok, so CS2 might seem a bit out dated, but that can mean that it’s faster on older hardware.  So, if you want a legal Adobe Photoshop, to try alongside Gimp 2.8, then you can at the time of this blog, find it by following the following link:


Thanks to my Bro for passing it on to me.

Post process and software, Rants and discussions


This one really winds me up.  I live in a small Cambridgeshire town.  I just visited my local library.  I counted twenty seven, yes, twenty seven books for loan on Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, or Adobe Illustrator.  How many books dedicated to any Open Source or any other image editing software?  None.

I then walk into a newsagents.  I count no less than twelve photography magazines that mention Adobe Photoshop on their covers.  Some were dedicated to it, or to aspects of it such as RAW in Photoshop, or Portraits using Photoshop.  I dare say that should I have browsed almost any photography magazine, I would have found tutorials inside on editing photographs – in Adobe Photoshop.  How many on other image editing software aps?  None.

You join any photography group, say an online photography forum.  You bet that you are going to be pushed towards Photoshop, almost as though it is a software package that EVERY modern photographer MUST HAVE!  Use Adobe or you are not a real or serious photographer!

So how much does this commercial software package actually cost?  Let me take a look at the latest Adobe offerings for the licence to simply use this amazing must have or you’re not a serious photographer software.  Buying Adobe Photoshop CS6 for Home use – full version from (yes, from): GBP£667.20 inc. VAT.  That’s for Photoshop CS6, not the full Creative Suite Package that they retail at £2,667 inc VAT.  On the USA Adobe website, you can buy Adobe Photoshop CS6 for a more reasonable USD$699.

I don’t want to spend my hard earned money on a licence for a piece of software if I don’t need it, no bloody way.  How the hell does something this pricey become pushed to the point where it’s considered as essential, the standard, as taught in colleges?  Even the action to edit images using software has entered our dictionaries “to photoshop”.  Bloody hell, that’s mass brainwashing.

So is there any er.. free, or at least cheaper alternative?

Yes, there is, and has been for several years, a free GNU multi-platform package named (maybe regrettably) ‘Gimp.  It stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program and it has been created for us by the Open Source community.  How much does it cost?  Nothing but a bit of download.  What does it do?  Resize, convert, allow plugins and scripts to be added, levels, layers, masks, curves, clone tools, select tools, stamps, channels, rotate, crop, hue, desaturate, unsharp mask, blur filters, etc etc.  It’ll run much lighter than Photoshop.  You can install it on older or lower spec systems.  I’ve even run it from a netbook.  No more bloatware.

I’m not saying that it does everything that Adobe Photoshop does, but it does an awful lot, and costs £667.20 less.  Don’t be a sheeple.  Don’t be dishonest neither – don’t use cracked software.  If you are running cracked software on a Windows pooter, you will be hit by viruses and malware unless you rigidly run it from a sandbox.  But why cheat? Do you really need Photoshop?   Gimp runs a treat on Linux as well as Windows.  I’ll talk more about Gimp, and the UFRaw plugin later.

Gimp, loaded onto a notebook that I owned until recently. I had already removed MS Windows, and installed Ubuntu as the Operating System. Software cost? Nothing.