Thursday, September 9, 2010

(Somewhat Grumpy) Letter on Photo-Editing

Dear Bossy-Britches People Who Write Disparagingly About Photo-Editing:

Who made you the Boss(es) of the World?  ;o)
Please not to lecture the rest of us about "honesty" or imply that "heavy" digital editing of photos is almost a sin.

I agree that editing can't fix everything.  However, if skillful editing takes a poor photo to the level of a presentable photo, where's the problem with that?  Who, exactly, is it hurting?  (Of course it's best-- and nicest-- to get a near-perfect photo right out of the camera, but I fail to see the problem if someone devotes the time, effort, and skill [yes, skill] it takes to improve a mediocre photo.)

Certainly there is such a thing as over-editing.  (I do it on purpose sometimes, myself, just for the fun of it.  ...And possibly I sometimes do it not on purpose.)  But seriously, who's to say what is over-edited?  Isn't that in the eye of the beholder?  Unless you're entering your photo in a contest or submitting it for critique to an instructor or a group of peers, chances are that no-one's going to come out and berate you for your obvious Photoshop addiction. ;o)

I think what really irks me about the way some people write about post-processing is the implication that editing is somehow inherently evil.  It's not.  I'm not a professional photographer, and I don't spend much any time hanging out on photography message boards, but I'm convinced that (by far) most professional photographers do post-process their work.  (Some more than others, of course.)  There's nothing deceitful about it.  It's merely part of the process of capturing and presenting an image.  Unless you're submitting work to a contest that specifically prohibits it-- or you're presenting a photo as "untouched"-- or in cases where extreme editing might damage its value (as in journalistic photos-- one of the few times I think "honesty" is an issue at all)-- I say you should go right ahead and do whatever you want.

It's not dishonest to clone something out of the photo.  It's not "bad form" to lighten, darken, cross-process-- whatever.  Go ahead and add filters-- all day long, if you like.  Layer multiple photos!  Stitch things together!  Put your mother as a baby into the crib beside your newborn son!  Who says the lines between "photography" and "digital art" have to be crisp, firm, and unwavering?  Photographers have been manipulating / post-processing / editing photos for almost as long as photos have been around--  long before Photoshop came along.  It's nothing new-- nothing scary-- and (usually) nothing nefarious.

I do hope you will at least consider my position before penning your next diatribe against so-called "heavy" photo editing.

Thanks so much!