Photo Manipulation

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by Nikon Fan, May 31, 2005.

  1. Nikon Fan

    Nikon Fan TPF Noob!

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    I know we've all had the PS vs Darkroom battle time and time again, but there is something I've been pondering today. Is it possible to over manipulate a photo? The obvious answer seems yes, but even if someone finds it to be over manipulated someone else may love it...and who is to limit the art that we create? So here are a few questions to think about and answer:

    -Is it truly possible to over manipulate a photograph
    -What are the boundaries you set upon yourself in editing
    -What do you think the limits should be for others
    -And is there a point when a photo ceases to be a photography and becomes digital artwork?
     
  2. Digital Matt

    Digital Matt alter ego: Analog Matt

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    Can others edit my Photos:
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    -Is it truly possible to over manipulate a photograph
    Everyone has their own opinion. I personally have seen things that I thought were over manipulated, and done in poor taste.

    -What are the boundaries you set upon yourself in editing
    None. I work on it until I feel it's done, wherever it takes me.

    -What do you think the limits should be for others
    I'm not a fan of limits, or rules concerning art.

    -And is there a point when a photo ceases to be a
    photography and becomes digital artwork?

    There may be for some, but I prefer not to spend too much time classifying what I do, or what others do.
     
  3. darin3200

    darin3200 TPF Noob!

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    1. Only if it looks really bad and overdone
    2. I usually try to just make my pictures looks as real as the scence was when I took the picture
    3. Nothing really, I like to know when something is highly edited and people shouldn't claim that a picture isn't manipulated if it is.
    4. That really depends on the person judging. It would be interesting to make a poll and include an original picture along with 5 others photoshoped to various degrees and have people vote on what is photography, what's digital art.

    Outside of photojournalism, which would have much stricter manipulation guidelines, I think of photography as a form of artistic expression, which in the past was limited to what could be done in a darkroom, that fact that more can be done just allows an artist more control and options.
     
  4. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    I would take you to task over the use of the word 'art' here.
    It should be 'work' or something similar as we do not decide whether our work is art or not. Calling it art does not make it so.
    As far as manipulation goes, there are two things you need to consider:

    If you over-manipulate an image there will come a point where the image becomes more manipulation than photograph. That is to say that an image can be constructed by pure manipulation alone - which is technically what happens with graphics and the like*.
    There must therefore be a cross-over point where a manipulated image ceases to be a photograph and becomes 'photography-based'. Where is that cross-over point?

    Is the manipulation important to the image - that is, was the manipulation always seen as an integral part of the image from the outset?
    There is a world of difference between manipulating an image to a purpose and manipulating an image in an attempt to rescue it. In one you are using it as part of the creative process, in the other you are using it to make up for your lack of ability.

    All-in-all, manipulation is OK as long as it is done with skill and thought. There are far too many talentless people around who believe that buying Photoshop will repair this deficiency.



    *This raises the question: what are photograms? Graphics or Photography? No camera is involved so an argument could be made for them not being photography - just manipulating the photographic process. Think about it.
     
  5. Nikon Fan

    Nikon Fan TPF Noob!

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    Alright Hertz, this is challenging as I hoped it would be. So your response has led me to more questions. Because honestly I know I can answer my own questions, but am not sure of the answers to yours.

    So how would you define art? Or is it even definable. And who decides what is art if we ourselves don't?

    Your question about where the crossover point is, is the one that I really don't know the answer to. I too don't like the rules that instructors give...and try not to set any for myself or for others. So maybe there is no crossover point...?

    What if the manipulation is important to the image, but more important to the imagination. For instance, I love to create the colors that I see in my mind and put them into my shots, rather than taking the shot at face value. I don't do this with everything, but the point is creating something a bit different, something challenging, something "outside the box" if you will. While some would claim over manipulation my thought would be over imagination. The initial images could stand on their own, but with the creative flare really stand out. Is that still rescuing? Or is it just attempting to satisfy my imagination.


    On a personal note, I always put thought into my post process, and I hope some skill although I feel that I am still at the beginning process of learning. Yes it seems people believe that PS will cure there trash, but in reality I think it shows who can use it and who can't. Maybe I'm one of them...I don't know yet....and hope that I'm not. I'm not sure I will ever know...
     
  6. terri

    terri Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Digital Matt: I like everything you said up there. :thumbup:

    Amanda: I think there is more than one way to call an image *manipulated*. Take a bromoil print, for instance. I have to manipulate the print exposure in the darkroom to make it flatter and darker than would be deemed suitable for a regular print. Then I bleach and tan the print, fixing it out so all the silver stays away and it becomes something different: a matrix for a bromoil. It is then I am able to apply lithographic inks, and I'm using a brush (or six) :mrgreen: to apply it however I like.

    Now, that's one manipulated image! :lol: But we don't call it that.... it's simply a bromoil print.

    I think you may be wanting straightforward standards set as to what is accepted digitally or not. But it is fuzzy, and will remain so. We all know there is little difference between what you can do with a digital darkroom and the real thing, dodge, burn, filters, etc. Both prints come out having been manipulated by the photographer.

    Even a simple image that you happen to enjoy straight from the camera will have some slight manipulation to it, just to make it viewable. Same with a basic B&W print....we may not plan to handcolor it or turn it into a bromoil, the image WORKS as it came "straight from the camera".

    I don't see how to ever set limits, or standardize protocol, in that regard. I think it starts getting ugly when something that looks fine "straight from the camera" gets overly manipulated, and not to the betterment of the end result.

    But.....it's all subjective, you know? We humans have a problem with that concept, I think. We argue it, but we'll never make it an objective thing. ;)
     
  7. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    Who are we to decide what is Art and what isn't? The decision rests with Society as a general consensus, and that means the definition changes as Society changes- and it is always decided in retrospect. Individuals have no real say in the matter.
    Saying 'this is Art' or 'this is not Art' does not change anything - especially when most people haven't actually got a clue as to what Art is. Ask someone for a definition and you'll get a fuzzy answer.
    Art in most peoples' minds equates to 'something that I like and/or understand'. There is nothing wrong with that providing people realise that their personal tastes and preferences do not define Art.
    Personaly I believe that decisions about what is, and is not, is best left to posterity. A Historical perspective always helps you to see things more clearly.
    This is one of the reasons I prefer to use the term 'work'. It has conotations of producing something of value through effort and skill. Calling something 'art' has opposite connotations and introduces too many constraints and limits.

    Of course there is a crossover point - it just happens in a large grey area which defies definition. This is because where the crossover happens exactly changes for each piece of work - a lot of factors determine it. But it isn't important.
    The important thing is to ask this question of yourself for each and every piece of work. You will always find that the answer is different but the same: that is the right amount of manipulation for that image because that is the amount of manipulation it needs to get what I want.
    Without asking yourself the question, though, you cannot find that answer.

    The answer to that depends entirely upon your reasons for needing to do it.
    Why are you disatisfied with things as they are?
    What are you really trying to achieve when you manipulate the colours?
    Are you trying to communicate something or are you doing it just to make your images 'stand out'?
    As I have said elsewhere: make sure you are not confusing novelty with creativity.

    And you will eventually see that 'thinking outside the box' means all you have done is move into a slightly larger box.
     
  8. Nikon Fan

    Nikon Fan TPF Noob!

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    I have often been told that I have no box...although some people would say that everyone does...

    What if what I'm trying to communicate with the colors is emotions...or imagination. Let's say most people look at water and see blue...making them feel calm, but when you give that blue water a red tint, the emotion completely changes. Yes the images do stand out, and they are different, but the intent is to evoke feeling and emotion. I don't think I've ever had such overwhelming responses to make shots before, so it obviously triggered something (I'm referring to "The Pulsating Lake" and DUCK in the photo gallery). So maybe it's fulfilling an emotion that we seem to look over?

    I wouldn't say I'm disatisfied with things the way they are, I just choose to seem them in a different light. I'm quite the energetic person, and in a typical photo that doesn't come out...by adjusting things I am able to express myself more through my work...

    I'm not really sure that I am confusing creativity with novelty. Creativity to me is expressing my inner thoughts and feelings into the subject matter. This could be through angles, lighting, or even coloration of a shot. I think we each express our creative desires differently, and that our own creativity is a novelty.
     
  9. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    You only become aware of the 'box' when you move beyond it into the next box. The boxes are the limits we put on our own thinking.
    And just to pre-empt - don't say you don't put limits on your thinking because everyone does. You are just not normally aware of the limits because that is one of our limitations.
    To want to see things differently implies disatisfaction, for if you were satisfied with things the way they are you would have no wish to see things differently.
    If a photo doesn't come out and you have to adjust it then you are admitting to rescuing your work. If you know what you want to get and it includes some manipulation - that is one thing. It is something completely different to not get what you want and then play around with it to see if things can be 'improved'.
    The creative process takes place in our minds - the rest is trying to make it real and requires knowledge and control to be succesful.
    If you manipulate things with no real end in mind, merely to see what happens then that is just play. You can learn a lot this way - but anything you produce will be unexpected and therefore novel. Some people mistake this for creativity. But if things happen by accident then you have no control over them - you cannot claim credit for something that produces itself.
     
  10. Nikon Fan

    Nikon Fan TPF Noob!

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    Yes, but we all see things differently. That's why photography is unique for each individual. So then technically no one could ever be satisfied?
    Also to clarify, I was referring to the world...or landscape, or whatever it is that I am taking a picture of...and not the already completed picture....

    I think the way I wrote the line didn't come off quite right. What I was saying that my personality doesn't come out in the photo...not that the photo itself didn't come out. The photo can be fine, but what is being added is personality and personal imagination. So with my first duck picture that would be play. But through that I discovered a technique that works, so then the pics following that wouldn't be considered as so.

    Although it seems that anything involved in post process would be play to me. Yes there is an intention in mind, but it's a trial and error process, and not the exact same for every picture...so it seems that maybe all editing is play?

    I'm not so sure about that. Sometimes accidents happen, but that doesn't mean you don't have control over them. A comical example would be when someone pees their pants b/c they're laughing...they have the control to not pee there pants, but momentarily lost it.
    If we couldn't claim credit for accidents then a lot of things that have been invented would never have a name next to them. Many great inventions were created by complete accident and yet the person that discovered the accident got the claim to fame. It seems the same would work with photography. If I accidently stumble upon something while in the editing process, and then can later use it to alter other images, then I am controling it. I might accidently discover that when I add a saturation layer to a photo it does one thing, but then you are able to control it by determining the amount of saturation you apply, and the opacity of the layer.
     
  11. Nikon Fan

    Nikon Fan TPF Noob!

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    Oh and here are my answers to the intial questions I asked...although after reading this thread several times, they seem to have been modified since I first thought of them.

    -Is it truly possible to over manipulate a photograph
    According to some yes, but in my opinion no. Because at some point there will be someone that will like the image and not thing it's over manipulated.

    -What are the boundaries you set upon yourself in editing
    I have no boundaries, I sit down with ideas in mind, but I let myself go and see what turns out

    -What do you think the limits should be for others
    Since I have no boundaries for myself I place none on others. At times when images are posted and you know there has been extensive work done, it doesn't matter to me, because its an image someone spent time producing, and if they like it that's what matters :)

    -And is there a point when a photo ceases to be a photography and becomes digital artwork?
    I guess you could say that anything altered even slightly could be digital artwork, but that point seems to reside in each individual.
     
  12. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    Peeing your pants is not really the same as being creative. And inventions and scientific principles are called 'discoveries' - something happens that isn't supposed to and it's potential or importance is recognised. What the credit is given for is recognising it's importance or value. Anyone else would have missed it (in fact everyone else has missed it).
    With creativity you are making something from scratch - you have an intention and an end product in mind. If you make things by accident then there is no skill or knowledge needed and you'll find out what the end product is when you get there. Monkeys and typewriters!
    An accident, by definition, is an event happening by chance. To control an accident would mean you have control over chance (if that is the case then please tell me the winning lottery numbers for the next ten years). And if you have control over chance then it isn't an accident.

    But you are missing the whole point. The answers are not what is important, because they will change from person to person and from situation to situation. What matters is asking the questions - and you need to keep asking them over and over.
     

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