Photography Part 3: Post processing is not good or bad, it is the final result that matters

  1. A lot of people are “against” image-processing software because the results it produces are not “real” and because you couldn’t do that sort of stuff with film.  I have no problem with wanting to take an image that requires no post processing, and am quite happy for people to work in the minimal/no processing way.  Many images produced this way are astounding.  Most people don’t process their images using software.

But just think about this for a bit:  we oldies who used film used to do many of the same tricks that software does, it just took a bit longer and you had to do it yourself.  If you never processed your own film, but just sent it off to the lab and got back their results, then you may not know this.  But when I processed my own film, I used to do lots of things:  crop the image, dodge and burn (alter the exposure over part of the image to allow for high levels of contrast on the original negative), create a mask to process different parts of the print differently, alter the colour balance (in those days, using filters in the enlarger), push the film to get more grain (processing low ISO film to get a high ISO effect), add a border or vignette, cross-process (use a process designed for one film on another one, thus getting a creative effect), bleach-bypass, use a toning process to get a colour-hued black and white image, airbrush imperfections or to add a colour-pop such as pink lips and cheeks on a monochrome image, combine two or more negatives to get a composite image…the list goes on.  The point is that much of what software does, we could always do.

Software also allows us to do much more, and makes it easy for us to do it cheaply, without wasting rolls of film, or chemicals, or paper.  In my mind, the use of software is called “progress” and is just one in a large list of things that is made easier by modern technology.  Others may call its use, and the use of similar techniques with film, cheating.

To my mind, cheating is something different:  it is deliberately setting out to mislead a viewer, for example, by placing the head of one individual on the body of another one, so it appears they were present when they were not.  Of course it is not simple:  when does editing an image become cheating?  Making a model appear slimmer?  Removing a spot from the face of a bride on her wedding photos?  Is this mis-representation?  I don’t know the answer to that, but what I do know is that most photographers don’t set out to mislead:  rather, they set out to convey their impression, emotions, feelings, interpretations of a scene.  If software helps you do that, then fine.  I have no problem with it.  If you prefer not to use software, that is also fine – there are other ways of achieving a creative effect, with or without subsequent use of software (filters are an example of this).

Post-processing is not “right” or “wrong”.  It is just a method of expression.  Whether you choose to use it or not is up to you, and whatever decision you make is fine by me.  However, I hope you will also respect my decision to use, or not to use, processing software.

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