No problem or… absolutely not done?

6 April 2022


How far are we allowed to go on in post-processing our takes? Where does the misleading, so to speak start and what is for instance an absolute no go?

It’s a topic that leads to many discussions. I find myself frequently in these discussions, which I don’t mind of course because I’m sort of a liberal in the matter and I always like to be the elephant in a China cupboard of the conservative art-loving establishment.

With the Internet and all of its Social Media, we’re all drawn to showcase our most beautiful images, preferably as often as possible. Many of us love getting those likes, comments or thumbs-ups. The better the picture, the more likes you’ll get. But what is a better picture?
I see lots of good or better pictures online, at least good or better technically. Colours, framing, sharpness, DOF and even the subject… they’re all well executed. I always give them a thumbs-up or like for their effort.. not because they’re outstanding beautifully. And then there are always those images that will make you look at them twice. 

There are countless different subjects in photography and even more ways to photograph those subjects. In this topic, I’d like to limit it of course to nature photography but then in the broadest sense. It is within this genre that I really notice a lot of post-processing that is beyond reality. Some are done poorly but many images do get my attention because of their beauty. In many of these pictures, I also wonder… Not one leaf in the wrong direction, no disturbing branches, shadows or blemishes and how on earth is it possible that the sky is so beautifully red, orange or yellow, what lucky photographers they must have been. And there are so many lucky photographers…. Because I see dozens of those beautiful skies and ultra peaceful landscapes in my timelines every single day. How is it possible that I,  in my 61 years on earth was never that lucky? I saw partially coloured skies and perhaps maybe once I saw a really red sky.   

Be honest, very few share directly on the Internet what came out of their cameras. If you take yourself any serious as a photographer, you adjust your RAW files…
You adjust lights, levels, colours, highlights etc, and we crop, some more than others. Then there’s a bunch that will go even further, yes they will change colours, and brush away things they think are harming the image, some need to do some vignetting to make it more dramatic and some won’t restrain themselves at all and change images totally.

Question: Is there any difference between brushing something out of a picture and putting something into the picture?

My personal opinion…. All is allowed, as long as it makes the image more beautiful. A friend of mine says, he’s always trying to show in the image exactly what he saw when he took the click. In my opinion…very often that is probably not even possible. Let me give you an example…

It’s 7 am, it’s a little chilly and you’ve already been hiking for the better part of an hour… then you finally get to that point you had in mind to take your pictures from… you put down your gear, sit down on a branch or rock, birds are chirping and singing, in the distance a roedeer is running off and some hares seek shelter … it’s totally peaceful and the view is breathtaking, you take some of that hot coffee from your thermos and look around while drinking from it. It feels like you’re all alone on the planet, and then the sun starts to show itself a little and brushes off the cold, all the blue colours turn into gold ….  The sheer joy and pleasure you’re experiencing at that very moment could never be captured in a frame.
But then the next day you’re at home trying to start some postprocessing… neighbours making terrible noise with their house renovation, a salesman you didn’t ask for rings the doorbell, your children are screaming and fighting over a game etc etc. anyway in nothing it resembles the experience you had a day earlier. Nevertheless, you start to post-process your captures… the Internet is perhaps a bit faltering, your computer is somewhat slow and a few nasty bills next to the keyboard are still staring at you…how on earth will you remember what you saw a day before at that point? 

However, you do still remember how you felt. So, to make the picture look like the way you think you saw it you take your feelings as a guideline. According to how you felt the day before, you’d probably give it some extra warm sun…  and wasn’t the sky a little reddish…or even very reddish, and didn’t you see some birds flying in the distance, so you have to paste them in the frame and you really can’t remember this nasty branch to be there.. brush brush and gone it is…, That cloud wasn’t there either, so that goes away too.

Before you know it you’ve created a real work of art. But a work of art that represents way more what you felt when you saw it than what you actually saw at that very moment. You want the viewer to have the same great experience as you had.

When I look at your picture and of course assuming it’s done properly, I will probably smile and enjoy the image, while many will say… Oh no that’s absolutely not done….  but who’s right in the matter?

Which picture from all the pictures above… is without serious alteration? Of course, all have been corrected to my satisfaction, but which one is without serious alteration? Let me know.




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