Sometimes our own stupidity astonishes us and today my own, legendary stupidity surprised me again. I was reading another photography site where the author perfectly explained the challenge I have with digital photography. It was a simple sentence but it perfectly captured my thoughts.
He stated that the limitless potential of digital photography has little to do with photography and a great deal to do with post production. The image that comes straight from the camera is rarely used beyond the idle snapshot. Today most digital is about the filters, Lightroom and Photoshop. It has very little to do with photography and a great deal to do with image manipulation.
Digital brings wonderful advantages to us however a poor photographer can make a stunning image in post processing. While post processing can be fun it really has nothing to do with photography.
Take the image shot above, using an old Nikon F on HP5+ film. There was little light so I pulled the tripod out, framed the shot and snapped it. But I snapped it knowing that what came out of the camera is what I was going to have. In the darkroom I could increase the contrast, darken or lighten certain parts and that is all. The image above is all about what happens in camera.
With my digital shooting I was putting less emphasis on what was being captured in camera and learning more and more about digital manipulation. Look at some of the wonderful digital art that is being made today and you can see why. We have the tools, some have the talent so why not?
As a photographer this takes us back to the pictorials days. When photography was first being discovered, the majority of people did not view photography as art. Many of the people who worked so hard to discover it, did not see the artistic side. They viewed it as a scientific and engineering based process with no room for art.
Photographers, fighting this overwhelming perspective, fought back by heavily manipulating the photograph to make it more like paintings. Whatever they could do to the glass plate to alter the picture was viewed as artistic. This created a very dreamlike world that mimicked that created by oil painters.
This became "straight" photography and it is what has dictated modern photography up until the 1990's. Since the 90's we have seen digital take over as the premium medium of photography, and digital manipulation become the standard. If you look at photographic competitions these days, you will see that it is hard to win without some level of filters or adjustment.
This is not to say that some competitions do not ensure that this is kept to a minimum, or that some digital photographers are very good at capturing it properly in camera. All I am suggesting is that the vast majority of photographs seen today have been heavily altered with a computer. It reaches a point where it is not longer a photograph and is now a digital paining that used a photograph as the base coat.
Patrick...confirmed film & digital photography addict.