I have been writing about the excessive editing of digital images and how unnecessary these edits are. I even challenged the PSA and other photographic organizations to discourage these ill-conceived practices. Now that National Geographic spoke, I am revisiting the subject.
Stop Unreal Photo Edits
Along these lines, I wrote a comment on a post on Lightroom Killer Tips which I think is maintained by Matt Kloskowski, one of the gurus of the Photoshop family of products. My post did not get approved. After a few weeks I wrote another post which I am quoting here (I sent a copy to myself this time before posting):
I posted a comment which essentially encouraged this and other sites to stop pushing “HDR Look” since HDR has no looks. The proper concept to promote can perhaps be called imaginative tone mapping (ITM) or creative tone mapping (CTM), adventures in tone mapping (ATM). For some reason that post did not get approved. Before I wrote a post about that, I thought I would attempt to get a response from the site’s admin. I will appreciate a reply, e-mail is fine, why my comment was not approved?
The Did Not Like My Comment
This comment did not get approved either, nor did it get a response. Maybe I was expecting too much, but a simple e-mail would have been nice whatever it said. They are perpetuating this “HDR Look” idea which has no technical or photographic basis whatsoever.
I understand that he may give them away or sell these presets and others like to repeat what he has produced. That is not creativity, that is not imagination, it is simply an efficient way of creating cliches. Use filters, presets, produce images that look like hundreds, maybe thousands of others, and call that photography? I think not.
And, you know what, even National Geographic seems to agree with me, I appreciate hearing big names to express an opinion on these matters. What I say is easy to ignore, but when National Geographic talks, people (should) listen. The director of photography of National Geographic says, among other things: “SOLARIZATION, MEZZOTINT, DUOTONE, ETC.: No. If you use one of the myriad alteration ‘filters’ available in your digital photo software, please stop.”
Here is the full National Geographic statement:
National Geographic Guidelines
I encourage you to submit photographs that are real. The world is already full of visual artifice, and we aren’t running a Photography Contest to add to it. We want to see the world through your eyes, not the tools of Photoshop.
Please do not digitally enhance or alter your photographs (beyond the basics needed to achieve realistic color balance and sharpness). If you have digitally added or removed anything, please don’t submit the shot. We look at every photo to see if it’s authentic, and if we find that yours is in any way deceptive, we’ll disqualify it.
CROPPING: OK, if it makes the photo better; eliminate clutter, clean your edges and fit your paper/print size properly. Do not over-crop and degrade your picture quality.
DODGING AND BURNING: Dodging (to brighten shadows) or burning (to darken highlights) is OK, but it should be minimal. Do not overdo it. Your goal in using digital darkroom techniques should be only to adjust the dynamic tonal range of an image so that it more closely resembles what you saw. And don’t over-saturate or alter the color.
SOLARIZATION, MEZZOTINT, DUOTONE, ETC.: No. If you use one of the myriad alteration “filters” available in your digital photo software, please stop.
BLACK-AND-WHITE IMAGES: OK.
HAND-TINTED IMAGES: OK, but only if you’re experienced in this art.
FISH-EYE LENSES: OK, but enter at your own risk – editors tend to dislike such optical gimmicks.
STITCHED PANORAMAS: OK, but only if the segments were all made within the same time frame. We don’t want panoramas with sections made at significantly different times. Do not change focal length when you create a stitched image. Do not stretch the meaning of panorama to include elements that weren’t in the scene as you saw it. If your entry is a stitched image, please indicate this in the caption. (A stitched panorama is created from multiple images, each taking in a different angle of view from the same position, then combined using digital techniques. It results in a wider view than can be achieved with most wide-angle lenses.)
HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE IMAGES (HDRI): OK, but like panoramas, only if the combined parts are made at about the same time. We don’t want final images where the foreground was shot at noon and the sky at sunset. If your entry is an HDRI image, please indicate this in the caption. (An HDRI image is created from, multiple images of exactly the same scene, made rapidly but at different exposures, then combined using digital darkroom techniques. The final image, when done successfully, allows one exposure for shadows to be combined with another for highlights to produce a final image that has a greater dynamic range than is possible with a single exposure.)
I realize the call of digital Sirens may be too seductive, but getting dragged by these calls has wrecked many a ship.
Listen to National Geographic even if you don’t listen to my views!