Yes. I worked as an MUA on a shoot with a new photographer in a TFP job. The raws he showed us (six damn weeks later!!! so much rage) were awful, but not nearly as awful as the edits - which to hear him tell, were works of God... It was highly disappointing but all of my other photog buddies got a laugh out of it after having their retinas dissolve.
I think that when it goes beyond improving the appearence or intent of the photograph and instead is just creating something entirely new with the original photo simply as a base, it goes beyond photography and is rather a photomanipulation.
Many of the statements made in this thread would include most of fine art photography throughout history as "too much editing" long before digital photography and photoshop were invented. Photography as a technical recording of 'reality' did not qualify as art in the eyes of the fine arts community. Pictorialism in the late 19th and early 20th century was one of the first international movements to elevate photography from merely technical recording into an art form by moving photography beyond literal recording. Many other forms of photography as art emerged while photographers were still mainly working in film. Technical recording is preferred when photography is used for journalism or forensic documentation, but again that doesn't usually qualify as art.
If the intent of photography is fine art there is no such thing as too much editing. Much of the time, however, what we call too much editing is an attempt to make an uninteresting or technically flawed photograph into something interesting. MOst of us have done something along those lines. However, the best fine art photography usually comes when the photographer made the exposure with a certain editing or developing technique in mind at the time the shutter was pressed.
Yeah, I agree there's too much editing. I'm terrible at editing, I have proof of it in my own galleries where I've messed with pictures for giggles, but I know people(one in particular) who has a 'business' and tries to sell her pictures but turns the saturation all the way up and puts a sun filter on EVERY photo she takes. And I mean every single photo. Sometimes she has really gorgeous pictures, and ruins them with a warmth filter on her old version of Photoshop and a sun flare thrown in there too. If a picture looks good, tweak it a little bit, but enough with the super altering. I'm no photographer, I'm an enthusiast, but even I can see when a photo is way too edited.
That's fair. Most of the time I think if you can make it realistic, you're doing a good job, but beyond that you're either doing something like a fantasy shoot where I believe it should still look realistic, or you're playing with it on purpose as a creative tool. So would you agree editing is too far when it's not serving the creative presentation of the photograph in question.
I do agree if it's not serving the presentation than it's too far. If a picture is beautiful without editing or with minimal curve adjustment, then leave it be. I don't understand this constant need to use filters on photos that only ruin them and it seems to be an epidemic, at least from what I've seen between friends, to use saturation and sun filters on every photo instead of adjusting curves or leaving a picture alone. It really does ruin the creativity of the photo.
Well most of the edits I do not counting cosplay are just basic colour correction, and the occasional vignettes and gradient darkening. Even when I edit for cosplay, I try to keep it looking realistic.
That is an example of body painting. A pregnant woman's belly and breasts have been painted with an air brush to resemble planets. The rest of her body, except her hands, has been painted black. She's wearing a mask. She's standing in front of a black backdrop. The actual photo isn't really edited that much (a layer of a nebula has been placed over the woman).
One thing that has irked me is high end modeling, fashion photography and advertising. The amount that the human subjects get altered is disgusting. This bothers me not only as a photographer, but as a human. People see famous celebrities and/or models on the covers of magazines and on billboards. Their faces and bodies have been altered to make them appear flawless. These people do not look like this in reality and never will. The outcome of this causes social problems, especially in young people.
georgewjohnsonFeatured By OwnerDec 14, 2012Hobbyist Photographer
You see the picture of the cute little puppy on the animal rescue charity poster but they've edited the photo to put a hammer or fist above the puppy's head and a byline that reads, "Sam the dog was found with both legs broken and close to death but we rescued him. You can send just X amount to help save more dogs like Sam.". (*)
There have been stories in the past where slightly altered photographs have been used to make things look far worse than they really are to ensure they tug at the heartstrings and get people to part with cash for a good cause for charity. Is that a good thing? Charitable advertising helps saves lives but it's still manipulation of image to manipulate emotion and get cash, just like the crass advertising of gadgets, perfume, clothes, etc.
I utterly despise advertising in all it's forms, I know that 95% of the time adverts are lying, from tiny distortions of the truth to huge whoppers that cannot possibly be true. It's one of the oft chanted matras in our house to my young daughter, "Don't believe everything you see or read darling, some people are very clever writers and very clever at editing photos so things may not always be what they seem!".
( * - That was an actual example used by the RSPCA here in the UK about 3 months ago. )
georgewjohnsonFeatured By OwnerDec 19, 2012Hobbyist Photographer
That's the thing, these posters are made for companies and organisations who should be able to spot this stuff but they just let some marketing company muppet draw up the designs and assume they know they're doing, no one bothers to proof them!
The real question is whether or not it actually does get 'better' when edited because the idea of improving the appearance of a person, especially in order to make them more attractive, is relative. I for one disagree that models are attractive and most people would give me a 'wtf are you talking about' look at me but in my honest opinion it's the flaws that makes a person attractive. The fact that I have a differing view and that I know several people who also have differing views just goes to show that 'better' is a relative idea and that there is a general consensus on 'better' and 'attractive' based on the majority of peoples' opinions but that still doesn't represent every single person.
My only rule, regarding editing, is "Make the client happy." If the client is the model, I ask her what she wants, I make suggestions, then I do it. If the client is someone else, I make suggestions and then I do what that person wants. If I am shooting for myself, or on spec, then I go wild, pull out all the stops and experiment like crazy. When they turn out well, that's the stuff that seems to sell best and that wins the awards.
I'm used to it, it's just morally questionable. It's more than just removing a wart. It is pinching arms, moving chins, making eyes larger, completely changing the skin, and making the person look thinner than they are. This causes things like eating disorders and confidence problems, especially in the younger population.
Did you watch that documentary on human sexuality that they ran on PBS a couple of years or so ago? There are certain traits that we are hardwired to look for when we are choosing mates. People with those traits are what are considered attractive. The "sttractive traits" vary from society to society and seem to have been originally geographical, but they are passed on genetically and are now widespread. The things we find attractive in the opposite sex are generally less learned than inherited. Thus, no matter how liberal your thinking, a disproportinately short chubby woman with an assymetrical body and face and a flat chest is not going to look as good to you as a slender woman with a symmetrical body and face, "golden mean" proportions, a C cup and wide hips. Psychologists say that the slim waist indicates that she has not had children, the wide hips and lack of fat in certain areas indicate that she will give birth more easily and the larger breasts indicate that she will be able to feed them. Apparently we subconsciously look for women who look like they will be good breeders, and in art and photography, those traits are often exaggerated, sometimes to the point of grotesquery. Huge fat deposits in the breasts and none on the belly, for example, does not occur naturally. Looking for those particular traits has given us the girdle, the corset, the padded bra and the bustle, among other things. The traits that some cultures find attractive are linked to survival and indicate health. These can be exaggerated to the point of grotesquery too, like black women with really huge butts. This particular trait originally indicated that, in a society where famines were frequent, the lady was one of the few who were eating regularly and well. That there are cultures that are hardwired to look for that trait has given us things like underpants with padded butts. According to that documentary, it isn't as much a matter of morals as it is of genetics. It isn't something you learn as much as it is instinctual, something you are born with.
I respectfully disagree about what what is learned and what is inherited. An example would be this. If Photoshopping models to have skinny waists, skinny arms, larger eyes, and completely painted skin was never done and never seen by anybody, then it wouldn't be considered "attractive." We have learned, as a society, that the manipulation's intent is to create a more perfect and attractive "person." In reality these models look nothing like how they are presented after the post processing work is finalized. These people do not actually exist in the forms that we see them in magazines and on TV. These, unfortunately, are acceptable lies and women are the target. Women do not inherit the desire to apply makeup to their faces to seem more perfect, wear high heels to appear taller, or push their breasts together with a bra to give the illusion of having a larger chest. These are things that are presented and pressured upon them by society.
Well, I've been thinking about this and I don't want to get into a "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" kind of argument, but some of those things that you mention show up in some awfully old art. We know for sure that women have used cosmetics at least throughout the 6,000+ years of recorded history, and that may have been with us from the beginning. There is some circumstantial evidence that cromagnons may have used makeup. They certainly had tattoos. Certainly someone had to do it first, and a whole lot of women fell all over themselves in their rush to imitate her. At least they are not using arsenic powder and lead oxide anymore and they are not binding the feet of female babies.
What would you say though, if those edits were used to help the model achieve the look of some fictional character the photographer was trying to portray. Like to make certain features more prominent or to add something non-human?
It depends on whether you are doing documentary photography or fine art photography. If you are doing documentary photography, you are not supposed to edit the photo's content; that would be considered unethical. If you are doing fine art photography, there is no limit. Creativity is encouraged in fine art.
georgewjohnsonFeatured By OwnerDec 11, 2012Hobbyist Photographer
What do you class as "too much"? Too much time spent on it? Too much contrast applied? Too much saturation? Too much crop?
I can completely screw up an image with two clicks in the saturation adjustment in 5 seconds I wouldn't say that's too much editing as I hardly did anything and still complete buggered the image! I can spend 5 or 6 hours editing, it might have 57 layers and I may have applied 89 separate filters and spent hours with my tablet tweaking things down to the pixel level but the result is stunning. Is that too much time or too much effort if the result was worth it?
I don't think there's such a thing as too much editing, what there are, are well edited and pleasing images and poorly edited images. In the end you have weigh the balance of what you think the amount of effort put in is, against the resulting image, then decide if you personally think the effort was worth it.
I think too much to the point where people feel the image is no longer "natural" so to speak. As in people sometime thing editing by fixing blemishes, or moving small elements in pictures is too much, whereas just editing colours is considered okay. So I was wondering mainly if people are okay with fixes like that, or think they should be left to the realm of pre-shot fixing.
georgewjohnsonFeatured By OwnerDec 11, 2012Hobbyist Photographer
I suppose in that case that would be governed by the target audience. Journalism and documentary editing is obviously a big no-no as it wouldn't display an event exactly as is. A lot of competitions insist on sensor spot removal, contrast and colour adjustment being the only edits allowed to ensure a it's fair for everyone to compete.
When people use the word "natural" they are often referring to something that's perceived as natural but is actually based on hundreds of years of development and expectation of our art and culture. I shoot mainly landscapes and if I always simply shot and presented what I'd seen it would be so boring and dull, so we heighten colour and contrast to match what is considered an acceptable landscape "natural" photograph. Those ideas and expectations have come down from the painters working in the 17th and 18th centuries, through the late 19th Century pictorial photographers, via such innovations as rich photographic film like Velvia and through to the latest digital processing techniques. At each stage we've piled on more expectations of what we perceive as natural.
There's also a perception that the saying "the camera never lies" is a gospel truth but you only have to look at the work of pioneers like Adams and Jerry Uelsmann who blew that out of the water. I do find it mildly annoying that people consider digital editing to have to be limited in some way, that digitally editing an image is tantamount to cheating! LOL! When you see how much work Adams and Uelsmann did in their darkrooms they put most digital photo editors to shame. They were darkroom masters pulling every technique they could invent to push photography past what people thought it could do, hours and hours of trying new ideas to get images to what they wanted them to look like but no one ever told them enough is enough. Somehow people who digitally edit photographs are considered to somehow not be playing fair but the techniques have to a large extent been available in the darkroom too just not so widely used.
I would maintain the statement that "too much" is a point past where the image is no longer acceptable for the audience you're trying to target, so it's not really something that can be easily quantified and measured. If the audience doesn't accept what you've done with your edits and they know that the reason they cannot accept it is due to the editing, then you've gone to far.
"I do find it mildly annoying that people consider digital editing to have to be limited in some way, that digitally editing an image is tantamount to cheating!"
This is the only website where I have ever heard that. There are a lot of people here with very strange ideas about how photography is not art, how photomanipulation is not photography and how artistic creativity in photography should be supressed. As soon as I hear something like that I know I am talking to either a photojournalist or someone else whose opinion isn't worth listening to, because they are coming at it from direction entirely opposed to my own (fine art photography). Just ignore them is my advice.
georgewjohnsonFeatured By OwnerDec 14, 2012Hobbyist Photographer
This is an art site and you tend to find very open minded people around here when it comes to creativity, one of the reasons I like it here over places like Flickr, 500px, etc much better mix of open minded people on here.
It's some of the other photography sites I visit. One recently ran a poll with comments section, "Do you edit you images? If so how much?". Most people were honest and said it was usually as much as required to spruce up an image but usually stopping short of huge cutting and pasting. However some of the replies were frightening, "As little as possible. I want the image to come straight from the camera as it is.", "I don't like all this 'photoshopping' business.", "The least amount possible. I want it as close as it was when I shot it, none of this white balance, tones and curves mumbo-jumbo.". One guy did say he used to think Photoshop was for wussies who couldn't shoot proper photos but he admits he was wrong and has discovered how much better images from both digital and slide film can be improved with a little post-production editing.
I'd have to agree with Fuzzypiggy. Most other sites I used to frequent for photography focus mainly on capturing things in camera and how to do that the best, almost pushing editing down to what they believe to be amateurish. I will admit I had that mentality for a while but as soon as I started shooting Raw I realized that Photoshop was the most useful tool I had to my avail.
Surprisingly, on dA I seem to find the two polar opposites, either submit CooC or edit as you feel like it. I have been doing more and more editing, but I was curious as to what people's stances were on the idea of editing in general/ where they drew their boundaries.
georgewjohnsonFeatured By OwnerDec 14, 2012Hobbyist Photographer
When you start out you don't know what you need to do with PS, so people think they're being clever or original by bragging to all the old hands about not editing. Thing is these beginners don't realise that people who shot film for years and years also spent hours in their darkrooms learning to...yep, manually edit photos! These old hands know all the tricks, especially as PS has borrowed a lot of the names and procedures from the darkroom to use in software!
Editing is and really probably always has been, as important as the original shot image. You need good source material to work with then when you edit you know your starting off at the best place to begin with. In my experience I've found far fewer people on DA who brag about not editing, maybe it's an age thing. It's quite a youngish sort of crowd on here who were brought up with terms like "photoshopping" and the old hands you find on here are artists and creatives who've been taught correctly about darkroom techniques and embraced the digital age as an extension of their skills. Pure photography sites still seem to be full of people who simply shot film and always sent their images off to be processed by someone else. I never really got to grips with a darkroom, even though my Dad had his own, and I have a little regret about that. However at the same time I know that without the darkroom techniques I wouldn't have such well researched and implemented tools in Photoshop without the pioneering work that so many have done over the years in their darkrooms.
That's fair. I never heard of Jerry Uelsmann before this, but it does make sense that these methods have been around for a while. Definitely an interesting way to look at it. Thanks for all your comments and input on the matter, by the way.
Thanks for the link. I googled him earlier today and I was in disbelief that he could do what he did with nothing but darkroom skills. To quote the Avengers movie "Seeing. Still working on the believing."