Camera and Computer – Equal Partners
Is using software to change a photograph cheating?
Here is a photograph that some would cal minimalist and some wouldn’t. I’ll let on as to what the subject matter is at the end of this article as I want to keep the focus on the image itself and not the object that it is a representation of. Just to put some minds at rest I will say that it is something that is both edible and extremely nutritious. With minimalism a work has to be able to stand on its own without reference to anything external – it has to be self contained otherwise it isn’t minimalism. Bottom line – please think of this in the abstract, as a collection of lines and tones that cause the brain to react or not as the case may be.
Now that we have got that out of the way I’m going to move on to a subject that causes much discussion among photographers and that is just how much post production of a photograph using a computer is desirable. The purists hold the view that anything that fundamentally changes the impact of a photograph is at best gauche and at worst cheating. The consensus in this group is that a certain amount of sharpening, noise reduction, white balance shift and cropping are just about acceptable but that anything more drastic is the mark of a rank amateur and a philistine to boot.
I am not of this school of thought. I regard the camera and the computer as two different but equal parts of the same process i.e. the production of an image that does what the photographer or artist intends it to do. I do not see it as my job to take a camera and faithfully reproduce lighting arrangements and compositions based on ideas that haven’t changed in a century. Sure I usually get my flash off the camera and diffuse it and bounce it and set up 45 degree lighting when required but that doesn’t mean that I regard it as compulsory – I am just as likely to use construction lights without any diffusion – hard light is really interesting to work with – very dramatic, and if you are a photographer I’d recommend trying it. The weird thing is that it will provide a much better understanding of the soft light that most photographers spend 100% of their time working with.
That basically, was a long winded way of saying that the image above is manipulated and I do not think that there is anything wrong with that. I knew that I wanted to reduce the complexity of the image to get at something else, something more fundamental, more minimal.
For those who don’t already know, the image is a macro shot of a walnut, out of it’s shell. I’ve obviously converted it to black and white and exaggerated the contrast. I thought that the form was really interesting and wanted to learn from that. The photograph was taken using a Nikon d40x, the kit 200mm zoom that came with the camera and the lenses and tube from an ancient overhead projector – the type that projects opaque e.g. pages from a book. Sounds horrible but worked surprisingly well, the original photographs turned out pretty good.
I usually edit in Adobe Lightroom, I am not into masking or composite work, at least not through choice, so Photoshop would be overkill. With this image I used Flickr’s built in editing tool , Picnik.