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ozboy Dec 19, 2010 6:22 AM

When does a photo stop being a photo?
These days it seems any old photo can be tweaked up in photoshop, aperture or lightroom. But what is the resulting product? Is it still a photo as captured by the camera or is it digital art?

If you are a purist wouldn't you prefer your photos unretouched?

tclune Dec 19, 2010 8:17 AM


Originally Posted by ozboy (Post 1179703)
If you are a purist wouldn't you prefer your photos unretouched?

No, I'd rather that the photo communicated what I was trying to communicate when I decided to take the picture in the first place.

Bynx Dec 19, 2010 8:17 AM

Id say it stops being a photo when it doesnt look like a photo. As soon as it starts to look like a good piece of artwork then thats what it is. Its a good question, but I think it has an obvious answer. Its whatever it looks like. Someone good can manipulate a photo or even create something which looks like it was completely done with a camera, but its art. If it looks photographic then its a photograph. But now with HDR tone mapping software a few pics can be put together and end up looking like a really good piece of art. Something called Super realistic art. A piece of art done by someone who did it from a photo or is capable of seeing in their mind the minutest details of light and shadow. I have a lot posters of this kind of art which Ive always loved. Being in the graphics trade all my life Ive pretty well seen it all. Things are simply what they look like. This is my opinion and there are purists out there that will say otherwise. But what do you think? Where is the line drawn?

wave01 Dec 19, 2010 8:20 AM

Re touching has been done even in film days ie dodge and burn in the dark room so it not new to digital photography. Also the use of layers has been done using multiple exposures and negatives, its been done before. Only now we all know about it.

rhermans Dec 19, 2010 8:24 AM

I think tweaking pictures has always been a part of photography.

Photographers have been pushing, pulling, and whatever was possible with photo's in dark rooms, only the digital age has made this more available for 'normal' people.

Any picture that resembles what you saw, or hoped to see is imho still a photo.
Any hdr (not to overdone) stacked images for dof, stacked images to get rid of undesirable elements, images with parts cloned out aren't digital art but still rate for me a photo's.

Photography is showing the world how you see it.
The exception to that are reporters who should show the world as it is, and not enhance it for good or bad.

just my 5c



TCav Dec 19, 2010 11:18 AM

Photography is recording light. What Ansel Adams used to call dodge and burn, we call HDR. As long as the image is the result of recording light, it's still a photograph. The tools have changed, but nobody has come up with anything new in photography since Kodak introduced Kodachrome in 1935.

VTphotog Dec 19, 2010 12:34 PM

I'm not sure you can pin down a particular point in the process - when does a caterpillar become a butterfly?
I generally try to keep my photos looking as realistic as possible, while sometimes adjusting shadows/highlights, reducing noise, increasing saturation, or what have you. The desired result is to have the end product look like what I was seeing when I took the picture. Sometimes what I was seeing was more inside my head than just in my eye. I guess I draw the line at adding elements that weren't in the scene when I took the shot (extreme example: a Native American F-16 strafing the Mayflower - not a photo)


ewheeler20 Dec 20, 2010 12:01 AM

When does a painting become a photograph?
Take a look at this awesome site. Those "photographs" are actually paintings...

So, why does it really matter if something is a photograph, or art, or anything? It's all semantics really.

ewheeler20 Dec 20, 2010 12:11 AM

WARNING: This post is a bumbling rambling stream of consciousness that may or may not make any sense to you.

This topic has reminded me of something i come across more than i thought i would:

Every so often i get into talks with people (non-photographers) about photography and photoshop in particular. Often times we are on totally different pages in terms of what the verb "to photoshop something" means. To most others, they are referring to taking a photograph and making it something completely different. Adding effects, objects, backgrounds, etc. What I think photoshop is, is editing a photo's bone structure to make the original look more like the photographer wanted it to convey. In other words, basic editing such as lighting, color, focus, etc...

I have never taken a photo of mine and changed it to the point in which you do not know what the original photo looked like. It's just not me style. But for a lot of others, their editing goes in another direction, although it is still a photo to them....

ItDontMeanAThing Dec 22, 2010 9:28 AM

The only time I need to know if a photo has been altered is when I'm a member of a jury.

I'm bothered by post processed images (I can't bring my self to say 'photo shopped') when someone attempts to slightly enhance nature and pass it off as 'real', whatever that means. For example, if someone alters a photo of a Western Tanager to make it's reddish-orange head more red than seen in nature, it doesn't matter if the photo is considered a staggering work of genius, because all I see is FAKE. On the other hand, I know that there has never been a girl on the planet with skin even remotely close to the flawless skin on Playboy centerfolds. That doesn't bother me a bit.

If you're curious what a Western Tanager looks like:

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