Twofer Tuesday ~ After and Before: It’s not Cheating


"1957 Bel Air High Contrast"

“1957 Bel Air High Contrast”

High contrast detail photo of a 1957 Chevy Bel Air headlight and grille.

"1957 Bel Air"

1957 Bel Air detail. This is the Nikon NEF RAW file converted to DNG with Adobe Lightroom.

I’ll never understand why people will look at a painting and believe it is a true representation of what the artist was looking at and call editing a photo cheating. Do you believe Monet saw everything blurry or Picasso saw everything broken and put back together in some strange manner. Maybe you believe there really was a Mona Lisa, doubtful.

What is it about photography that makes people ask if it really looks like that? More than likely it’s because we’ve been taught “the camera never lies”. In reality the camera tells people what the artist wants to tell them. Photographers do not walk around looking at the world with rectangular tunnel vision any more than Monet saw everything blurry (until possibly his later years when he had cataracts).

Today we call it “photoshopping”. In the days before software editing the tools were known to all photographers by their actual names; dodging, burning, color-correcting filter, high-contrast paper. The list is almost endless. There isn’t a single function in software photo editors that doesn’t have its roots embedded in the early days of film photography. Photographers have always fooled the eye into seeing exactly what the artist wants you to see. As soon as the photographer raises the camera, the view has changed. The scene has been constrained in a box. Decisions have been made as to what they should leave in and what they leave out, where should the focus be to draw the viewers attention, should everything be in sharp focus or not. This list too is almost endless and photographers make these decisions in order to bring their vision to life, not to cheat the viewer.

So next time you’re looking at a photograph wondering if it has been “photoshopped”, just know that it probably has been. It isn’t cheating. It’s the artist bringing his vision to life for you to see. If you like it, great. If you don’t, no problem. I’m betting you don’t like every piece of artwork you have ever seen (I sure don’t).

~ Daniel Kmiecik


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