Image processing: there’s a thin line between aspiration and desperation. The former sees a photographer pushing the boundaries of technology to expand, or improve, his/her style and the latter sees the same photographer crossing that boundary and free falling into a pit of ridicule.
I’m in a bit of a quandary. On the one hand I feel that the incredible versatility of Adobe Lightroom (other software packages are available) is equipping those who are able or inclined to use it fully, to pass me by when it comes to image processing. On the other, I see so many examples of over-processed images that whilst seemingly popular, are so far removed from reality, that I’m tempted to stick with my tried and trusted (and quick) processing methodology.
It’s still true to say that you can’t make a silk purse from a sows ear but it’s also true that processing software can radically change that same sows ear. I’ve wrestled long and hard with how much processing is enough and if truth be told, I’m still not sure. I’ve watched video tutorials and read endless magazine features and it seems to me that desperation, rather than aspiration, is slowly winning the war. Photography – landscape photography in particular – is starting to represent the natural world in the same misleading way that fashion photography represents its models; they just don’t look like that in real life.
An American colleague recently introduced me to The Box of Believability. Yes it smacks of Stateside jargon but the idea is that your final image, however you choose to process it, should remain within the Box; it should be Believable.
I shot this image recently up in Assynt for The Big Picture and although I’ve displayed the original – flat and lifeless that it is – the finished image is far closer to how I perceived the scene at the time. So have I deviated too far from ‘reality’; have I crossed the boundary into desperation, or have I simply used technology to overcome the limitations of camera capture? And the bottom line is does the final image work?
Extremes in image processing – working outside the Box of Believability – is just one element in what seems to be a growing desperation amongst contemporary nature photographers. There are some very distasteful tales travelling the grapevine just now about photographers’ attempts to stay ‘ahead of the game’. I very much applaud aspiration but desperation isn’t pretty.