To process or not to process?

I’m confused. Is post-processing a photograph good or bad? Ethical or non-ethical? Does it take away from the essence of the photograph? From the original scene that the camera captured? Or does it add to it? Does this even matter – post-processing is bad either way, a photographer should try and get his/her best shot (composition, settings, everything) through the camera itself with no ‘touch-up’ required later?

Apparently most people into photography these days are doing it. The advent of digital cameras and post-processing software has made it so simple. I myself do use paint.net to crop photographs and convert them to B&W. Sometimes even to deepen the saturation of the colors or sharpen it a bit. But I haven’t gone beyond that – mainly due to sheer laziness to explore the software more than anything else šŸ˜€ I however see so many people posting ‘before-after’ shots showing what they achieve with processing. The difference is remarkable.

Perhaps there’s an ‘acceptable limit’ to how much processing you do? Who defines this acceptable? Is it the photographer’s prerogative? Does it really matter whether I processed a photograph or not, if the outcome ultimately pleases the viewer and he never knows about the original? Or does this amount to deceiving the viewer? I’m confused šŸ˜¦

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4 comments

  1. Werner Sieber · January 3, 2010

    Hi,
    You certainly know that there is a never-ending discussion about this subject. What people often forget is, that taking the picture (analog or digital) is already part of “processing”, due to your choice of camera settings. In the era of analog pictures, variations in the darkroom operations could lead to radically different outcomes. Devoting a considerable amount of thought and time to the creation of a picture at any stage quite generally improves its quality.
    Best regards
    W. Sieber

    • Sonali · January 4, 2010

      I understand what you’re saying. I guess no one is against processing per se, as long as the intent is clear. Passing off a significantly processed photograph as reality is perhaps what people don’t like (unless of course HDR stuff where the idea is very different). Perhaps the onus is on the photographer to make it clear as to what his photographs are – stories or portrayals of reality. Or is there a mid way? šŸ™‚

  2. Mayank · January 15, 2010

    I rarely do any PP on my photos except an occasional crop. PP is acceptable to me, as long as the processed image is not too different from the one that came out of the camera. A little sharpening / cropping / WB adjustment are fine. Adding / removing artiacts from the image though, are beyond my tolerance levels. I might like a heavily PP’d image and admire the Photoshop skills of the ‘artist’, but at this point, I cease to see him as a photographer.

    • Sonali · January 15, 2010

      Yep, cloning and stuff is more of digital art…but i guess that has its own audience šŸ™‚ As an individual, you’ve got to find your own level of comfort….

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