Reality VS. Photoshop. Does it Matter?

Our friends at Outdoor Photographer recently published a blog post by Bill Hatcher that I think is a must-read for many photographers. You see, at Outdoor Photographer, whenever the magazine sponsors a photo contest or publishes a gallery of reader photos, the comments fill up quickly with complaints that the photos are "overprocessed." My first problem with the complaint is that quite often the images aren’t really overcooked at all. Or at least they don’t appear to be to me. It’s as if any time someone sees a deep blue sky, or warm sunset light and they accuse the photographer of succumbing to the evils of HDR. Now don’t get me wrong—I don’t love fake looking overprocessed HDR landscapes either, but I certainly don’t think every bold, colorful photo is a function of HDR or too much post processing. My second issue with this complaint is… So what? Even if it is overdone and you don’t like it… Big deal! There are plenty of things I don’t like, but just because I judge something—someone else’s work of art, mind you—not to my liking, it’s somehow necessary to decree that this photograph as a lesser work in my eyes? It’s preposterous. Get off your high horse, climb down from your ivory tower. There are no rules about photography. There is no "right" and "wrong." If you don’t like it, don’t do it. But let’s agree to stop all of our bickering about what’s real and what’s not. It’s fine to have an opinion, and even to share it. There’s constructive criticism, and there’s petty whining. Let’s not forget that none of us is the ultimate arbiter of taste—especially when it comes to someone else’s photography. Ultimately, if you don’t like it and want to show the rest of us how it’s done… then show us how it’s done! Share your work. That makes the greatest statement of what you think a good photograph should look like. Oh yes, and one more thing. If I hear one more comment about the good old days of film and how realistic it was, I’m going to cry. Let us not forget that black & white photography is inherently an abstraction of reality, and perhaps the greatest black & white landscape master worked hard to create photographs that represented his vision more than they represented the facts of a scene. The most popular color film for a generation of landscape photographers—Fuji Velvia—was popular precisely because of how rich and saturated it was. Photoshop is not evil, and HDR is not wrong. So let’s all take it down a notch and try appreciate good photography of all kinds, even when it’s not our own cup of tea.

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