Photography and Art

From a recent post on Exposure Roanoke’s message board:

I noticed several ER members have submitted photos in the Peaks of Otter Lodge photo contest. Congratulations!

I was thinking of entering one of my shots too but I’m wondering how to deal with their rules on ‘digitally enhanced’ photos:
“Photographs that have been digitally or otherwise enhanced or altered will be disqualified. Cropped photographs and photographs with minor adjustments such as sharpening and slight adjustments in contrast and color will be allowed. “

I shoot Raw so I have to at least run my photo thru LR or ACR just to get a jpeg to submit. With a straight raw photo, you have to do quite a bit of adjustment in LR just to get back to match what you would get if you shot jpeg. So how in the world do you draw the line at minor or slight adjustments per their rules? Seems very gray and subjective to me. If I only use “global” adjustments is that OK? Am I allowed to remove or add a bit of vignette? Do minor dodging & burning with an adjustment brush qualify as ‘slight adjustments’?

My thoughts on the subject:

The increasing sophistication of post production in the photography process has brought us into a new set of discussions about the relative merits of same. I am reminded of the very earliest days of photography, when the new medium was dismissed out of hand by traditional artists as simply “not art”.

As a committed Luddite, I still believe that a photograph is something that comes out of the camera. I commend the astute organizers of this photography competition in recognizing the distinction between a true photograph and a highly manipulated “image”. Personally, I don’t find their restrictions confusing in the least.

Having said that, maybe there are alternatives. Maybe it’s time to recognize highly manipulated post-production techniques as an art form in their own right, similar but entirely separate from traditional (even digital) photography. The ability to shoot many different exposures of the same subject, then combine the best of each into a final product is a prime example. Some people are good at it, and create stunning art, and some people are really bad at it, and create boring, flat compositions.

One possible solution is to divide photographic competitions and exhibits into two categories, one dedicated to the art of the photograph, the other to the art of post-production manipulation.



One response to “Photography and Art

  1. It’s all kind of questionable. I’m so torn on all of it. My practical side uses a lot of post as a tool, in order to make my photography look better for the client so they hire me more and I make more money, simple. But for art and news coverage, I don’t think it should be used, however…back in the film days we choose a certain film, we pushed, or pulled processed and we dodged and burned in the darkroom with all sorts of papers, filters and tricks, that’s post, or was post, right? So just how much should be allowed?

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