Back toward the beginning of this blog, I did a post about photo editing, kind of making a case for it while still pondering the merits of opting not to do it.
The more I search the web for images and photography blogs and photo contests, the more I truly feel the photographic environment created by many in the professional community is one that transmits the opinion that our world is simply not enough. Nature and landscapes must be saturated, and contrasted, and brightened, and tone-mapped, and color-corrected, and sharpened, and stitched together, and run through an HDR program, before they are worthy of being viewed by the masses and given a blue ribbon. And I don't even know what tone-mapping is.
In my photo editing post I was leaning toward making a case for art photography, and I still do believe firmly in the genre and hope it never dies. But it just seems that so much of the market is (pun alert) saturated with images that aren't truly art - how do I put this...it's like pop art. Unoriginal. Everybody's copying everybody else. And it leads to a lot of people doing things that they think make good photos, and they're wrong.
I know. Who am I, right? Well, I'm not an idiot, that's for sure, and I think it's okay for the peanut gallery to have an opinion every now and then. ;-) (Not an uninformed opinion, though)
I think the biggest reason for all this copycat photography is photo editing itself. Everyone has to have Photoshop, and now Lightroom. Peruse the comments sections of your favorite popular photography blogs and you will find, without a doubt, those who are always name-dropping the latest gear, gadget, or software. I'm pretty sure that about two days after Lightroom was released, some geek was talking about it like he'd already had it for ten months. "...all I do is run it through LR to get the result I'm looking for."
Now everyone believes that their photos can be made better - nay, professional - with extensive photo editing. Techniques ebb and flow like seasonal fashions. And photog friends are more than happy to lavish each other with praise that is many times unmerited. How many times can I see fourteen "soooo beautiful, Terri Lynn!" comments in a row for a photo in which massive over-sharpening has rendered trees nearly alien and the sky halfway apocalyptic?
To say nothing of the proven fact that results-driven amateurs, and even some new professionals, believe that taking great photos in the camera is no longer necessary because of the "magic" of post-processing. Look, if you don't know how to freeze action, nothing is going to reverse that giant motion blur. If you take all your pictures at high noon, have fun trying to fake the colors of sunrise and sunset.
To bring it all home - if we as photographers don't think the natural world is already beautiful enough, then what are we doing taking pictures of it in the first place?
Now that that is off my chest, some qualifications. I love a well-edited photo. One in which the right choices have been made and clear discretion has been imposed. I believe that the camera has its limitations no matter WHAT brand and how much money you spend, and so sometimes a little tweaking is required to get the photo to match what our amazing eyes have seen. I have had a ton of fun trying to get certain pictures to look "old." I have edited photos before, I will edit them again. But the more I do, the more I look at the originals and realize that they're great just the way they are.
In my photo-editing post, I stated that in order to be competitive, editing is basically required. I believe that now more than ever. But I just can't in good faith go through all those mechinations just to say I won "photo of the day" on some website somewhere. I would like to continue taking the best photos I can in the moment, and if they are never good enough for the big biz hot shots, then that's just the way it's going to be.