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Elevator and Warehouse by Richard Keeling on 500px.com

I am always amused (but no longer that surprised) at how many images offered up at my local photography critiques have had elements Photoshopped out of them.

Powerlines are a favorite, but cars, people, houses, whole sections of the image have also been eliminated and replaced. Some folks do this well, aware of the subtle repetitive visual motifs that can be introduced by cloning, others less so.

Either way, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for such changes. Sometimes it’s felt necessary to rescue a poorly posed photograph, and sometimes it does indeed rescue the image, but a little more forethought in the original capture would be more satisfying. Sometimes it’s done for some sense of aesthetics, removing a distracting component. Again, there are situations where this is warranted. But personally I prefer to keep all that I originally saw in the photograph, striving, instead, to get a satisfying composition as I take the picture.

Using film is a great aid to this type of process. It has a couple of consequences, one more subtle than the other. Firstly, by virtue of the limit on alternate captures of the same scene that film forces on you (simply by only having a limited number of exposures per roll), you need to pay a lot more attention to getting the composition right in the first place. Secondly, by imprinting whatever is captured on a physical artifact, a film negative, the elements of that original scene take on a weightiness that seems absent when dealing with purely digital images. This second quality is ultimately more psychological than anything else, but that does not serve to diminish it.

Thus I have abandoned my prior habit of cloning out power lines or stray overhanging branches. I keep them in. What’s more, I now strive to make them a more significant component, such as in the above photograph of a Lebanon warehouse and elevator. Here the criss-crossing lines accent the strong lines of the buildings, forming a pleasing geometrical counterpoint that would be lost if I simply washed them out. The result is stronger and more real – inasmuch as any photograph can be real – and consequently more engaging.

 

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