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Thread: The difference between a good photographer and a great photographer.....

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    Ausphotography Regular Brian500au's Avatar
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    The difference between a good photographer and a great photographer.....

    I will put it out there – is the difference between a good photographer and a great photographer the time spent sitting in front of the computer after the photograph is taken?

    This springs to mind based on a few US photographers I have followed over the past few months. There is a particular photographer in the US who has a huge forum following. If they post a series of shots it is not unusual to get over 5,000 views (I have seen as high as 20,000). These shots are highly edited photographs, sometimes changing the colour of the background, hair and even introducing skylines / objects not in the original shot. The final result is outstanding, but I in some cases I have seen the unprocessed images and the difference is chalk and cheese.

    The above is just one example – but if I was in this to make money (which I am not), should time be invested in the art of photography, or the art of post processing?

    What are your thoughts on this?
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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    For me the difference between a good and great photographer is simple. A great photographer can capture something in a unique way. There are plenty of good photographers around, but great photographers are few and far between. They strive to take a different 'angle' on photography. Often they are the ones starting trends, like the guy in Las Vegas who created the 'trash the dress' concept (that the good photographers then copied).

    If you look at the AIPP winners in recent years, your comments about adding elements, changing colours etc, seems to be where the current trend in photography is heading. So many of the winning (and top scoring) entries on the AIPP events are made up of several photographs, and elements. Whilst the end result is very good and pleasing, it also tends to look more digital art than photograph, as you suggest, in my view.

    For me, some of these photographs work, and others look all to edited, to be called photographs any more. The debate on where the line is drawn has been going on since digital photography began, and before that, with clever darkroom work. We have even got the SOOC (straight out of camera) brigade who profess that all editing is bad, but then often when questioned further, they use their camera on scene modes and save in JPG, whereby the camera is performing edits from the original captured data anyway.

    I think this is a good discussion and will produce many differing and interesting opinions, none being wrong, but until a way is determined (and agreed) on how to define the line between photo and digital art, this robust debate will continue.
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    Fishy bricat's Avatar
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    As a novice I am appalled that manipulation of a photograph by adding elements from another photograph be allowed in anything other than an art competition. I was not into pre digital manipulation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photograph This explains what I always thought was photography. I like/dislike manipulated photographs depending on whether they appeal to me or not; the same as any photograph.
    I would be interested in the opposite opinion as we can all learn by advancement of technology. But with that becomes a greater learning curve just to submit a photograph into any competition. JMHO cheers Brian
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    I don't think time spent editing in front of a computer is the difference as a "photographer" it simply means that someone has a different skill set and view on how to process a photo. But for me the sad part is as Rick said, that the image ends up looking like digital art. At my local camera club I often see entries being awarded gold yet there is clearly very little of the original shot left. Whilst they may be very appealing and stunning images, for me it doesn't mean that they are a better photographer just better on a computer.

    But this is all talking as a photographer, someone not into photography doesn't care how the image is produced. If the image appeals to them, why do they care how it was produced? Personally, I would always choose a good photograph over something that looks like digital art.

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    Until recently I was a photoshop fanatic. But lately I find that a simple RAW to JPG (Exposure, Sharpen and check WB.. Maybe tinker with highlights and shadows) is all that is required.

    Apart from "focus stacking"," Astro stacking" and "panoramas" which demand that extra time in processing. The end result is still a photograph.

    What Brian500au has mentioned above, is graphic art or digital art.... Some of us may remember "Mick" and now outstar79, and how they have created some real fantastic digital art, using an original photo as a canvas.
    That's why many competitions now state that an image is not to be manipulated in any way other than the standard conversion to jpg.

    Not that long ago a photo journalist lost his job, his livelihood and his reputation for manipulating an image.

    So is it a photo, or is it art.
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    Ausphotography irregular Mark L's Avatar
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    Reckon the difference between a good and great digital artist is "the time spent sitting in front of the computer after the photograph is taken." Vision in taking the photo(s) and understanding what software can do, no doubt helps.
    'spose it also depends on the audience and what they want. Dylan has presented many photos here that some say are over processed. They are all based on reality though. Others don't much care for reality as long as an image looks good to them.

    I'm happy to be an occasionally good, not aspiring to be great, photographer.
    Others can do and think what they like.
    Last edited by Mark L; 24-06-2014 at 9:38pm. Reason: delete site double post

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    I suppose now we need to define what is a photographer? I read another thread on AP where the discussion centred around who pushed the button on the camera body.

    In a lot of these digital artistic photographs it is not necessarily the photographer who does the post processing, nor the make up, nor the studio set up. Sometimes this is dictated by the client. I once did a job where everything was set up for me, I was just required to push the button on the camera body. The photograph is one of the best I have taken - although I had little creativity in the actual photograph itself.

    In recent times I have looked hard at a photograph, but more and more I am wondering to myself, am I appreciating the photographers skill or the post processing done on the image. One area I have no doubt is photojournalism - easily some of the bravest and most talented photographers in the world (and probably the most vulnerable in job security in modern times).

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    The discussion about who pushed the shutter button is based around our copyright laws. Under Australian copyright, the person who takes the photo (presses the button) owns copyright, no matter who setup the studio, did the make-up, hair, checked lighting, set the camera settings etc, copyright is assigned to the person who pressed the button to take the photo. So where that differs from photo editing, is that their exists an Australian Law that defines who owns the photo. I very much doubt we will see laws related to editing (other than fashion/models, truth in advertising, news) anytime soon. Photography is classified as an Art, and as such it is left open to wide interpretation as to how much we manipulate our photos.

    How would we define how much editing is to much?

    I could boost the saturation of a photo, thus effectively edit every single pixel, 100% of my photo changed from what it was originally. Someone else might adjust 8.25% of their photo to remove an object and add in another object. Which photo has been edited more? I could see the discussions going on for a damn long time before a set of editing limits was set, and even then it would likely never be agreed upon.

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    Were Ansell Adams and Frank Hurley great photographers or great image creators?

    If you think of Photoshop as the darkroom, then the process of creating an image that appeals is no different in my mind.

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    I suppose it also depends how obvious the editing is. Some can do it such that the result looks natural and could well be a single photo. Who decides what is or is not allowed?

    We can all be tricked


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    No I don't think of Photoshop as the dark room.

    In film days most of adjustments were done in camera or at the time of shooting (via filters, iso rating, lighting, props, perpective, etc). 99% of us either shot print or slide film, and when we finished the roll we would drop it into the local Kodak shop to have it developed (not post processed). Some camera enthusiasts set up a dark room at home and developed / printed their own black and white, but you always needed a professional lab to process anything in color. We could not tell if the shot was in focus, under / over exposed, colors, etc until we got the results back from our local Kodak shop.

    I think there was more appreciation of the photographers skill around when film was the go. If a shot looked as though it was manipulated then we were amazed of how it was done. Now life is different - and I suppose if we accept a raw is processed in camera, then whether it is converted to JPG in camera or via the computer is standard and acceptable for modern era photography. I notice when we still quote great photographers we mostly refer to the era of the film days (although there are some highly skilled photographers around today).

    What I mostly refer to is the manipulation of photos - addition of items / objects not in the original scene, changing of clothing and hair colors, body shaping, skylines, buildings etc. This is all done post shot and the final result is not so much the photographers skill, but more the skill of the person on the computer. Is the final result fraudulent?

    They say a picture paints a 1000 words, but are we now in a era where half of the words could be lies.

    Without doubt the most successful businesses who offer photographic services are very accomplished in the art of post processing. In fact I will go out there and say the post processing skills are what separates the successful from the rest of the crowd.

    Just my 2c worth of thoughts.

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    Member wayn0i's Avatar
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    Interesting discussion, in many ways this same conversation could be discussing music. Is current day music real music, its certainly not produced like music in years go by. Has the voice been manipulated to the point you could argue it doesn't reflect the singer. Is it better......maybe.......Is it worse......maybe.... Is it music.....I think so. Its a circular, how long is a piece of string, or whos on second base type of argument.

    For me, the question is, do I like the image, the rest is semantics.
    Last edited by WhoDo; 27-06-2014 at 3:45pm. Reason: Fixed double post

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    I not sure I agree with the music analogy. The way of capturing and distributing the music may be different today, but musicians largely still perform live venues so the recording and the live performance cannot vary that much.

    I think the question is do I like my own photograph, and what techniques can I employ to make it better. Do I spend the time perfecting my photography skills or my post processing skills.

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    http://steveaxford.smugmug.com/ Steve Axford's Avatar
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    I am going to make a guess that you are talking about the sort of images that you see on 1x.com? I'm doing this because we almost never see heavily manipulated images on AP, at least not really good ones. Some of the 1x images are very, very good, but they tend to fit into a style that is not for everyone. I think of them as European Coffee Table images. I don't really think that the "older style" of photography has changed. There is still that place for images that are essentially as taken (ie no major image manipulation), it is just that new areas have sprung up that were not possible before. There is possibly a fad for those manipulated images at present, but that does not mean that normal images are "old news" and dead. I don't think journalistic style photography (or the equivalent) will ever die. By journalistic, I mean any photograph that attempts to represent things as they were even if a little dramatised.
    You takes your pick now - either an artist who creates what we see, or a journalist who records - or somewhere in between.

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    Henri Cartier-Bresson spent little time in the darkroom other than straight D&P, sooooo, he can't be a great photographer? He spent even less time on the computer, can't imagine why!

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    Ausphotography Regular bobt's Avatar
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    The graduated line which connects graphic art and photography is long and indistinct. An image can be the result of pure photographic skill or a blend of photography and computer processing. It all requires skill of some sort, but in my view it is impossible to find that point at which an image transitions from a traditional photograph to a graphic art work. There are, however, works which are classified as photographs but which I personally would not regard as such, and as others have said perhaps the bottom line lies in what we like as individuals.

    At the end of the day skill is what generally counts, but which skills are more important is a very subjective issue. I have produced images which please me, but not all have been photographs. That, to me, illustrates why we all talk about "images" rather than "photographs" these days, because "images" describes all of our work rather than one end or the other of a very wide spectrum.

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    My Oxford Concise says an image is [1] an artificial imitation of the external form of an object, or [2] the optical appearance or counterpart produced by light or other radiation from an object reflected in a mirror or refracted through a lens.

    A traditional photo meets both those definitions, but anything heavily post-processed does not.

    So I think 'photo' and 'image' belong in the same box, i.e. the more representative one, and 'digital art' is the right name for the other stuff, i.e. heavily processed.

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    Ausphotography Regular bobt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arg View Post
    A traditional photo meets both those definitions, but anything heavily post-processed does not.

    So I think 'photo' and 'image' belong in the same box, i.e. the more representative one, and 'digital art' is the right name for the other stuff, i.e. heavily processed.
    I'm not so sure. There are many definitions of "image" even within the Oxford framework. Digital Art, Photographs, Paintings .... they are all images in my view and that includes heavily processed images given that the level of processing is irrelevant to the generic class of "image". What we can do is try and categorise the type of images, but all of these forms still fall under the broad umbrella of imagery.

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    I was looking at the phrases "imitation of the external form", and "optical appearance produced by light".

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    I think we're getting too granular, and I think Kel's right. It comes down to the definituion of a photographer.

    If a photographer is the person who is resposible for the final image, from nuts to bolts, then they may use a lot of PP in some cases, or no PP in some cases. Regardless, it is the final image which would determine whether they were a great photographer or a good photographer. They can, and have been able to for years, use any tool at their disposal to make a great image. And the sophistication of the tools has changed over those years.

    A parallel. Cabinet makers originally hand made all their work. Gradually, more sophisticated tools came about which enabled them to make a better product. They used to plane timber flat and square. Now they use a jointer and a thicknesser. They used to use hide glue to hold sophisticated joints together. Now the joints aresimple and held with more modern, an more suitable, glues. They used to carve decorative edges into cabinets, then they used a plane with a shaped blade, then they used spindle moulders.

    There are still cabinet makers, mainly hobbyists, who will not use power tools. They are traditionalists. But would they be the only ones who could qualify as great cabinet makers because they don't used power tools. I doubt it.

    The "photographer" produces the end image. The "cabinet maker" produces the end cabinet. I personally don't think it comes in to the equation what tools they used to produce their results.

    I would judge them on the result.
    Last edited by Granville; 26-06-2014 at 3:04pm. Reason: fat fingers
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