Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Should we have Photographic Principles?

Today's picture is a bigger deal than you probably realise. The reason is because it goes against a photographic principle that I used to have, which was basically that I would never add into a picture anything that was not there previously. In this case, it is the blue sky. But even that I used to frown upon, seeing it as unrepresentative of the scene as it was taken. Now however, I am much more relaxed about it, and start to wonder if you are setting yourself up for failure, by having any photographic principles at all?

It goes back to the question, what is photography, and what is art? Or is there a line at all? Aren't we all just trying to create beautiful pictures for people to enjoy? As I said, I used to not like the idea of blending in a sky that was not originally part of a picture, but what happens when you have a day out in a particular city, hoping to get some iconic shots of particular landmarks, and it is nothing but grey sky above? Or even worse, a blanket, empty, featureless sky? Is there no artistic licence to 'improve' the scene? Can I ask any more questions in this blog post? The perspective that made me change my mind, was this tutorial by Serge Ramelli (well worth a watch). He transforms a wonderful building with a featureless sky, into a much more interesting work of art. Although my favourite version of the picture, was about half way through the video, the point is that adding elements in the post processing stage can simply make a photograph much more interesting.

I still don't think it's wrong to call it photography, as you have to your original photograph in the first place, but I suppose there are people who are always going to say you cheated. Heck, people still think digital post-processing is cheating, but my opinion is that your work will soon become irrelevant, if you are not keeping up with modern developments and techniques. At the end of the day, the idea is to produce an image that people simply love to look at, and therefore nothing is really ever wrong. Of course I agree that competition photographs should be free from heavy enhancement (or whatever the particular rules are), but for art's sake, I do not think it is worth having any deeply-held principle, you are only likely to go against it one day.

The last question I will ask in this blog post, and one you should ask yourselves with your pictures, is does the image enhancement make it a better picture? You can see the original cloudy version (after some processing) below. It's all completely up to one's own preference of course, but I'm not sure a cloudy version of Big Ben, the London Eye, or a London bus would make it onto a souvenir postcard.


  1. Pete,

    Great post with some thought provoking points! I think you probably know my thoughts being a regular contributor to my blog. I am not adverse to adding elements to an image if it makes it more visually interesting.

    If people see it that way then that is objective achieved as far as I'm concerned. I much prefer your finished version and I think you have blended it really well. If I was being picky perhaps the left edge of the pyramid section at the top of Big Ben slightly gives it away?

    Otherwise well done!

  2. Yeah it's a fair comment Tim, I need to implement some Refine Edge there! Thanks for your thoughts, I think we think along the same lines, at the end of the day, we just want to create good images to look at.