One of the super secret code phrases you will hear photographers use with one another is “He/She has the ‘eye’ for photography!” So, just what in the heck does this mean anyway?? I mean, come on, I have eyes! (or I wouldn’t be reading this, you fool!)
Well, I am going to let you in on the secret. Good photographers can see the ‘interest’ in the things that most people find mundane or useless. A couple of years ago, Ruth and I were in the North Georgia mountains. With the splendor of the fall color around, and with the color reflecting off the lake, she was hunched over a parking railing taking a photo. I wandered over to see what had captured her interest, and lo and behold, she had seen this on the rail. With the grandeur around, she had ‘seen’ the simplistic and captured it.
This is all that is meant by “They have the ‘eye’”. It is the ability to look at a scene and pull something out of it that most people do not recognize. ‘Seeing’ is also the ability to capture the viewers imagination. For example, every time I see Ruth’s image I think of fall in the mountains. Those two leaves could be anywhere, but the mind wants them to be on rolling hills!
What about Photoshop?
One of the questions I am often asked is “Has this been Photoshopped?” This is a very difficult question to answer because there is a lot more to the question that what is really being asked. I can categorically state that ALL of my images have been Photoshopped! You see, I shoot in a raw format and then I use the program to convert it to a JPEG so it can be published to places like this blog or Facebook. During the conversion process, I can do a number of things to ‘improve’ the shot. From white balance, sharpening and a few other items. But, this is not what people mean when they ask the question. What they are really asking is “did you substantially change the image and does this scene really exist?”
With that being the question, I am going to use the above image as part of the conversation. The image on the left is presented here with no adjustments. The one on the right is what I did during the conversion process. I adjusted the contrast, saturation and white balance. Nothing else was added to the image, I just adjusted what the sensor had captured.
You see, this is where the artistry of photography comes into play. When I stepped out my front door last evening, I “saw” the cloud formation in the sky. I immediately ran and got my camera and snapped a few frames. Now that I have it, it is my decision how I am going to present it. This is no different than the painter who sets up the easel and starts to paint the landscape around them. It is their interpretation of what they are seeing that is important. Photography should be seen in that same light. Photography is the artistic impression of the photographer and the eventual audience will be the judge!
(One exception I want to mention is Photo-Journalism. When a photograph is being used as part of a news story it should be presented unedited in any fashion.)