Thursday, March 22, 2007


A common trait of humans is seeking perfection. We often find ourselves saying 'If only I did this then it would be perfect'; 'I just need this one more 'thing' and then it will be perfect'. We chase after the impossible. This behaviour drives us towards an 'aggressive' approach to life because sometimes we find ourselves competing for that one 'thing'; that last piece that will bring perfection.

I was thinking about this in the shower this morning. Now that we have entered the digital age of photography, are we trying to achieve perfection in our images? For example, I go out and take a picture of a bird in flight. I go home, upload the photo and have a look at it. I find that it is a good photo but not quite right. The bird is not perfectly positioned, the eye is not as bright as it could be, there is another bird in the photo that is distracting, the sky is not as blue as I would like.

Rather than spending our time and energy on editing a photo to get it as close to perfection as it can be, should we not spend it on enjoying the moment when we depress the shutter button, appreciate the image we have captured.

What do we think about this?



Anonymous said...

I'm not sure of the link between your opening paragraph and the issue of perfection in photography, but I see where you are going with this.

I think it is important to enjoy the process of photography, and to me this includes the time and energy spent taking the picture, but also the time and energy spent in making the picture as good as it can be. The reason behind that may not be the quest for perfection, but just the enjoyment and satisfaction of doing something as well as you can, every time you do it. It we have the ways and means to elevate a picture from good to great, we should.

I really do think that the starting substrate should good in itself - you can't make a silk purse out of a sows ear. If the substrate is good, then some time spent optimising it is all part of the process for me, even if it means a bit of pixel editing, whether to clean an image or to creat something that transcends the original image.

In summary, digital editing is all part of the fun for me, not in a quest for perfection, but in a desire to optimise an image and gain maximum artistic and creative satisfaction. And hopefully to get a reaction from the viewer.

Good point to raise.


Anonymous said...

Hi there,

What came to mind was the photograph of the sanderlings on the shore. This is not a true example for reasons I will explain but it illustrates my thought process.

When I opened this image up in CameraRAW I essentially processed the image to bring the image back to what I recall. Basically what I saw through my viewfinder at the time. I then posted the image on CriticalLight. You looked at the image and suggested cropping the photo to remove the slope and some of the foreground. Grant suggested removing some of the birds to the left so that there was a space for the birds to walk into.

So it would be easy, at this stage of processing when the image we saw at the time of shooting has faded somewhat, to lose sight of the initial image, those initial thoughts, initial feelings and the decisions we make when we compose and depress the shutter button.

We are in a situation where we have the tools and the abilities to remove all of the imperfections from an image and make it the perfect photograph. And so we suffer the risk of losing the nature of what we originally saw and shot.

This is not a perfect example because you and Grant are giving your own viewpoint on an image that you have no history with. But if I fell into a mode of perfecting the image and making the changes that were suggested, then all of the original thought processes that went into creating this image, would be lost. I would have created a new image. One that was created in photoshop and not on Sable Island.

The environment that we now find ourselves in where we have this two step process: camera followed by photoshop, increases the potential for us to become disconnected with our experience of shooting the image and thus losing sight of what our initial intentions or hopes for the image were. There has, of course, always been a two step process in creating a photograph (using chemicals as opposed to digital technology) but we now find ourselves very much involved in that second process and likely have more creative control.

Moving on from there. This behaviour can lead one into the `aggressive` mode of creating the perfect image and competing with others for perfection. NOT for your own thoughts and sights which occur while shooting, NOT for your skill of the eye or your ability at taking a good photograph in crappy conditions, BUT for the ability of sitting in front of a computer and editing an image to perfection and forgetting what occured when you originally took the photo.

Now if your intention is to use an image as your canvas for creating another image, then that is fine. As long as you don't become a driver in the aggressive and competitive roundabout of creating perfection.

In summary, if our intention is to show people what we see using our camera as our primary tool, then we should strive not to lose touch with our experience of taking that image.


Anonymous said...

Always remember that the camera cannot, and will likely never, be able to capture the field of view, the subtle shades, the range of f-stops and the colours of the human eye. Therefore, any image captured will be different from what our eyes saw, and so will need something to bring it back to what we remember. However, what we "feel" may not be represented well within the four walls of the image frame, as we don't see normally within frames. Therefore, I do feel that the image can be made to work within that unnatural frame. Finally, the removal or addition of elements is one of artistic choice, and may not be driven by an aggressive need to be perfect - as I said, it may just come from a desire to create something very pleasing to look at. Given that the eye only has a rectangle to wander in, the elements within that rectangle become all the more important, distracting ones more so. Hence we have cropping at one end of the manipulation set, and cloning at the other.

You are clearly on a buddhist thing with this and we have already established that I don't get it.


Anonymous said...

I certainly don't disagree with the fact that all photos need additional work in Photoshop. Absolutely essential especially if you shoot RAW. I also don't disagree that there are no barriers to how far one may go with editing. There are many levels of creativity that one can reach using photoshop and they are all valid, as long as one states which level they are on.

You are right that my photography has been shaped with my interest in the contemplative process. I am not a Buddhist nor am I interested in the religion of Buddhism but the mind is at the core of Buddhism. So, I am using the path of Buddhism to get into my mind (for reasons other than photography) and in so doing, it is shaping the way I see and therefore photograph.