Long Exposure Photography at Blue Hour by Joey J 📸


Is It about Time to Redefine Photography in the Name of Art?

When an article critical of excessive photo manipulation (such as replacing the sky, adding fake reflections on water) is posted on photography news websites, it often generates a ton of comments, both in agreement and disagreement.

My guest post last year with PetaPixel (Photoshop’s Sky Replacement Makes Photography Something It’s Not ) garnered 150+ comments and 2.1K share on Facebook while a recent post by William Damien (When is Photography No Longer Photography? ) received 200+ comments and 2.6K share on Facebook.

This clearly shows that it’s a hot and contentious topic among photographers, but I wonder why that is so. In this post, I’d like to go a little deeper to see where the criticism stems from.

Street Photographer or Street Digital Artist?

Firstly, as a case study, let me share a photo taken by Eric Kim, a street photographer based in Los Angeles.

Eric Kim Photography

Credit: Eric Kim (open source).

Whether you like his style or not, I doubt that you’ll jump up and scream, “This is fake!” although it looks far from SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) and isn’t quite like a typical “photograph”.

This tells us that we’re interpreting this image as an art form. Yet, he is still widely accepted as a “street photographer”, not something like a “street digital artist”. I’ve found this fascinating, but probably because street photography allows photographers a bit more freedom to experiment, I suppose.

Scenery Has to Be True to the Reality

When it comes to landscape photography, though, it seems that some of us are against such excessive editing. Perhaps, this comes from the belief that the scenery has to be true to the reality.

As a cityscape shooter, I enhance my RAW images by tweaking exposure, vibrance and saturation, etc. but never go too far to replace the sky or add fake reflections on water, as I always like to keep my photos real.

First photo: Marina Bay (Singapore). 35mm, f/11, 194 secs.
Second photo: Gardens by the Bay (Singapore). 26mm, f/8, 162 secs.

Being Against Excessive Editing Doesn’t Mean an Old Technotard

When I opined my view in a photography forum, somebody ridiculed me, saying that I must be an old uncreative technotard and don’t know how to make good use of photo editing software, which is the dumbest argument I’ve ever heard!

I’m in my 40s, so I might be “an old man” for those in their 20s, but I’m an ex-graphic designer with extensive Photoshop skills. However, I’m not going to use my Photoshop skills to create fakish landscapes, because I want to be seen as a photographer, not as a digital artist.

Having said that, I do make some double exposure-ish photoshopping art for fun!

What’s Wrong with Composites in Landscapes?

There is nothing wrong with composites as long as they’re declared as such or obvious to anyone’s eyes. The real issue here is that there are digital artists out there pretending like photographers by keeping their composites rather realistic and wanting people to believe that those are superbly-taken photographs.

In fact, disclosing that their images are composites doesn’t necessarily devalue their work. If they’re so skilled, it should be celebrated, not concealed. So, why do they still want to be recognised as photographers? Or, is it about time to redefine “photography” and accept everything and anything in the name of “art”?

P.S. This post was published on PetaPixel as a guest post.


About MeAbout the Author: LASTLIGHTS.NET is a passion project of Joey J, a Singapore-based Japanese photographer primarily shooting cityscape photography with long exposure at blue hour. Visit his Home Gallery (30 most favourite photos taken) or download his free eBook, Getting Started with Long Exposure Photography.

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