Thursday, June 25, 2015

When Is Too Much Post-Processing Too Much?

From The Past - Mojave, California
I had a discussion recently with a friend about post-processing photographs. We talked about what is an appropriate amount and where the line of "too much" is.

We have different opinions on this subject, but we're also not that far apart, either. He likes his photographs to look "natural"--they look like the scene as he remembered it looking. I like mine to look like film, as if they were organically created with traditional photographic processes.

But where is the line that, when crossed, the photographer has gone too far with his or her editing? Does such a line exist? What happens when the line gets crossed? When is too much, well, too much?
Vintage Abandoned Ranch - Rosamond, California
In my post Five Essential Elements of Photographic Vision I said, "Some people prefer photographs with little or no manipulation. That's fine if it fits the vision. But if the vivid and imaginative conception requires editing, then by all means edit! It is art, and the artist is who determines what the right amount of post-processing is for each image."

I took a relativist approach in that post. The line of too much post-processing is different for each person. My friend and myself place the line in two different places (although, really, they're not that far away from each other). Some other people place the line in wildly different places.

Is there some universally accepted place that we can say the line goes? No, but there is an old saying: "Moderation is a wise ideal."
Retro Living - Johannesburg, California
I see a lot of people who I believe under-edit their photographs, and I think their photography could be better if they'd post-process a little more. Then I see some people who I believe over-edit, and I think that their photography is no longer photography, but some kind of digital cartooning. But does what I think matter?

What I think both matters and doesn't matter. It matters in that photography is nonverbal communication, and the interpretation of the photograph by the viewer is a part of the process. It doesn't matter in that the artist's vision ultimately trumps whatever the viewer thinks about the photograph.

So post-process as little or as much as you'd like. You just need to make sure that the finished photograph falls within your personal photographic vision, whatever that may be. Who cares about lines anyway?

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