The Homeward Journal, Vol. V
Just like the topic of whether photography is art, the extent to which one should edit their photos is an issue of great debate, with many passionate opinions.
Before I can give you my take on “how much is too much,” I have to make one thing clear: EVERY photograph that is being shown in any commercial or gallery environment these days HAS TO BE post-processed.
Almost is just not good enough
Modern day cameras are getting stunningly good at accurately capturing and reproducing in a digital file the scene just the way the photographer’s eye saw it in real life. But I don’t think cameras will ever reach 100% accuracy in color, sharpness and the range of light from brightest to darkest areas of an image. They certainly haven’t, yet. And even if it is close: My goal is to produce a timeless piece of luxury fine art that will be in your family for a long time — so almost is just not good enough for me.
Hence, the need for editing, or retouching, as that seems to be a term much less laden with negative emotions of misrepresentation.
Which brings me directly to my approach to editing my images. As I hope you learned in this Homeward Journal entry, I spend a lot of time out in the field looking for the perfect image, the perfect conditions, the perfect moment. When that moment arrives, I do my best to capture it as I experienced and felt it.
Once I created an image and bring it up in Photoshop later, I go back to the notes I took in the field. Why did I make this image in the first place? How did I feel? What drew me to this particular scene? The answers to those questions usually help transport me back to the moment I created the image. At that point, in most instances, I use retouching software like Photoshop to make subtle adjustments to things like color, contrast and brightness to make sure that the digital file accurately reflects the way I saw the scene and the way it made me feel. No more, no less.
This step is absolutely crucial in creating a timeless piece of photographic art. Without it, you would have a flat image that falls short of the photographer’s vision every single time. It’s just the nature of the tools we use to create.
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How much is too much editing?
Where a lot of the emotion comes into the editing debate is when we talk about the extend of making those adjustments, of course. In an age when social media unfortunately rewards the flashiest photograph with the most exposure, many photographers have taken the incredible advances in post-processing software to what I would consider extremes, and along the way they sadly have blurred the line between photographic and digital art, creating a lot of distrust.
One such example is using modern day software to swap out the sky in one photo for that of a more colorful sunset — an increasingly popular practice among hobby-ist landscape photographers. It’s a practice I am personally staying away from as far as I possibly can since my artworks are about the powerful connection a single moment can create between a human and the land — and, with few exceptions, trying to artificially enhance or recreate that moment just doesn’t carry the same weight for me and what I hope my artworks represent.
Now, I want to be clear: I believe that as long as something is done with purpose and intent, there is no wrong or right way to creating artworks as a means of personal expression, and no one approach is superior. It is a matter of personal choice and personal style, and you, the viewer, gets to make the decision ultimately what approach best suits your own outlook on life and nature and our place within.
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I believe in confidence and honesty
Ultimately, when it comes to creating a photograph, there are many individual and personal considerations that make up the finished result — which is why no two photographs ever look quite alike. Where most photographs fall flat these days is not the technical execution, but the person behind the camera going through the entire process without intention at every step, which extends to editing the images.
When everything is done with intent, not only will the quality of the result speak for itself, but the photographer / artist will have no qualms about talking openly and honestly about their approach to using editing to finish a photograph.
I strongly believe that confidence breeds honesty. I know that each image of mine was created with intent, ultimate attention to detail and quality of execution throughout the entire production process. Because of that, I pride myself in being an open book about my creative process so that you can trust that my work aligns with the values that are important to you.
So if you ever have any questions about how any of my photographic artworks were produced, please never hesitate to ask! Come by my West Seattle gallery, send an email to email@example.com, use the chat function in my online gallery or send me a text/WhatsApp at +1-720-345-9463.
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About The Homeward Journal
I believe that the timeless beauty of nature is the antidote to a life of haste and worry. That’s how The Homeward Journal came to be. It is a collection of writings that are part romantic naturalist essays in the tradition of Muir, Abbey and Oliver, and part expert advice on how to create awe-inspiring nature-based interior design that celebrates what you love most. At its heart, every piece in The Homeward Journal explores the one feeling we all share: How connecting with the beauty of nature elevates both our spirits and the spaces we call home. Start exploring my artwork here.