TO EDIT OR NOT TO EDIT…THAT IS THE QUESTION…

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of the photographic purists by editing, or to abolish even the slightest trace of Photoshop and live or die by the camera alone!  Or, could there be a place of compromise that would allow some but deny other editing techniques?

Let me say from the onset that I believe everyone will find their particular editing position to be somewhere within the spectrum mentioned above.  And for me, it is absolutely your decision.  But, for the sake of discussion, I wonder if you believe the edit I’m using for illustration should be utilized or not.

I believe it was Michael who suggested the distinction between processing and editing.  In his definition processing has more to do with lighting/exposure adjustments, while editing leaned more toward changing the original in the process of creating art.  In the same discussion, Derrick went on to include the removal of particular objects such as telephone lines and cell phone towers as editing that deviates from the integrity of the original.  I hope I’ve stated their positions accurately, as I think their statements will hopefully ignite a flurry of comment discussion on this matter.

Their comments, as well as others from a number of you, have caused me to wonder how everyone feels about this issue.  Now please understand, it’s not my desire to change anyone’s mind or to even state what is right or wrong.  After all, most of us are fairly established in our post processing techniques.  My goal is to offer honest enlightenment on the subject.

In this particular edit of the historic Mission San Juan Capistrano, there happened to be an unsightly support structure which could not be eliminated by a simple change of perspective.  A direct shot from the front of the bell tower was made impossible by several trees blocking the view.  Even if I could have somehow managed to capture the tower from that angle, it would have lost its dimension and seemed flat.

In this image, the support structure remains unedited.  This is the way the image presented itself on this particular day.  However in all historic fairness, this is not the way the structure originally presented itself.  This support structure was only recently added (2004, I believe) as earthquake reinforcement.  So, maybe that will have an impact on your thought process.

Original Image

In the photograph below, I have used Photoshop to eliminate the support structure. This edited image may be a more accurate depiction of how the bell tower may have appeared 100 years ago.  Which do you prefer?

Edited Image

 

 

Now, I know it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.  We are free to edit or not as we so choose.  But for the sake of discussion, I wonder if you might be willing to share your preference and your reasoning.  I know I have a position on this, but you’re not going to find it here.  If you follow the comments closely though, you’ll discover exactly where I stand.

To those of you who love the photography, but wouldn’t consider yourselves photographers – I would be most interested in your preference.  Your choices will give us a consumer  perspective.  And, that’s very important to me!

So without further ado I leave you with this, “To edit or not to edit…that is the question.”

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~ by photographyfree4all on February 22, 2011.

35 Responses to “TO EDIT OR NOT TO EDIT…THAT IS THE QUESTION…”

  1. I see the difference. Hmmmm. To know that the enforcement, was there, gives understanding to the structure of the building. But now that it is gone, from the editing, I think it looks like it could topple down. Especially, if you looked at it with an engineers. eye. I am not an engineer. But I worked for a few….lol

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  2. I probably would not have noticed the support bar if you hadn’t pointed it out I usually look at a photo as being what it really looks like.
    But for arts sake I like the edited picture best.

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  3. I think there is always a place for editing like this, as long as it’s upfront. With all the retouched photos gracing magazine covers and splattered all over the internet, it’s hard to trust a photo these days. For this reason, I feel some areas should just be taboo–like photojournalism and news reporting photography.

    But when it comes to personal photography and just plain fun with it, I think the sky should be the limit.

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  4. I like the edited version, but not b/c of the support. I think the shadows in the foreground are more defined and the leaves aren’t as heavy. I am not sure removing or adding is my preference in the photos I take. However, I do like to like HDR, which can really mess with the way the original is presented. That’s why photography is art, it’s what we see and how we want to present it.

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  5. I like both shots. I sometimes take out wires and stuff like that just because it’s distracting. But then sometimes I leave it in because it was there anyway. I don’t think either one is right or wrong like you said. It’s an artist’s choice to where they are going with the final piece and what makes them happy 🙂

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  6. I don’t think that support bar detracts from the image like power lines would. I’m torn over this issue–I don’t think photos should be changed drastically, but I don’t mind taking eyesores out once in a while. To me, processing is adding textures and special effects. Editing (for me)is more cropping and adjusting exposure.

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  7. Hi Elena. I understand what you’re saying, and to me I would agree that the tower looks somewhat structurally unsound without the bars. But, the bars were only added 7 years ago, which means for 225 years they were not there. They were added to help support in the case of an earthquake, which we do see from time to time here! 🙂 Thanks for jumping into this discussion – it’s going to be very good! 🙂

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  8. It really is personal prefernece, but there are factors that help us choose those preferences. I agree with yours! 🙂 Great to have another comment from you, Miss Betty. I was hoping you’d share your thoughts. 🙂

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  9. An extremely good point, Heather! I am so glad you brought this up because that is one of my strictest preferences!! If I’m shooting something as a photo journalist, nothing can be changed to altar the elements in the composition like I did here. You must maintain your journalistic integrity!! Had I been shooting for a news story, I would NOT remove the support structure. Great, great comment!! Thanks, Heather!

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  10. WOW! Now HDR opens up a whole new subject area of editing/processing. This is a great comment addition, Nels! I’m so glad you jumped into the discussion. Keep following it – you may have more to offer. 🙂

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  11. Michael, I do believe where you’re going with the final print is paramount to how you approach this subject. If you’re producing something to sell to a consumer, you may want the print to be as attractive as possible. To many, that would mean removing the support structure. But, if I’m shooting for the local paper I may want to present the print as it actually appears. Thanks, Michael! Great comment.

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  12. I like the edited photo and all, but sometimes, things like what you deleted sometimes add character. in my opinion, it depends on the photo.

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  13. I think it all comes down to how the photographer is “selling” the shot. If you add or remove something from the image and then try to play it off as “this is how it looks”, I think that borders on being criminal.

    To me, photography is about realism. HDR – when it’s not overblown, can look extremely “real”, and I don’t have an issue with a landscape (key issue here for me) photographer adding/removing something as long as they are up front with it.

    Keep it real, nature provides plenty of beauty all by itself without us having to mess with it.

    I realize that most likely I’m in the minority here, and that’s just fine. 😉

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  14. At the end of the day it’s your shot… Your own personal interpretation of the scene you are trying to capture and present, and if there’s something in the frame that doesn’t fit with the image you want to convey, and you have the ability to seamlessly edit it out…. then I say edit away…

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  15. I think both look fine, although I don’t think in this instance, the support you removed is distracting or spoiling the shot. And, if you are going to take out aesthetically unpleasing elements for the reasons you describe (I’m going to be contentious here) then why not remove the lighting along the lawn edge and the grey box on the lower right…I mean how to decide where/when to stop? 🙂

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  16. My preference would be, if I was using a DSLR, then I would try to get the shot I want in-camera. I am more satisfied by improving my photography skills on an on-the-spot basis rather than editing my shots. Editing makes me feel like I have cheated myself and defeat the purpose of my DSLR.

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  17. I would agree that every situation is different and requires a determination based on those differences, Kuukisu. In this case I believe the support is a distraction from the “original” construction – that’s why I would remove it. I’m glad you offered your comments here! Great job! 🙂

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  18. I’ll tell you this, Derrick, there are times when I would choose to me in the minority!! Many, many times!! 🙂 I like your definition of realism…in fact, I was just mentioning to Kuukisu that it was the originality of the structure that caused me to remove the support structure. In this case, the original structure did not have the support and I was striving to capture more of the historical aspect of the architecture. If I were to capture this image and sell it in a gallery, I would likely have the storied history with it because it completes the story and fills in the blanks the image cannot explain. I do think when you’re considering photographic journalism, the entire playing field is changed – I don’t believe you have the freedom in those circumstances. And, I might be in the minority there. 🙂

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  19. Steve, your above annser to Kuukisu hit the nail on the head. I can’t add anything to that.

    But having said that, I think both photos are very good, and I don’t believe the support bar distracts.

    Bob

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  20. Hey Brian! Good to see you again! You’ve determined where you stand and I like that! It’s a simple, but great way to go! And judging from your site, it’s working for you! You’ve got some great photography there! And we use the same camera!! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by again! Don’t be a stranger. 🙂

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  21. Ah Diane…playing the devil’s advocate, are we?? 🙂 Actually the support is not as distracting in this shot. But, I have another shot that presents the tower in a close-up perspective. When I removed the support in that shot, I felt I needed to do it in all the shots. I like it removed in this instance because it returns the architecture to its original design. That’s what I was going for in this project. The lights and grey box…well. I think I was most interested in the structure…or, I just didn’t notice them! Now that you mention it…where is that clone stamp?? 🙂 Great comment, Diane!

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  22. Boy do I agree with this, Sapphire. But I have to tell you, there was no way in this case. Believe me, I walked around this structure for an hour examining all the different angles – it just wouldn’t work. But, I’m all for f
    “fixing” it in the camera so I don’t have to spend much time on the computer editing. Thanks for jumping in here, Sapphire! I’m really glad you stopped by. 🙂

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  23. In this particular image, I don’t think the support structure detracts, so it could remain. However, they are times when spots or wires or sticks or [insert distracting element here] DO detract from an image and a photographer can do what they want to to. There is a fine line between what is reasonable and unreasonable editiing. No one can decide but you.

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  24. I think what makes a photo GREAT is displaying it unedited. But I won’t hold it against you on those occasions when you feel the need to edit. 😉 I do like knowing if I’m looking at a photo that is 100% real, or not.

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  25. Hi Miss Pearl! I’m learning there is such a wide spectrum of preference in this particular area of photography. I can really see everyone’s point of view, but I’m amazed at how different they are. I do think the end result has a lot to do with what you do to get there. Preparing a print for sale is much different than preparing a print for a photo journalism article. Great comment! Thanks! 🙂

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  26. Hi Bob! Here’s a couple of thoughts I just had: Going back to your “beer can” illustration, what’s the difference between spotting the beer can and physically removing it before you take the shot, or because you didn’t notice it before you snapped the shot – taking it out afterwards? It would seem that you’ve changed the landscape either way – wouldn’t it? Also, I wonder how everyone feels about portrait editing. Is there a difference between removing blemishes that appear on a face and blemishes that appear in a landscape? I hope some of the readers respond to these after-thoughts I’ve had. Thanks for your comments, Bob! This is a very interesting discussion.

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  27. I would agree with this statement, Tracy! I was just asking Bob if he thought there was a difference between removing the distraction before the shot, or removing the distraction after the shot (through the editing process). Does one have any more photographic integrity than the other one? Great comment here! Great discussion. Feel free to chime in again if you like! 🙂

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  28. I like both shots. To be honest, I hadn’t noticed the support structure until you pointed it out.

    I used to be a purist, then I changed my mind after seeing some of the artwork people have created with editing and processing. As others have already commented, I think it depends on what you’re doing with the photo. Photojournalism and art are two different animals, with two different uses. I think the important think is honesty — to yourself in art, and to others in presenting it.

    Interesting discussion, as always, Steve. 🙂

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  29. Thanks, Barb! I do have to be careful – that editing stuff can become addictive! 🙂 I’m glad you stopped by. Everyone’s comments have been so great on this one! Thanks!

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  30. I think that photography is just like any other art. It is what the artist makes of it. And that is what a photographer really is; an artist. Now to get off my soap box and get back to learning my choosen art! practice practice practice!

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  31. Thank you fro stopping by and sharing your comment, Karen! I whole-heartedly agree. It’s your decision! I loved your site – you’re doing great work! Stop by often! 🙂

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  32. Hey Steve, I happen to like both your shots, edited and unedited. While being primarily a processing type of person, there are times when a bit of editing is essential to a better final image. Others like Bob and my friend Nikhil are quick to point out o me that the final image is what’s important. You are right, if its Journalism photography, it HAS to be unedited, no quibbling there. I usually consider editing to be the addition or removal of things in an image. Where photography is used more as an artform (expression…) then the removal of things like garbage or an errant wire or a small support structure serves to remove distracting elements that couldn’t be avoided with composition. Here you are using “subtraction” in the processing/editing phase as opposed to the composition phase.
    Nice work, and it takes someone secure in their “ways” to open these discussions, or someone just willing to learn 🙂 I’ve seen these differences of opinion turn into online “fights” before.

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  33. Edit, process, change, alter…all words to describe the same thing in my world. My opinion, as so eloquently stated several times already, is that it is your photograph. What you do with it depends on what you want to try and convey with it.

    I like to save my original but I am a HUGE fan of playing. It is because I have stretched the limits of editing and experimentation that I have been able to learn a few tricks that were completely foreign to me before.

    As far as the difference in your pics, I don’t see any difference at all with the structure in and the structure out. They are both fantastic and the structure is not something that draws the eye to it so it is not a distraction. I like the way you lightened the exposure to show more details on the tree. I am also a fan of dark shadows (the old soap opera too 🙂 ). I might have darkened the shadows on the grass.

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  34. Hi Mike. I’m becoming more of a fan of editing…I think it can become addictive! The more you experiment and like the results, the more you want to experiment with new techniques. At least that’s the way it is for me! 🙂 I’m beginning to think this one could go either way, but I like the structure out because I’m going more for the original look. Great comment! Thanks for posting it, Mike!

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  35. The final image is the determining factor, I think. I agree, Michael. I know Bob has said that same thing to me several times. I really do want to learn. I think that’s why I don’t try to portray myself in any way other than a learner! If I’m creating poor images, I would sure rather discover that now, than when I submit my images for public display – or for sale. I know some people have very strong opinions about these issues. And I’m a proponent of that. Listen, if you believe in something – then believe strongly in it! But, always allow for some tolerance if someone else believes just as strongly – but in a different way! That’s what I would hope to cultivate in these discussions. So far – it’s worked, thanks to people like you who comment with the intention of helping! Thanks so much for that, Michael! I honestly appreciate it!

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