At my recent Gallery exhibition in Bright, in North East Victoria I was frequently asked “Do you use Photoshop Scott?” When I’m asked this question people are usually not asking me a question about which software program I use, rather I find that most often what people are actually asking is “Is this photograph real, is it natural, were the sunset colours really like that?” So it is these questions that I will attempt to answer below, rather than “what software do you use to process your images”.
For the vast majority of my landscape images I strongly believe in the authenticity of my images being an accurate reflection of the scene at the time of capture. It is important that people realise my images are photographs, that they are in fact real events that I experienced in real places. My best landscape photos are usually the result of amazing scenary captured in the right light, most often around sunrise or sunset. Frequently, capturing these images requires great patience, where I revisit a site many times, waiting for that right light or often just simply getting out there and hiking to a location in often inclement weather to capture the true mood of a place. Importantly, you can go out and see these places I photographed for yourself, and in the right light, see exactly the same colours as you see in my images. So while I may have used Adobe Photoshop to process the digital file, these images have not been ‘photoshopped’ as such to create something that didn’t exist. There are of course exceptions — some of my images have obviously been manipulated in post processing beyond what I saw, where I have applied my own artistic license or added my own creative interpretation of a scene. These images are however the minority and in most cases it is normally stated that they have been altered, leaving you the viewer in little doubt that I have altered the image from what I saw.
In this day and age of Hollywood special effects and computer generated images it is easy to assume that what we see was created digitally, rather than simply the stunning beauty of nature. However, with the advent of digital cameras we have little choice but to use some form of digital processing to ensure the resultant image reflects the scene that was before us at the time of capture. Any photographer (amateur or professional) shooting with a digital camera doesn’t have a choice, some form of digital processing has to occur. Either you can choose the digital processing that occurs in-camera at the time of capture (where the camera’s settings apply corrections to the raw data captured by the sensor) or you choose to make these corrections and decisions yourself, post capture, in a program like Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, iPhoto, Capture One etc. These programs simply allow a photographer to personally choose how the final image looks rather than only relying on the range of in-camera settings making that decision. While many cameras now come with so many options that some of what traditionally could be done in photoshop is now being done in-camera, I still prefer the level of creative control offered by making these decisions myself.
In light of the above, I happily acknowledge that in this digital age I fully embrace the power of technology and the digital darkroom — turning the raw captured camera data into the emotional impact that existed for me at the time of capture. Generally my digital post production is similar in a way to that what was always done in traditional darkrooms, to make my photos represent the scene as I saw it. But digital technology increasingly allows much more than that too, opening up opportunities for landscape photographers like myself to capture images that far more accurately convey what the human eye sees than film ever could. Ever improving technology is constantly pushing photography boundaries, opening up new possibilities and empowering me as a landscape photographer to overcome many of the limitations that existed with photography in the past. For me, these new advances mean I am now able to produce photographs that far more accurately match the colours, tonality, depth of field and dynamic range that we see for real — something old cameras and film simply could not do. I am therefore thankful to technology , enabling me to capture the beauty I see in the world, for you to enjoy.