I guess this post has been coming for a while. I am going to have to start off with a disclaimer. I am in no way trying to offend any photographers that might shoot in the “portrait” style that I am going to be talking about. I think what you do is your own thing and if you can sell it, in my book that is all that really matters.
Ok, back to the issue.
I guess the reason I am writing this is due to a few Facebook posts in various photo groups got me thinking. Their seems to be a problem with young photographers starting portrait businesses and taking business away from seasoned or possibly not yet seasoned “high school senior” photographers.
One of the responses was basically if you shoot better then you will have a leg up on the competition. What I have come to observe is shooting better really is not what they are talking about. I personally think photographers do need to learn to shoot better if the case may be that.
What I think they want to say is, learn how to manipulate better on the computer with various photo editing programs.
I am not going to rip into Photoshop or anything else. I love the program.
It does feel to me though, the “standard” portrait photographer image is heavily manipulated. Here is a link: http://www.ppa.com/competitions/giawinners.php Most of the images are heavily edited. Contrast that to this. http://www.condenaststore.com/-st/Vogue-Magazine-Photographs-Prints_c146207_.htm some images from Vogue, which I personally love.
The PPA examples seem more like painting manipulations rather than photographs. The Vogue images for me have more impact because they at least appear “real”, well composed and lit. Basically, they look like photographs. Traditional portrait photographs to me have mostly seemed like paintings. Or using photography to make an actual painting easier. It takes considerable skill to paint IMO. I switched to photography from drawing because my drawings were not realistic enough for me. I choose photography to make my visions more real. If I wanted to have a painting, I’d just get a painting. A photograph that “feels” like a painting just seems cheap to me.
There has always been manipulation in imagery and photography, digital has brought it to a new level. With cameras getting better and better, with auto exposure and the files getting larger, with more information to better be able to correct basic exposure mistakes. It does not take much of a photographer to make a well exposed image these days. Add some effects and wallah, you have a sellable image.
I like to take the Anti route and try and sell myself as a “natural” photographer. Meaning that I retouch my images but they hopefully still look like photographs when I’m done with them. The reason I am like this is? I look at those Vogue Images from years past and they still hold their weight for me and still will in 50-100 years. They are photographs that are well composed and lit. What is sad to me is the photographers that are exposing well and lighting great but still feel the need to over manipulate their photographs because of a trend in digital editing. I feel like it is dating the images that are supposed to be timeless.
I did my own example. Here is a recent senior photo. I processed it doing what I normally do and then I processed in my own idea of what would be overdone but might be the norm for many studios. Using lots of effects and textures and skin smoothing and eye enhancing…
So, what do you all think? Am I barking at a dead tree? Is this the photography of the future ? Will fashion magazines and journalism soon follow suit? Or is this a Portrait photographer trend? Is this the new “old school” when it comes to the corner portrait photographer? When did the division happen? Was it with Mathew Brady? When was there a division between photographers and Portrait photographers?
Just go look at the “how to” books in portrait photography. Do the images look different than say the portraits of Avedon or Beaton? Find their books at Barnes and Nobel.
Again, this is an observation that began when I first came into the PPA. I was being introduced to photographers that had their “Masters”. I, unaware asked where they had received their Masters degree from. I am still searching for a good University to pursue mine. They told me the PPA, which is much different that a Masters degree from a university.
I began photography in a university atmosphere and it was not “cool” to be a traditional “mall” portrait or wedding photographer. I learned to admire and respect what many photographers do when I joined the PPA and WPPI in 2004. Up until then I had only ever looked at other styles of photography.
I embraced digital in 2000 when we had Nikon D1′s in the studio for the publication I worked at. What a great invention. I only hope it does not take away from seeing creativity without the use of the computer. Much like Henri Cartier-Bresson fortold in his Composition section of the Decisive Moment.
“ I hope we never see the day when photo shops sell little schema grills to clamp onto our viewfinders; and the Golden Rule will never be etched on our ground glass.”
Why does this bother Henri? Now that this come true many years ago. How do our photographs change given a “guide”
My question. How has our way of looking changed because of digital? In some ways it has improved, allowing us to try things and imagine things we might not have ever imagined. Has it also made us lazy? Thinking that images are just basic captures where everything can eventually be manipulated onto a final image with the computer. I mean, add a sky, some textures, some buildings. Composite images.
I composite images, but I also try to keep them looking like photographs.
End of rant.