Friday expressions

2009, Photography

I went out today with my Ricoh GX200. And while I shot both RAW and jpegs I ended up using the B&W jpegs for posting. Just added some local contrast, noise texture, and little sharpening in Photoshop and resized them for posting. That is it, no cropping, no cloning, nothing else.
Friday expression by Wouter Brandsma
But when does editing becomes too much Photoshop? See this article about Danish press photographer Klavs Bo Christensen.
Friday expression by Wouter Brandsma
Three photographers, including Klavs Bo Christensen, were told to deliver their raw files of their submitted photographs to the judges of the Danish Picture of The Year contest.
Friday expression by Wouter Brandsma
According to the judges his photographs went beyond the excepted form of post processing like cropping, burning, dodging, converting to black and white, and exposure and color correction. In particular the three photographs in the article invoked the judges’ anger.
Friday expression by Wouter Brandsma
The photographs of Klavs Bo Christensen almost looked like some kind of HDR photography. Now, some may like that. But I am personally no fan of HDR photography and I think it is absolutely unacceptable for press photography which should be as close as possible to the reality. Even when the reality is a subjective and personal vision of the photographer.
Friday expression by Wouter Brandsma
All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

18 thoughts on “Friday expressions

  1. interesting about Klaus Bo Christensen. I too hate the HDR look; but I frequently blend multiple exposures as a substitute for using a graduated filter — because it looks more natural than a filter, and less hassle than messing with square filters and holders. But of course technically this is a kind of HDR. And if you use the new fuji compact, it’s giving you HDR of a kind all the time on many of it’s settings.

    So the photomatix HDR look — is it a principled thing to object to it, or is an aesthetic thing? I share the aesthetic opinion – it’s the exaggerated local contrast. And I sort of *feel* there is a principle to be had, but I have no idea what it is!

    1. For me personally it is an aesthetic thing to object to it. And I fear too that after the years of megapixel race we had, wider dynamic range to the extend of in-camera HDR will be the next deal. Some may differ with me.

      I know that one of my friends really likes it and has great fun with it. I respect that, but for me it is one of the reasons why I currently really dislike flickr for instance. It gets floaded with HDR attempts, but so many people see it is as the greatest thing on earth.

      If it is ethical depends on the purpose of the photographs. For press, report and type of journalistic work I think it is very unethical to use excessive usage of post processing. For personal or work with artistic intention I have no problems with that.

    1. I checked his original photographs on the website and opened them in Photoshop. And you really had to do some heavy editing to get the look he achieved. His first photograph was overexposed, but could have been well recovered and would have looked fine. The two other photographs have been edited so extreme while they were properly exposed. I am really unsure about his intentions.. If he wanted to give these photographs a surreal look I don’t know how that relates to the subjects in Haiti.

  2. I read the article with interest and viewed the photos in depth.. Without knowing where the balance is in this discussion, or the break even point, I do find that the judges were right.

    I do think that the look he achieved is over the top, even without knowing what effort you have to put in to get that look. OK, the raw files are flat and I would also beef them up a bit. But like I said, I think he went too far.

    But, and I know I will step on some toes here…. What about black and white? Is it only because of the heritage, memories and feelings that we have when viewing b/w images that we accept them as ‘artistic, documentary”? In the particular arguments from the judges that the scene has to represent the actual scene, if they are consequent, black and white would it have been pulled out as well??

    Diificult discussion! I do not like the HDR look he achieved, but if I were a lawyer…

    1. In this case Ronald, B&W conversion is accepted for submitting work to this competition as is the case with many competitions and with journalistic photography. As a matter of fact, there are still many photographers who use B&W film these days. One of the main advantages of B&W in this style of photography is that the viewer doesn’t become distracted by the colors, but would more likely be focussed on the photographed subject.

      Would the photographs from Nachtwey and Salgado had the same impact in color?

  3. It’s funny you bring up HDR.

    For a while I was seeing a fair amount of HDR uploads on Flickr and I liked many of them. They looked well balanced and natural. But more recently there seems to be a mad rush to HDR every picture and it looks awful.

    HDR was meant to be a tool for certain circumstances and it seems that many out there are simply using it for every photo they take. I’ve grown so tired of seeing pictures with halos around subjects and colours that are clearly unrealistic, but not meant to be such in any artistic fashion.

    While I wanted to utilize HDR myself, for those relevant situations, I’ve become rather turned off to the entire thing now.

  4. Personally, I think he went a step too far. However, looking at the photographs as they were compared to how he was able to process them leads me to believe that he is one hell of a photo manipulator. I’d like to see anyone else pull that much sky, water and land detail out of the first shot, and that last one was beautifully executed as well.

    I could have looked at the original photographs and known that they were heavily manipulated, so for the judges to act all surprised and disqualify him for over manipulating his images is a bit harsh. Just the fact that they considered him in the first place says that the images spoke leaps and bounds over other images.

    I mean, isn’t that the beauty of the modern, digital world? You take a photo that’s 2 stops underexposed, bring it back up, burn in some shadow detail, run noise ninja to get rid of the artifacts in the blacks from pushing it, and viola, a perfectly exposed, perfectly printable, award-winning photograph.

    But, like I said, maybe he went a bit too far.

    Great post Wouter.

    1. Hey Matthew, If he had submitted these photos for the “Open Class” category nothing would have happened accept that people would have said it was a report. By submitting these photographs to the competitions the rules are clear. When a brown cloth turns into red, should that be accepted? With a little added contrast the scene with the woman would have looked good enough for the report. His post processing and intentions goes beyond me.

      I agree that digital photography gives a luxury to photographers unavailable in the past and limits seem to stretch more and more. Not only in-camera, but also in the post processing. You come to the point that you can ask yourself if someone with a camera is a good photographer or a good post processor? On what side do you want to be?


      1. Wouter,
        Agreed. I do think that he went way too far with the processing. But, they did make for some nice images. Notice I didn’t say photographs. They aren’t. They are digital images.

        But you are very right in your reply. There is a fine line between photographers and image makers.

        For instance, yesterday I was doing a product shoot for a local spa here in town. One of the bottles was clear with a dark liquid inside and I was getting all sorts of reflections in the image. I tried a number of things to get the reflections to go away and in the end settled for the setup that led to the least number of obscene reflections and resulted to Photoshop to remove said reflections. I spoke to a very good friend (and photographer) about it and he said, “Why’d you go to all the trouble to shoot it without reflections? Just shoot it as is and use Photoshop to remove them. That’s the beauty of digital.”

        But is it? One of the most challenging assignments I’ve ever shot was a bottle of body polish. If that doesn’t humble me as a photographer, nothing will. Could anyone with a digital camera and Photoshop have done this same job and executed it well enough to be paid and considered a photographer? No. I don’t think so.

        I think the digital age has brought about more “image makers” than “photographers.” And in my eyes, the craft is limited and limitless all at the same time. Eventually the “image makers” will find there niche and not call themselves “photographers,” but until then, we’ll just have to try extra hard to be the best.

        But, as I said before (and as you said), this guy took it a couple of stops too far.


    1. Thanks. A pretty good camera with a very versatile lens. I love the step zoom which goes from 24, 28, 35, 50 and 72mm. I use it mostly at 35mm, with the 28 and 24 always available. Like a kind of Tri-Elmar lens 😀


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