Photographs should not be significantly altered in post. It’s cheating. This is how I feel. I suppose if you consider yourself a “digital illustrator” rather than photographer, then sure, but otherwise, it’s cheating.
And oh my how easy it is to cheat these days. Here’s an example. I took the following photo yesterday during a walk at the beach with my daughter.
Ok, I lied, the photo I actually took was this one…
Pretty similar, right? Except that my photo had no birds in it, and the sky was dull and boring, as far as skies go.
It took me about 4 clicks in the latest version of Luminar to replace the sky with something slightly more dramatic and to add a few birds, just for the hell of it. The result is the “same” photo but just jazzed up a little, right?
No, it’s not. It’s cheating and it’s not what happened. My goal when taking photographs is to record things I’m interested in or to show how I see things. I realize not everyone feels this way, but cheating like I did here ruins the photo for me. Yes, if I were scrolling through Instagram I’m sure I’d prefer the altered version, but it’s not how I want to do things.
It’s so tempting, though! If it only takes a few clicks to go from decent to Wow!, why wouldn’t I? I’d like to make the slippery slope argument here. I mean, just look at how awesome this sunset photo is!
But, you know, some hard-working photographer somewhere is spending days getting to beautiful places and waiting long hours for just the right moment. Then, finally, the light and sky and everything comes together for the shot. By cheaply and easily altering my images, I diminish the work done by those who are out doing it for real. It feels wrong. It feels like cheating and I want no part of it.