Do we get too obsessed by "real"?

Started 3 months ago | Discussions thread
gardenersassistant Veteran Member • Posts: 9,027
Re: I think distinguishing real and fake is important

ProfHankD wrote:

You ask: Do we get too obsessed by "real"?

No. I think we are too unaware of what is or is not real, and it's getting worse.

I have no problem at all with obviously "fake" things; for example, I have this very fake image as one of my standard desktop backgrounds:

An older low-res photo I shot that looks better in high res with fake texturing

My problem is with undetectable, but very significant, changes being made to images without indication that the image has been altered. For example, I understand why people want to replace a blown-out white sky with their all-time-favorite sky... but I want to know that's not a literal interpretation of the scene. Cell phones can automatically recognize a person's face and apply all sorts of transformations to it, to the extent that the person appearing in the photo doesn't actually exist, but is a constructed ideal.

Adjustments attempting to more accurately recover the scene appearance are qualitatively different. I'm fine with healing dust spots, color correction, tone mapping, etc. I'm sometimes even ok with removing a stray element from a photo and replacing it with synthesized content -- e.g., removing that pesky tourist discovered later unfortunately positioned in the background of a photo -- although removing elements in general quickly crosses my comfort line where I feel it is necessary to mark the image as modified.

I have for a while now been thinking of my close-up/macro stuff as "images based on photographs". I refer to them as images, never as photographs. My aim is generally to go for credibility rather than veracity, and produce something that is (to my eye at least) nice looking.

I might clone to remove distractions, stretch/contract edges to balance compositions, change lightness/darkness globally or locally, locally sharpen, soften or enhance or subdue textures or colours. What you see is not what I saw (or what I would have seen had I been looking directly, which I don't because I'm looking through the camera, and with subjects as small as 1mm long I wouldn't have been able to see what they looked like even if I did look directly at them).

I try to not mislead anyone into thinking my images are anything like "out of the camera". That could be highly demotivating for beginners who may think think that I have some sort of "magic touch" that they don't have, and give up. It is not magic captures; it is mundane processing, carefully applied. I generally mention the several pieces of editing software used to produce the images so as to encourage the thought that the images are the result of manipulation. From time to time I describe the workflow in detail when someone asks.

I'm not sure a "real or fake" dichotomy quite captures what I'm doing, nor even thinking of real and fake as being at either end of a spectrum. It is a bit more multi-faceted than that. I think the same is probably true for many of us.

I have very, very occasionally (a handful of times in 10 years) done transformations like those in the top post. They are obviously not real in the photographic sense, so I don't think there is any danger of misleading anyone as to what nature of thing they are. So in terms of photographic image making I don't think they are fake. In terms of looking like paintings, drawings or whatever, I can imagine circumstances in which they could be misleading/fake. Here too mentioning, at least in the very broadest terms, the technique used to create them might be a good idea (e.g. one word such as "filtered" would be enough I think).

Just as a bit of fun, given that this is Adapted Lens forum, this one was filtered using Jixipix' Moku Hanga method on an image created using PhotoLab, Lightroom and Denoise AI on a raw file captured with an EF mount Laowa 100mm macro lens and two EF mount 2X Kenko teleconverters adapted to an A7sii using a Sigma MC-11.

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