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Author Topic: Off-the-Shelf Filter Effects, Instagram, and the Credibility of Age  (Read 1936 times)
fike
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« on: August 14, 2012, 08:45:31 AM »
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So I was scrolling through my facebook feed and came across a photo accompanying the announcement of the birth of a friends first child.  Yipee.  That's awesome I, thought.  But then I took a double-take on the photo.  The proud father's first photo with his new son looked strange...like it was a faded color photo taken in in the early 1970s....with the white border and everything. 

ACK!!!  Someone instagrammed their newborn's first photos to make them look like the photo was taken in 1973.

I thought to myself, wasn't the photo and the moment wonderful enough on its own merits?  Did it REALLY need to be altered to look like it was old?  Do these old effects somehow lend a credibility that comes with the aged look of a family photo album photo?  What's next, are people going to start putting scratches and water stains in their contemporary photo scrapbooks?

It has always been my policy in image processing to make sure that the processing, virtual framing, tonality, contrast, sharpness, color...whatever never calls undue attention to itself in a way that overshadows the contents of the scene.  Of course we are always interpreting the scene with our own style, but if that style overwhelms the visual contents, then I think we have failed as photographers. I know this approach isn't right for everyone, but for a family photo like this, isn't it a bit more important to capture the reality instead of a manufactured reality. 

I am guilty of cloning a few pimples out of family photos.  I have whitened teeth a little bit.  I've brightened innumerable eyes.  I've softened the facial texture of every woman I have ever seriously photographed.  I have reddened their lips.  I have exaggerated the stubble on a man's face.  I have composited smiles from multiple images to make one big happy family.  But none of these things were done in a way that anybody in the scene would have ever have been able to detect.  With all these things, I refuse to ever use an instagram filter for a real modern life experience. 
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fike
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« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2012, 03:01:22 PM »
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Even the Washington Post is getting in on the act with off-the-shelf borders and "aging" affects on photos.  yeesh.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/conversations/iphone-snapshots-at-the-west-virginia-state-fair/2012/08/14/7569e87c-e60b-11e1-8f62-58260e3940a0_gallery.html#photo=1
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bill t.
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« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2012, 12:13:43 PM »
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Maybe it's something like this...throughout our life we build up a catalog of what I might call "image prototypes" based on things we see around us, primarily in our younger years.  Those prototypes somehow have special importance for us, and when we see something that matches them, buttons get pushed in our brains.

So for those of us with image prototypes of dog-eared, faded old family prints, otherwise goofball Instagram filters invoke something fundamental, and totally unearned by the new images themselves.

Haven't quite got in pinned down, but this is important stuff for photographers because like it or not the images we present are constantly being cross referenced by  viewers to things way down in their psychological foundations.

Maybe I need to read up on Jungian Archetypes.  Also memes.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2012, 12:16:12 PM by bill t. » Logged
fike
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« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2012, 01:44:09 PM »
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Maybe it's something like this...throughout our life we build up a catalog of what I might call "image prototypes" based on things we see around us, primarily in our younger years.  Those prototypes somehow have special importance for us, and when we see something that matches them, buttons get pushed in our brains.

So for those of us with image prototypes of dog-eared, faded old family prints, otherwise goofball Instagram filters invoke something fundamental, and totally unearned by the new images themselves.

Haven't quite got in pinned down, but this is important stuff for photographers because like it or not the images we present are constantly being cross referenced by  viewers to things way down in their psychological foundations.

Maybe I need to read up on Jungian Archetypes.  Also memes.

I think those are really good observations, Bill.  As an artist that leans towards a photo-journalistic sensibility when it comes to realism, this fact disappoints me, but it may be true.  Will people go to a portrait photographer and tell them to make the images look like polaroids or old snapshots? Probably. 

Crank up that fuzziness.  Can you increase the scratches more?  I'd really like my complexion to look more cyan? Do you think that is enough vignetting?  How about a water stain in the corner?

I think this junk tends to dumb-down and overshadow the job of a good portrait photographer.

Maybe we can fix this by pushing the awkward family photos meme/ as a way to remind people that lots of crinkled and faded photos suck. 
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leuallen
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« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2012, 12:35:05 AM »
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Guilty - if the crime fits the situation. From the time I saw this old monster this is the rendition I had in mind. Photography is supposed to be fun and this was fun to me. The give away on this photo is that the wheels have been modified with rubber tracks to save the asphalt. Of course I still have the original in color, unaltered. Not trying to fool anyone, I just wondered what it looked like back in its day.

As to portraits it too can sometimes be fun. Maybe 30 years ago at a fair there was a photo booth where you dressed up in old time cowboy garb and received an aged sepia print. My wife (at the time) and I had our picture taken. It was quite nice and is the only picture of the two of us that I carry mentally. The print has long since been lost but I remember it.

Of course if this is your standard modus operandi then I agree with you. But occasionally its fun.

Larry
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fike
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« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2012, 07:46:47 AM »
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Larry, that is a nice sepia and border effect.  It is done in a way that is congruent with the subject.  The give away for me was the American Flag. I am not sure a real, filthy, working tractor would be considered an appropriate place to mount an American flag.  Also there is some sort of trailer in the background with "Corvette" written on it.  Despite those things, it is nicely done. 

I pity the anthropologists a thousand years from now when they are trying to sort out photographs from different eras. These times of careless filtering will be very confusing...not to mention those old west portraits people have been doing for years.
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Fike, Trailpixie, or Marc Shaffer
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leuallen
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« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2012, 10:46:46 AM »
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fike,

I photograph many tractor pulls and plowing bees and it is very common to see the Flag on the tractors. Farmers are a very patriotic bunch. All of the tractors are pre 1959. Some are in showroom condition but many are beat up and in current use.

I don't think the anthropologists will have a hard time. Paper type, printing method and may other clues will straighten things out for them.

Larry
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