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Author Topic: The Ethics of Photo Manipulation  (Read 31600 times)
Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #100 on: June 02, 2013, 12:17:00 PM »
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... the native DR of vision is still greater than almost (all?) cameras commercially available so it would not contradict, in principle, the rationale for HDR.
Also when one takes into consideration that our vision is very dynamic, flitting around a scene very rapidly without our being aware of it. This hugely increases the apparent DR of our vision.

Tony Jay

Hi Tony,

While technically correct, I would still dispute (up to a point) that our perception equals HDR rendering. When I was in Louvre, one of the big surprises (for me) is how dark the shadows are in many of the classical paintings there. I guess old masters had a better idea how humans see than we photographers today (or shall I add HDR photographers).

So I tried the following experiment myself: I would look at a sunset sky with some trees and forest in the foreground, and, as long as I directed my gaze toward the bright part of the sky, the bottom, trees and forest, DID look like a silhouette, i.e., very dark. I would only be able to see details there if I "redirected the gaze" as Ray said. That's why I am arguing against the idea that our vision "justifies" HDR. Not that I am always against it, especially as an artistic tool. But the tool of "truthiness" it ain't Smiley
« Last Edit: June 02, 2013, 08:54:59 PM by Slobodan Blagojevic » Logged

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jeremyrh
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« Reply #101 on: June 02, 2013, 12:31:27 PM »
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Hi Tony,

While technically correct, I would still dispute (up to a point) that our perception equals HDR rendering. When I was in Louvre, one of the big surprises (for me) is how dark the shadows are in many of the classical painting there. I guess old masters had a better idea how humans see than we photographers today (or shall I add HDR photographers).

So I tried the following experiment myself: I would look at a sunset sky with some trees and forest in the foreground, and, as long as I directed my gaze toward the bright part of the sky, the bottom, trees and forest, DID look like a silhouette, i.e., very dark. I would only be able to see details there if I "redirected the gaze" as Ray said. That's why I am arguing against the idea that our vision "justifies" HDR. Not that I am always against it, especially as an artistic tool. But the tool of "truthiness" it ain't Smiley
I think there are 2 separate issues:
1. What does our eye/brain see in a fraction of a second, and
2. What do we recall of a scene viewed for a few minutes.
One may suggest that a single exposure, unmanipulated, gives an impression of 1, whereas an image with highlights and shadows adjusted gives an impression of 2. Whether one or the other is more "truthful" I couldn't say :-)
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #102 on: June 02, 2013, 12:38:18 PM »
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I think there are 2 separate issues:
1. What does our eye/brain see in a fraction of a second, and
2. What do we recall of a scene viewed for a few minutes...

I would agree with that.

I would assume that in #2, by "viewed for a few minutes" you meant that our eyes wandered around the scene, redirecting the gaze, AND paused long enough to adjust to different brightness. If, as in my example, you just keep staring for a few minutes at the same scene, it is not going to change anything in our perception, i.e., the trees and forest would still be a silhouette.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2013, 08:54:14 PM by Slobodan Blagojevic » Logged

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« Reply #103 on: June 02, 2013, 03:04:14 PM »
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I would agree with that.

I would assume that in #2, by "viewed for a few minutes" you meant that our eyes wandered around the scene, redirecting the gaze, AND paused long enough to adjust to different brightness. If, as in my example, you just keep staring for a few minutes at the same scene, it is not going change anything in our perception, i.e., the trees and forest would still be a silhouette.
Yes, exactly.
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #104 on: June 02, 2013, 03:44:02 PM »
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While technically correct, I would still dispute (up to a point) that our perception equals HDR rendering.
I would certainly NOT say that our perception equals HDR rendering.
That would be a huge, and incorrect, statement.

The HDR rendering process is massively subjective and a lot of the resulting images make us shudder - mainly because the rendering so clearly portrays a scene in a way that is unnatural to our visual perception.
Nonetheless HDR is a tool to help us incorporate detail into parts of a scene that has a very wide DR well above what any camera can capture.
I have posted a couple of images last year that were HDR that no-one here realized were HDR until I owned up.
My main goal was just to introduce some subtle detail to the shadows.

I do use HDR when needed although it is also true that late model cameras have a much better DR than when I first started digital photography a mere eight years ago and so am continually impressed that there have been several occassions where I subjectively thought the scene had a wide DR but the camera, 5D III in my case, coped comfortably.
Twilight cityscapes, some forest shots, and the like still appear to need HDR treatment all depending on one's goals for the image.

Tony Jay
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Alan Klein
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« Reply #105 on: June 02, 2013, 08:46:04 PM »
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Tony:  Please post those.  Alan.
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kencameron
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« Reply #106 on: June 02, 2013, 10:43:35 PM »
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The HDR rendering process is massively subjective and a lot of the resulting images make us shudder - mainly because the rendering so clearly portrays a scene in a way that is unnatural to our visual perception.
IMO, the usual problem with "over the top" HDR is not so much the overall dynamic range as it is excessive local contrast and strange color. Done carefully I think it is fair to say that HDR does go some way towards duplicating the dynamic range of vision, given that when we look carefully at a landscape with significant shadow (or bright areas) we often do focus in to extract detail rather than simply giving the landscape an overall glance.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2013, 04:30:26 AM by kencameron » Logged

hjulenissen
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« Reply #107 on: June 03, 2013, 01:37:09 AM »
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The HDR rendering process is massively subjective and a lot of the resulting images make us shudder - mainly because the rendering so clearly portrays a scene in a way that is unnatural to our visual perception.
The white clipping and black noise-masking of LDR cameras is massively subjective and a lot of the resulting images should make us shudder - mainly because the rendering so clearly portrays a scene in a way that is unnatural to our visual perception. The reason why so many seems to accept it is (in my view) a result of cultural training, and not because it is inherently a "natural" mapping to our vision.

-h
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Alan Klein
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« Reply #108 on: June 03, 2013, 06:01:39 AM »
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Who looks into shadows to see unimportant and barely recognizeable things? We don't do that with our eyes and brain.  Why should we care to do it in a phtograph?   Also, black portions of a photo add contrast making the photo "jump" out and be interesting.  Flattening makes it boring as well as unnatural looking.

I think what's happending with HDR is that because we can do it (technologically), we think there is an advantage.  But just because we can do it, doesn't mean we should. Often a light hand is better than a heavy one.
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« Reply #109 on: June 03, 2013, 07:12:30 AM »
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So-called HDR images aren't.  The tonemapped result of a merging of a bracketed series of source images at different exposure settings is an LDR image, not HDR.  The LDR image doesn't mimic the way vision works because it's still a static image.  Vision is dynamic.  No static image process is going to be able to mimic human vision.  Video can come close but we don't like the look of it because it's too slow.  The time it takes for a camera recording video - on some auto setting - to react to changes in light is much longer than it takes our eyes and as a result we don't like the way it looks.  Similarly the time it takes to adjust a VND filter or aperture on the fly in response to changing light is too slow.  But that's really the only process that can remotely come close to approximating human vision.

Alan, I look into shadowed areas of scenes all the time.  I want to know what's there.  I want to be able to make a decision about whether I render the image to show some measure of shadow detail or leave it as inky blackness.  I know I'm not alone in that mindset.
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barryfitzgerald
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« Reply #110 on: June 03, 2013, 07:15:22 AM »
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Who looks into shadows to see unimportant and barely recognizeable things? We don't do that with our eyes and brain.  Why should we care to do it in a phtograph?   Also, black portions of a photo add contrast making the photo "jump" out and be interesting.  Flattening makes it boring as well as unnatural looking.

I think what's happending with HDR is that because we can do it (technologically), we think there is an advantage.  But just because we can do it, doesn't mean we should. Often a light hand is better than a heavy one.


I tend to agree. With HDR again there are 2 types, a more sensible trying to get more DR using multiple image, and a major render job that IMO frankly looks awful. It's just a fad people go through same as the selective colour phase and heavy vignette added in post. The problem with the debate on ethics is that it's such a broad subject and goes beyond just PJ type reportage shots. The biggest grumble is you're either a PP nut or a purist there is no middle ground. The reality is for some folks (quite a lot) they are very much in the middle ground, ie ok with some processing, but not into major manipulation or rendering type digital art.

Personally esp for landscape work, nothing beats reading the light in my view one of the most critical elements. It's great we all have these tools to use, but just because you have a jack hammer in your shed, doesn't mean you need to use all the time. Over processing is a common problem with modern photography. Less is often more
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hjulenissen
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« Reply #111 on: June 03, 2013, 09:26:04 AM »
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Who looks into shadows to see unimportant and barely recognizeable things? We don't do that with our eyes and brain.  Why should we care to do it in a phtograph?   Also, black portions of a photo add contrast making the photo "jump" out and be interesting.  Flattening makes it boring as well as unnatural looking.

I think what's happending with HDR is that because we can do it (technologically), we think there is an advantage.  But just because we can do it, doesn't mean we should. Often a light hand is better than a heavy one.
HDR is only a tool, just like 100 megapixel cameras is. And just like megapixels, the output medium/viewing conditions can be a severe limit on what gains can be had.

In person, one rarely have the opportunity to walk towards a beautiful landscape panorama to study minute details. But because photography allows one to, many (photographers and viewers) seems to like the opportunity to press their nose up against the print - and purchase lenses and equipment that can resolve these minute details. Is this somehow "wrong" or "unethical"?

-h
« Last Edit: June 03, 2013, 09:39:02 AM by hjulenissen » Logged
hjulenissen
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« Reply #112 on: June 03, 2013, 09:34:19 AM »
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So-called HDR images aren't.  The tonemapped result of a merging of a bracketed series of source images at different exposure settings is an LDR image, not HDR.  The LDR image doesn't mimic the way vision works because it's still a static image.  Vision is dynamic.  No static image process is going to be able to mimic human vision.  Video can come close but we don't like the look of it because it's too slow.  The time it takes for a camera recording video - on some auto setting - to react to changes in light is much longer than it takes our eyes and as a result we don't like the way it looks.  Similarly the time it takes to adjust a VND filter or aperture on the fly in response to changing light is too slow.  But that's really the only process that can remotely come close to approximating human vision.
In my view, a regular LDR camera might be seen as a HDR camera with fixed tonemapping (clip whites, bury shadows in noise).

Many of those argueing against HDR are (in my view) really argueing that the fixed tonemapping of their LDR camera consistently looks better than the best tonemappings of programs and photoshop users out there. I find that hard to believe. I find it a lot easier to believe that clipping looks better than _some_ or even _most_ tonemappings, which is not surprising as long as we are talking about subjective taste.

-h
« Last Edit: June 03, 2013, 09:43:30 AM by hjulenissen » Logged
Isaac
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« Reply #113 on: June 03, 2013, 12:53:59 PM »
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The problem with the debate on ethics is that it's such a broad subject and goes beyond just PJ type reportage shots. The biggest grumble is you're either a PP nut or a purist there is no middle ground. The reality is for some folks (quite a lot) they are very much in the middle ground, ie ok with some processing, but not into major manipulation or rendering type digital art.

When it "goes beyond just PJ type reportage shots" into the grumbles you describe, it's mutated from a debate on ethics into a debate on aesthetics where personal preferences are inflated into moral absolutes.
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #114 on: June 03, 2013, 01:02:39 PM »
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When it "goes beyond just PJ type reportage shots" into the grumbles you describe, it's mutated from a debate on ethics into a debate on aesthetics where personal preferences are inflated into moral absolutes.
Right on!

I am once again reminded of Edward Weston's famous comment to the effect that he would "print on a doormat" if it gave him the result he wanted, although he never did.

Eric M.
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« Reply #115 on: June 03, 2013, 04:29:52 PM »
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With HDR again there are 2 types, a more sensible trying to get more DR using multiple image, and a major render job that IMO frankly looks awful. It's just a fad people go through same as the selective colour phase and heavy vignette added in post. The problem with the debate on ethics is that it's such a broad subject and goes beyond just PJ type reportage shots. The biggest grumble is you're either a PP nut or a purist there is no middle ground. The reality is for some folks (quite a lot) they are very much in the middle ground, ie ok with some processing, but not into major manipulation or rendering type digital art.

Count me as firmly in the middle ground. I'm not a fan of what I consider to be over-processing. But neither do I consider it valid to proscribe to other people what they should & shouldn't do to or with their photos. When I read or hear the word should applied to photography, my dander goes up. There are no shoulds in creative pursuits. Violating norms is typically how people make creative breakthroughs. It may also lead to torrents of garbage...but that's okay. If we get 10 Salgados for every 90 Gurskys (feel free to reverse those figures based on your particular taste) it's worth it.

-Dave-
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jschone
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« Reply #116 on: June 04, 2013, 02:14:44 AM »
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Count me as firmly in the middle ground. I'm not a fan of what I consider to be over-processing. But neither do I consider it valid to proscribe to other people what they should & shouldn't do to or with their photos. When I read or hear the word should applied to photography, my dander goes up. There are no shoulds in creative pursuits. Violating norms is typically how people make creative breakthroughs. It may also lead to torrents of garbage...but that's okay. If we get 10 Salgados for every 90 Gurskys (feel free to reverse those figures based on your particular taste) it's worth it.

-Dave-

Agree Dave, reversed figures though for my taste  Wink
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Ray
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« Reply #117 on: June 04, 2013, 02:29:05 AM »
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I can't understand why there should be a problem here regarding HDR. There seems to be a general consensus of opinion in this thread that all photographic images have to be adjusted during the various stages of their production.  It cannot be otherwise. What varies is simply the degree and type of adjustment, and who controls it.

Everyone surely understands that a photograph intended for documentary, journalistic, or forensic purposes needs to appear as close as possible to what the eye has seen, otherwise such representations will be open to accusations of deception and fraud.

Now clearly, if a high contrast scene does not contain useful or interesting detail in the shadows, then it might be desirable from an artistic perspective to exaggerate such shadows and make them black, provided such totally black areas do not distract the eye and affect the balance of the composition, which is always a possibility.

In the case of a silhouette, a darkening of the shadows can enhance the effect greatly, and of course, if the gaze of the eye is directed at a bright object, as in Slobodan's sunset, the pupil cannot simultaneously contract for the highlights and dilate for the shadows, so the result might well resemble what the eye saw quite closely.

However, if the scene being captured does contain detail in the shadows, which may be useful for whatever purpose, documentary or artistic, then an HDR process may be essential in order to clearly reveal such detail that the eye has perceived in the real scene.

The attached image, taken with the Canon 5D, is merely a documentary shot which I sometimes include in a slide show of my treks in Nepal in order to give people an idea of the quality of accommodation they could expect whilst on the track.

The point of this particular documentary shot is to illustrate that the view from the bathroom window may help compensate for any deficiencies in the grandeur of the bathroom facilities.

Now, if I were to present only the shot which has been exposed for the mountain view, as visible through the window, the interior of the bathroom would appear disgusting, as is apparent in attached image #04. In example #01, the unaltered and unmanipulated image does not accurately depict the scene as it was. Only after merging 3 different exposures to HDR, as shown in image #02, and only after further extensive manipulation of the HDR image, the results of which are shown in image #03, does the scene begin to accurately represent what I saw.
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #118 on: June 04, 2013, 05:18:10 AM »
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In the context of this discussion I would consider myself a 'middle of the roader'.
I don't replace parts of my scene with others but combining series of images to merge as panorama's, or for HDR purposes, or to control focus and depth of field if I can't achieve what I want with a single image I will try.

My goal is to try, to the extent possible - and this is subjective, to recreate what I saw.
In response to some of remarks about the utility of HDR my goal is not to try and create detail in a scene where I could not see any at the time of shooting. Obviously, that is not the goal of some and perhaps less obvious is the fact that Ps merge to panorama is bloody difficult to use if one tries to tone map there. Maybe the fact that one can now save a 32-bit TIFF to play around with using Lightroom's tonal controls (much easier to use) it is possible better quality HDR's will result but depending on one's goals it may, or may not, happen.
Of course, just to make sure it stays interesting those 32-bit TIFF files tend to concentrate colour to garish proportions and sharpening becomes a real eye opener if one tries one's usual opening gambit.

All the above are just tools, valid for their context, and just as invalid when applied out of context.
If someone really wants to achieve the 'grunge' look with their HDR processing and they achieve it, then good for them, even if we don't like it, it really is their perogative.
As for me I like to use HDR, when I use it, to try to achieve a normal pleasing tonal relationship that mimics what I saw in the scene.
That is not everyone's cup of tea either.

All of us have reasons for doing certain things.
Sometimes they come off and sometimes they do not.
I can certainly vouch for the fact that, in photography, the latter seems to be the result far more frequently than the former.
Shooting rubbish and doing poor post-processing always seems much easier than achieving noteworthy results.
It is also certainly true that even success, in our eyes, can be rubbished by others, whether justified or not.

In another current thread someone posted an HDR image that I had my reservations about and said so.
However, the result also convinced me that the raw ingredients that made up that HDR had real promise and reprocessed could be a real winner.
However all this was my opinion and it is possible that the OP was more than satisfied with the result.
The thread is still current so we will see how it progresses.

Tony Jay
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barryfitzgerald
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« Reply #119 on: June 04, 2013, 07:55:30 AM »
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When it "goes beyond just PJ type reportage shots" into the grumbles you describe, it's mutated from a debate on ethics into a debate on aesthetics where personal preferences are inflated into moral absolutes.

I disagree. Ethics are an issue be it a landscape shot or a photo for a magazine/news article. I'm not out to capture pure reality, but I'm not here to create myths either. Adding/removing elements to a landscape shot are def no no's for me. Others can do as you wish.
If you want to render a sky in, or move that rock to massage the perfect composition then fire away, just I like a bit of realism to my photography.

Anyone can argue every photo is processed (weak argument and too general) Aesthetics is not the word I use, it's well beyond that I'm afraid. We all make choices even at the capture stage, from the lens/aperture used, exposure, composition is by it's nature "selective". That's a million miles away from the heavy manipulation some subscribe to. I get quite a lot of satisfaction having to work harder, and be less reliant on software. I post process, I don't over process though and I don't move stuff around. Yes it's ethics no way to avoid it. At least it is to me, others can decide for themselves.

HDR is just like any other type of photography, some use it with some caution and skill, others just dial everything up to max and hope it works out...
« Last Edit: June 04, 2013, 08:03:25 AM by barryfitzgerald » Logged
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