Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Why Edit?

Editing seems like something to be avoided by everyone new to photography. A successful photograph is one that is shot with such accuracy that nothing need to be done to it other than transfer it to the computer. This has never been true and is still not true. Cameras only approximate one’s vision. Ansel Adams was probably the first photographer to fully grasp this concept.



He used the best cameras available, high quality film (digital cameras did not exist in his lifetime), and the highest quality darkroom materials available.

Trained as a classical pianist, perfection as a photographer came easily to him. His photographs are highly edited. They are not edited because he made mistakes while shooting or his film was flawed in any way. He edited because he realized what we see and what the materials produce are different. He made a point to keep detailed field records of what it was he was seeing. He used a mathematical notation system where each significant contrast change was assigned a number. As he developed film and made prints he continued to track the contrast changes and readjust them to reflect his personal vision. The finished print does not look edited. His photographs have a sense of drama that he added thru edits rather than settling for the unedited image. And extension of this same type of editing can be seen today in Jeff Wall’s photography


This is, at least two photographs carefully edited to produce a scene that did not exist. The empty hole was shot in a studio. The photograph was edited in Photoshop using a process called photocompositing.


In this photograph the edit is more subtle. Two photographs were put together shot from the exact same position. One exposure was exposed to bring out the room. The second exposure was exposed for the elements outside the windows. Before Photoshop, it would not have been possible to make a photograph like this due to the extreme differences in the interior and exterior light. The room would have to be shown very dark to capture the exterior or the exterior would have to be shown very light to capture the interior.

Editing is time consuming – even in Photoshop. Adams and Wall demonstrate why editing is important.

© 2009 Paul Light all rights reserved


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