Digital Manipulation Part I: Should You Use Digital Filters?

A few postings back I showed a color image from the Leica M8 and said that with some post processing and treatment, I could maybe, possibly turn the photo into something more dramatic. Well, I had some time to play with it and here’s the before and after:

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SumiZZCC

Now I know it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s certainly more “dramatic” than the first photo!

Ok the color shot on top was a straight out of camera jpeg from the M8 with a 50mm f/2 Summicron attached. The bottom b&w image is the same image processed through Google’s Analog Efex using a wet plate filter. It’s basically a digital filter attempting to emulate the look of a wet plate film print.

Seeing the image from a photographer’s perspective, I would certainly choose the “Plain Jane” straight out of camera color shot, but I do have to say that I did like the b&w conversion too. But that’s probably me being partial to the subjects 🙂

Anyway, it got me thinking this…if this image was a true wet plate photo, I’d wager that most photographers, even analog only photographers would accept it, maybe even think it was cool with all its grit and drama.

But since it’s a digital manipulation, they’d probably dismiss it. I can understand this. First of all, a true wet plate print requires a lot of work and people can respect the process. And most will give your props for that. Digital manipulation, digital filters, etc, are much easier in comparison.

Digital photography “purists” may not accept it either as using filters seem “fake” and especially now when people are on the “no filter” wave. Technology has made life easy, but people still seem to prefer hard.

So you get no respect from analog photographers and no respect from digital photography “purists.” So who would be the audience for this kind of digital manipulation? Why I’d bet my money on social media! Your friends on Facebook, Instagram, etc. I think images using these filters would be perfect for social media.

Why? You might think I’d say that the audience there don’t know any better, but I’m not saying that. Being on social media for many years, I can honestly say that while there are a lot of non photographers posting photos, there are also many, many hardcore photographers posting there as well. And many of these folks are very knowledgeable and would know that the photo has received some kind of “artificial” treatment.

The wonderful thing about social media though vs the photo forums is a general sense of acceptance for almost anything. The folks tend to view images on a broader scope, accepting the image as it is first. The process too sometimes helps to get the votes, the likes, etc, but if you didn’t mention it, they probably wouldn’t care and they’d probably accept it as is. But we photo geeks care about the process, don’t we? 🙂

On the negative side, there’s also a drive for votes and likes, so your followers will likely “like” your image anyway, whether they really like it or not.

Please understand, I am just using this image as an example, not because I think it’s a great photo or not. I love the photo because of the subjects, but I’d honestly say that to the general public it’s probably not a very interesting shot, even processed.

If it were me looking at this from an outsider’s eye, I would say there’s no way this is a real wet plate photo. Real wet plate photos are rarely ever this clean nor this sharp, though I have seen some sharp ones. They do tend to be dark, and the Analog Efex did a good job there.

In the end though, it has always been my belief that digital b&w started out of a desire to emulate film. As things evolved, it was no longer just about film but about achieving a look that is unique and different from everyone else. The incredibly high saturation of photographers in today’s world drives this desire even more.

All I can say is…

If you shoot film, continue to shoot it. You will always be a little different in today’s world and part of a wonderfully amazing and passionate brotherhood. But film can only take you so far in and of itself. Content is most important.

Content to me is subject, composition, and the overall “interesting-ness” of the photo. Technical quality is usually second. You can have a technically perfect photo that’s boring as hell and not many people will like it.

If you shoot digital, that’s awesome too but try to make your mark by content first. Again content is key. Interesting photos will always win over filters. And if you want to use filters, I have nothing against that. Just know that filters get old pretty fast so use them sparingly.

There is room for everybody and every style in the wonderful world of photography so let’s not lose any sleep over this. As long as you’re having fun, I’d say that’s good enough for me and it should be good enough for you 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Digital Manipulation Part I: Should You Use Digital Filters?

  1. hey Sam ! to say honestly i love the color shoot and this wonderful expression of your girls. somehow bw image make it more dramatic but less funny and cool as color one. about wet plate filter – for me wet plate is a very high contrast between sharp and not sharp areas created by the wonderful lens of the Large format cameras. no one filter can create this effect in the same realistic look as wet plate or just Large format. as a hybrid photographer (film and digital) i have no problems with a digital manipulations of other photographers but.. i by myself is trying to be as much minimalistic in this process and to make more with optica then with computer after this. i think that the reason was my previous old experience (before my film photog era) to work with photoshop and to add filters and layers to my images with the goal to bring them this aesthetic look of film. one day i decided that i have too much options and i just stopped…. but this is only my opinion and feeling :-))
    thank you for your thoughts btw Sam !

    Like

  2. The purist can go jump in a lake. The fact is that a digital camera can NOT, with present technology, capture the scene as your eye sees it. The way human vision works a “true to life” image would have roughly the field of view of a 40mm (full-frame) lens and the edges of every image would be blurry and the images would be circular. We don’t see at 55mm or 85mm or 600mm. We don’t see in a 4×3 or 3×2 rectangular image ratio.

    Therefore, all digital imagery is manipulated away from reality by the camera and it’s optics even before you do anything else to it.​

    Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed.Garry Winogrand

    https://petapixel.com/2012/11/17/the-camera-versus-the-human-eye/

    Liked by 1 person

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