To Edit Or Not To Edit, That Is The Question
I’ve recently returned to my first photographic love – documentary. After years of working on commercial and art photography, I have become re-acquainted with an old dilemma: How much post-production is permissible in documentary photography?
It could be argued that every photograph includes a certain amount of editing; we edit what we shoot, with what equipment, what we include/exclude in the crop etc. When using film, I selected certain film for a particular “feel” and printed on papers chosen for texture and contrast. I would even dodge and burn (selectively lighten and darken) parts of the picture in the darkroom.
But in digital photography, the range of post-production options is mind-blowingly wide. And so my dilemma is harder than ever. Is it okay to dodge? Burn? Sharpen? Vignette? Blur? Sharpen? Clone? Reduce noise?
My project involves shooting in low light at high ISO’s in very “busy” environments. Exactly when does enhancement begin to compromise the integrity of the photographic document? And does it matter?
There have been notable examples in recent years where photo-journalists have been caught out when crossing the line between recording the facts and making a picture – often a more saleable picture.
With every photograph I edit, I have to restrain my Photoshop-happy tendencies – old (or new) habits die hard. And so I’m erring on the side of caution: I’m doing only cropping, exposure and contrast adjustment, grayscaling, and a teeny bit of vignetting when I think it really needs it…
And I haven’t even thought about how much “setting up” is permissable yet!
There’s an interesting New York Times article about this whole issue here… http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/23/weekinreview/23marsh.html
Even Reuters have been at it, with the most amateurish example of clone-stamping you’ll ever see in a news article (in this case, bomb damage in Beirut) – http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3286966,00.html