<<< o >>>at the center of things 40 comments + add yours

I mentioned yesterday that I'd say a bit more about manipulating images with Photoshop, but first ...

Isn't photography itself a form of visual manipulation? Photographs are never what we see – i.e. the mechanics of photography are not the same as the physiology of perception. For example, I don't perceive depth of field in the same way that it is captured by a lens, I can't visually compress the distances in a shot by using a telephoto eye, I can't freeze-frame a busy scene in my mind, my vision isn't monochromatic, and so on. So what counts as an image that isn't manipulated? One that comes straight from the camera? No, because it's already been subjected to the manipulation of photography. What I think is at stake here is not manipulation versus no manipulation, rather I think it's conventionalism versus digital processing. And leaving aside the fact that most of the things I do to my images could be replicated in a dark room (which rather negates the "no manipulation" argument anyway) I really don't see this as an issue.

For me, manipulation – i.e. altering an image in Photoshop after it's been taken – is an integral part of producing an image. I'm not interested in literal, objective or representational photography, that's not my aim. Rather, I'm trying to capture something of the way I see the world – the vibrancy, the colour, the texture, the patterns, the life, and so on – and Photoshop is a tool to that end.

So, I guess it depends on what you're after. If you want some sort of objective record (a conventional photograph) of an event or thing then I can see why "manipulation" might be seen as a bad thing, but if your photography is more interpretive then I guess you'll be more favourably inclined. For example: if you look at today's shot you might think that the sky probably wasn't quite that blue, and that maybe the rust wasn't quite so vibrant, and so on. But so what? This shot is about colour, and texture, and shapes, and the post-processing is my way of accentuating those aspects of this scene that I think are of interest.

I do have more to say about this – it's a subject that's quite dear to my heart – but perhaps that�s enough for now.

Oh, and this is the hub of the big wheel on Blackpool's Central Pier, and while I think the rust is aesthetically appealing it doesn't exactly inspire me to take a ride ;-)

8.35pm on 12/5/05

Canon 20D

100mm f/2.8 Macro USM



aperture priority






C1 Pro


shutter speed
shooting mode
exposure bias
metering mode
image quality
RAW converter

3x2 + piers [Central pier] + fylde coast [scenic]
comment by doffer at 08:16 PM (GMT) on 16 May, 2005

Good point proven david... Really love the image, and the coulors of it... I'm doing the same to my pics, even though the results of it its not as stunning as yours... But your photoblog is a source of inspiration for my photography, and i've leared a lot!

Thanks :)

comment by Adrian Hudson at 08:22 PM (GMT) on 16 May, 2005

>>doesn’t exactly inspire me to take a ride

Exactly what I was going to say - before I read your comments all the way through!

I agree with your ideas on post-processing. Accentuating to make the finished image - on screen or paper - more like how you percieved the image with your eyes is fine by me. Adding or subtracting actual elements from the image is much less acceptable I feel. A tiny bit of cloning out of the odd bit of litter or the like is OK I suppose and has gone on for ages in the wet darkroom by skillful photographers.


comment by Jeff at 08:30 PM (GMT) on 16 May, 2005

Call me crazy but I've come to expect images that are different from the "norm". This pic although it's not bad in any way, I feel it just isn't different.

Kinda lacking in that special touch that you have David.

comment by m at 08:38 PM (GMT) on 16 May, 2005

I think the most important aspect of an image is for it to be pleasing to the eye. Post processing is just another way of improving the image. Is Ansel Adams not a photographer?

comment by Guilherme Pinto at 08:45 PM (GMT) on 16 May, 2005

" For me, manipulation – i.e. altering an image in Photoshop after it’s been taken – is an integral part of producing an image."

I agree 100%.

comment by Pablo at 08:50 PM (GMT) on 16 May, 2005

Nice Shot! I like it!

comment by /\/\J at 08:52 PM (GMT) on 16 May, 2005

I entirely agree and see how strongly you feel about this. i love the photograph but i feel like ive seen this one up here before, maybe a similar shot?

comment by Andy at 09:04 PM (GMT) on 16 May, 2005

Photoshop is an artist tool almost like a paint brush to a painter.

comment by Raffi at 09:27 PM (GMT) on 16 May, 2005

I agree with you. I never really thought of it that way, but I'm glad someone said it. And yeah, that rust doesnt look too safe. lol

comment by nogger at 10:02 PM (GMT) on 16 May, 2005

This topic of "manipulation" is fun, isn't it? Surely what you do depends on what you're trying to represent.

Sometimes a photograph is "simply" a record - as in a newspaper where I'd agree that "manipulation" is a no-no - and sometimes it's more an evocation of a feeling or emotion.

If you stick a couple of filters on the front of your lens or alter your image in Photoshop, the darkroom, or whatever, where's the difference?

And what about film? Which colour film do you use? They're not all the same, are they, when it comes to representing colour.

No one's claiming these things as the literal truth, after all.

comment by djn1 at 10:14 PM (GMT) on 16 May, 2005

nogger: isn't there a bit of a contradicition there; i.e. if a photograph isn't a "literal truth" then it can't be a simple record either. All photograps, to one extent or another, are an interpretation - a moment in time, a fragment of a scene. I do know what you mean though, I just think the distinction is a rather vague one.

comment by nogger at 10:29 PM (GMT) on 16 May, 2005

Well, I was meaning your images aren't claimed as "literal truth". But, yes, the same could be said of all photographs to some degree.

And it's why I put the simply in quotes. :-)

comment by royrak at 10:32 PM (GMT) on 16 May, 2005

I agree with you, this is the best explication about the art of photography, after this I don't feel bad anymore using photoshop.

comment by djn1 at 10:35 PM (GMT) on 16 May, 2005

nogger: lol, no, I don't claim that my images are anything like a/the literal truth, but then I've never been overly convinced that there's any such thing anyway, in photography, art more generally, or any aspect of the human condition.

royrak: cool ;-)

comment by Francesco at 10:35 PM (GMT) on 16 May, 2005

The photo is just the representation of an instant, sometimes grotesque, comic or drammatic.
I do not really belive in the so called "realism" in photos.

And I like messing up my snaps with photoshop!

comment by Donna McMahon at 11:30 PM (GMT) on 16 May, 2005

Great pic as always! :) I have been on that there ferris wheel in the rain but I'd never bungee jump off the pier in a million years!

I had the very same discussion with friends about photoshopped pics just the other day as I always feel like I'm cheating a bit if I change the colours or the contrast of a photo, but all my friends agreed with you and think that photoshop is the eqiuvalent of the digital darkroom.

I really love your work, you have a really good eye and you're a great inspiration to me so I thank you! :)

comment by wushi at 11:39 PM (GMT) on 16 May, 2005

really nice colours, detail, shadows....-)

comment by Kayleigh at 12:14 AM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005

well said... i've been trying to get that point across to some people i know for a while now.

also, lovely lovely shot!

comment by Rodrigo Gómez at 12:21 AM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005

Hello there.

I agree 100% with you David, but I have a point that would like to do: photograhpy and digital imagery are, in my opinion of course, two different things. For me, photograhpy is about capturing something in the world. Yes, it's trying to capture that something the way you see it, and of course, there are times, maybe 90%, that that is not possible directly from the camera, so you need tools to complete your vision. And in a way or another, every photographer does this in a point (or several) in the process of making a photo. It can certanly be adjusting colors, levels, blurs, dodge, and so on. Cropping is maybe the first thing we do when taking a photo, and that is interpreting the "real life" through the lens.

But, I think when the photo is so distorted, or so modified that it barely reflects a photograhpy, or a "real" thing or moment in life, then it shouldn't be called photograhpy. I have not problems with that art, and actually enjoy it, it's art after all, but I don't think it can be in the same league that a photo.

About the photo itself... ther eis a thing near the center of the wheel, maybe a cable or so, but I just can't keep seeing it!! ;-) Other than that, I think is a pretty strong picture, maybe a bit too complex, but that's how it really is, so, it's ok :-). I like it.

comment by Maran at 01:13 AM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005

Hey I do post processing myself but I try not to do it until it becomes apparent that the thing that holding up the image is Photoshop. You last image screams Photoshop while this one is a bit subtle.

comment by Juice at 02:33 AM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005

I enjoyed the little mini essay. My thoughts exactly. Nice shot too. It looks like it's missing a couple spokes...looks pretty sketchy. I wouldn't want to ride it either.

comment by Sharla at 02:43 AM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005

I think many people worry about Photoshop being used to transition a photograph into a graphic.

All the great photographers have always manipulated their shots, whether it was simple dodgiing and burning, stretching the exposure range like Adams, solarizing like Man Ray, or combining elements like Jerry Uelsmann.

It would be totally wrong to try to constrain the artist's eye to a literal photograph if what he saw was something different. If the artist uses Photoshop to render his vision, he is being very faithful to all the masters of photography.

If the Photoshop operator manipulates an image until he achieves something interesting, and perhaps wonderfully artistic, but was never conceived, then he is a graphic artist. There is a point, and it's not precisely finite, where a photograph becomes a graphic.

What is the person that removes a distracting tree or sign?

I prefer the individual that makes a very faithful image in the camera of what he saw, using skill, vision, and technical aptitude, and then uses Photoshop to tweak it to reflect his vision because the camera alone could not: no mass alterations, masks, or fancy filters.

I know of no one doing that so well as David. And when he chooses to experiment a bit in a new arena, I'm happy to be there for the mental and visual ride.

(And I was very afraid that was really rust! How often is that ride inspected?)

comment by jamie at 05:58 AM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005

"Rather, I’m trying to capture something of the way I see the world – the vibrancy, the colour, the texture, the patterns, the life, and so on – and Photoshop is a tool to that end. "


comment by Terri Ann at 06:37 AM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005

I kinda agree with your argument about maniulating images. I also think there is something to be said about having life represented as I see it as it was...exactally. Yet, there are times when it is more than approprite to "fix" images, or at least make them more of what you SEE, not what you SAW.

This is a fantastic example of when I personally feel it is approprite to manipulate an image. This photo would not be nearly as stunning if it was slightly desaturated. And I know the sky is never THAT blue, and a subject is never lit quite the way we want it.

BTW: Stellar photograph, I'm a sucker for geometry in archetecture and straight lines so this is right up my alley.

comment by John Washington at 07:42 AM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005

The problem with this discussion is of course that we all have opinions and no one is right or wrong.

Quote by Sharla

'All the great photographers have always manipulated their shots, whether it was simple dodgiing and burning, stretching the exposure range like Adams, solarizing like Man Ray, or combining elements like Jerry Uelsmann.'

I really think that anyone who doubts that photoshop has in some way has de valued the art of photography should seriously start looking at some of the above mentioned photographers and realise that what they were doing is no different.

At this very moment I am sat here looking at a book that has a photograph dating back to 1938. it was created by the great typographer Jan Tschichold. The picture is quite small but it is basically appears as a film negative and actually it is the kind of thing that you would try and do in photoshop and diregard as too cheesy.

The photograph is entitled the professional photographer and I swear that could have been done yesterday. Have a look please and then remember that this is 67 years old.


I don't want to come across as a geek or know it all (I hope djn will verify that I am not like that) but I do think that some people need to seriously think about this issue of photo manipulation.

If it came out of a camera it is a photograph. Further work on any photograph is simply a method or realising the images potenting - no more no less.


comment by John Washington at 08:29 AM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005

ignore the spelling mistakes above: I am tired with a long day ahead.


comment by pierre at 09:50 AM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005

as far as I know, there are two kind of images : the ones I like and the ones I don't.
I like this one, for example.

comment by Aegir at 09:54 AM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005

So why don't you crop? If your camera can't zoom quite enough to get the bit of a scene you were after, surely digitally 'zooming' in Photoshop is good?

I crop all the time, but only because I chose a different aspect ratio (golden) for my images rather than 4:3. :)

comment by John Washington at 10:17 AM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005


as far as I know, there are two kind of images : the ones I like and the ones I don’t.
I like this one, for example.

End Quote

That just about sums it up pierre, but have you ever tried to figure out why you like something or don't. Educating your mind to this might surprise you. For instance I am a big fan of Constructivist design and typography (post world war one) and yet I didn't use to 'get' Mondrians paintings at all. But having delved deeper into this subject I am totally aware of what he and others were trying to achieve, and a lot of it makes perfect sense when you consider that these people have helped lay the foundations for what we now widely accept as 'good composition - balance - dynamism - colour etc etc.

The art of photography has to include playfulness. That is how djn and myself and others move forward with our skills and knowledge.

Of course it all depends from what position you are viewing photographs from and you are right though in saying that there is no accounting for personal taste. Our opinions are formed throughout our life and can be prone to change as we get older. When I first studied design in 1978 I couldn't care less about theory or cultural history. Now I can't get enough of it.

Aegir: I agree with you about cropping and this is one area that I think djn needs to explain to us. However I know what he will say, and it is probably that training yourself to see a photograph is a very worthwile skill to develop because it is simply fundamental to obtaining very good pictures. Plus he does crop when needs be its just probably minor.

I also try to avoid cropping unless I do want to 'digitally zoom in' but the other argument is that if you don't have the right lens then the picture simply wasn't there to be taken ie forget about it and move on.

comment by Marina at 10:18 AM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005

"And leaving aside the fact that most of the things I do to my images could be replicated in a dark room (...) I really don’t see this as an issue."
That's the point! I guess nobody would argue with someone who works with his pictures in a dark room.
For me it is important that I only change the picture as I could change it in a darkroom. But even if I would do more it is still art and it is still photography. And using photoshop does not mean that everybody is able to have amazing results - IMO you need more than photoshop to have good pictures in the end!

Ah, and yes: nice shot but you shouldn't take a ride!

comment by Adrian at 11:15 AM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005

Is the photographer who makes the shot, not the camera. If you take a bad shot, it doesn't matter how much Photoshop (digital/scanned film) or lab processing (film) do you apply, it will be still a bad shot. IMHO.

i.e., this one is a great shot.

comment by djn1 at 11:50 AM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005

Aegir/John: the reason I don't crop, or rather the reason I try to avoid cropping in anything other than a trivial way, is that it seems to me that cropping negates the shot as I saw it. Put it another way, if I had a camera with a massive resolution and then proceeded to shoot crowd scenes I'm sure that I'd be able to find some interesting crops somewhere in the image. But for me, composing the shot in-camera is an important part of creating the final image. Occasionally I will crop, but this is normally because the 20D's viewfinder is only a 95% view of the scene and I tend to shoot at a slightly wider angle than I need. And this is something I've learnt from experience - I've ruined too many shots by composing them too tightly.

comment by Andre at 12:26 PM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005


I agree, we choose the time when we take a landscape photograph to get the best light. Photography can be objective representation, but in most cases it is subjective representation and if the photographer feels that the object will look best at 6.00 pm with a sunset lighting that is what will be done, a particular viewer may not like it, which is personal taste and opinion, which again is then an area of criticism - an entire study from what I know. In relation to tools my view is whatever works, having a list of approved techniques is simply silly as the creative energy of the artist will develop new techniques all the time.
In any event I personally love this shot, simple, explosive and just stands out in the saturation of colors.

comment by Talendo at 01:03 PM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005

I definetely agree with John.
--If it came out of a camera it is a photograph.--
And if it came out entirely of a pc is digital art or whatever.
And if it came out of a woman it is a baby.
And if it came out of a musical instrument must be music.
(of course from merely sound to fine musical pieces as in photography)
Let's simplify!

I also agree with David that it's important not to crop. If you need it, is probably because you missed the shot and the people will not see the picture as the photographer saw it.

Very nice shot!! Above all the orange and blue combination.

comment by jcyrhs at 02:19 PM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005

I'm not going to take my shot at the PS thing. It's simply the style of the photographer. Just do what you do best dave. heck what the rest of the world...

This is definitely not one of my fav but it's still much higher than my standards. not really in a position to complain...haha. it's just so....NOT u.

comment by Lee at 04:54 PM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005

Well said David! I agree with you.

I like the rust and lines of this ride juxtaposed to the deep blue sky.

comment by djn1 at 05:44 PM (GMT) on 17 May, 2005

Thanks everyone.

comment by miles at 04:17 PM (GMT) on 18 May, 2005

People have a knee jerk reaction to photoshop, even though many of its functions are simply reproducing dark room effects. Yes it goes a lot further than that, and no, it doesn't require you to work in complete darkness and throw dangerous chemicals over yourself :) But I think people who have something against photoshopped images but not images that have been manipulated in the darkroom are showing a basic prejudice.

As for cropping, I say crop away. I have absolutely NO idea why someone would be against cropping, unless it is purely for their own personal discipline. If I have a camera which produces images in a rectangular format but I see a scene that I know will make a great composition in a square format why would I not take the shot and crop it later? Should I not take that shot, should I come back later with a MF camera (if I have one) and hope the scene is still there? Of course not, take the damn shot and crop it. FFS. It's rubbish that cropping shows that "you missed the shot", cropping can show that you achieved exactly the image you wanted to produce when you took the shot.

The important thing is that you represent the image as you saw it, I agree, but how that negates cropping I don't know. Composing the image in-camera has nothing to do with whether it's ok to crop or not. Youy compose with your eye, not with the frame of your viewfinder.

People can try and 'save' an image with photoshopping, dark room techniques or cropping, but in the end the only thing that matters to me is that I produce the image that I saw in my head when I took that shot, whether it's a close representation of the reality or some wildly maipulated and layered fantasy with many elements added. All I do is create the image that I visualised when I took the shot.

comment by Jamie at 01:07 PM (GMT) on 13 December, 2005

I didn't think much of it at first but came back because of the movement that caught my eye. Was this motion by chance or was that what you were looking to capture. It hink that it has something to do with the different spacing of the supports.

Nice Job


comment by djn1 at 01:19 PM (GMT) on 13 December, 2005

Jamie: the wheel was stationary, so I'm not sure what movement you're referring to.