I grew up and took my first pictures in the film era. I developed film and made prints in an honest-to-God darkroom that reeked of chemical smells. Whatever “fixing” we did to film and prints was strictly manual. Yes, we did have some tools — filters and the like — but mostly, if it wasn’t in the camera to start with, it wasn’t on the finished print.
I’ve tried my hand at some enhancements in Photoshop beyond what was in the original image, specifically using split toning. Here are the results:
The original image of the shoreline at Bullhead Bay in Lackawanna State Park is certainly flat-looking, although I think the mirror-image composition is appealing. At Brent’s urging, I tried Photoshop’s split-toning to give it more life and indeed the technology has delivered.
Digital manipulation of images can greatly enhance the photographer’s art. Two things trouble me, however. First, what I hope does not happen is that we become so over-reliant on what we do after the shot that we become routinely lackadaisical in our approach to what happens before the shot, figuring “I’ll fix it later.” Secondly, I wouldn’t want what I see as a disturbing trend in advertising and photojournalism — such as the magazine that gave Kate Middleton a “photoshopped waist” at the Royal Wedding — to become the norm. That development has negative implications beyond the scope of this post.
While the ethics or efficacy of digital manipulation is less critical in a scenic shot than in news coverage, it’s something we as visual storytellers should keep in mind.