Thursday, March 03, 2011 10:16:10 AM (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00) ( )
Alright. So this is a question that has plagued me for several years. Photography and digital art have essentially merged into one. The line between what is "real" (i.e. photographed in the physical world) and what is "artificial" (i.e. drawn or otherwise created on a computer) has become utterly blurred. The vast majority of award winning competition prints are usually a mish-mash of digitally-composited elements some of which are taken from photographs and others that are drawn/created in a variety of computer programs. In the end, you have something that is unarguably a beautiful work of art. But is it really photography? Or is it more altered art or altered photography?
I've struggled with this question, wondering where to take my work. Obviously, some aspects of photography remain firmly grounded in the "real" like photojournalistic images at a wedding, etc. And anyone who has taken one of my workshops or chatted with me knows that I'm a firm believer in getting the image right in-camera. It's the only way to actually make a real living out of photography. You can take 2 minutes to fix a problem with a photo (like stray hairs or bad light or poor posing) or spend an hour in Photoshop fixing the mistake. Obviously, the less time you spend, the more money you make overall. So there is a strong pull for me to do as much as possible in-camera as I shoot.
But who doesn't love a little bit of drama and art unfettered by the reigns of reality? And I have to admit, it's wonderful to be freed from the whims of nature and physics when wanting to realize an artistic vision for a composition.
So here's an example. I took this image with a definite idea in my head of what I wanted the final image to look like. But time and the physical world weren't cooperating with me on this day. I had all of 3 minutes to take this shot. Not enough time to set up a light. And it was the middle of the day, so no directional light to work with. But I had an idea and still took the shot anyway, knowing that the "art" would have to happen in Photoshop.
So here is the original RAW SOOC image. It's not the best image. I went for a middle exposure with the shot, leaving the child a little dark but also leaving a little detail in the window. I knew that this exposure would leave me detail in my highlights but also give me enough detail in my shadows too to create a better balance of exposure in Photoshop.
So step one in Photoshop was to bring up the exposure of the child in RAW and fix the obvious problems of cropping and perspective. Obviously, this step completely blew out the window detail, but I knew that I would bring that back in the next step.
So the next step was to leave the exposure on the essentially child the same, but bring down everything else. I brought in a dark exposure of the window and masked it into the shot and added multiple layers to darken the image.
The next step was to reduce the color in the image, creating a vintage look:
The next step was to create a definite source of directional light in the image. So I created light rays in Photoshop. This took several layers and some fancy blending to create the correct spread and sense of light.
I then added a texture for added warmth and depth.
The final step was to add a curved vignette to the edges and a vintage photo border:
Obviously, the final image is drawn from the original photograph, but it has artificial elements that were wholly created in PS. This image could have been taken to look like this SOOC (more or less), but it would have required a lighting crew and several hours to set up. And in the end, this was probably faster to do in PS, haha.
Of course, this is a mild example of digital image manipulation. But the question still remains for me . . . . at what point does something cease to be a photograph and become something else entirely? And is it a line that should concern me in the first place?
Nichole Van has repeatedly been labeled as a hot, new, up and coming photographer. As a Utah wedding photographer and a Utah
portrait photographer, she specializes in turning everyday life into art. Nichole loves expressing the unique beauty of
every client, creating artistic images that make people gasp when they see them.
As an international award-winning photographer, Nichole won the prestigious International 8x10 Portrait of the Year from
Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) for 2007. Consequently, her international award winning photography
was featured in Rangefinder Magazine in June 2008. She has also taken First, Second and Third place honors from WPPI in other
international competitions for her child and family photography. Additionally, Nichole has received numerous Accolades of
Excellence and currently holds an Accolade of Photographic Mastery from WPPI.
In addition to her love for photography, Nichole loves teaching and enjoyed being English faculty at Brigham Young University
for nearly 10 years. As the best of both worlds, teaching photography to others is her passion. Nichole currently offers
international photography workshops focusing on helping others enhance creativity and artistry in their photos. Combining her
excellence in teaching with her photographic knowledge, Nichole’s Life as Art Workshops are quickly revamping industry standards
for photographic workshops.
Nichole lives in southern Utah County with her husband and three children. You can see her work at www.nicholeV.com.