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View Full Version : Print Comp System Suggestion Raws AND Final?



Fuzzy_Duenkel
05-29-2012, 02:13 PM
A photographer friend posted an incredible image of a lightning strike in an internet forum I’m on. He wondered if it would get its fair due if entered in print competition because these days, so much can and is done in Photoshop. The result of all this “photo faking” is that it diminishes the respect for powerful photography because it is now just assumed any impressive image has been doctored to be so powerful.

I’ve heard comments about some of my images saying they were done in Photoshop, when they were not. Understand that I DO use Photoshop, and often quite extensively when necessary to enhance an image. It’s simply the final step of the creative process. What can’t be done during capture is done in Photoshop. This includes retouching, vignetting, deleting unwanted and immovable objects, and any artwork I deem necessary for the success of the image. I’m not a Luddite who shuns the benefits of technology. Many years ago I said in my “Fuzzy Logic” book and in our speaking programs that capture and Photoshop are now inseparable.

But there are lines I will not cross. I won’t place a person in a location they never were. No will I put things in an image that weren’t present during the session (although last year I moved a leopard from a scene at the Zoo into her back yard). We were at the Zoo for part of her session, and we were at her yard for another part of the session. Putting the two together was a “fantasy” image, not to be believed as actually true. A few years ago I put a seagull from one of a senior’s images into another.

In professional photography print competitions, just about anything goes. There are no restrictions on technique, nor should there be in an ART competition. But that’s where the issue becomes sticky. Are we judging art, portraiture, photojournalism, or scenic illustrations? Of course, the answer to all of that is “yes”. But within those genre’s, what is the best way to judge it? Should we only judge the final image, or is there a better way to give credit to the initial capture or to the Photoshop prowess in post processing? There is no doubt that today straight photography capture (with no further alteration) takes a back seat to the potential of perfection that Photoshop offers. The result is that people and judges no longer admire an image for its impact. They no longer value the effort it may have taken. They are no longer impressed with the photographer’s eye for composition, timing, or revisualization. It is assumed it was simply enhanced, if not totally fabricated, in a computer… much like action movies aren’t as impressive as they once were because we know the actors are simply working in front of a green screen.

I realize that genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no going back. While you can count on my images not being faked, I also realize that one photographer is not going to reverse or affect anything. My purpose for writing this is that there is one area where I think we could improve upon the lightning photographer’s dilemma. Print Competition IS an area that has seen some recent changes, and could, if enough pressure would be brought upon it, add something that would be an improvement in the process for BOTH those who work harder at the capture and those who have more expertise in after effects.

In the PPA Electronic Imaging category, a “before” and “after” can be submitted so that we see what the photographer had to start with as well as the final result. I would like to see something similar to this being used for all entries. If all images were submitted with the raw files of the base images and any other files used, such as seagulls or leopards that were added, then we could judge the final work more accurately and give the piece a score based on not only the final result but also the expertise of the Photoshop work to seamlessly include them. Conversely, an image such as the lightning image would be rewarded on the impressive skill as well as sheer luck that the capture of the lighting strike required.

I’m an imager who prefers to work hard on the initial capture with, story-telling themes mastery of light control, and expressive composition. I would like my work to be judged on that basis, rather than have it be assumed there were easy computer tricks involved.

I think this change would improve respect for both skills... high effort capture and Photoshop mastery. But most importantly, it would immeasurably help to illustrate that to be an accomplished photographer… you must master both!

I don’t need to point out to professionals the turmoil of trash photography that is being masked by Photoshop actions and commercially available filters. This is a thin ice that many new studio businesses are being built upon, and I think that anything we can do to hammer home that we must learn solid essentials is a good thing. Print competition is an area where its leadership can have an effect in our everyday business. My awards and achievements in print competition have had a profound effect in the photography that I give to my clients. I think PPA’s leadership could have a similar spinoff in newer photographers’ understanding of the total skills required in producing highly saleable photography.

Submitting the final image and any and all raw files can be done on a print, but probably better done digitally. All the raw images could be assembled on one “canvas”, and shown after the final image is presented. I realize that this would slow the judging process. This alone would be an issue that could prevent its implementation. But I feel that this change would help the industry in many ways, and should be done regardless of any possible increase in judging time.

Print competition is facing challenges, as is the whole photographic industry. I would love to see this change because I think it would enhance the dignity of the entire process. It’s impossible to detect when an image has been massively altered. Yet I feel we SHOULD know. There’s no disgrace in doing so, just as there’s no benefit to submitting an image that hasn’t been appreciably altered. I just think that it would improve respect for both approaches if we knew which images were digitally altered and those that were essentially presented as photographed.

Ron_Jackson
05-29-2012, 04:50 PM
Ha! 14 views and no replies. I think most read this scratching their heads. What!? Submit images that are pure or have to show that mediocre base image?

This was very well stated Fuzzy. I agree with the logic and all that you said. I think showing that base image is a great idea for all comp images.

Marie_M
05-29-2012, 05:09 PM
I'm with you guys on this...
Thanks for posting.

mtphotography
05-29-2012, 05:17 PM
I think showing a base image is great also.

Amy_Hall
05-29-2012, 05:24 PM
Very well written and excellent suggestions.

Jeff_Dachowski
05-29-2012, 05:43 PM
Fuzzy,
My question though is who cares? Image competition is hard enough to get people involved with. A tiny percent of PPA member enter prints or images. My "who cares" comment means who is this for? Our clients only understand part of what we tell them. If we tell them we won an award, they can wrap their head around that, but telling that we worked for hours on a concept, and another three hours lighting it, does not translate to most clients.

Conversely, since image capture is only part of the equation why would you want to limit it to just in camera? It just seems like an arbitrary place to stop. How about we have a race with off the production line cars? Isnt that what nascar was supposed to be? It is a far different animal today. Is it bad? Not sure...

Having seen you speak several times, I know that you are a tremendous talent behind the camera, and can sculpt and craft light, like no other in the business. That being said, all this would seem to do is to give a photog bragging rights to say, "I can make better images than you in the camera"

Now...that is one benefit to competition. The ability to market your skills to your clients and be recognized by your peers. I cannot stress enough that being good behind a camera is only part of a skillset that is demanded by the clients. Having a good personality, solid business practices, and clean post production are potentially all things that make for a successful studio.

I guess, I just dont get why someone would care about a SOOC image, unless it was all about their SOOC images being better than someone elses. Where do we go next? One shot competitions? Unexposed film. Through the lens judging?
These are just thoughts running through my head, and please do not take them that I am mad at you, or think you are a dope for writing them. I guess I heard Kirk talk about this all the time, and tired quickly of all the tech bashing that tends to follow suit. Ok...rant over...
Jeff

Fuzzy_Duenkel
05-29-2012, 08:21 PM
Jeff, I'm not suggesting AT ALL that we limit anything. Only give credit where it is due. To the capture or to the post work Both are honorable and valuable.

MWatson
05-29-2012, 08:56 PM
Instead of the fuss about how it should be, can you explain how IPC works now? I clicked to enter IPC 2012. After entering my email address and password, I only get an email saying that I entered. What is next ? I was expecting to upload my digital files. Does PPA send something out in the mail?

Rodney_Ninow
05-29-2012, 09:59 PM
At my last local affiliate's print comp, the judges questioned several images, making assumptions that objects such as a rainbow in one and a planet in a night shot must have been added. I knew both makers of those images and neither had been added in that way. A LOT of discussion ensued about those images and in my opinion, although they merited, the judges gave them relatively low scores based on their belief they had been "faked."

In contrast, the image that won best in show that night had a completely added sky AND setting sun. No mention was made that it was photoshopped.

I think it would be great if there was some provision made to show the original raw as a reference.

Stan_Lawrence
05-29-2012, 10:50 PM
I’m an imager who prefers to work hard on the initial capture with, story-telling themes mastery of light control, and expressive composition. I would like my work to be judged on that basis, rather than have it be assumed there were easy computer tricks involved.

I think this change would improve respect for both skills... high effort capture and Photoshop mastery. But most importantly, it would immeasurably help to illustrate that to be an accomplished photographer… you must master both!


Fuzzy, you have a great idea here, the only challenge is you're likely to get a lot of photographers getting defensive, since they really can't produce anything without all the added "touches." I enjoy a lot of the artistic creations I see, I would't want to see them eliminated. It would be great to have what you describe in addition..... :cool:

Rodney_Ninow
05-30-2012, 02:22 AM
Of course, the last case to get four 100s was much more than one capture.

Rick_Massarini
05-30-2012, 02:50 AM
Of course, the last case to get four 100s was much more than one capture.

I'm a tough person to impress, but that 4-100 case was an awesome creation - there was not a flaw anywhere on any of those images, but the maker did spend a LOT of time on those images - the lighting all matched, the shadows all matched - yes, it was a lot of Photoshop, but it was outstandingly done. I was there when the prints spun - in fact, I put them on the turntable - I was running the print crew in that room that year at Southwest.

Fuzzy_Duenkel
05-30-2012, 03:02 AM
I'm actually surprised that there is some interest in this. I figured I'd be out on an island on this. I know it would be a bit clumsy. But something similar is already being done in EI. (Is EI still around anymore?)

Rodney, that's an excellent point. I can recall a few times hearing judges comment about stuff thinking it was put there in PS... but wasn't.

Again, there are some INCREDIBLE artists who use PS in a creative way and should be rewarded for it. I don't see that anyone should get defensive or feel that this would hurt them. It could simply make the process clearer.

Karen_Walker
05-30-2012, 03:25 AM
Just thinking out loud here; what if the image was made with film and hand printed by the maker. That may deserve extra credit.

Rick_Massarini
05-30-2012, 04:25 AM
Just thinking out loud here; what if the image was made with film and hand printed by the maker. That may deserve extra credit.

Why should the fact that it was made with film carry any extra credit? Those of us who have been around a while have all used film, made our own prints from film, competed with images from film, and merited images created with film - most of us have moved on to digital since we have found advantages of using those tools in our business. If someone chooses to use film instead of digital, that is just their choice of the tools they chose to use - it's no better or worse, so it should carry no more or less credit.

Rick_Massarini
05-30-2012, 04:35 AM
Is EI still around anymore?

The EI competition is still there - the PEC just changed the name of the competition to the "Master Artist" competition. Kind of a misnomer since it's not a competition for Master Artists but a competition for merits towards the Master Artist degree - kind of like calling the Photographic Open competition the "Master of Photography" competition. Personally, I'm hoping they'll come up with a better name like maybe the "Digital Artwork competition".


Again, there are some INCREDIBLE artists who use PS in a creative way and should be rewarded for it. I don't see that anyone should get defensive or feel that this would hurt them. It could simply make the process clearer.

I never understand why anyone gets defensive when talking about competition at the IPC level since no one is really competing against anyone else for score - it's either a merit or it's not - and it's either in the Loan Collection or it's in the General Exhibit - and there's no set number of images that will merit or not merit - so it's not like they're going to run out of exhibit spaces and your image might not get in if someone produces a better image than one of yours. So it's not like someone doing incredibly good work is going to adversely effect you in any way since you're not competing against anyone else, you're competing against yourself and the 12 Elements.

Vance_Wagener
05-30-2012, 05:10 AM
Fuzzy,

I respectfully and fundamentally disagree. I know that sounds pretentious saying that to someone who is at the top of their market and a master. But in my opinion it's only the end product that counts. Early on in digital photography several established and seasoned photographers made the transition to digital and failed. They ended up closing shop. One of the main reasons was they didn't understand that the end result should be indistinguishable from film. This caused a backlash for a short time of brides specifically looking for photographers who used film and not digital because they didn't like that "digital look". You, me and everyone else here learned to compensate for the limitations in the technology through post processing. In much the same way we did when we used push or pull processing, added contrast filters, masking, dodging and number of developing and printing techniques to overcome the limitations of film.

Limiting the post process is like telling Ansel he couldn't print is own work.
"The negative is comparable to the composer's score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways."
"There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs." and "You don't take a photograph, you make it."

As long as it's all your own work, I really feel it's the final product that counts and not how we get there. *Without a good base to begin with no amount of PS is going to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. I think the judges know the difference especially if it squeals.

Oddly I have heard of other veteran Master Photographer who have a life time of accomplishments imposing limitations on themselves that are not in the print comp rules to see if they can merit. While this is a further exploration of their skill they are not calling for changing of the rules or a special category.

Just my opinion.

Fuzzy_Duenkel
05-30-2012, 06:38 AM
Vance, I have to repeat... this is NOT limiting anything! It's ADDING to and clarifying the process.

I'm a results guy too. Packaging and fluff are nice initially, but in the long run, it's what's up front that counts (man, was THAT an old reference).

But what I'm saying is that BECAUSE the final results are SO indistinguishable, it's causing some difficulties in competition.

Vance_Wagener
05-30-2012, 07:10 AM
Vance, I have to repeat... this is NOT limiting anything! It's ADDING to and clarifying the process.

Only if you are saying that capture is more important than the end result. In the end it's a print competition not a digital negative comp.



But what I'm saying is that BECAUSE the final results are SO indistinguishable, it's causing some difficulties in competition.

Indistinguishable from what? Illustrations? Are you saying prints are being being mis-categorized when entered? I really don't understand the point your trying to make. Sincerely, I'm not getting it.

Ron_Jackson
05-30-2012, 06:28 PM
Vance let me take a stab at this.

what Fuzzy is trying to say here is by adding the guide image. (the original file) it gives the judges a reference only perspective. With the guide image, you could see just how far or how little work was done to the finished product. If anything, it should only enhace the judges opinion not take away. Let's say there was a single capture that needed virtually no other embellishments. There would then be a simple guide image on the mat that showed the original. The judges and of course later on if it hung, the viewers could see that it was just an extremely well captured and presented image. Now, let's say the guide image was drastically different from the final. Again, by having the guide image one could see just how much effort went into the finished product.

The finished product would always be what was judged and awarded, not the original capture. Remember, all judges are photographers too. They know full well what it takes to capture and enhance so no one is tricking anyone here or certainly this would not be limiting anything either.

Rick_Massarini
05-30-2012, 09:17 PM
The IPC allows guide images in the EI competition right now to help the judges to be able to evaluate the degree of digital artwork that was done on the final image. Having the same thing on a Photographic Open image would help the judges in discerning exactly what was added in Photoshop and what was in the image from the initial capture. I hear all the time from people complaining about judges who assumed that something was added in Photoshop that was not, while completely missing skies being changed in other images - well, the reality is that sometimes it is difficult to tell from the final image. I've seen masterful jobs of Photoshop where the work was so well done that you couldn't tell that something had been added - and there have been cases where the original image has be manipulated to the point where something looks like something has been added when it was not due to localized changes in contrast or color saturation to where one section is inconsistent with the rest of the image. All a judge can do is to evaluate what is in front of them - and if it has been poorly handled and looks like it has been Photoshopped, the judges can only score what they are presented. I've never heard of a juror scoring a print lower just because the sky has been changed and an excellent job done of it, but I have heard them score it lower because it was obvious that the sky had been changed. I can see where the availability of a raw capture image might be very helpful in some cases, but in any case, in the Photographic Open competition, the final image is what is being judged. On the other hand, in the EI, the degree and difficulty of the artwork is being judged.