11 September 2015

Visual Wilderness: “To Swap or Not to Swap…”

Some photographers are all for it, some are diametrically opposed to it, and a few couldn’t care less one way or the other. In any case, a common conclusion from these discussions is that “art is art” and how one photographer chooses to create an image is solely that individual’s business. But in my view, such a laissez-faire approach isn’t sufficient because, while art may be art, all art is not photography. Meaning that do whatever you want doesn’t apply here. After all, brushing a bunch of acrylic paint onto a metal sculpture and calling it pottery doesn’t make it pottery. I believe that, as photographers, we have an obligation to stand on one side of the issue or the other and decide… is this photography?

I’ll start. I’m one of the curmudgeons who staunchly believes that sky replacement has absolutely no place in landscape photography. I’m not saying it doesn’t take skill to pull off seamlessly or even that it doesn’t make an image look better. But it does take an image from the realm of photography and plops squarely it into that of graphic design or digital art. Semantics and definitions aside, I am actually far more interested in the concepts represented by landscape photography. And from that standpoint, I believe that swapping skies weakens the art as a whole and, more importantly, cheats you out of one of the most magical parts of photography: the profound experience.

Joshua Cripps

I’m of a similar opinion. For me it’s also an issue of trust: when I browse a photographers’ portfolio, I assume the photos presented there are genuine, not Photoshop collages. I’m more interested in his or her sense of composition, light and location than their Photoshop skills. I remember the first time someone mentioned using the technique, I was surprised and disappointed, because I immediately thought of the other beautiful images on his site and wondered how many were the result of the same digital manipulation. Ultimately it’s the personal choice of the photographer, but I think they are limiting their potential by relying on these sort of techniques, instead of working harder to capture that ‘perfect moment’.

Replace the sky in Photoshop
Same shot, different sky

Post a Comment