Straight from the Camera shall be the whole of the law or, is Photoshop for cheats?
Mark Pedlar has been doing some work on the rules that will apply to the Straight from the Camera competition. So to get you up to speed, I’m going to reproduce what he’s sent.
Let’s start with that supposed evil – Photoshop – and Mark’s view on image processing today compared to the days of film.
Straight from the camera shall be the whole of the law or, is Photoshop for cheats?
At the age of 12 I bought my first camera, a Kodak Brownie 127 – black and white, processed by the chemist. Only three years later I spent all of my first pay packet on a 35mm Halina 35X and I was into colour photography.
For four decades and through a series of cameras the vast majority of my images, family records, fun shots, as well as entries in national and international salons, were colour slides. In all of this there was one constant. Once the shutter button was pushed my images were pretty well set in stone. Whether I waited for Kodak’s yellow box or Agfa’s blue one to appear in the mailbox, or whether I processed my own in the kitchen, from 100 foot rolls of Ektachrome, the image on the celluloid could not be altered. The exposure, contrast and sharpness were inviolable. Composition could be modified somewhat by masking portions of the slide with aluminium foil. However, this was obvious since the projected images were smaller than others in the salon. So, over these several decades more than 90% of competitive colour slides, worldwide, were “Straight from the camera”.
Of, course this did not in any way mean that everybody was operating on a level playing field. Those using a ‘top of the range’ Nikon with a battery of excellent lenses would be able to capture some images simply not available to my $50 East German Praktika: multiple exposures on one frame for example.
Today’s ‘top of range’ cameras similarly offer rafts of pre-exposure adjustments simply not available to the user of a basic ‘point and shoot’ camera. The playing field was never level. Further, the greatest unevenness always has been and will be the way in which the operator uses the human brain he or she puts up close to the viewfinder.
‘Straight from the camera’, then, has long been the accepted practice of slide producers. However, that’s not true of users of negative film and prints. Again decades ago I bought a whole darkroom from an ageing amateur/professional photographer from Brewarrina. I used it for monochrome exclusively. Colour printing was way outside my budget. However, printing from negatives was exciting for a range of reasons; not least of all the ability to modify (and hopefully improve) the image originally captured before it became a print.
So, I cropped the portion of the image I printed to change the composition and to remove distractions like lampposts or stray arms and legs. I held my hands between the enlarger lens and the paper making a circle of light between my fingers. By doing this during the exposure and moving my hands a bit to blur the edges I could allow extra light to a portion of the image. This meant I could ‘burn’ in details to what would otherwise have been a white area (clouds). I had a small circle of cardboard Sellotaped to the end of a piece of wire (once a coat hanger). By holding this between lens and paper (dodging) I restricted the light falling on a shadow portion of the image and allowed detail to appear in what would have otherwise have been totally black.
I chose whether I printed on matt, satin or glossy paper. I chose the paper grade to give me high, medium or low contrast. Later there was multigrade paper whose contrast was adjusted with filters. I chose exposure times to change the final result. I selected developers and their temperature to change contrast. I deleted most of the developed image before fixing using ferricyanide solution and redeveloped to convert the black and white image to sepia. My ancient photographer’s darkroom kit contained a huge range of arcane solutions including some of gold salts that enable black and white to be tinted blue.
All of the modifications described in the last two paragraphs were made after the shutter was released; after the camera had long ago been put away in its cupboard.
So, what are the take home messages? There are two.
First, excellent images can and have for ages been made without any post-exposure modifications. There really is no replacement for getting it right in the camera. However, even if we prohibit ‘post’ work like Photoshop competitive photography will still not be a level playing field.
Second, makers of prints from negatives have been modifying their images in the darkroom during the printing process for over a hundred years now. When did you last hear somebody suggest that this is unethical or underhanded or cheating? However, there is a body of opinion that makes just these sorts of suggestions about the use of software packages like Photoshop. Why? Not all users of editing software are out there winning competitions, exhibitions and salons. Software does not automatically give you great results without effort. Software is a tool and you need to learn how to use it just as was the case with darkroom techniques.
So, get your image as near perfect as you can in the camera. Then make judicious and competent use of whatever other tools are available to correct errors and finish the job.
Now for the rules (which I’ve also put into the calendar and programme)
Straight out of Camera Submission rules
During the submissions to the club’s subcommittee back in the Spring several members said they had concerns over the emphasis placed by judges on post exposure editing or manipulation of images.
Some were opposed to the concept of editing and others simply had no access to the software to edit images. There was a cry for more images to be presented “straight from the camera”, with no editing carried out after the shutter button had been pushed.
This competition’s set subject is a response to that request.
So here are the rules.
For prints, no alteration AT ALL may be made to the image after exposure and before printing.
- Printed images must be presented full frame. No cropping is allowed. If the image shot is 4:3 format or 3:2 format it must be printed in that format.
- Images must be printed from the file originally captured by the camera.
If you usually shoot in RAW you must be able to print from that RAW file. It may not be converted to JPEG TIFF or similar for printing. Or, shoot in a printable file format.
For those having files professionally printed, the file submitted to the printer must be printable without alteration.
- Prints displayed as monochrome must have been captured in that form.
- The general club rules about size of prints still apply.
Digital images are allowed one alteration only. This is to allow the projected image to conform with our projection limitations
- The recorded image file may be reduced to maximum of 1400 x 1200 pixels. It must still be presented full frame.
- All the other print rules apply to projected images.
Finally, I’ve taken one of the documents Mark sent me about photography & aperture and made it a permanent link in our Resources page