At the end of January, we had the Big January Debate at the Cambridge Darkroom Meetup themed ‘Is cropping cheating? where I was supposed to be one of the members on the discussion panel, sitting straight across one of the organisers Dom Reed, better known as Mr. Flibble on Flickr who makes heavy use of image editing in his photographic work. I was supposed to take the side of the purist, as a user of antique photographic processes – but I found it really hard to do so.
Unfortunately for this event, we were not able to make use of our normal room at the Cambridge Brewhouse and we were forced to shift to the restaurant opposite. They kindly made space for us and pushed several tables together, pulled out some extra chairs and we made do. It was hard to try and hold a discussion in a noise restaurant, in the middle of a long table, and trying to get everyone to hear you, but as the evening progressed more people started joining in and it was great to see some new faces and hear some (new) opinions.
The main questions of the discussion were: Is cropping cheating, any any techniques allowed, when does an image shift from photography into digital art. Dom point of view consisted mainly in: everything is allowed, the technology is there and why not use it? Sometimes there is just no other way to take a certain shot as practical, financial or timing issues get in the way. Sometime you think you got it right, but it turns out you are just a little off, what wrong with correcting this afterwards, especially if it helps the image?
I do agree, but for the sake of the discussion I did not – and my main arguments were: It’s lazy not to get in right in camera, there is zoom and sneaker zoom (walk to or from your subject) and there is such a thing as using the right tools for the job, researching your subject / location and timing, knowing your camera settings and making sure those are right for what you are trying to achieve. Having a great technical advantage is one thing, but can you really call yourself a photographer if you shoot on ‘luck’ or just on post-editing and say ‘it’s part of your process’. Blurry images have time and time again been excused as ‘artistic intent’, but when is it actually acceptable?
We finished the discussion on an overall consensus that no-one actually thought that post-editing an image was wrong – in the understanding that certain jobs might require more, less or no editing. Like wedding photography (it’s normal for images to be Photoshopped) or reportage photography (it’s frowned upon to edit these images)
Cambridge Darkroom – Photography Social can be found in Meetup.com – and we gather every last Thursday of the month.