Sunday, July 06, 2008

Photographic clarity versus manipulated images

A young girl plays amongst the pillars at the King's Galleries, Ostend, Belgium.

Strong simple clear composition, clean colours, sharpness and good exposure are all elements of something that I call 'photographic clarity'. Good capture techniques and fine tuning in an image editing program will deliver professional results.

More than enough has been written in magazines, books and online to provide everyone with all the information required to produce the highest quality results. So why do we see so many unsharp, strangely manipulated, grungy and distorted images? I think that in a way history is repeating itself.

We have entered a new era of pictorialism and photographic enthusiasts have fallen in love with digital filters, effects and the heavy manipulations offered by image editing programs. Open most pages on a site like Flickr and you will see images dotted about that are unclear, weirdly coloured, 'over hyped' and distorted. And yes I have done my fair share of these too.

However, here's something to bear in mind for any budding professional photographer or amateur that wants to earn some extra cash. The market for 'pictorialist' images is very small - perhaps some fine art galleries. Even most of the photographic collectors I know prefer 'real' photographs. Advertising agencies, magazines, calendar and greeting cards manufactures all want high quality, clean, clear images ie photographic clarity.

If you want to see for yourself, just visit some stock library websites, or take a look at adverts in a magazine. Muddy colours, heavy vignetting, bad HDR, unsharpness etc just don't do it anywhere except on social photography sites where everyone seems to be intent on applying the latest digital filter/effect that's in fashion.

Personally I'm a bit bored with seeing all the heavily manipulated stuff. Give me good, honest straightforward photographic clarity every time.