This is a fantastic time to be a photographer. We have new cameras with amazingly high megapixel counts, and the ability to produce decent-looking images at ISOs that never seemed possible.
Along with that, we have software that allows us to do . . . practically anything we want with an image.
It is great, but it also offers its own challenges. This is not going to be a discussion on “Photographic Ethics”.
This is Digital Art, not photojournalism.
One of the things I like about what I do is getting to interact with a large number of photographers and artists. When I am teaching digital post-production, there is a question that comes up very frequently.
“How do I know when to stop?”
My general response is I guarantee you will know when you’ve gone too far.
But what I have found is that many of us have lost perspective.
Let me give you an example.
I’ve had this situation occur. A student is concerned because they are not sure their image is “sharp” That is a common concern about Infrared photography. They will show me this as a way of making their point.
“See, see? It’s not real sharp!”
Umm,….. yeah, let’s put this into perspective. The image is zoomed in to 300%
My response is “How does the print look?”
The print is truly the most important thing, and I think many people lose sight of that because they don’t print their work.
I think you NEED to periodically print your work to see where you are at. And you definitely should do test prints whenever you start using any new software or plugins.
I’m going to tell of a first-hand mistake made along these lines.
A few years back (10 years) I did a photo series of a closed mall here in St. Louis, Mo where I live. The mall had quite a history, it was the last place JFK spoke before becoming president. After the mall closed, I got permission from the owners to go into the mall and shoot it. The shoot took 3 days and I ended up with a nice series of images. I had just acquired a new plugin for Photoshop and I thought it would give the images a harsh, edgy look because that’s how they looked on the screen. I was excited about how the images were coming out and I did not do any test prints.
Then something amazing happened. The photo series went viral, and Buzzfeed, Gizmodo, and about a dozen other sites ran the series. I received over a quarter million hits on my website in a single day.
Then people started ordering prints, and it was great, . . . until someone ordered a large print, a 24×36.
That’s when I realized my mistake of not making a test print. Anything made using this filter looked great up to about 11×14 and then the image started to fall apart and there were all sorts of artifacts that began showing up in the prints.
I learned a valuable and slightly expensive lesson.
Why? Because I lost perspective, I got caught up in the creative process and lost sight of the finished product. I enjoyed the image capture portion and the post-production but didn’t pay attention to the finished work.
If you are producing artwork that will only be viewed digitally you don’t have to worry, but if you are creating artwork to be printed and viewed, make certain that the print matches what you have in your mind, and on the screen.