Artistic Interpretation vs. NOT Photoshopping


jasper, landscape, river, summer, rockies, alberta, travelalberta, dan Jurak, mountains, dawn,Growing up shooting 4×5 Ektachromes and Kodachrome what you did in camera was what you got as a final result when your film was processed.

For me that meant being very careful with exposures. Too much and the transparency would wash away or be clear. Too little exposure and the result would be dark or opaque.

That is a far cry from todays digital cameras where you can over and underexpose freely and to a certain degree recover otherwise lost details in post processing.

The ultimate back in the days was coming upon the perfect light along with the perfect exposure and that was it. The transparencies were either submitted for books or magazine or stock. Shoot film. Process film. Done. Finished.

Today it is so much different because although you still need to get the bones of the subject captured with post processing so much more can be done.

Is it right?

That is something that each of you has to answer for yourself.

Like religion or politics or social issues I believe that there is no ONE right or wrong answer. You should be free to do as you will without worrying about the “ethics” of what you are doing.

This of course only applies to what I do and that is landscape photography. I have never attempted to misrepresent something photoshopped as the scene being exactly how it looked the moment the shutter was released.

A few years ago the Associated Press in the states decided that photos would not be burned or dodged or affected in any way that would mislead the viewer. Having grown up processing black and white and colour photographs for a local newspaper this was a common thing.

I disagree with the AP but I see where they are going with their decision. Is it wrong or misleading to darken the corners of a news image to concentrate the focus? I don’t think so but then that is only my OPINION.

The photo at the top of this post was taken back in 2013 and I never processed it until this week. I was driving back home to Edmonton one morning after a night of photographing the Milky Way in Jasper National Park. As I was leaving the park and the sun was rising I looked to see an interesting scene developing. I pulled over. Grabbed a few frames and proceeded home.

When I first looked at the image I was disappointed. It didn’t look anything like what I had expected. I had gotten plenty of other photos on that trip, processed them and had forgotten about this one.

Fast forward a few years. Gain some more Photoshopping experience and upon revisiting this image it looked like it might be fun to play with it. Much like with water-colour painting I went where the image took me. It is the same as carving a piece of wood. The wood has an infinite number of possibilities inside it that can result from your carving. See a face? It is there. See something else? It is there too.

I played with this image for a couple of days. Tweaking it. Revisiting it and tweaking it again. All the while seeing it again through fresh eyes every time I revisited it. Like a water-colour painting you can continue until you wreck the painting or know when to stop and that is YOUR decision.

Above is the result. Below is the raw image unprocessed other than to save it as a jpg.

The choice is yours.

Happy shooting,



~ by Dan Jurak on May 24, 2018.

14 Responses to “Artistic Interpretation vs. NOT Photoshopping”

  1. Hi Dan,

    I have a minor quibble with this statement.

    Growing up shooting 4×5 Ektachromes and Kodachrome what you did in camera was what you got as a final result when your film was processed.

    I’ve processed film in a darkroom. What you got was based on the chemicals you used and your process for developing the film. The darkroom back then was the analog version of Adobe Lightroom.

    I don’t think we can ever claim to have reproduced what we did in camera.

  2. The other factor is the human eye see a much broader dynamic range than film and even digital sensors. So one might argue post processing can include enhancements to bring the image to what the “eye” saw.

    In addition to dodge and burn, we would sometimes push process to gain a higher ISO. The intentional or accidental perception of a photograph also comes back to your point about opinion, but also the viewer experience. Hey, I like your first image! 😊

  3. Point taken.

  4. Agreed, to a point.

  5. I like the top image apart from the clouds; on my monitor they seem as if they have a magenta colour, my preference would have been for less. Or even just dodge everything apart from the sky in the bottom one.
    But far from me to get picky, I have never been happy with my digital colour images, I much prefer working in the darkroom.
    I do like your work & was pleased when I found your site.

  6. Thank you David.

    The beauty of photography is that each and every one of us has a valid opinion.

    I see what you are saying about the magenta clouds and if I were to process the image again the colour might be absent. Photoshopping is like watercolour painting for me. Every painting is different as is every photograph. This could easily be processed hundreds of different ways and each one as valid as the next.

    Thank you again for your long time support and comments,

  7. I am a firm believer in “your picture, your art”. Even the great Ansel Adams was known to dodge/burn an image until he got it “right”. His definition of “right” of course. Today, there are so many courses around on compositing with Photoshop, that I am beginning to accept that this is often the norm. I do, after all, alter the “black” and “white” points, together with shadows and highlights and a myriad of other “things” for an image, so I really do not care what you do to your image – it’s your art.


  8. Creativity is all about going YOUR own way and pushing boundaries the way that YOU want to push them. In the same way that I would never presume to tell you how to drink your coffee, ie, cream, sugar, etc. I would never presume that my way of seeing is the right way. To each of us our own.

    I agree with you completely.

  9. Dan,

    Forgot to comment that I appreciate the work you did to take the image from what it was to what is. Lovely!

  10. Thank you so very much for the kind words,

  11. Nice read here Dan. I’ll just throw in that I shoot film but I’m not interested in the actual film or slide itself. It’s scanned and treated like a RAW file in LR. I just enjoy the process of shooting on film but I could care less about a darkroom. I think too many people associate “shot on film” as truth. Photography isn’t a very good medium for showing truth.

  12. Thank you Eric.

    Whatever makes you happiest is what is right for you.

    Digital is as truthful as film or wet plate or painting for that matter. It is only our interpretation of what we saw and I am good with that.


  13. Just came across this… I love both pictures. It takes an artistic eye to create the “photoshopped” image as well as taking the picture in the first place.

  14. Thank you for visiting and posting.
    Both are valid to my thinking. Is one right or the other wrong? That will always be left to the viewer.

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