The Photo Editing Debate
To replace a sky or to not replace a sky?
Which side of the debate are you on? Do you believe a photo should have very little processing done to be able to be regarded as simply a photo, or are you ok with getting creative and adding/removing elements or otherwise changing the image to fit your creative vision? Or maybe you’re somewhere in the middle with your opinion?
My views on this topic have changed several times over the years, as I’ve grown to view my photography not only as a means to document occasions and to preserve memories, but also as a form of artistic expression. I find myself having a bit less of the purist mindset, and being more accepting of the creative aspects of the medium. For me, as long as an artist is being upfront about their process, and not claiming that the image is not processed or manipulated, when it in fact is, I have no problem with however they choose to process their photos. I mean we each have our own creative process, and it shouldn’t matter how we arrive at our end result. Right? Why do we feel the need to be so judgmental on this subject anyway?
Even though my views on this have evolved, I still tend to be a purist in how I process my own photographs, because it’s just my style. Though there are times when even I find myself on a short vacation, with limited time to photograph, and I come away with photos that aren’t great because the lightning was awful or less than ideal, or the weather didn’t cooperate. And I didn’t have all day to wait it out. Otherwise, the image would have been pretty good. And I think to myself, if the sky looked better, this image wouldn’t be so bad. But, up until a few months ago I would have just deleted the images, thinking they weren’t worth hanging on to.
That’s when I preordered Luminar Neo, because I thought I might as well give it a go, as it was getting all these rave reviews from pretty prominent photographers. And yes, it was also getting all this hate from purists, and honestly I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at that point. I just knew that I was in a photography rut, and I thought some fun software might help me tap into my creative side again. Alas, I ordered it and when it arrived, I still hadn’t found myself on any photography adventures, and had no new images to edit and play around with. So, it’s just kind of been sitting, unused.
Then my husband talked me into a quick weekend trip to Calgary to check out the city and spend a day in the mountains. So, I now have some photographs to play around with. And as luck would have it, our day in the mountains was plagued with grey skies, and foggy conditions that hid most of the mountain peaks. And the morning portion of our day in the Badlands was just as grey. So yeah, I came away with many images that I would normally just delete. But not this time! This time I have Luminar, and I’m having a bit of fun playing with the images and seeing if I can rescue them from the trash bin.
Below are two before & after collages from my morning in the Badlands near Drumheller. The skies were grey and washed out, and my images were pretty uninspired as a result. The rock formations were gorgeous, but the lighting wasn’t letting that shine through. So, I popped this first image into Luminar Neo and started trying out some of the free sky replacements. Some of them were an improvement for this image, some of them weren’t. But, this night sky works well with this image, in my opinion, so I went with it.
And then I popped in another one from the same location, just a different perspective and orientation. This time I dropped in some colourful sunset skies, and they look pretty good. I think “After 1” is my favourite of the two, but Brandon likes “After 2”. What do you think?
And yeah, that’s about as much as I’ve done with it. I think in a pinch, when you aren’t able to wait it out in a location to get great light or weather, then something like Luminar can help you make the most of what you were originally able to capture. I can see how it could easily be overused and not look so great, so you have to fine tune and not just rely on the AI. Basically, you still need to know your stuff, ok. And no, I don’t think this (sky replacement) is something I’d do very often, but I’m glad the option exists.
Now, I’m looking forward to diving into all that the Luminar software can do, as far as basic edits go. Because honestly, Lightroom is running as slow as Christmas for me these days. It look 5 minutes to load the program the other day and just over an hour to upload 300+ images from a 26mp camera. Seriously, WTAF!?
So… where do you stand? Are you a purists through and through or could you not give any f#ck$ how people process their photos? Let me know in the comments below!
I personally try to create images and not representative photos. So I take a fair amount of freedom when editing them. The beauty with long exposure black and white seascapes is of course, that I believe nobody really assumes that they are not altered in some way - even if only in camera with the long exposure times. In my post processing I try to convey the specific mood I was in when I experienced a given scene in front of me. Where I do draw the line is by adding or replacing parts of the image. I only remove things.
I think I’m part purist in this case but part of that probably has to with the fact that I’m too lazy to even try to do any of this.
From an artistic perspective, I think there is merit in it. It’s your artwork, use it when you feel it’s necessary.