By Craig Doumouras
Published on 18 May 2017
Way back in 2015, we published an article '5 tips for photographing waterfalls' that was a basic guide for taking a photo for novice photographers. In this article we've decided to expand on what was previously written, and try explain some of people's misconceptions with regards to photography.
In our Facebook Group a discussion thread occasionally is created by members asking what other people's preferences are for waterfall photos. They will often ask if people prefer 'natural' photos or 'edited' photos of waterfalls. A healthy discussion always occurs, and people express their personal preferences regarding photography of waterfalls.
You would be forgiven for thinking if a photo doesn't typically look like a photo taken with your smart phone it must have been edited. You might follow this train of thought up with 'If it is edited, it isn't a 'natural' photo'. Photography is more complex than what many of us initially believe:
So, what is a natual photo? There are many different view points, all of which have merit. Our viewpoint at Waterfalls of Tasmania is that a 'natural' photo is one that represents not just the look of a waterfall, but the feeling it gives you as accurately as possible. There is also an artistic element to it as well. Many images, waterfalls or not will leave you with a feeling, an emotion. You can have two photographers, standing side by side, photographing the exact same waterfall, and each photo can leave you with different emotions. In other words, a photo is more than what you see, it is an experience, and a good photographer will try to reflect what he or she has experienced in their photo. To be able to achieve that, editing of photos is necessary. Taking a photograph is only part of what is required for photography.
For some people, taking a photo for them to remember a place or an event is perfectly sufficient. For others, sharing that experience with others is what is important to them, and editing of photos can help perfect that experience. But if you edit a photo, does it make it fake?
Cameras are not perfect. They are incredibly good at producing fabulous images but they just can't get it perfect. Every photo you take will be imperfect, and every photo will have something that possibly should be corrected. A classic example is what we touched on above with shadowed areas being very dark, and bright areas within the photo being over exposed. Some of these anomalies can be corrected when editing (called post processing) a photo. Correcting colours and lighting in an image isn't making the photo fake, but is in fact correcting it. A skilled photographer or photo editor will have the knowledge and distinction to know when they are changing an image too much.
Problems do occur when post processing has gone too far. I colloquially use the term 'over baked' when I see a photo that has been over processed, or not processed correctly. In fact I look at many of my own photos I edited some time ago and can instantly see where I could have processed it better. I recently went through many of my old waterfall photos, and completely re-edited many of them. And I was astounded at how improved some of them now look. What were my mistakes?