Some months ago I posted a very short blog entry in which I wondered about the fact that we all love analogue, but we publish our pictures digitally. This question never left my mind and I am going to write down some thoughts on this theme, especially since every completion here states that the picture needs to be:” Any analogue photo not digitally enhanced or manipulated”
What does this mean? “Not digitally enhanced or manipulated” Because every picture you see on this website/community is digitally enhanced and manipulated. If you haven’t done it yourself, your lab did it. The very moment your negative is scanned, software starts enhancing and manipulating the picture. I hope that’s clear for everyone. Your picture is a ‘negative’ the picture that appears on your screen is a positive. So somewhere your computer made calculations to invert that image, to decide the white and black point, adjust contrast and so on.
Just look at the next two nearly identical pics. They both come straight out of my scanner. Because one picture is cropped differently my scanner software made different calculations.
So can we say “Not digitally enhanced or manipulated” means: straight out the scanner? I do not agree with that. I use an Epson V600 scanner, the scanner is really good but the software sometimes fucks up. It has problems with cross processed pictures and sprocket pictures (the presence of the black sprocket holes confuses the scanner). So I have to adjust the picture with the scanner software, adjusting the settings manually. If I want to I can change a lot ! I can choose a greenish, bluish whateverish hue. I always try to keep the contrast down, because when I change the contrast with my scanner, I really get a graphic picture. I already saw a lot of them in this community. I do not always like them because I know there was a more beautiful picture available. Of course I don’t blame anybody, because a lot of people have their negatives scanned by the lab. And if you get a graphic picture it usually means there was something wrong anyway. See the overexposed pic below. I tried to correct the overexposue, but you can’t call it beautiful.
A second problem my scanner has is ‘low contrast on black and white pics’. I don’t change the contrast with the scanner, because it is really ugly. I scan it with low contrast and I change the contrast afterwards. That’s not a problem to me, because the digitally enhanced picture is almost identical to my darkroom print and the digitally not-enhanced picture was not like my darkroom print. I think I am allowed to change contrast and exposure in postproduction in order to get the same effect I get in my darkroom.
So where do I draw the line? For me digital manipulation starts when you use different layers in photoshop. And I have seen a quite a few pics here which were clearly manipulated. I have seen perfectly sharp, distortion free photos which had an added layer of unsharp corners. When you are familiar with the unsharpness of a Holga or any other simple meniscus lens, you immediately see the photoshopped effect. I think a very experienced photoshop talent can make an almost perfect fake Holga pic. But those dudes are busy making money and aren’t here. I also saw some black and white pics with an oversaturated red car in the middle. I don’t like that.
Anyway, the line is thin and not clear. Because you can’t simply say that all techniques you can do in a dark room are allowed to recreate digitally. Fellow lomographer Adash has a great analogue technique in which he ads drops of water to his negatives during development. It is not OK to ad digital drops. Some darkroom techniques should not be faked digitally. On the other hand, when you shoot paper negatives and develop them, it is (according to my feeling) ok to scan the negative paper prints and invert them with software. You don’t have to contactprint them manually to get your positive image.
Here are three identical pics. The first is straight from the scanner. On the second one I only changed the brightness (that’s acceptable to me) on the third one I also changed the lightness of the red channel (that’s not acceptable to me, but I only changed two settings, brightness and colour lightness).
Sorry folks I know I am nagging again about details, but hey that’s me !
Greetz Gauthier, Walter, Wouter, Dumont, from the hills, van den berge.
“Water from the mountains” What was my father thinking when he named me?