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Food For digital Thought: A Bone of Contention



I recently had an online student in one of my three classes with the BPSOP that for the four week class keep telling me that as a purist it was wrong to move anything before you photographed it. He also said that it was going “against my grain” to add or subtract something in his composition. Btw, I’ve had several similar discussions in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet.

He claimed that he was an idealist, and he only photographed something the way it was. Well, that’s a real bone of contention with me and I’ll tell you why. First of all let me define what the idiom “bone of contention” means. It’s basically an argument between two groups or persons that can rarely be settled.

Let me backtrack a bit and I’ll tell you that this person also uses Lightroom, Photoshop, HDR, and an assortment of plug-ins. He uses them to a point where the actual photograph doesn’t resemble a photograph any longer. Whether the end result looks good or not is in the eye of the beholder, but in my way of thinking it is more computer art than photography. If my fellow photographers want to use the computer to help them then that’s their business and it’s fine with me.

OK, herein lies the bone of contention. How can someone call themselves a purist when they manipulate their pictures in the computer? Whether they’re well done or not isn’t the issue here. The issue with me is that in my opinion a photographer who calls himself a purist should never do anything at all to his photos. That means before the shutter is clicked, and especially after.

In the above photo, I moved the two men from where they were and positioned them in the light. Although I did nothing in post, I would not be considered a purist…and that’s perfectly ok with me. I photograph what I’d like to see, not necessarily what I see. My background is in painting so to me the camera on a tripod is the same as a blank canvas on an easel.

The second photo depicting a similar construction situation was not manipulated in any way, either before or after the shutter was released. I like shooting what I see as much as anyone else, and if the situation comes where I can, I will. It doesn’t make me feel any different than if I had placed all the workers and wet down the concrete. The only thing that matters is if it’s a good photo.

The purist in me coming out!

The purist in me coming out!

I’d love to get a response from some of you out there that follow my blog. What do you think?

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2016 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. come shoot with me sometime. In conjunction with the Santa Fe Workshops, I’ll be leading a group to Cuba for the third time next March. Come join me in what I’ll guarantee you to be an amazing experience, and you’ll return home with memorable photos from a wonderful country.

Keep those photos and question coming into: AskJoeB@gmail.com and I’ll send you a video critique.


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    { 5 comments… add one }
    • Valeriano December 29, 2015, 5:51 am

      Interesting. On an “idealist” POV even photographing a scene means we are manipulating it.
      BTW, my two cents:
      1) you are too hard with your judgment on modern darkroom techniques. Using PS and LR are fundamental nowadays with digital photography in any photographer’s workflow. I agree with the fact that those tools should not divert us from getting first the best player possible result in camera.
      2) Alterating a scene for getting the desired creative result we had in mind is completely normal in any form of art. Although considering your background in commercial arena, that is also something which costs a lot and nowadays even on commercial assignments those costs are no longer justified compared to using computer aided manipulation.

      Last point: HDR is just ugly. “Pure” and simple. 🙂
      Perhaps “enfuse” could became handy in certain kind of shots (mainly shooting interiors with a view on the outside not having the proper lighting equipment nor shooting at dusk/dawn).

      • Joe January 2, 2016, 3:31 pm


        you have completely missed the point of this post. Go back and re-read it since it wasn’t about using LR or PS.

        Also, if you have followed any of my posts written over the past several years, you would know that I tell people that I use PS in some degree on just about every image. I have said on numerous occasions that I like the challenge of getting it in the camera in one exposure, but if that’s not possible I have no problem working on it later…I’m not a purist, I’m a painter/designer who uses a camera on a tripod like I did when I would put a blank canvas on an easel.


        • Joe January 2, 2016, 3:40 pm

          Valeriano, it was about being a purist or not being a purist.


    • Annet Taapken December 31, 2015, 2:41 pm

      I love this post.
      Of course this will bring discussions, but lets hope that man have open minds and use it to really realize what a purist means. Making a picture as a purist means in my opinion that you won’t change anything, also no post processing , then it is in my opinion not pure any more. Do the purist realize that if he does it is cheating on his self, and makes his own rules in the meaning of purist. If you want to stand for something realize what you are saying and understand what it means and be fair to yourself and actually to everybody. Making pictures as an artist , you make the picture, and if you can change the surroundings or subject so that your expression , feelings and emotions in the picture will be (hopefully , but it is your expression, feelings and emotions) seen and felt.

      • Joe January 2, 2016, 3:39 pm

        Exactly how I think and feel Annet. I would imagine that it must give one the feeling of beating one’s fists against his/her chest…but only in small crowds so he can hurry up and scurry (as in move in short quick steps) back to his computers.



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