Editing isn’t the only way photographers influence how you see an event

Richard Charpentier Notes from Rich, Photography, RLC Design Leave a Comment

Often I hear the cry that Photoshop and “photoshopping” distort the reality of a scene.  You’re no longer showing the moment.  Instead you’ve changed it and influenced how people react to what you’re presenting.  And that claim can be true.

Composites jump to mind as a way that we bend reality.  Add a car to the background of an image.  Now pop in a cute model.  Maybe alter the lighting of the scene.  In the end…….?  Total fabrication.

Of course, there are simpler ways that don’t involve editing software.  Sometimes we can just edit ourselves.  What do I mean by that?  Well, we can opt to not capture an image.  How about terrible lighting for a terrible person.  Soft lighting and a pleasant back drop to make grandma look even more sweet.  The list goes on.

In my case this past weekend I found myself editing in the field.  While the Whiskey Row Off Road was going on I was out shooting like a maniac.  Fun fun!  And that’s what I wanted to present in my images.  Fun.  Some drama of course, the racers’ expressions, and more.  But there was something I didn’t want to present, and I found myself “editing” in the field.

Most everyone got across the little creek bed safely this weekend.  Most everyone implies a few did not get across safely.  A few wrecks did occur.  And you know what happened as some poor guy or gal went down hard on the rocks?  I pulled the camera away from myself and took my finger off the shutter button.  Honestly, it’s a gut reaction with me.  I don’t want to photograph somebody getting hurt.

I’d suck as a Nascar photographer.  Folks love seeing the wrecks!  Or a hockey photographer……somebody’s gonna get punched eventually.

My aversion to photographing someone getting injured started after I photographed a rodeo a few years back.  I’d gotten in with one of those all access passes a friend arranged for me.  I could shoot right at the fence if I wanted to.  Talk about action and drama.  I had no clue what I was doing and most of the images sucked.  But there was one series where I kept firing away.  A guy on a bull.  The bull throws him and the guy lands square on his head.  Then his neck totally folds inward, and I stop shooting.  The thought?  “I just photographed a man dying……….”

Fortunately for the rider he survived.  20 minutes after the accident he got up and walked out of the rodeo grounds.  But shooting that series I felt horrible with the prospect of having captured someone’s last moment.  Never went to the rodeo again.

This weekend that same little twinge of not wanting to show the extreme agony had me pulling the lens away.  It wasn’t often.  But in that decision not to shoot the wrecks didn’t I influence how my readers saw the race?  Injury free.  Happy, driven, successful riders.  No big troubles.  No major pain.

So, before you trash on editing software ask yourself one more question.  What other things did the photographer do or not do to influence how you saw an event.  It could be as simple as not sharing one or two images.  It could be a change in lighting only.  Or the photographer could simply not capture that moment, leaving the viewer without any visual reference at all.

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