Gimme some sugar!

It’s well known that when you eat at a quality restaurant that part of what makes the food so good, besides their use of top ingredients and excellent technique, is that they put more salt, sugar and fat into the dishes than you would as a home cook. In fact the amount of sugar, salt and fat – often butter, would freak many people out to the point of them questioning if they should eat at their favorite place ever again. But again that’s what makes it so yummy – all the things that our taste buds crave is there in spades on the plate. We aren’t supposed to think about what we are eating when we are enjoying it so much. Otherwise we would never really eat dessert again huh?


I started to realize the other day that post processing images is just like that. As a professional photographer you are expected to have excellent technique and be using if you will top ingredients in your images. Natch! But these days it has become normal to use so much “seasoning” in post production that people are now used to it and in many ways expecting that what you are showing them has already been sweetened by P-Shop.


I have had a number of interesting looks and responses when I show a potential client examples of my work and explain that none of my images are composites and have the barest amount of processing; just enough to set color and levels usually. Their “Oh really?!?” is because my work looks good and so many professionals transform their images in post rather than compose and create them in camera. You know, like in the old days? It almost wierds people out for me to tell them that I could shoot the job on film and it would look great “out of the can” as we say.


Did I mention that I don’t retouch my portraits? When you look at any publication that is non news just about every image of a person, let alone product, has been worked over in P-Shop in many cases to the point of looking like a different person. Many celebrities have retouch artists who they personally prefer to make them look “right” before the publication can use the selected images. Gad!


Ok, ok, I’m still that news guy at heart … yeah. But to me the deal is that people are so used to opening up a publication or seeing adverts where women are without pores or over 30 and no hint of wrinkles that they question their own reality. We produce a world where colors and contrast are surreal. One where objects that don’t exist together are stitched seamlessly within impossible circumstances.  Our ability to crank up the sensation of it all may be deadening their ability to distinguish between visual truth and fiction.


More sugar! Saltier! Spicer! Then they will be excited to buy the new, and rather useless, widget that we are selling. Maybe? No matter that they should have just made the widget actually work well and thus people will want it. That seems so, uh, old fashioned.


Given that – isn’t reality, our current one, even stranger than fiction? Can we tell when there is something clean and simple and real before us? Or is everything made glossy because we are used to making is so?


Thus let us contemplate the simple things before us. I propose that in our photography we should not necessarily be the illustrators of a hyper reality but rather illuminators of the glory of our truly three dimensional world. Can I get a “Hurrumph!”???


This to me is simple beauty: fresh picked peas from an organic garden that was started up by a fellow who wanted to grow his own food in the city. His hands say a lot about him, eh?

  Beans 3

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