Last Wednesday (28 March 2018) club members were entertained and stimulated by Steven Galvin LRPS and his talk about photo manipulation.
Steven works in the IT industry and is a member of Marlow Camera Club. He enjoys bringing photography, computing and art together in the image making process. Photographically he is interested in natural history, sport and just about anything else! He also likes giving talks (such as this one), judging and competing. Currently, he is striving to create his own unique style with a view to obtaining his ARPS.
The talk started with a quiz as Steven showed a variety of his own images and invited the audience to identify whether they had been “manipulated” and, if so, how. (The answers followed later in the talk.)
Starting from the point that “cheating is an immoral way of achieving a goal”, Steven presented several scenarios for consideration and challenged the audience to determine what constituted cheating – with predictably mixed results! Clearly, there are both good and bad reasons for cheating at photography. However, it is essential to stick to the rules of any competition. The RPS and PAGB and other competition organisers have a specific definition of “Nature” for their competitions and certain things are prohibited (eg, techniques that add, relocate, replace, or remove pictorial elements – except by cropping – are not permitted).
Manipulation has been with us, however, since way back. Steven described the many significant elements of “artistic license” in the famous picture “The Fighting Temeraire” painted in 1839 by JMW Turner. He followed this with a series of photographs, starting in the 19th century, which also contained some cheating (eg, a head superimposed on someone else’s body). These included the notorious Wildlife Photographer of the Year winners in both 2010 (when a wild wolf was found to be tame) and 2017 (when an anteater was found to be a “taxidermy specimen”).
Steven’s own “cheats” include cloning, layers (to manipulate different elements of an image before “reassembling”), replacing backgrounds and skies, background blurring, motion blurring, multiple images, and HDR (including single image HDR). Such cheats had originally been introduced at the urging of judges in competitions (“all that distraction in the background should have been cloned out”). And the sophistication of his cheats had increased as his skills had improved. He currently uses Corel PaintShop Pro but is considering moving over to Adobe Photoshop.
After an ethics debate, to gauge the morality of the assembled photographers, Steven returned to his opening quiz to reveal how his images had been produced. And inevitably there were a few surprises. Not all the images that Steven was accused of manipulated had been manipulated! And he showed some further examples of apparently faked images that were no such thing.
To finish off, Steven returned to the morality of cheating. Manipulation in photographic images is now virtually impossible to detect and possibly soon photographs may no longer be admissible as evidence in courts of law. Steven saw it as a matter of Ethics versus Aesthetics – when does the pursuit of aesthetics violate ethics? In other words, what’s the limit?
Steven is an experienced and engaging speaker. This talk explored some issues relevant to the modern day digital photographer in a humorous but thought-provoking way. There was plenty of information and many interesting images as Steven packed loads of stuff into the time available. An absorbing and entertaining evening for all who attended.