Stop calling yourself a Purist in Photography


Stop calling yourself a purist in photography

While browsing photography forums, you’ll often encounter individuals identifying themselves as Photography Purists. They tend to claim things like: Manipulating photos is like cheating… I still shoot film because that’s real photography.. I try to have perfect photos straight out of the camera (SOOC), that’s real skill… I don’t like to alter reality…

Run away from these people.

Being a Purist in Photography is nonsense. It doesn’t mean anything. Those individuals are usually amateurs who refuse to have anything to do with any processing software (because they often don’t know how to use it) or older photographers who refuse to keep up with the times and brag about “how it was better in the old days”.

So why is it nonsense?

Nowadays the overwhelming majority of photographers use digital cameras, DSLRs, mirrorless, point-and-shoots or even smartphones. So obviously, they either produce jpeg or RAW images.

Jpeg shooters: To explain it simply, a jpeg is a compressed and finalized file the camera delivers after you click on the shutter. Before appearing on the preview screen, the camera has already processed the image by applying the settings you have dialed in and compressed it into a smaller file for your viewing (and posting on Facebook) pleasure.
You might not have used any external software to alter your photos personally, but your camera did it for you, by following the settings you have selected. This is already altering reality, the final image will inevitably be different from what the camera sees.

Here are a few examples:

– You see a beautiful landscape and put your camera on P mode (P for professional.. just kidding). You select a “cloudy” White Balance setting and change your Picture Style to “Landscape”, and you click. What you actually just did is ask your camera to saturate the greens and blues (landscape mode) and make the overall colors warmer in the final result.
– You want to take a beautiful portrait of a person. You dial to “portrait mode” and shoot. What you did is ask your camera to unsharpen the overall image to make the skin look softer and the skin colors look more natural.

In both cases, the camera did a lot of processing on your images, and you are the one who picked the settings. Isn’t that indirectly cheating?

RAW shooters: Unlike a jpeg, a RAW image is uncompressed and un-edited. Your camera captures the scene with all the different readings (White Balance, colors, etc..), dumps it into one big file with all the required raw information, untouched, and delivers it to you for your processing pleasure. Most professional photographers shoot in RAW.
So, in reality, a RAW image is an ugly image. The colors are bland, it lacks contrast and saturation and it’s not sharpened. All because no settings have been applied to it.
A RAW image is the equivalent of a negative. It NEEDS to be processed to make the final picture appear. The difference is that the darkroom has been replaced by a software on a computer. It takes less space and does the same thing, without the chemical fumes.

But I heard that developing in a Darkroom is NOT cheating!

You would be a fool to think that.

Did you know that many of the tools a photographer uses in Lightroom or Photoshop, like Burning,Dodging or cropping come from what film photographers did in the darkroom?

Ironically, I have seen many people mention Ansel Adams as a perfect landscape purist photographer. In reality, Ansel Adams was actually one of the biggest “cheaters” (as they would call it), spending hours and hours in the darkroom processing his photos using the burn/dodge technique. One of his famous quotes is: “The film is the score, but the print is the performance.”

Here’s an example of how film images were altered in the darkroom:
processing during film era
You can see a few more examples from different film photographers too.

Photoshop and Lightroom (and many other processing software) are similar to a darkroom. You take full control on how your images are going to look like.

Why the need to process photos?

Photography is not about playing with the settings on your camera, it’s not about copying the world.

Photography is about the vision of the person pressing the shutter, combined with his aesthetic sense. This results in a personalized interpretation of the scene. We, as photographers, have the power to create, to freeze time and deliver a message while excluding surrounding elements. By pointing the camera somewhere and cropping out the rest of the scene, you are already giving a subjective interpretation of what is happening, even as an “objective photojournalist” (which is only a mythical creature).

There is nothing wrong in processing images, or even “altering reality”. What the world wants to see (and buy) is your own vision. We don’t scold fictional writers for making up stuff in their books, or Picasso for creating humanoid distorted monsters on his canvas.

Yes, there is a (not so) fine line between post-processing and image manipulation. But adding or removing trash on the floor, erasing power lines or stray distracting elements is different from adding a fire-breathing dragon battling a Death Star over the New York skyline. There is also no right or wrong, as long as you are honest with your viewers (PS: yeah, adding a HUGE moon in a skyline and passing it for a real supermoon for example is quite lame. Just sayin’).

And here’s a very important truth: Nobody cares what settings have been used when they see a beautiful photo. Your clients want to see art; they don’t care about the camera or software. The only people who show interest are usually other photographers (and frankly, they shouldn’t be your target audience).

Just as a painter puts on canvas his own vision, a photographer paints with the light and uses his camera and style to create art.

So please.. Stop calling yourself a purist in Photography. The only real purist is the one who enjoys the scene without a camera on his face.

  • For the most part I am a purist, but only in the sense of having the finished photo looking like what I saw when I took the photo in the first place; and that means working on it in my digital darkroom.

    I’ve never been able to have come out of the camera a scene exactly as I saw it. It always needs some kind of work even if it is to adjust the colors and/or contrast to achieve that. So, if being a purist is one who never touches the file, once removed from the camera, then I’m not one. However, if it means achieving a level of photography that represents what you saw, then, yes, for the most part I am that.

    I agree that people who don’t want to work on the file once removed from the camera is either lazy or don’t understand what it means to work in a digital darkroom, or any darkroom.

    Nice article… a good read… and I agree… :-)

    • The Camera cannot capture the scene as you saw it, it’s normal to work on it to make it appear the way you “saw it”.
      Of course I’m not talking about retouching, removing/adding objects. That’s not photography, that’s digital art.


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  • I am so brand new to photography that I don’t even feel that qualified to chime in… but I will anyway. :P

    I’ve been reading a lot of photography forums/blogs lately and whenever I come across someone claiming they’re a purist it usually sounds a bit…. self-congratulatory. Condescending, even, to those who are supposedly not. I think the issue is sometimes less about how one chooses to process their photos and more about feeling superior. Meh.

    Every individual has their own creative style and method of capturing a moment on film…. and digital adjustments are, I think, an integral part of that for many people.

    • Of course you have to right to state your opinion!
      I agree it often does seem condescending. Like purists are holders of the truth and “real photographers”. Funny enough, “purists” are usually beginners and professionals have all various softwares.

  • I agree with your comments here. I really like what you said about the darkroom – I remember growing up and developing photos in the darkroom – it was great! And in those days, if you developed your own photos, you were seen as a purist. Now it’s the opposite way around.

    I agree with processing a photo to making it look its best, and trying to keep a good representation of what you captured. I do like natural photos. But occasionally I’ve played around a little bit more and don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

    I’m just starting to shoot on RAW and learning my way around. I think it will help me to understand my own photography a lot better.

    • Yes it’s funny how opinions change with time.
      RAW is the way to go! Hope you enjoy the process and don’t hesitate to ask any questions if needed :)

  • I’m with you! Post processing is integral part of photography. Those who say using PS is cheating are naive or maybe they just act in hope to be branded as ‘true photographers’. PS is modern day darkroom. Yes, it can be overused and this is what I believe advertising industry does), but if used in a smart way it can only add to the photo.

    • Thanks Magda!
      I agree, there is of course a limit in post processing. When the image ends up looking much more different than the original scene, well it’s not photography anymore: It’s photomanipulation, or digital art.

  • For lack of a more eloquent way to put this, WHOOMP THERE IT IS!

    This line was amazingly powerful: “Photography is not about playing with the settings on your camera, it’s not about copying the world.” Many people think sheer memorization = intelligence, versus applying knowledge. I bet the same folks believe playing with the image without finishing the process of photography, the darkroom, means that they are more creative. A mess.

    THANK YOU for this post. Hopefully it will put the darn nonsense to rest. Excellent writing, explanation and comparisons. Thank you for mentioning the truth about Ansel. He was a brilliant artist, not a Xerox machine copying nature.

    Just excellent post…best I have read in a bit.

    • Haha! Thanks a lot for the comment. You explained it well too. Processing is actually part of the creative process.
      And yes, few people know about Ansel Adam’s work. A great creative artist.


  • Great Post Daniel,

    I find myself getting into this argument all the time. We are not “lying” about our photos through editing, we are creating an image that we want to present. Photography is not only about developing a scene seen through the human eye, but one shot seen through the eye of human creativity.

  • Being purist is just cool. There will always be people who want to be cool. They use film cameras, they don’t process digital photos, they use old compact point-and shoot cameras because they produce shifted colors. I think soon there will be people who will love the noise of old DSL cameras.

    If they want to be cool you can not do anything to it. If they want to take good photos they will understand what they should process photos somehow. So I think it’s just a matter of time to convert them :)

    • Yes I think that’s also a big part of calling yourself a purist. It’s just a way to appear “different” from others, and probably better than others.

  • Brilliant post. I am a PROUD user of Lightroom and Photoshop. Why am I proud? Because I feel like a complete idiot for only discovering their value two years after I started photography. I always wonder why people claim that Photoshopping is cheating but then don’t feel the same way about HDR photography. Both are creative processes, intended to make the visual medium as good as it can be.

    • Thank you Akila :)
      Yes, everything can be used for your own creative process. In case of HDR, I know some people have the creativity of a party-dude having mushrooms. I like to keep it soft and not overdo it but to each their own process.

  • Thank you! I’ve been chiming in with my bits here and there on this subject because i see it popping up more and more. There is no PURE photography. That’s what I keep saying. Even if you shoot film and develop it yourself you are altering the film. Shake your developing canister a little too hard or a little too long – well you’ve changed the negative now. And yes, dodging and burning – so much easier w/ digital. Holy crap, I used to stand in the darkroom for HOURS on end with a little piece of nylon stretched over a paperclip wand i made to dodge just the way I wanted to. Although I still love the darkroom and I transferred to digital later in the game – the time saving aspect is HUGE! I agree most people that keep harping on this issue have NO clue what photography really is and they sure as shit don’t know how to edit. All they did was go out and buy a camera that took good photos for them. They don’t even know how to crop for the most part. Maybe we should also clue some people in that a pro shoots for 1 great photo out of a roll (meaning 36 frames). That’s the reality here. For the one great shot, you have no idea how many ones never even made it that far. If people really want to shoot like Ansel Adams they need to learn the zone system and how to become a master printer.

    Anyway, guess this has been on my mind for a while huh? I encourage all people to learn photography and work on their skills. I am just sick of hearing this purist argument from people who have no idea what they are really talking about.

    • Ha! Thanks a lot for your comment Bethany :)
      Yes I also agree that it takes many many shots just to get that one perfect photo. I use burst mode to capture as much as I can and spend hours looking in detail which one is sharpest and has the best composition (to avoid cropping too much). If Photography was just sticking a camera to your face a clicking a button, the world would have been full of pro-photographers!
      Oh, and did I ever mention that I hate people walking around with the latest cameras (they can afford it), shooting on Auto mode and claiming they don’t post-process because they are purists? They should be thrown in jail and their cameras given to me (especially if it’s a Canon 5D Mk II).

      • hahaha!! I laughed out loud at that one. The best part is you can always spot them a mile away. They drive me nuts too!!! And yes, I really need a new lens and i really have to work at not getting jealous when i see them w/ the $1700 lens that I need and they just screw around w/ it. I was in Oaxaca for day of the dead in 2009 and I got so aggravated because i came across this group showing off their cameras (which were all super high end) and they thought they were all so amazing. Took one look at my set up and basically disregarded me, which i found hysterical since i knew none of them could shoot their way out of a paper bag if they weren’t on auto. They just had the big bank accounts.

  • For me, I look at any post processing like I look at make-up. If you look at someone and think “Wow! Look at all that make-up!”, they probably overdid it a bit. If you look at someone with make-up and think “that person is really pretty”, then they’ve done a good job of it.

    • Nice way to see it Kyle. When you look at an HDR photo you think: “Wow, she’s on mushrooms”? ;)

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  • I absolutely agree. I’m not interested in simply being a recorder of reality…I want to make the best most striking image possible that stimulates the senses and reaches the viewer – more than what one can “see” but what one can “feel”…ignoring any tool that’s available to do so (such as post-processing) is just utter nonsense. I like Kyle’s makeup analogy too…I want my pictures to be “pretty” ;-)

  • bill

    I like the straight out of the camera image better than the manipulated one, at the top of the article. An example of how almost always the strength of a photo gets weakened by cheap easy and accessible computer manipulations, It doesn’t take any effort or real artistic merit to manipulate images digitally.

    Thats why everyone and anyone does it, my mum, brother, girlfriend etc etc.

    sometimes I think we should let our cameras have more say, but instead we bring the image back into the computer and starting thinking….. oh a pink sky might look good, and maybe shit loads of contrast will make this otherwise boring photo a little bit jazzy.

    The accessibility of technology does not mean better photography but rather more people making bad photography.

    actual image processing from raw to output and printing aside, I feel digital manipulation of photography is a very dangerous and treacherous process., in regards to the “art form”


    • Well, I appreciate your opinion, even though I don’t agree with it.

      According to your opinion, Master Photographers like Ansel Adams or Steve McCurry etc.. are also scam artists? They spent hours in the darkroom processing images.
      Ansel Adams’ photos were not so “contrasty” and dramatic when they got out of the camera. Why would spending hours in a darkroom dodging and burning be different than spending hours in front of photoshop?

      • bill

        I don’t feel Ansel Adams, Steve McCurry are scam artists, but rather the opposite, they are absolutely true artists but I suppose part of my point was to outline that there is a difference between the darkroom and the digital darkroom.

        Digital manipulation is much easier. Sure we can “Dodge and Burn” in the digital darkroom which is just a way of making the digital lovers feel better. However it doesn’t require the same thought process, planning and artistic eye that it does if done photochemically. Think about it, if you were going to do some of the things that overlap digital darkrooms and photochemical darkrooms in a photochemical way, you would give huge amounts of thought and planning to even the simplest contrast adjustment. Every time you adjust something it cost money, lots of time etc. In the digital darkroom you just move a slider or press a button for free.

        so part of my point is that it’s the thoughts and ideas behind things and the development of peoples artistic tastes and vision as a culture that gets weakened by digital manipulation.

        I do feel there is a lack of honesty and integrity in work that has been significantly digitally processed and altered.

        I am also very guilty of this


        • I understand what you mean. But this is the evolution of technology. We also used to spend a lot of money taking photos because of films as opposed to today with the digital era.
          We just have to accept to go with the flow, with evolution, or just refuse to get stuck in the “better-old-times”.

          Even though I agree that darkrooms were more sophisticated than photoshopping, I still believe that it’s not just about playing with a few sliders and adding contrast. With all the layers, the brush settings, the curves and all the different options, it’s still a sophisticated process to work on photos. You don’t get your hands dirty anymore and you don’t spend money on chemicals but it’s still as sophisticated as before.

          And it’s your art, you decide how to present it. We could argue on why Adams was publishing photos in B&W instead of showing the great colors of National Parks. B&W is easy!

          I don’t know if you went through my gallery but not all my photos are this heavily processed. This was an example just to illustrate my point. I don’t do pink skies all the time. I just choose to present a photo the way I envision it.

  • Stancia

    Photoshop is an amazing tool for altering reality, but it’s only really great when you’re aware of its effects. There are several tools existing to help people detect Photoshopped images. Of them site Photoshopped Image Killer offers the best result. Unlike other forensic analysis tool, analyzes image integrity in the content level, which is more accurate and reliable.

  • Absolutely agree with this. Why would you want an SOOC photo when it’s usually not what our eyes actually see. I use post processing to make the image closer to what the scene actually looked like in real life.

  • I agree with the sentiment that self-proclaimed purists are condescending. I recently got into a heated discussion online with some purists, to whom I asked the question of whether their kind of photography was discriminatory on the basis of financial standing. Because, I asked, what would be the essential difference of two photographs of exactly the same subject, specifically one with shallow focus – one image achieved through an expensive lens with a wide open aperture, and another achieved through Photoshop?

    I’m sorry for the late comment, I just recently discovered this site. Hope you don’t mind if I share the link to this article. Thanks!

  • Bob Drouin

    Why is an image shot in RAW ugly? If the idea of this art form is to produce images that capture an artist’s intent, and one comes out of the camera in RAW just right, why is it seriously ugly? An image is either successful or not, and its creator is the only one who knows for sure. Other opinions, particularly those based on the merits of the methodology reveal a sad lack of understanding of the purpose of the visual arts as a form of expression. When an image is right it’s right regardless of how it came into being. A RAW image is not ugly, but the opinion that a RAW image is ugly is ugly.

    • Thank you for your opinion Bob!

      To explain what I meant: A RAW image is as ugly as a negative image held up to the light. Negatives are unprocessed images, you can’t judge it from the film. You need to process it, burn, dodge, correct, crop, etc.. before getting a beautiful image.

      A RAW file is the same thing. It’s an unprocessed file that has to go through a “virtual darkroom” so that the photographer can work on it and reveal HIS vision.


  • Rose

    I think the meaning of a “purist photographer” has kind of become disconnected with it’s original meaning. Ansel Adams was a purist photographer, in that he was not a pictorialist photographer. A pictorialist like O.G. Rejlander on up to Henrich Kuhn took photographs and highly manipulated the appearance of them by using soft focus lenses or smear petroleum jelly on their lenses, scratching their prints, cutting and pasting negatives and prints, and of course burning and dodging, in order to make their photographs look more like paintings.

    In the late 19th century, people didn’t accept photography as an artform, and these pictorialist artist were trying to bring photography to the level of painting, which was considered a highly expressive artform.

    Then photographers like Edward Weston, Alfred Stieglitz and Ansel Adams tried taking photography in a different direction. Making it more like painting was not elevating it, so they began to use cameras just as they were supposed to be used, for taking images of “the thing itself.” Adams would take landscapes of the great American West and that was the one and only thing his photograph would depict. He would highly manipulate his images, using filters, and meticulous burning and dodging techniques. Like many of the comments above, it is like using photoshop as a darkroom. But he did not create fictional scenes from combination printing, or weird effects from special lenses that made a photograph look like an impressionist painting. Ansel Adams is the definition of purist photography.

    Today, mixed media has really blurred the lines of art, art has become more and more about re-appropriating old ideas, and creating art from multiple medium. In my mind, people of course are entitled to their opinions, but you can’t really say that how someone takes a photograph is right or wrong. The pictorialists and the purists of their day both made really cool stuff. Straight photographs can be really beautiful, I mean we’ve all seen an Ansel Adams, but heavily manipulated, fictional scenes are also really beautiful.

    These people that this forum speaks of, who say they are purists, really don’t know what they are talking about. Especially if they say they don’t believe in manipulating images, either in a darkroom or a digital software like photoshop. Because that is what the entire history of photography is about.

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  • Sílvia

    I know I am kind of ‘late’ to comment, but I just came across your page and I want to say that I totally agree with you.

    Yesterday I’ve posted something about my short experience as a teacher in this photography school who delievers 3-month courses of basic photography. I have bacherlor’s degree on Fine Arts so my aesthetic vision is kind of different from the ‘purists’ photographers. Having a bachelor’s degree isn’t something big, neither makes me cleaver or better than the others but it did help me developing my point of view about art in general. I started using photography as an artistic method to express myself since I always had problems on painting or drawing what was in my mind. I use photography mainly as a way of self-expression and I am not a purist. I don’t even name myself a photographer – that would be wrong to all of those who actually *are* and worked hard to be photographers.

    Since I’m from fine arts, I don’t follow photography’s rules that much. I’m self-taught and I know the basics (of course) but in the end I find the rules very limitative (as I found them in traditional art and we usually forget about those). I was hired because of my aesthetics but in the end that didn’t matter anymore because I was fired after giving my 1st classes. The students were pretty rude towards me and only cared for the main professor there, which made me feel somewhat bad. They only cared about rules and top-tech-gear – something that I found amusing since they were all hobbyists… Hey it’s ok to have a good camera and nice lenses, but Canon L lenses? 5D/1D cameras? I mean…you can do wonderful works with vintage manual cameras!

    That’s beyond the point, though. It’s refreshing to see someone who’s a photographer thinking that being purist is not an answer and actually giving the example of a painter. The true beauty in art, to me, is that we can mix whatever media we want because all is art. Is it not? For some oh-so-called purists photographers, it’s insane to think that a visual artist can use photography as a media or the other way around. One of the students actually told me he hated to ‘edit’ his photos and that he wanted to make them as perfect as they can be when shooting.

    Well. What can we do, really.

    Thanks for your point of view! Was refreshing!

  • Chris Tan

    Truth be told, the camera NEVER captures the scenes we see to perfection anyway, so being a purist often means settling for something which isn’t like what the photographer saw in the first place.  Try any scene shoot where there is a wide dynamic range and you will instantly see how much even a good SLR is losing sans post-processing software.
    Go ahead and take snapshots without post-processing, but Lightroom is seriously needed for great photos.

    • Purist to the limits of the tools used. This is why the custom lenses of years past were so important to the scene a photographer would take. A custom lens hand selected by the photographer to serve his purpose. Now it’s chinese ground glass conforming to ISO standard which produces the sameness in billions of computer assited focus color corrected digital images. they are not photographs. A computer will destroy the light in the background (flaring, over contrast) to push / pull the light in the foreground out of wack and ruin the balance in a picture. You leave alot out of your rhetoric and by the way it is called a ‘dark room’ not a light room.

  • Ted Luna

    Fear, is the only shackle that binds us to tradition and keeps us from free experimentation and unrestrained creative expression!

  • Just stumbled upon this forum.

    Everyone who’s after a quality shot needs to do darkroom
    work, traditional or digital. And even a proud purist has the right to produce
    a quality shot. Plan, set up and take your shot, then do your darkroom work to
    make it look natural and you can still call yourself a purist. But don’t call
    yourself a purist if you alter your shots beyond recognition by overdoing,
    retouching, adding or removing stuff. Let’s give the purist some room and some
    credit. And dear purist, don’t call non-purists ‘cheaters’. – This is written
    by a bloke who’s been improving and altering images by any means possible for
    the last forty years, using long gone as well as the latest technic and

  • When you wrote, “Photography is about the vision of the person behind the viewfinder, combined with his aesthetic sense.”

    I ABSOLUTELY agree. I was actually having a discussion about this topic recently. The point was discussed that editing photos is like editing a piece of writing. You create something and then edit it to make it better based on your vision and aesthetic sense.

  • Thru the eyes of Ausar

    Bla, bla,bla like art it does not matter. Digital film, hell pinhole, take the photogragh and let the world appreciate your vision.

  • Thru the eyes of Ausar

    my vision is your vision

  • boofunking

    Sorry I have to disagree, no matter how far someone processes a photo it is still photography. We may not like the outcome but it is still photography. There are plenty of examples of multiple exposure or combining images even in film photography. Just my two cents.

  • boofunking

    RAW files are ugly because a raw file is un-viewable. When you view a RAW file you are looking at the RAW data manipulated by the photo software. LR uses profiles and the RAW file will look differently depending on which profile you use. This is true of all RAW viewing software, there is no such thing as a RAW picture without processing the raw data.

  • noods

    Depends on the definition of purist….Mine is one who tries to capture the scene as his eye sees it…and uses all the possible tools of the trade..pre and post processing…to insure that the picture remains as as true and as pure as the picture in the photographers mind….

    • Ctinas

      This is my exact thoughts.

  • Damoon

    A very interesting read. Whilst I am just a dude with a camera, not a pro like you, it kinda reminded me of the music recording arguments that have been going on for years (an area I am a pro in haha). Digital is cheating, effects are cheating, VST’s are cheating and so on. I think the purist is just slow to change and unable/unwilling to learn how to use new and often better tools.

    The biggest advantage the digital darkroom and the digital recording world have over the old techniques is, everything can be undone. In a darkroom, once you commit to modifications of any sort, thats it, you have to live with that. Same with cuttings in old film editing, once you did it, it was done and you couldnt go back. Digital world allows more play.

    Plus photos are trying to replicate the view, photography is about adding an emotion and idea to a scene. Its all gravy in the end.

    • Thanks for your input :) It’s a nice comparison and so true.
      Art is subjective. What’s the point of creating art if it’s to emulate the exact same thing scene/sound?

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  • JP

    If purism in photography isn’t adequately defined, I would suggest it refers to the rejection of the intentional manipulation of an image after the shot is taken regardless of pre-shot adjustment. I just want to clarify there is nothing wrong with following this definition of “purist” and I think this is what most self-professed purists actually mean by purism. It’s obvious that there is no such thing as purism in photography at all, as it wouldn’t be photography if it’s truly pure – it would just be, as some may have mentioned, looking at the scene.

    Regardless whether or not you are knowledgeable about the art of photography purism is as valid as any other practice. Those who claim purists are just inflating their ego are guilty of the same by looking down on them and calling their own methods “better” or “superior” just because it’s industry standard or widely accepted. Technology and the industry are always changing, so nothing is ever superior.

    I’m more curious as to which has the bigger ego – the ones who claim they know “better” or the purists they always complain about? Perhaps we’re all in the same boat and none of us are right?

    I barely know a thing about taking “quality” photos, much less the technical workings of lenses and camera settings. I do know that if art is subjective then what purists or professionals think about each other’s methods or work is irrelevant. I’m no purist nor a “professional”. I just take pictures.

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  • AZ ATV photographer

    To demean the “other” type (whichever that is) is elitist and shows an incalculable intolerance for the preferences of other photographers. Why can’t we just enjoy the best of all types of photographs.

  • BlackflyCanada

    Hey, I see this discussion is a bit old, but after reading your blog I think I need to comment, as I wouldn’t say I look down on photo editing, but I don’t think photo editing and photography are the same thing.

    Editing and manipulating in my honest opinion is less photography and more graphical art lets say.

    Photography is an art, and graphical design is also an art. Art is subjective, but to say hey, I’m a photographer, and I took this wonderful image is kinda a lie if you went into photoshop and blended three or four images of lightning into one shot…

    Yes you photographed the lightning, but you didn’t photograph that final shot, you edited it, you created it. Is it cheating? no, it’s just not photography per say. Photography requires, patients, thought, effort, time, skill, practice, understanding, and so does editing and graphical art, but in very different ways. Neither, is better or worse, just different, so am I a purist like you say, maybe, I dunno. I when I photograph try to capture the world, or moment as I see it, or want to show it using my camera.

    Now this is gonna shock you, but I do use Photoshop, but most of the time, to correct an error I made while trying to shoot, exposure, zoom. I don’t feel the need to change the image into something I want, the image is what it is, I already captured what I wanted to show, but mistakes happen. Photo editing is a great tool to save a photograph, that might otherwise have been ruined because you’re settings were a little off, or your equipment isn’t so great in low light.

    I think photography should be of something real, that really happened, or to capture the beauty or feeling of a person, place or object. Anything more than that, and it’s different, it’s closer to painting perhaps. Painting comes from the minds eye, and when you’re photoshoping an image you manipulate it in a new way, other than what was originally captured, you’re no longer working with a photograph, but a canvas, and an idea from your minds eye. Once again though I reiterate, neither is better or worse, looked down upon, or superior, but different.

    I’ve seen alot, and I mean alot of great images. taken and edited by very very talented people, and I’ve seen alot of images that say they photographed this spider, but as soon as you look at the image, you know the color saturation, or post processing is so harsh, that there is no way it could be really like that. and the regular shot of the real spider, is less appreciated because the color just isn’t as bright, or, maybe the image has a little noise, isn’t as smooth… All those things bring a great image down, because a “Purist” as you say didn’t want to “edit” his image. So that’s my rant
    and I hope I didn’t offend you. Anyways, enjoy.


    P.S. One doesn’t “Need” to edit a photo. A good shot is a good shot regardless of editing. If it tells a story, invokes a feeling, or just looks good, it’s a good photo, no photoshop required.

    • Hey,
      Thanks for your input and no offense taken :)
      I definitely understand your point but don’t really agree that editing is less photography and more graphic art. It depends on the editing of course. I barely “manipulate” my images (as in add or remove objects), except small things like spots, wires, plastic bags/cans. Most of the edits are done just to improve colors, contrast, remove color casts, etc.. This is due to the limitations of our cameras. They can’t see what our eyes see.
      But again, photography is art, and everyone’s free to do whatever they feel like doing, as long as it makes them happy :)

  • Hockeyogre

    I agree with the essay above. I run into this all the time. The comments about the in-camera processing are spot on, particularly jpeg. Most people fail to understand that the overwhelming majority of pictures they see have been edited. Great that you mentioned Ansel Adams. All film photographers had their set ways, and tricks for producing prints from negatives. Most digital processing is just a copy of darkroom procedures. In the end the vision of the photographer has to prevail. If someone is happy with what comes out of the camera, thats fine for them. I have shown people many of my photos. They have no idea that I have done any editing (even though it may have been hours of work) unless I show them the original, which for me, is always a raw image. Unless it is a journalistic picture, which have strict standards and restrictions on processing, the picture is what the photographer wants it to be. Given that I shoot exclusively in raw, I always have to post process. I use Aperture, and now switching back to Lightroom, as well as Nik software and OnOne software plugins. Each seems to excel at one aspect or another of post processing.

    • The majority of photos most people observe in the past 10 years have been edited for the purpose of hyping a product and seen on a computer screen. That’s different than photos hanging in a gallery on display from real film on real paper which this article ignores. It panders to iphone photo snappers.

  • I agree. LP+PS until you break it :) :)

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  • Sounds like this photographer who wrote this uses photoshop liberally. So now throw out all useful technical and practical information about lenes, film speeds, shutter speeds, f stops and say ‘it’s my vision’. Now it’s the vision manipulated by a computer program to fit a surrealistic fantasy. I use manual mode much of my time taking pictures with modern digital slr cameras. That’s really as far as I go in letting the technology do it for me. The rest is as already mentioned about composition , asthetics that are contained IN the scene, not added as an effect later in the digital world. So that is important still to some. The title of this is rude and ignorant of the depth of photography. Being a purist is the furthest thing from nonsense and from my collection of facts about photographers in the field that make money and sell their photos as art, they are purists in every sense of the word. No they are not wedding photographers. So the market dicates that film is out of reach… try those same things in a darkroom you people are blanketing over the techniques used to manipulate today on computer. The darkroom, while photoshop is modelled off of it, is an art into itself and is almost separate to photography. So to be skilled at both manual photography (no computer assist) using film and using a real dark room is not to be dismissed. Only an ignorant person would do so.

    • Stu T.R.

      I’ve used a darkroom so I’ll chime in. I feel like you may be swayed by the romanticism. I’m personally concerned with the results. To me, photography isn’t a game of balancing a spoon on my nose. If technology like autofocus, optical image stabilization, and liveview can provide me greater oppurtunity to capture my desired photo, then I’m happy to have these features. If you want to make photography difficult for yourself, feel free to limit your equipment to Civil War supplies and go wild. I don’t like to arbitrarily confine myself though.

      The whole film vs digital thing is a matter of creative choice but if you are to say film is better, that goes too far for me. Film is a collection of chemicals; it’s not inherently magical. Sure, I’m not into ultra surrealistic HDR “enchanced” photos but it’s a matter of taste. At the same time, I find the excessive use of black and white photos to be tacky as well but that’s just me. When someone gets so wound up in their own pretentions, they can lose sight of photography altogether. While I have no issue in expressing my thoughts, I’m not going to dictate how other people must go about their photography.

  • Good words Bill I share your sentiment. I ask people what settings they use on their expensive cameras they tote around and they look at me with confusion or ignore me. They use automatic modes. I have to teach them how depth of field affects their particular lens. That’s really a shame. I too am into the idea of getting the scene effects as raw as I can with the most basic settings on a camera. LIke many I transitioned from Film ( canon A1) to a Sony SLR and I have never touched anything but manual mode on the Sony. It’s just easier once you know the fundamentals, and this article panders to those who do not know the fundamentals and to know the camera stripped down will help those translate the scene without use of software later. Again , a real shame and the title is a massive insult to intelligence. As well, I know some excellent photographers who make money being ‘purist’. The non ‘purists’ post their redunant photos at nauseum like a waterfall flows on facebook. Ironically facebook knows more about the settings they used than they do.

  • The person who wrote this article is dismissive to the real stars of photography to make the armchair photographers comfy in their ignorance.

  • Digital approximations of a scene are not photographs. Photograph is a chemical process on film which is then transferred to other medium. Lots wrong with this article and faulty logic/rhetoric.

  • Marlonius

    Late comment…
    Your definition of purist is different than mine. I agree 100% with you though, it’s well put.
    Few years down the line, after this article was written, and 500px is now a prime example of this very hogwash.

    Glad to see you’re still around! Keep it up

  • Still a great article after 6 years. What matters is what you see and what you want the people to see too.