I’m in Bar Harbor, Maine on vacation and took a stroll into some “art” shops featuring photographic prints. I was struck by the extreme over use of Photoshop and so called enhancement filters. I am fascinated by the idea that nature needs enhancement. Don’t get me wrong – most cameras certainly need help with dynamic range and color balancing an image. But for me, the idea is to make the photograph look natural unless you are going for a purposefully abstract modified look. In most cases, I believe the photoshop user is seeking to make the picture “much more better”. Make the reds redder and the yellows as bright as possible! Sharpen those edges and make that picture pop off the paper! Really? Have we removed the word “nuance” from our vocabulary? We’ve gone from crafting the moment of image capture to crapping up any old image in the computer. Pile on those filters! If +10 looks good, +20 certainly must be better, right?
It doesn’t look better, it looks different. It is a stylized imaged that has novelty, but no staying power because it is artificial. Once you’ve seen an effect – it loses its fascination in the same way the pet rock went out of fashion. Especially, when a style becomes overused it quickly goes out of fashion. Take instagram for example. Right now, it is all the rage. Wait a few months and people will tire of the old time look and want something “new and fresh”. When your goal is novelty, you will always be changing up to some new effect. But it isn’t novelty that makes a great image. Novelty only makes an image interesting for a short time. A great image tells a story, captures a moment and calls up a memory that evokes emotion.
In the case of a multi perspective image, in addition to calling up memories it can instill a memory or experience in a way that a regular image can’t. When we see space, we perceive the image in a different way. This is where effects become magnified in a way that is very interesting and reveals a lot about novelty and seeing things that capture our attention. I believe that a lot of motivation for adding effects to an image, comes from the fundamental lack of space that a single perspective has. Something [space] is missing so people are naturally compelled to add something to it. But an effect isn’t the solution. Adding realism, going for natural color and dynamic range – and adding a spatial component can breathe life into an image that isn’t artificial. A true to life image has the most staying power if its content and story say something.