A photographer working in news, whether a still or video photographer, is limited in what he can do to his photo. The finished product should be a documentary representation of what was in front of the lens. The use of Photoshop and its pretenders is limited.
National Geographic got caught moving the pyramids closer together a few years ago. Obviously a no-no.
Other guidelines aren’t quite as easy because cameras and humans see differently! Your eyes can catch the detail in brighter whites and darker darks simultaneously than your digital camera can.
Some day that will surely change. Not yet.
As a practical matter a properly exposed skyline will often have a blown out sky–whiter than its actual color and devoid of detail. If you take outdoor snapshots you’ve probably experienced the same thing where a sunny day is captured as bright gray.
Darks suffer a similar fate. Stands of trees or the detailed steelwork of the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge are lost in a blob of black.
A newspaper shooter is stuck. I am not! I take advantage of science and readily admit my finished photos often look better than real life and always look better than what came directly from the camera.
The Verazzano-Narrows shot (above) is a perfect example. I shot this bridge a bunch of times as our ship approached. No single image exposed everything properly. On top of that, I was on a moving ship so my perspective was constantly changing. I couldn’t use multiple shots differently exposed because each shot would ‘see’ differently.
I needed everything the camera’s sensors saw and got just that by using RAW files. Instead of compressing my image to a jpg (as most cameras do) my RAW file was saved just as it was sensed on the camera’s chip. The file was much larger, but it retained lots of detail–even if that detail couldn’t always be seen.
I brought the file into Photoshop and began selecting sections. I isolated certain shades of blue. I isolated areas where the luminance (brightness) was low. Now I could manipulate those sections without affecting the rest of the shot.
I brought up the bridge’s levels until the intricacy of the girders could be seen. Then I went back and deepened the sky color making it richer and giving the whole picture more contrast.
None of this would ever be done by a news photographer. It’s ethical poison. For my non-news artsy shots it doesn’t matter… at least it doesn’t matter to me!
It does make a difference in the final result. I think the finished shot is more pleasing and more like what I saw as we sailed under the bridge.
If I tried to pass this off in a newspaper or magazine they’d fire me.