Photography as Design
By: Jessica Ellerbrock

In a world of visual information, people are constantly fed images that challenge your ability to determine what is real and what is fake. Photographs are manipulated and advertised as truth, but would they stand the test if you knew how to differentiate between reality and false information, information that has been masked to show you what they want? What if you knew the art behind creating, the means to create fake visuals as a form of art? Would you push away from that form of art or embrace it?

Photography has been used to create visually appealing artwork all over the world for years; it is a form of art that has been recognized by millions of people for centuries. But with the incorporation of technology, this purist form of art has been convoluted and muddied. Photographers have been utilizing editing programs and even creating images from nothing. But could this form of photo manipulation be considered its own form of art, its own form of visual communication?

Where do we draw the line between photography and photo manipulation? Who is to say when a photograph has been manipulated to the point that it is no longer a photograph? Being able to alter images slightly in programs such as Photoshop, Lightroom, Final Cut Pro or other editing software can allow more freedom for a photographer to create that perfect shot; whether it is taking out a blemish or an entire object. These programs can make alterations simple and make a world of a difference within a composition, which otherwise might look less than perfect.

There are also purist photographers who believe RAW (high quality image format from the camera to an SD card) photography is the best photography and that any manipulation is contaminating the work. Other photographers only release a photograph that has had extensive editing work and layering done in post process. This technique takes more work than just using photographs directly out of the camera (RAW files). Some could say that it takes a more dedicated photographer to go through the effort of setting up many shots during a photoshoot and then layering and masking them in editing software to create that beautiful photograph.

Being a photographer myself, I do not undergo these layering techniques but find them impressive due to the amount of work that is involved in creating these photographs and the look the final piece has. It can take more skill behind the camera when a photographer does not edit the RAW images because then they must make sure the image looks perfect out of the camera instead of relying on editing software to make it perfect. Where is the line between these two forms of photography; or should both be considered their own forms of art / technique?

In some instances, photography could be considered a form of design because as the photographer you are literally designing the canvas and the frame in which your subject appears. You are creating a moment in time that will be frozen forever. Photographs are the artists’ canvas; the artist ultimately decides what is best for the work, whether it is photo manipulation or using the RAW images. There is no right or wrong answer to this; all artists, even digital, have their own methods in which they create a work.

With the exception of newspaper journalists or others whose sole purpose is to capture truth, there is no line. Both works start with a photographic image. Both have the purpose of providing visual entertainment; both are artistic expression. To deny the photographer every means possible to achieve that artistic expression would be like denying a writer the use of a thesaurus.

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