I've been quietly observing a trend in the photography world lately, where images are becoming more and more over-processed, over-saturated, and over-sharpened. The web world has taken kindly to the trend, so I thought that maybe a well-worshiped internet photographer [nameless for the sake of professionalism] was right when he told me [publicly on his blog in front of several million people] that I would never make it as a successful professional photographer and photojournalist because I don't over-process my work.
Admittedly, as a journalist, I have to follow certain rules about photography. However, I also shoot portraits, and I like pretty places as much as anyone else. I do use Photoshop on both my portraits and my memory-keeper landscapes I take. I've just never got too much into adjusting saturation because I think it looks fake, and I don't like the hues that sometimes come in accidentally when images are corrected heavily afterward.
Outdoor Photographer recently published an article by Tom Till, a nature and wildlife photographer, who decidedly came to a realization that he was over-processing, after receiving a harsh note from a friend.
The other day, I went on a little escape, a day off from the city, and wandered out into the California desert. I ended up at Bombay Beach for a sunset of a lifetime, and of course the moment was ruined by an arrogant photojournalist (or at least that's what he claimed to be.)
He was there with some friends, capturing the sunset. There were Jesus Clouds, angels were singing, and the magic was in the air. His friend set up a camera next to me, and started bracketing images.
Naturally I asked, "Are you bracketing for HDR or simply just to get different exposures?"
The arrogant guy (who had the most gear, about four filters on the front of his camera, and a shirt that said [brkt]) said defensively, "That's what you're supposed to do in light like this."
I explained that I was just making conversation and not interested in a debate about photography workflow. He asked me why I wasn't bracketing, and I explained that I'm a journalist and don't really use things like that much. I explained that I generally don't really care for the look much either, as Photomatix seems to put more grays and silvers into color scenes. I also told him it was a free country and he could shoot however he wanted.
And the sunset was ruined with his arrogance. "Well just so you know," he said, "I was a professional photojournalist."
I asked him who he did photojournalism for, and he said, "Everyone. Every publication in California, and some international ones."
Knowing that the San Diego Union Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and many others don't accept images that look processed, I asked him why he stopped, and he said, "It didn't pay well enough."
His friends were condescending, asking me about how to shoot RAW images. They asked me what I had shot that day, and I told them I was just out shooting abandonment, Slab City, and some other stuff for an assignment. Then the arrogant guy wanted me to tell him where all my secret spots were. He was offended when I told him I wanted to keep them secrets.
He wouldn't tell me his name. I wasn't going to publish his name, but I wish I had it so I could see the image he made. I'm just curious if it is as awesome as he claimed it would be.