256 (50?) Shades of Gray (Grey?)

The question “What is permissible post-processing?” has no clear black & white answer. More like lots of shades of gray.

Gray vs. Grey = American vs British respectively

(Gray is used in technical color standards, e.g. photography and internet browsers)

256 = Number of shades of gray (including B&W) with digital cameras

(50 – well, that’s the book/movie)

The best way to answer the question “What is permissible post-processing?” is to begin by answering this question:

What is the purpose of making the image (i.e., what is its intended use)? Common answers are:

  1. Personal use & sharing
  2. Documentation
  3. Competition
  4. Publication

Typically, different post-processing rules apply to each category:

For example, there are no rules for category #1 – anything goes. Some of the most exacting standards apply to photojournalism (a sub-category of #2).

A final note – these four categories aren’t mutually exclusive. Further, their order follows the expected level of photographic quality and expertise – especially during the image capture phase:

For example, the quality of an image intended for print-media publication (book, magazine, etc.) is expected to be higher than one destined for the family photo album or Instagram.

2015-02-20_9-46-12            2015-02-20_9-48-35

Image on left was disqualified by World Press Photo for an ethics violation (3rd place Sports Features, 2010 contest; captured image is at right)

You will never guess why (read the next post for the reason)

The next post will discuss the various post-processing shades of gray commonly (or arguably) associated with the above categories. The message of today’s post is:

  1. What is and isn’t appropriate post-processing depends on the intended use of the image and not the subject matter or genre
    • An image of the Eiffel Tower might be captured for any of the four categories. Each is subject to different post-processing expectations (also different standards of capture quality)

Subscribe and don’t miss anything. New posts regularly.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.