Your Photography is What You Make of it

by | Jun 30, 2020

Thoughts for today by Joe Farace

“Llamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.”—from old Andean folk song

There’s an old Latin saying that, “Life isn’t given to anyone but just given on loan to everyone.” When this thinking is applied to my own photography I think it means I should be spending my time making the kind of images that I like. And believe me, at this point in my life, that’s what I try to do.

I also believe that the process of making photographs extends far beyond merely clicking the shutter release button and “what you see,” contrary to what Flip Wilson once said, “is not always what you get.” Manipulating images, for example, has been a part of the photographic process since Julia Margaret Cameron got her first camera, yet when computers got involved in the process, it seems to have set some purists hair on fire. I know that because some of them have told me about it. One of my motorsports images and one that I always jokingly say is from my LeRoy Neiman period, generated some interesting comments from this blog’s readers.

How I made this shot: I call this image, “Sin City Caddy” and it was influenced by Robert Rodriguez’s movies not the comic books, of which I have only one copy from the series. The image was made during Cruise Night on Escondido, California and I shot it with a Canon EOS 50D with a EF28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens (at 28mm.) The horribly underexposed image was tweaked using this technique, something I typically use for portraits and then Dfine was used to somewhat tame the noise. Original exposure was 1/6 sec at f/3.5 and ISO 1600. After correcting for underexposure, I tweaked color balance using PictoColor Portrait, then I applied Photoshop’s Motion Blur effect to a new layer. I selectively erased portions of the Motion Blur layer before flattening the layers and applying the Beach Bypass filter from Color Efex Pro for the final Sin City touch. Is it a photograph? I think so but what do I know…

About that Ferrari F1 image, one reader wrote, “Once you change an image it ceases to be a photograph, even if all you do is sharpen it.” I thought that was a bit strong until I read, “Resorting to Photoshop tricks just means you’re not a good enough photographer to actually capture the image.” Ouch, that one hurt but I especially enjoyed, “Let’s say you take a photograph and manipulate it in some software program. If the end result is 50% photograph and 50% manipulation, you are only half the photographer you think you are.”

One photojournalism fan put it this way, “Putting anything new in a photograph makes it an illustration. Taking objectionable items out does not debase its basic photographic nature.” So let me get this straight: Removing a telephone pole, I assume, is OK but what about the case of a 1970’s Denver Post photo editor who airbrushed a prize-winning bull’s photograph to hide its cojonés because he was offended, I guess. I can tell you this, the bull’s owner was not amused because the photograph diminished the value of this particular animal.

Then there was a comment that “Photoshopped images are drawings, not photographs.” After all these years of not even being able to draw stick figures, I can finally draw! Mom would have been so proud. Finally, there was this statement that I sorta agree with, “Why don’t we just call it all Art or at least artful.”

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for even a little while, you know that the kind and style of today’s featured image is not the kind of photograph, or illustration of you prefer, that I typically like to make. But it fits the basic premise of all the different kinds of photography that I enjoy doing and this is the same as this blog’s philosophy of Have fun with your photography.

If you enjoyed today’s blog post and would like to treat me to a cup of Earl Grey tea ($2.50), please click here. And if you do, thanks so much.


Along with photographer Barry Staver, Joe is co-author of Better Available Light Digital Photography that’s out-of-print but new copies are available for $21.87 or used copies for giveaway prices—around seven bucks—from Amazon, as I write this. The Kindle version, for some reason, is expensive.