Your Photography is What You Make of it

Today’s Rant 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 that it means that 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 think that the process of making photographs extends far beyond merely clicking the shutter release button and what you see, contrary to what Flip Wilson 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 get involved in the process, it seems to set some purists hair on fire. I know this because they have told me. One of my automotive images, that’s featured on the splash page of this website and one that I always jokingly say is from my LeRoy Neiman period, has generated some interesting comments from this blog’s readers.

One reader wrote that, “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 that 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. I can tell you this, the bull’s owner was not amused because the photograph devalued the value of this particular animal.

Then there was a comment that “Photoshopped images are drawings, not photographs.” After all these years of not 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 make. But it fits the basic premise of all the different kinds of photography, including portraiture, that I enjoy doing and this is the same as the philosophy of this blog: 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 $21.88 or used copies for giveaway prices—less than three bucks—from Amazon, as I write this. The Kindle version, for some reason, is expensive.