If you use Facebook or Instagram, you have likely come across many photos with the hashtag #nofilter on it. I believe people do it to be able to say: "look, I was able to take a picture that I think looks great without editing it." It implies that editing means "cheating". But is it?
I recently had a few conversations about slight variations of this topic. In general, the validity of a good photo gets questioned once it gets edited. My wife mentioned recently: "I noticed a few of my Facebook friends have been posting #nofilter photos. Don't you want to do the same?"
My answer to that question was NO. Below I'll give you 5 reasons why this doesn't matter and why I feel strongly about good editing.
1 - Whenever you take a picture with your smartphone, it gets automatically edited.
You might not know that the JPEG image you get from your camera phone goes through a series of software corrections before you see it. To compensate for small and limited hardware, the image needs to be corrected for distortion, noise needs to be removed, colors get tweaked, etc.. When HDR is turned on, your phone takes 2 (or 3) pictures and blend them all to achieve a better exposure across the frame. All these changes are done automatically to make your photo look good, so what's the harm in trying to control some of it?
2 - Our eyes see much better than any camera.
Our eyes are constantly adapting to a specific scene, so our perception of reality is much richer than what is captured by a camera by default. In many cases, photos that WOW you are the ones that get edited to mimic how we actually see. Learn more about it on this fascinating article from Cambridge in Colour.
3 - Photo Editing | Manipulation pre-dates the computer era.
Editing is not a new thing. It has just been made easier over the years. Film photographers did it in their labs. Black and white used to the be the only option before color films, but it is still used for artistic expression. Leica has a camera that only shoots Black and White. Physical lens filters have been used for many years.
4 - Post-processing is just one of the many steps
A photo will always be the photographer's interpretation of something. Every decision (framing, cropping, exposure, etc..) affects the final result. Post-processing is just another decision that adds to the overall process.
5 - Art is in the eye of the beholder
Art can be defined in many different ways, but at the end of the day it is about communicating or triggering some sort of emotion, regardless of the means used to achieve it. When you see a beautiful sculpture, do you think about the tools used in the process?
I'm not saying that every photo should be edited. If you don't know what you are doing you might make a photograph worse just by adding a random filter to it. Also, the more you can do to understand light and exposure, less time editing will be needed to achieve your final desired result. Took a photo that you think needs no additional editing? Excellent. No need to say #nofilter. Why not try #art?
Brazilian, proud husband and father, photo geek, Beatlemaniac. Living in Dublin, Ireland. Leading Squarespace in EMEA.