Fake art

by Jon Sullivan - 2023-02-13 - Photography

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"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." - Pablo Picasso

I love taking photographs. I love the places the hobby takes me. I love how it forces me to look at everything over and over to try and pull a compelling composition out of it. I love how it gives me a formalized way to see the beauty in everything. Maybe not always beauty. But certainly always something worthy and essential. I equally love the post process where I get the images into Lightroom and filter out the good ones and then apply edits to make it something more creative. Usually the photos I post here are wildly different than what the camera captures. Which is the main reason I need to carry around a ton of camera gear in a time when cell phones take great photos. All the extra data from big camera + big lens gives me more room to apply several layers of edits without the result looking like crap.

The problem is that I lack confidence that my edits don't result in something silly. Today's photo is a good example. It's actually a composite stack of four images shot at different exposures. I stack them by selecting the best light level for each part - Sun exposed less, foreground exposed more. Then I'll tweak the shadows to bring them out more. Play with the hues in the sky. Add some vignettes to focus attention. Add more contrast and drama. It ends up being more like what you'd see in your mind if you were there. Even though it's largely fake. And at the end of the process I've spent 30 minutes tweaking things over and over, to the point where I lose perspective on whether I'm making things better or worse.

Does the photo look good? I honestly don't know. It's obviously not realistic, but what would that even be since people typically don't stare in the sun. And the longer exposure time blurs the wave motion a bit. Is that more realistic or less? Does the normalized exposure make it look better or is it just distracting? I can't tell. People say the photos are great. But I sort of need a deeper critique.

I'll join a photo club. Maybe submit to some competitions.

But of course I like feedback from folks here. And my ravenous ego always likes people telling me my photos are good.

Beyond "is it good or not", there's always that voice in my head telling me I need to find a way to monetize all my photos too. But being a professional photographer comes with a lot of things I'd really like to avoid. Like doing portraits or wedding photos. Like having people say they want it different after it's done. Like marketing and support and accounting. Like it being something I have to do rather than something I want to do. Like it never bringing in enough money to make it worth the bother.

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