What’s ‘real’ photography?

If one were to compare, it can be argued that this question parallels the “Chicken first or egg” argument. What is real photography? Opinion is pretty evenly divided. One camp, who call themselves ‘purists’ say it is what the camera captures. The other camp argues it is what the photographer visualizes and creates. This includes post-processing (aka ‘photoshopping’) and any other techniques. Darkroom processes and techniques have existed since photography became mainstream and photographers have used these to improve their photos or even alter them.

I lean towards the second group. Photography by itself is a tool-based art. So why should addition of more tools make it any worse? Moreover, I agree with the thought that a photograph is finally a photographer’s vision and not what the camera captures. That is the difference between point-and-shoot photographers and those who use more equipment, techniques and tools to capture their image. Already, we’re going in circles!

A bigger thought that I still don’t have an answer to yet is what constitutes a good photo? Forget the theoretical definitions of perfect composition, etc. The question is for any photograph. What in the photo can deem it to be good?

Admittedly, it is easy these days to just aim and shoot. The better the camera, the better the result. In case of people photography, make-up, hair, clothes and other embellishments that are part of the photo always take precedence. So what is a good photo? Is it being able to communicate the original thought irrespective of the embellishments? The way photojournalism aims to? Or is just taking a pretty picture and letting the viewer make his choice?

Lots of questions there. Here’s what I think:

– Like a good song, a good photo is whatever pleases the viewer. Highly subjective, even trying to define this is stupidity.

– A photographer should make maximum use of all tools available to him/her to get the image they originally wanted. So long as the photographer is honest in telling the viewer that the photo has been altered, it should be acceptable.

– A photograph is the photographer’s to create and the viewer’s to accept or reject based on the final offering. Tools and means should not matter to them.

But to the viewer, what is a good photo?