How the Photography Establishment is biased against Digital Artists

One of the things I want to do to further my growth as a photographer and artist is enter my work in competitions.   Being compared with your peers and gaining valuable feedback is something that could be a useful experience.

Except if you are a digital artist you are almost automatically disqualified from entering any artistic work.  Many of the photography competitions have no allowance for any creative work at all.  Of the few that do, the ones I have seen have a clause in the T&C which excludes digital artists  – “All elements of an image must be the original work of the artist”.

So that means I cannot use any textures, overlays or artistic elements that I may have legally purchased and have copyright to use.

I assume it is for copyright reasons. If I am wrong, I look forward to being enlightened – but if I am correct, as a reason for exclusion of digital artists, it is not only lazy, its verging on fraudulent.

“What grounds do you have for making this outlandish accusation?”  I hear you say!

Well if I was entering an image into a photography competition, I have to be able to provide a copy of the RAW image file on request, so they can compare it to the entered one and see if it meets their terms and conditions.  If you take photos of people you have to have a model release (and I do for the first image posted)

Nothing in the rules of any competition I have looked at the fine print for has ever stated the following:

  • You don’t have to prove *you* took the actual image – you just have to provide the original RAW file
  • That you must OWN the camera gear that you are using (I am taking it as a given that building your own camera is a bridge too far here)
  • Renting or borrowing camera equipment does not need to be disclosed
  • Use of presets or actions purchased from someone else (or found for free) does not need to be disclosed (if that level of editing is allowed)

I am a photographer and digital artist – not a texture artist.  I neither have the time or skill to make my own textures.  Similarly, photographers have access to acquire Lightroom Presets and PS Actions.  They are using someone else’s knowledge and skill to press one button and edit their image – they didn’t *do* everything to that image – they incorporated someone else’s work to generate the final outcome.

How is that different to purchasing a texture or overlay and doing the same thing?

If I can provide proof of purchase and copyright approval from the artist I acquired elements from, why should I not be allowed to enter an image that has my work and purchased elements in it?

I would be delighted to hear from anyone who does enter into digital art competitions – where you find them and do they have more latitude for use of creative elements?

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Why your SOOC image doesn’t impress me at all

In the last couple of months there has been a surge of images posted SOOC which means ‘straight out of the camera’.  It means that the image had not been edited in any way on the computer before it has been released into the wilds of cyberspace.

Having been seriously into photography and been online in a lot of photography places, I am somewhat puzzled by this sudden influx of SOOC images.  Mostly I wonder WHY?


Edited in Lightroom

Why do you want to release what are often flat, low contrast, uncropped, low saturation images?  Why would you be pleased for people to view them and judge your work accordingly?  Why do you think your camera is so amazing that there is no need for Photoshop or Lightroom or Gimp or Elements or One One or DXO or any of the many other image editing programs to exist?

What really makes me curious is this attitude or feeling in these posts.  That they are *proud* to announce their image is SOOC.  That they are almost challenging the establishment.


Edited in LR

OK I get the purist attitude.  Back when I was new to photography and didn’t know what my options were, I was a purist too.

Time and education taught me that post processing was a viable option, that you can edit your images and have them looking natural.

Mostly I was just delighted because for years I struggled with an inability to make my images look like how they should – either a lack of my skill or the technology meant they were never as crisp or as contrasty or as vibrant.




Quite simply I was uneducated in what image editing software could do.  And afraid that it would be too hard for me to learn.  After all it took years to learn to use my camera properly.  Surely the software would be hard too?

Yes it *was* hard to figure out.  Lightroom is not software you can sit down and figure it out without help.  Bought a book from Scott Kelby.  Went to workshops, watched YouTube videos.  Hired a guy to come in and spend a couple of hours teaching me the tips and tricks he knew.



Eventually got to a place where I knew enough to know that more education was needed.  This coincided with the release of LR5 and a vast improvement in the software skillset.  Buying some video tutorials that showed me the power of the radial tool and how to use the ND grad in LR transformed my whole outlook on what the software could really do.

So I don’t know if you genuinely have unrealistic ideas of what your camera can do – yes you can see amazing images in the National Geographic competitions where they allow only the most minimal of editing.  If you have the right subject, with great light, and a snappy composition or action scene, and you have the time (and the knowledge and experience) to set your camera up, yes you *can* take a really great image that may not needing any processing.

But the images being discussed here are usually from learners, people still figuring out how to drive their camera.  Still struggling with the concept of light and how to use it well, not quite figuring out composition etc.

So why would you waste an opportunity to improve your image with post processing?


Edited in LR

I am not sure if its fear of learning a new thing, if it is lack of time, or funding for the software/computer necessary?  Is it a lack of education in what post processing can do?

Personally I don’t really care, beyond the fact I think you are letting yourself down by insisting on SOOC.  What I would really like though, is for those who insist on SOOC as a choice, that they should be open and honest about why they are doing it.  For some people it may well be the best option for them for a variety of reasons and that is quite OK.  Just to be clear here, shooting in JPG and not editing your images is a valid choice – lots of sports photographers do it for speed of uploading images to clients.

However proudly announcing your image is SOOC in a photography forum filled with lots of photographers who are judging your work, and your choice not to post process – without knowing why you are choosing to go SOOC – yeah, not really sure of the point of that myself.

Claiming “I’m a purist” isn’t a reason, its a cop out.  Been there, done that :)

Be honest with yourself.  Be open to the possibility that editing images may have some benefits.  People like me who know stuff, are often happy to help and offer advice.  All you have to do is say … Help me please, I don’t know how to do this, can you give me some tips?

Tell me, lovely readers – do you commit the sin of editing?  Or are you pure in your photography worship?  Why?

Edited to add a link to a video (5 min) that explains this concept excellently


Edited in LR

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Pushing the boundaries – FALLEN

I am *supposed* to be writing my thesis (or going to the gym or cleaning the house etc).  But making a mess with more fake blood in my bathroom is so much more fun!

My original concept for this image didn’t work due to not enough space to perch comfortably.  So I adapted to suit the conditions, as any good photographer should and made do with what I could do.

Changes made from the previous shoot:

– put the remote in a plastic bag to keep it clean
– wet my hair for better effect
– made a runnier consistency fake blood
– put some of the blood in a squirt bottle to better apply it

This pose had a lot more flexibility, I could press the remote button with my chin so I could use both hands/arms.  I didn’t make enough blood and needed to decorate the set a bit more extensively but its hard to see behind you while keeping still to try not to smear what was already there.

It seems like a lot of blood when I was putting it on but not nearly enough when I look at the images now.  I liked the pose on this image a lot, and the way my hair is fanned out over my arm and shoulder.

I make images like this to evoke a response.  How do you feel when you see it?  Why?

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Touring Tasmania – Cradle Mountain Park

So I horrified you all into silence with my last post (thanks to those who did comment BTW, I do appreciate it)

From the sublime to the ridiculous – a knot of wood on a dead tree trunk in Cradle Mountain Park  – this is on the track you can walk from the Ranger Station up to Dove Lake – I did the middle section through the forest of dead trees which a lovely ranger lady told me was the prettiest bit to walk through with a camera.

It was a gorgeous sunny day and it was a lovely walk, even though I got bitten by an ant on my arm.  It stung for a couple of hours afterwards but no major damage.

Processed in LR inc BW conversion – click to view large version with more detail.

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Pushing the boundaries even further – Bête Noire

Click to Embiggen

This is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, I know that.  And that is quite OK.  You should know that the blood is fake, its a mixture of corn syrup, chocolate sauce and red gel colouring.  Very sticky!

I was researching on Pinterest for some image inspiration for a shoot I am planning for a friend and went down the rabbit hole of some goth or horror themed images, and I quite liked the concept.  Its yet another stage in my selfie experiment that is an ongoing project when I get time.

Having never made fake blood before, that was the first stage.  Found some useful links online and I had most of what I needed in my pantry.  Made up a small batch yesterday and let it sit for the colour to fully develop.  The red gel has a very blue tone I couldn’t quite get rid of, so I hoped to be able to deal with that in post.

Next was the shoot, its in my bathroom which is quite small.  Camera on tripod down really low for an intimate angle, setup with my shiny new wireless remote and the RRS L-plate that lets me use it.  Stripped down and in the bath with the bowl of blood, and a pastry brush.

My visual inspiration was images from Psycho – I had planned to use the shower curtain but didn’t want to risk staining it red.  Brooke Shaden does a lot of bath images, admittedly hers aren’t quite as dark as this and thats also where I got ideas from.

I titled this image Bête Noire – the definition of which is “An anathema; someone or something which is particularly disliked or avoided; an object of aversion, the bane of one’s existence”.

My reason for calling it that was I felt this image would get strong responses, possibly a lot of negative response.  Having never done or posted an image in this style, I am not sure.

Original image as edited in Lightroom – Kim Klassen preset was used

Why did I do it?  Right now I am in a place where I want to explore new horizons, stretch my boundaries and discover new things.  I consider my technical camera skills are quite capable for the images I have been creating.  However doing the Awake course, and Brooke’s 30 Days of Creativity has inspired me to new and different styles of images.

Because I am working full time, and near the end of 3 1/2 years of study and in my last 6 weeks of research and writing my thesis, I have limited time to allow to creative pursuits.  So what I can do at home, with the resources I have at had, right now, that is what I *can* do.

Plus….. its fun!  Its hard to be the model and the photographer.  Adds a whole new level of difficulty.  But it also gives me amazing freedom to push my boundaries and really grow as an artist.

I know this is a provocative and likely controversial image.  Tell me what you feel when you look at it? Really would love all the feedback, good and bad!

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Old Farm Hut and Trees in Te Anau

Click to embiggen

This was taken at dusk, the last spot of light reflecting off the window of the hut.  I liked the stark lines of the trees against the sky and hoped I might make an image of it.

First I processed it as a BW in Lightroom which was alright but nothing special.  It was a little dark and lacked contrast.

So I took it into PS and had a play with adding some textures.   I was liking the slight sepia tone and wanted to add more of an aged forgotten print feel to it so added some overlays that darkened up the edges and put some water marks on it.

I really liked how with a bit of playing you can take an OK image and make it into something more artistic with some careful additions of texture and blend modes.

What do you think – does the BW stand alone?  Is the textured one better?

Which one works for you?

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Touring Tasmania – Hobart from Mt Wellington

Click to Embiggen

Mt Wellington is a huge presence that towers over Hobart and you can drive a reasonable distance up it.  My last day in Hobart I was hoping for clear skies but there was a lot of patchy low hanging cloud instead.  Still I made the trip up in my tiny little rental car.

You drive up the bottom slopes which are covered in residential housing and you keep going up and up and then there is a sign saying Mt Wellington Lookout 12 km.

That 12 km was the scariest, most hair raising drive I have ever done in my entire life.  The road climbs up the side of the mountain with a sheer drop on one side and solid rock wall on the other and it gets narrower and narrower AND NARROWER!!

Its two way and the big SUV were barrelling down taking up all the road, and I put my tiny little car nearly in the gutter trying to avoid them.  I saw one accident on my way up which surprised me that there was only one.

The hairpin curves were the worst, as they were even narrower and covered in forest so you couldn’t see anyone coming.  Honestly if there had been somewhere to pull over and turn around I would have, but instead you have to keep going up.

It was very popular so I stopped at a small park just before the top where there was a parking space, and walked to the side of the road – there wasn’t space to setup my tripod so this is hand held – if I had the choice I would have put my Lee filters on, but needed the tripod to do that.

Still the view was pretty impressive though I would have enjoyed it more had there been a more pleasant drive on the way down!

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