The Fine Line between Photo Realistic and Perfected Reality
An interesting conversation sparks in between the conversation of my client and me this afternoon and I thought it would be great for me to share. Throughout the long 10 minutes conversation this question struck me the most. "This few images are looking like rendering, are they real image?". As I am pretty bad at processing information and answering questions during a phone call, I was stunned for a moment and didn't know how I should appropriately respond to that question. Given the situation that our usual belief and practice as a professional commercial photographer all this while was being questioned at a surprised moment.
We as photographers spend most of our time (sometimes way too much time) planning and going outdoors trying to capture that one rare magical moment which only ever appear during that few days each year. We are often extremely proud of showing it off if we manage to capture this so called unrealistic images or happy coincidence images after all the effort put into planning and predicting. In commercial line of work we would label this the "Golden Hero Image" and it is usually an extreme bonus for our architecture clients. Instead of just portraying their project under the lights of artificial renderings, they are now be able to get a piece of image as a prove of their project being portrayed under such perfect natural lighting scenario.
The question got me thinking for days where does the line sits in between producing a realistic image and a perfected reality image? We as professional photographers learn day in and day out perfecting our craft throughout decades of hard work and investing hundreds of thousands into equipments to fine tune our craft and deliver the best image possibly can. From proper pre production planning to properly exposing for the shot to high end retouching techniques to remove actual flaw of a building or flaw of an image, weeks have been spend just to make sure the deliverables is worth archiving for decades or centuries to come.
At the end of the day all these crazy definition of a perfect imagery that we put into ourself such as chasing higher megapixel & resolution, sharper image, accurate colours... etc etc are probably just worth it for ourself as a standard of work we are producing. Is it worth it at the end of the day to just tell a story? I believe that remains a subjective question.
That being said, the vast majority of consumer barely understands the science behind every image. But at the same time we could not blame them as we as photographers often chase perfection in delivering art to express our viewpoint instead of just merely capturing images as it is. We are molded into believing that capturing it as it is isn't good enough to be published to the outside world given that there is still so much upside potential to every image to reach perfection. At least this is the standard that we believe in.
Real World Example
Image below as an example, it is a real image with minimal edits. However, the wave and clouds are almost non visible in terms of texture. The greatest part? No software manipulation was done in making the clouds and waves "disappear". It was instead shot with long exposure to blur those clouds and wave motions so that they will look "perfectly clean and still" to evoke a sense of calm and quietness emotion.
The world is weird in a way it wants something to be perfect but not so perfect at the same time to a point it removes the trace of humanity. Perhaps the fine line sits in between the presence of the "sense of humanity". Thanks to the client for throwing me such a challenging curve ball and expanded my chain of thoughts when it comes to delivering an image.