Are Digital Filters Real Photography?

We see them everywhere. Digital filters for Instagram, Flickr, the iPhone, and even your compact and micro four thirds cameras. When applied during capture, we're able to instantly add an effect to our images - even if we're not completely certain on how that image will render.

And that's the issue, isn't it?

Hegenberger Ave, Oakland, CA "Hegenberger Road, Oakland, CA" Captured with a Canon PowerShot N in Creative Mode.

If you leave part of the creative process up to the camera, is that real photography? Well, let's look at what you are doing when you take a photo:

  • Finding the location
  • Composing the image
  • Timing the capture
  • Deciding what's good
  • Sharing your choice

So in other words, you've baked the cake. The creative frosting is the icing that sweetens it further.

In my photography workshops, I encourage participants to try new things on their cameras. Last weekend we played with Art Filters on the Olympus OM-D. I have shooters capture in RAW+Jpeg so they'll get both the original "untainted" RAW file and the filtered Jpeg. In all honesty, we got some amazing results.

My feeling is to first learn photography basics so you know what you're doing. Practice those basics to improve your skills. And when you feel like shaking things up a bit, play with filters. It's fun, it often spurs a new approach, and it doesn't hurt anyone.

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