How much photography should be there in a Photo?

Recently one of our members has raised this question (“How much photography should be there in a Photo?”) in discussion group. Because of heavy post-processing work on photos published on internet it is very obvious question in every genuine photographers mind. But we should be able to differentiate between “photographed” and “photoshoped” images.

Digital photography has simplified the life of photographer. But also has created storm of questions like this in every serious photographer’s mind? How much is the right post-processing is the question in every photographer’s mind. If we go in to the basics of this topic we can clearly draw line between these two activities.

Photography: Photography is the art of capturing picture though camera (may be film or digital). And whatever you are capture should convey something (expressions, emotions, rare scenario or any other thing that carries valuable message etc.) to appeal your picture to viewers. On top of this post-processing will enhance the colors, contrast, clarity of the picture to emphasize on mood, bring out the details or highlight something important in the picture.

Simple Edit Example
Simple edit for Brightness/Contrast adjustment.

Editing: On the other hand editing with tools like Photoshop or similar is the graphics art. You need proficiency with this tool operations and artistic hand for real charming effects. Photos are just used as base for creation and all the other things are artificially done here with the help of software. 3D processing capabilities of these tools take this editing to a whole new level. You can add lighting effect on or around subject, change the perspective of the subjects in pictures selectively, context aware fill and so on.

Heavy post processing example
Edited image with complete background change.

In short, both the things are some form of art but require different skill sets. As a photographer you need to learn basic post-processing techniques to for minor touch up for your photos or brightness contrast corrections. And it is acceptable.
Since from an early days of film photography, serious photographers were having their own darkroom setups for developing negatives and prints. The tools like dodge, burn or unsharp mask in Photoshop are digital versions of processes being carried out in darkroom.
Doing too much post processing or any unnatural views in picture is not counted as photography. Any many organizations do not accept these pictures. National Geographic has recently issued the notice mentioning that they will discard the submitted pictures with heavy editing beyond basic retouch ups and brightness/contrast adjustments. Journalists have to submit the original pictures without any editing. (For a professional eye it very easy to catch edited pictures.)

For a photographer it is extremely important to concentrate on composition, art and correct camera setting while taking the picture. So there would be minimal post-processing required for picture.

Summary of all above is – keep taking pictures and enjoy your photography hobby. Don’t get distracted with photoshoped pictures. You cannot compare apples with oranges.