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Are my photos real?

Years ago I got a chuckle out of a wallet that declared it was made of genuine vinyl. Not every manufacturer has the audacity to promote the fact it’s a fake! Still, I had to give them credit for honesty.


Real porcupine – real quills. I did not feel the need to confirm the latter.

More recently, I am amused by people who say they do not make adjustments to their photos. The underlying assumption seems to be that their photos are “real” as opposed to all the other “Photoshop fakes.” If only photography were that simple! Not only do our eyes “see” scenes differently than camera sensors but digital cameras are capable of making many decisions with a simple click.

The perspectives and debates just get more complicated from there. Some photographers see their photos as pure art – logically that makes any changes to their images fair game. Others feel they need to stay true to the scene before them. Still others say they are merely carrying on with digital manipulations that were done in the darkrooms of old. There is no shortage of views and they make some good points.

I have come to the conclusion that the biggest issues arise when a viewer comes with different assumptions and expectations than the photographer. The simple solution is for the photographer to explain basic assumptions. So here goes …

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Real bear – real pose. And I was really excited! He was originally facing the other direction but I flipped the photo to work better on this page. The liberties I take!

Generally I am trying to make realistic-looking photos that portray the wonder of nature. My views continue to evolve with the changes in digital photography and a growing interest in the artistic elements of the final image.

It should come as no surprise that the locations I photograph actually exist and all the creatures on this site are wild. Thankfully they all didn’t run away. It would be so much easier in a zoo but where’s the adrenaline rush in that? Mr. Bear would you turn your head a little to the right? I think many wildlife photography viewers expect the scene before them actually occurred and I agree.

Photography relies heavily on the art of deleting – the opposite of painting. I crop photos with my camera and later with software to make them look their best. This often means roads and other non-natural things get cropped out. It’s surprising how much difference that makes.

I take RAW images that require processing. I try to make them look their best, at least to me. That includes making multiple adjustments to things like colour, saturation and contrast. Often I find it hard to make the photos exude the same sense of wonder I felt at the scene or how I thot it actually looked. Along the way I have learned how subjective those determinations can be. Even eyewitness accounts of vehicle accidents don’t always align without even trying to get into the world of matching colours.

I will digitally remove annoying distractions like branches, wires, bugs or a part of a wing that can’t be easily cropped. However I never add elements like a moon, background, different sky or wildlife of any kind. For the most part that’s all academic given my limited digital ability. But even if I could, that’s a change too far without a full explanation.

Of course, I’m still hoping for the magic camera button that makes the photo exactly like I want it. In the meantime I’ll keep plugging along, wondering where all the wildlife went.

Bottom line – my photos are real and I’m sticking to that story.


Real bear – real snow.

Latest Comments

  1. snowsomewhere says:

    I loved reading this – these are questions that even I get asked and I’m by no means a photographer nor am I pretending to be one! But by just having a blog with your own photos automatically getsyou into situations where you find yourself having to explain what you’ve done to pictures and why. You are very coherent here! 🙂 And I like your photos, too


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I’m glad this explanation resonated with you. It actually took me a while to write it since it’s not an easy question. There are many factors involved no matter what level of photographer we may be. I appreciate the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Garden Walk Garden Talk says:

    Very good post Lyle. The images and the writing are always excellent, but this post explains some of why! I never checked the sidebar before. Love the choices with your favs.


  3. Scott Marshall says:

    This is an excellent post – one which I should replicate for exactly the sames reasons you have posted – superb


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I’m happy to hear that. I read through a lot of material, did some thinking and struggled to write this up but I felt it was important. I’m not sure I’ve quite it quite right yet but I imagine it will evolve.


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