Confessions of a Non-Purist

There are those in photography, often referred to as purists, that believe images should be pre-conceived and pre-visualized before one ever presses the shutter. Some purists go as far to say images should be presented as captured and frown upon the use of the digital darkroom. I sometimes see mention of Ansel Adams and his use of pre-visualization to create images exactly as his mind’s eye envisioned them.

Well, as you may have guessed from my images, I am very much a non-purist. I see nothing wrong with using the post-processing tools available to test out different looks for an image and to refine my vision. While I deeply admire Ansel Adams’ work and agree we should have an idea of the image we want to create in mind, I totally disagree with those that suggest we should not use the tools available to explore our creativity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting everyone take a bunch of crappy pictures with the intention of fixing them later in Photoshop. What I'm suggesting is that trying the B&W preset in Lightroom or the Tilt & Shift filter in SnapSeed should not be seen as a way to save bad images; these tools are a way to help us express our creativity and vision.

Since I’m not a photojournalist, I believe using the editing tools at my disposal to mold my images is perfectly fine. I also believe that doing so does not make me any less of a photographer than the purists that choose to forgo the digital darkroom. Photography for me, and many like me, is about expressing one’s creative vision. And if that vision can be presented without any post-processing, that’s great. But that’s no reason to assume anyone that chooses to edit their images is somehow cheating or a less talented photographer.

I suppose the whole purists vs. non-purists debate is more about photographic philosophy than anything else. I know there’s really no right or wrong answer for what one can or cannot do to an image. So I guess the purists and I will have to agree to disagree on how little or much editing is okay and whether images should only be presented as intended. Since I can’t seem to find a good way to end this post, I’ll simply leave you with a quote from the master himself.

Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.

Ansel Adams