"Photographs" vs. "Images"

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Dan Henderson, Jul 23, 2007.

  1. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    I am not anti-digital and this is not an anti-digital rant. But I heard what I thought was a remarkable statement on the Today show. They had a story about major retouching done to cover photographs, centering around a recent Redbook cover of Faith Hill (like she needs to be retouched!) Anyway, the editor of Redbook said, and I quote as closely as possible, "they are not really photographs. They are images."

    I recently thought about making a concerted effort to call analog pictures "photographs," and digital pictures "images," then decided I was being too anal about the whole thing. After hearing the editor's comment, maybe my thought was not half-baked.
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    Even before digital, there would be major retouching on any sort of cover photo like that.

    I think of a photograph as an object on paper, and an image as a picture in the mind.
     
  3. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    When I worked at Kodak all photographs were images. However not all images were photographs. The term images referred to electro-optical data as well as photographs.

    Kodak was in the image collection and image processing industry, no longer only in the photographic collection and processing industry [including the medical radiographic field].

    Steve
     
  4. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member

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    I saw that same vapid and shallow segment this morning as well, and found that comment so typical of magazine editors.

    It's been my experience that magazine editors view the cover as an advertisement, and not part of the editorial content of the magazine. A distinction, I think, that is frankly lost on readers. There seems to be very little to distinguish editorial from advertising in any media, because it all comes down the idea of "image".

    Of course, they all seemed to miss another point... that altering photographs is lousy for your credibility, but stars who sit for cover shoots just want to "look good", and who cares their own reputation or what sort of message they are sending... it is all "image" after all.

    Though, frankly, she looks quite lovely in the unaltered image... except her hand getting cut off at the wrist. What's up with that?

    Well, "image" is everything, I suppose, but it pisses me off, and I don't buy women's magazines much anymore because I hate to look at all that fakery designed to make me covet more crap.

    As to the OP's question, I personally prefer photograph for my own work, as I think the word image is too much of a catchall phrase for all sorts of mediums.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 23, 2007
  5. jovo

    jovo Membership Council

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    It's a point that I think MAS made (perhaps on this forum, I don't recall exactly
    ), that the correct word for 'photograph' is 'photograph' and not 'image' I choose to write 'image' to keep from over using 'photograph', but only after initially using it. I'm bothered far less by 'image' than by 'capture' which is what the digi folks use a lot. It's odd how the term 'picture' seems to be somewhat slighted as if it only denotes a record and wouldn't apply to an abstraction for example.
     
  6. Digidurst

    Digidurst Subscriber

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    I could not agree more, Suzanne!

    As for the whole retouching thing, I hate it. Not that anybody is banging down my door to have me sit for magazine covers. But I would not want my portrait to be messed with; I would prefer to look like myself. The only exception being the retouching of something not usually there like a pimple. Beyond that, no way!
     
  7. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    This does bring up an interesting distinction to ponder. It may well be that the editor of the mag considered the original untouched picture to be a "photograph" whether shot on film or digitally. He then, arguably, advised making certain "corrections" to the shot; thereby rendering the result an "image".

    It is interesting that we use the word "image" to define the intangible representation of someone (e.g. "She wanted to project the right image when she gave her acceptance speech for it would set the tone of her campaign.") even as we also use it to describe a pictorial representation of a person.

    And let's not forget that image and imagination share the same root.

    Then there is the dilemma of whether an analogy for "film photography" is to use the term "analog image capture"? :wink:
     
  8. Edwardv

    Edwardv Member

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    I like 'photograph' for 'photograph.' I do use 'image' to explain the size on the paper this it is printed on. A lot of people are too vain when it comes to having their picture taking. Gotta have photoshop or whatever is available to make them look perfect. I would agree get rid of the pimple, one or two hairs over the eye and there might be some other exceptions. And yes, using photograph over and over in a paragraph can be over kill but it is correct.

    You all have a nice day. It is sunny, light breeze, and cool in Bowie, MD. And my AC is off which is very nice.
     
  9. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser

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    I do the same thing John. I've also thought of "image" as being more appropriate for describing a photograph on a monitor. As in David's take, I consider a "photograph" to be something printed on paper... something I can hold in my hand. However, I admit to using them both pretty frequently.

    As for the retouching of photos to "improve" the image of celebs and others, I agree completely with Suzzane and Dan. An unaltered Faith Hill is just fine with me. :smile:
     
  10. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council

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    Still feeling anxious about the essence of photography? Ah yes, the old "photo is accurate, images are anything but" syndrome that has been reignited by digital. It's rather sad that no digital images are accurate anymore. Why, just the other day, I couldn't believe that my brother's hair looked pink after I took a digital picture of him. It SO stopped being a photo, like it was totally innacurate.

    Ponder the following fact: an image, like a drawing, or a painting, can actually be more precise than a photograph. Guess there's a reason why composite portraits are actually useful, no?

    IMO you are mixing together the issue of retouching with that of digital. Retouching is the crux of the photo/image distinction, not digital.
     
  11. AgX

    AgX Member

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    What does the "Focal Encyclopedia of Photography" (best the last edition for this issue) say on this?
    I have not got it at hand at the moment, thus I ask.
     
  12. Voyager

    Voyager Subscriber

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    I think I'm with John Voss (fifth post), plus one more:

    *shoot: I try not to use that word (it's just me)...
    *photograph and photo: it's what I make...
    *image: I avoid the word--a tad too elite for me...
    *capture: never use it, and it surely does sound like pixel-speak...

    And ps: I appreciate Suzzane Revy's insight (fourth post) to magazine covers as advertisement rather than editorial content.
     
  13. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    In terms of journalism, I see no need to differentiate in the use of terms to describe analog or digital photography whether the work is purely documentary or simply editorial. The necessary distinction, would seem to me to be, as always, between photography and illustration. Regardless of the toolset employed, dodging, burning, spotting, color balance, contrast control, etc. can be undertaken legitimately without redefining the product as something other than a photograph. But once the content has been materially altered, it is a photo-illustration. Whether or not removing Faith Hill's zits crosses that boundary is certainly a point of debate.

    As for the term image...yes, all photographs are images... and not all images are photographs. So for photographs, the terms can be used interchangably though caution is advised. They each inherit different baggage and provide their own subtle implications.

    Using "photograph" initially to establish the medium of the images and thereafter referring to either photographs or images makes sense to me.
     
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  15. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    "Capture" isn't a word that I use in connection with digital or film photography.
     
  16. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    But it sounds so much more humane than "shoot." :wink:
     
  17. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    How about we compromise and say "tranquilize"?
     
  18. Chris Breitenstein

    Chris Breitenstein Member

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    Image is the genus to which "photograph" belongs. An image can exist in reality or just in the mind. Such as a concept or a set of traits attributed to a certain thing. A photograph exists in reality, is two dimensional, is fixed, and is created with light. A photograph is always an image, but only occasionally is an image a photograph.

    This is similar in my mind to a discussion about whether a "Lay-z-boy" is a chair or a recliner. Its both.

    As far as that editor is concerned unless they are retouching and converting every single pixel by hand then it is a photograph. Perhaps he should have said "they are not photographs but pictures created through mixed media. Primarily photography and digital illustration" Of course that would have probably drawn some blank stares from the audience.

    As clear as mud.

    Yours;
     
  19. Vaughn

    Vaughn Member

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    Maybe I need to get a TV. Who or where is Faith Hill?:tongue:


    I agree that "photograph" is a subset of "images". For me, "images" comes from "imagine" or "imagination" -- it is all in the head. Photographs do not really have a physical existence, then one presents them in some physical form, such as a print, a collections of dots on a computer screen, ink on a page, a developed transperency or negative , etc. I prefer to refer to the content of a photographic print as the photograph (or image), but if one damages the physical object, one damages the print.

    For example, one might say, "That is a great photograph of Uncle John. Too bad it is so badly printed."

    However, the common use of "photograph" to mean a "print" (or any of the above), means that such distinctions are just about worthless in everday conversations.

    The "latent image" seems to be good term for a photograph chemically locked into a piece of film before processing.

    Magazine covers are designed to sell the magazine...I don't think the cover of the New Yorker has ever related to the content inside.
     
  20. jovo

    jovo Membership Council

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    I am about to go into my darkroom to transform a previously tamed negative into a tranquilized photographic picture. See y'all later. :tongue:
     
  21. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member

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    Well said... and perhaps when the editor used the term image, he, in fact, meant illustration. Especially since they feel so free to alter the world and the people in it to suit their and their advertisers rather skewed view. If Faith Hill needs to be turned into a photo illustration to convey beauty and sell stuff, then I'm afraid there's very little hope for the rest of us shlubs.

    Except of course, I can spend my money on cameras, and not the stuff they sell in those rags. :tongue:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 23, 2007
  22. Daniel_OB

    Daniel_OB Member

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    Why, just the other day, I couldn't believe that my brother's hair looked pink after I took a digital picture of him. It SO stopped being a photo, like it was totally innacurate.

    It is nothing wrong to change an image digitally. It is the purpose of it. People doing drawings can do the same. What is wrong in all of that sh** is that digital images are mistaken for photographs. And when we do not get what we expect from a photograph we accuse the whole mediim of digital imaging. And it is again and again. Accept it as a different medium and all will be fine. But the problem comes from equipment manufacturers, schools,... who do not want to spend billions of $ to develop new market for digital imaging, but rather use existing market.
    www.Leica-R.com
     
  23. bruce terry

    bruce terry Member

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    "I've got 369 photographs on the computer from the family reunion last weekend."

    No you don't, I politely refrain from saying to my friend ... my persecuted, analog mind thoroughly convinced her endlessly-unedited digitlal images on her camera and computer screen are anything but photo-graphs.

    But I'm afraid they are:
    My negative 'graphing' occurs thru a lens and onto a film surface.
    Her digital 'graphing occurs thru a lens and onto a chip surface (or whatever, I don't know much about lectronics).

    No difference really, as much as I detest amitting it.

    Seems the word 'photography' is doomed to be just like, for instance, the word 'sail', or 'sailing', where huge oil tankers 'sail' out of ports every day under engine-power, their port-to-port 'sailing' taking three days, or whatever.

    I'll bet the real sailors of the real sailing ships of the sailing days were really pissed seeing their perfectly good 'word' permanently basterdized, as we kind of are today about 'our' word.
     
  24. Daniel_OB

    Daniel_OB Member

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    bruce terry
    what is difference between enginner designer and experienced machanic that designs something similar. Can both be call designer. Yes. They both designinig. To make the difference you have to go deep into the matter. Thosands and thousands of questions can be set for both of them, and what is above is not enough to make difference.
    The same think is in photography. The reason you mentioned, is one among thousands that are in the same game, and technical and aesthetical. You cannot judge about whole medium on base on your one assumption.
    Here is just one question more I never saw anywhere about that two mediums but it is a must to consider before you make statement. WHAT IS A TECHICAL INPUT INTO BOTH OF THAT TWO MEDIUMS. And about that we can talk for hours and involve so many thinks.

    www.Leica-R.com
     
  25. Doyle Thomas

    Doyle Thomas Member

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    A picture is taken with the Mind thinking about the subject. A Photograph is made with the Mind thinking about how the resulting image will be interpeted by the viewer. Be it d****** or analog makes no difference.

    Doyle
     
  26. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    Both are affected, self-conscious terms that inevitably seem to lead to pretense.

    Certainly not worth a lot of hand-wringing unless you have the incredibly mistaken notion that photos by themselves are somehow "factual " -- in which case noo amount of talk will get you to change that religion.