Photo Editing or Adding Filters - Are These Necessary?

Sometimes, you see a beautiful or perfect scene, perhaps a glorious sunrise or a sunset, or cotton candy skies.. and then you take a photo or photos of these natural beauties to immortalize them in your memory bank. But when you look at the output, your photos are nowhere like the beautiful scenes you just saw with your naked eyes. 

And then you post a caption - "Look at this beautiful sunset. This photo doesn't even do justice to it." Sounds just about right? Right? 

I guess my point is..

What your camera sees may not be the same as what your eyes can. Your camera is a machine and it only relies on its auto settings or manual settings (which are controlled by the photographer or you). There will really be times when you won't get the exact shot or you won't achieve what you want your photo to look like. 

This is where photo editing comes in. Some people might say that "you shouldn't edit your photos because they would look unnatural" or "you shouldn't add filters because they might ruin the photos you take." Others would say "your photos will look even more real if you don't edit them." 

Perhaps they're right. But I also think they might be.. wrong? However, I'd also like to say there's no right or wrong. So I guess, I'm gonna say it's their opinion and it's okay. 

*I cropped this photo but the rest of the features were not edited. Just posted it on Facebook as it is. 

So do I think photo editing is necessary? 

People look at photos differently and most of the time, we cannot change that. Some photos may mean something to you; other photos may be completely irrelevant. It's understandable. We have different perceptions of the world which make us have different views or opinions in different matters. 

For me, photo editing is necessary. I'm not a professional photographer or an artist. I'm an enthusiastic hobbyist and I hope to create my own photographs that have meaning and add value to the world. 

I have to say that the decision to edit photos or not depends on your goal and purpose. Maybe if you just want to post spontaneously on Facebook, there's no real need to edit your photos. Some people still find it nice to edit a photo first before posting on Facebook. I do most of the time.

There are also times when you feel that your photos perfectly capture what you want to convey to the people. In this case, you choose not to edit anymore. There's nothing wrong with that too. To each his own, right? 

Photo editing, to me, means to enhance your photos to make them more beautiful, expressive, and of course, to make them look as close to the original scene as possible. Or as close to what you've seen in person. This includes adjusting the brightness, contrast, saturation, clarity, structure, maybe removing unnecessary trash in the background, and even adding filters or presets. 

Photo editing is like putting on makeup. Makeup is not supposed to magically conceal your flaws, rather, it's supposed to enhance your natural features so that people can see your beauty. What makeup does to you is just like what editing does to your photo. It brings out the best in the photo so that others may also see what you, as the photographer, have originally seen. 

*It's probably obvious which one's edited. When I took this photo, I remember it was a bit gloomy but the sky was still clear that time, and the church had this beautiful color with the clear sky as its backdrop. 

Again, the degree of editing depends on your goal. In my case, I'm very careful with editing landscape photos that I post on my blog because I want them to look as natural as how I first witnessed them in person. I add very minimal edits only. I usually edit my photos in Lightroom or even PicMonkey! Yup, PicMonkey might be your ordinary, sometimes super slow online photo editor but it often does the job right. 

Sometimes when I decide to post my landscape photos on Instagram, I add filters that are in line with my Instagram theme. 

So yes, what about filters? 

I think filters are beautiful! In fact, they add sazz and pizazz to your photos. Too much filters that bury your photos are ugly though. You know, balance is the key. Sometimes, filters can totally change the look of your photo -- a change that's far from the original. But I believe that the photographer or the person who edited that photo did so in good faith and does not have the intention to deceive (although there's always an exception to that). 

Filters add drama as necessary. They add flair and creativity to the photos too! Most of my photos on Instagram have filters although I make sure that they're still as close to the original as possible. I'd like to call it creativity. Some people would probably cringe at that and say "filters do not equate to creativity." Okay, I respect that. But it doesn't change my opinion about it. 

*You can tell which one has filter. 

When I shoot street photos, I'd like to add necessary drama to them so that the photos can convey what I felt when I first saw those subjects. It's my truth. It's the way I see things and I want to communicate it with the viewers. Sometimes, the raw unedited photos aren't enough to do just that. Thus, the editing and the occasional filters or presets come into place. 

Mind you, editing photos and adding filters require skills too so that the photos end up looking tasteful and not bland. 

And photo manipulation? 

Photo manipulation is a whole new world. It's like a combination of powerful editing and graphic design. Its goal is to alter or transform ordinary photos into something totally different or out of the box. This is one of the ways to express real creativity and skills. 

I don't do photo manipulation because I don't know how to. And I don't have the tools to practice. I think though that it's really cool and superb to show your creativity in this manner. Most professionals do this for creative photo shoots, magazines, fashion projects, and the like. 

Going back to the makeup analogy, one can totally be transformed by using makeup alone but it requires skills. In the case of photo editing, manipulation can also transform but it also requires skills. The goal is transformation and not just enhancement. The goal is aligned to a creative pursuit. And I think that's brilliant. 

*In the first photo, I added the full moon and the dark clouds. In the second, I added the green lights to get that Northern lights effect. All just for the heck of trying it. I'm not a pro after all. 

If you notice, I mostly refer to landscape and street photos here just because those are the ones I always take photos of. Photo manipulation of people's body figures and looks for magazines and the like may have a different impact to the society that I don't quite like, if you know what I mean. But that in itself requires another discussion. ;)

The bottomline.. 

I think photo editing is necessary to enhance, bring out the best in your photos, and to place the viewers as close to the original scene as possible. When it's done right, it can even level up your photography game. Filters and presets are great tools to add drama and flair to your photos but there's really no need to go filter-crazy. I'd like to keep things simple. 

Photo manipulation, on the other hand, is a skill not everyone might have but can definitely learn. I don't think it's necessary when you only take day to day photos of your life and travels unless you really want to do it or you're in the business of doing it. Editing is exhausting too you know! 

With this, I'm not saying you should edit all your photos. I myself don't edit everything. There are photos that are spectacular on their own even straight out of the camera. You can choose which ones you want to edit or not. 

Remember, a photo is just a copy of something. Technically, it's not the real thing. Whether it's edited or not, it's the closest to the real thing that the photographer can think of and if not, it's the photographer's way of seeing the subject and that's something he or she wants to convey to the world. 

Now I leave you with these questions. Do you edit your photos? Do you prefer editing them or not? ;) 

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