The March 2016 meeting of the Calvert Photography Club was held on March 19, 2016.
Our guest speaker today was club member Jeff Smallwood who is, in his own words, “a skeptic-scientist-engineer with a passion for photography, philosophy, software development and everything science.” He gave us a very interesting presentation on Image Manipulation, Optic Research, and Brain Science. Jeff reminded us that all of the images we see in advertising, on the Internet, or in any printed media, even the news media, do not necessarily depict reality. Though photo manipulation is much more common today with digital images and photo editing software available, it has actually occurred throughout the history of photography. There are a number of historical instances, some of the most notorious and controversial of which can be found in the article, “Photo Tampering Throughout History” at: http://www.fourandsix.com/.
In addition, there are often things that are right before our eyes that we miss due to something called inattentional blindness. Rather than focusing on every little detail of the world around us, we concentrate on the things that are most important to us at any given time and our brain fills in the gaps based on our past experiences, biases, mood, etc. If we are concentrating our attention on one demanding task, we may be oblivious to other things going on around us. Take this Selective Attention test at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGQmdoK_ZfY . Pretty interesting, huh!?
It is also important to remember that all of our impressions are not correct. The book by Daniel Kahneman called Thinking Fast and Slow addresses two different ways that the brain forms thoughts. Fast thoughts are automatic, subconscious, and effortless, while slow thoughts are calculating, conscious, and effortful. Fast thinking is based in emotions; slow thinking is based in logic. Check out the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiTz2i4VHFw
Visual input is heavily weighted by our brain. In other words, what we see has a higher impact than what we hear, smell, taste, or feel. Visual elements can strongly influence both emotion and memory. However, our memories are far from perfect and change over time. In addition, we all have a narrative that we bring to everything we see and that has an impact on our perception of visual media. For this reason, eyewitness testimony is not always as reliable as one may think. Every time we recall a memory our brain is open to changing that memory. False memories can easily be implanted, especially in time of stress. For more information on this check out the following article entitled, “Is Eyewitness Testimony Too Unreliable to Trust?” at: http://theweek.com/articles/480511/eyewitness-testimony-unreliable-trust This. is one reason why photography has become a critical element in telling a story and documenting events. Everyone is empowered to create and share photographic media for whatever purposes they choose. But as our exposure to photographic media has grown, so has the capability to manipulate photographic images.
So how can you tell if an image has been manipulated or staged? Ask yourself, is it just too amazing? Is it too good to be true? Is there an agenda? Does it strongly align with a particular political or religious perspective? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then there is a good chance that the photo is either staged or that some manipulation has taken place. Some other things to look at are incorrect shadow angles and lighting, reflections, inconsistencies in the relative size of a person or an object, repetitive sections or elements in the image, and cropping and masking mistakes (such as extra limbs or fingers or other odd remnants!) Another thing to consider is the source – is it credible? We have a tendency to believe because we want it to be true, but remain skeptical!
And when is it ok to manipulate or stage a photo? The key lies in what you plan to do with that photo – is the image only meant to be an artistic creation, or is it intended to document an actual situation? Jeff says to ask yourself, “If the manipulation were made public, would it create distrust, doubt, or foster an unreliable relationship between the producer, subject, and consumer of the image?” Once an image has been made public, even if it is later disclosed as having been staged or manipulated, people have already formed an opinion or impression based on that original image and that may be hard to change even after they know the truth!
When editing your own images, Jeff suggests looking at them upside down. This will allow you to get a fresh perspective (and hopefully pick up on those extra body parts or odd remnants of deleted objects that we may otherwise miss!) The more we remember how our brain works, the more we can pick up on details that we didn’t at first perceive.
Sharon Shifflett presented her slideshow “Donna’s 50th Birthday Party” and shared her ideas for making videos of grandchildren and other family events.
The photo assignment for March was Pastel Tones. This months’ winning photos were submitted by: 1st place - Beth Phifer, 2nd place - Tammi Gorsak, and 3rd place – Lisa Goldman
The April photo assignment is Black Out – photos showing black or dark backgrounds.
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