You don't process your own photos? THEN IT'S SIMPLE. YOU'RE CHEATING...

Yep it's true and I'll explain why. There are just two ways of taking a digital photograph.

1) You use in-camera (or phone) pre-sets or auto settings. These are what cheats use. The files produced are called JPEGS - it's an acronym for something but I won't bore you with that. The photographer has to do nothing more. The important processing decisions have already been made. By someone else.

2) You choose to shoot RAW. This is effectively a digital negative and the resulting, lifeless, binary file made up of 0s and 1s HAS to be processed using software in order for it to become a usable photograph. Get the idea? The photographer has to do all the work and make ALL the decisions. Later, using software. Such as Lightroom (LR) or Capture One or Photoshop or something else. The best photographer in the world using the best camera and lenses would sell ZERO prints or books made up of unprocessed RAW files. It's that simple, there is no choice, it's part of the process, it aint cheating, end of story. So, to recap...

SHOOT JPEGS The camera/phone manufacturer's software pre-processes the RAW file for you. All the photographer has to do is to choose a setting - 'landscape', 'beach', 'portrait' etc. Or, more likely, 'auto'. Using camera pre-settings created by Sony, Canon, Nikon, Panansonic, Pentax, Ricoh or some other company could easily be regarded as cheating because the photographer has allowed crucial creative and technical decisions like white balance, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, saturation, contrast, luminosity and vibrance (for example) to be made for them. And, of course, an identical image taken by half a dozen cameras will all end up looking slightly (or markedly) different as each manufacturer has its own output style. Over which the photographer has zero control.

SHOOT RAW The photographer processes (or edits) the RAW file without assistance. Nothing is automated. ALL editing (creative and technical) decisions are made by the photographer and no-one else. Not all photographers are good at this however. I count myself as average but I'm getting better and I spend 10 to 15 minutes maximum on each image, often much less. Some images that I see posted are way over-saturated and exaggerated. Including some of my own. This is not cheating - it is simply bad processing and the better photographer will quickly learn that this is not good even if it gets a positive reaction on social media channels. But that's another story for another day.

SUNRISE ON THE GREAT RIDGE, PEAK DISTRICT. SHOT IN RAW AND QUITE HEAVILY PROCESSED TO CAPTURE THE MOOD OF THE SCENE AND HOW I FELT AT THE TIME.

BUT I DON'T SHOOT IN RAW. AM I REALLY A CHEAT?

Yes of course you are. OK. Not really but I use the word, tongue-in-cheek, to make the point LOUD AND CLEAR using a bit of reverse psychology. And to grab your attention. Normally, of course, it's the Photoshop user who is branded as a cheat and I'm really fed up of seeing this on Facebook groups and the like. So, I'm finally doing my bit to turn the tables and explain to the layman or novice just what the reality of digital photography capture actually is, serious or otherwise.

DO I HAVE TO SHOOT IN RAW?

Not at all. For snaps of your rabbit or breakfast there's little point in doing hours of processing work yourself. Use the auto settings on your compact or phone. It doesn't matter. For more serious work, however, shooting in RAW is the best choice if you want to be in TOTAL control of the whole process and final image and your ambition is to actually sell a few. A RAW file also has the advantage of being able to be edited again and again with zero loss of quality whereas the opposite is true when working with JPEG files. For certain types of photography, nonetheless, using JPEGS might well be preferred. Family get-togethers for example. For speed of work (auto-processing) and practicality of storage (much smaller file sizes) then JPEG files could be the answer. But for my sort of work (landscapes) I choose RAW every time.

LATE FEBRUARY SCENE ALSO ON THE GREAT RIDGE, CONVERSION TO MONO IN LIGHTROOM

WHAT ABOUT MANIPULATING IMAGES?

This is NOT for me but others differ and that's entirely up to them. Adding a better sky, cloning out a factory or a telegraph pole is definitely not something that I would ever consider. I would either not take the image in the first place or return another day. One morning in Lathkill Dale, Derbyshire I took an image of the river but on closer inspection noticed a pink kid's sandal lodged on a rock in the water. Using the spot removal tool I removed this later in LR. That's about as much manipulation as I allow myself. I don't even use LR editing pre-sets either as that doesn't sit comfortably with me as these were created by, you guessed it, someone else. And I won 200 of 'em in a comp last year too! (Offers anyone?) Guess what? I create my own.

A SWAN IN WATER-CUM-JOLLY-DALE, PEAK DISTRICT. YES I DARKENED THE BACKGROUND TO DRAW FULL ATTENTION TO THE SWAN.

THE CRAFT AND DEDICATION OF THE LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHER

SHORT STORY Up at stupid o'clock to drive for an hour in darkness before another hour's clamber up onto some moor in wind and rain. Without waterproof clothing, hiking boots and a head-torch this would just not be possible. Met Office forecast (don't laugh) was for intermittent cloud with sun breaking through just after sunrise at 05:32. And dry. Reality is a thick blanket of cloud to the east at exactly the point where the sun should be popping up (researched using PhotoEphemeris) and a steady stream of cold rain batters my exposed forehead. Finding shelter behind a large boulder I pour myself a small cup of coffee not to drink but to warm my hands. An hour later and the rain has stopped but the breeze is up - however, mercifully, the predicted cloud breaks are happening and the now risen sun has begun to peep through sending rays across the wilderness in front of me. Tripod in place at just the right height, spirit level checked, camera and lens mounted (hand shielded from direct light) and exposure settings made, histogram checked before I fire off a frame using my remote release with the other hand pressing down on the tripod for added rigidity. I check the results, and tweak a couple of settings and fire away again. This time it looks good but as the light intensity increases I need to continuously adjust exposure to match these changing conditions. Looking at the scene ahead I wait for a band of light to illuminate a particular rock as well as the hill to the left beyond. For 20 minutes I wait for these two elements to converge to make the image that I'm after. And then it happens and I've got what I came for. 3 hours later and I'm in a cafe having breakfast whilst reflecting on my morning's work. An hour after this and I'm at my desk choosing the best version. I find it and 10 minutes later I've processed the RAW file and my vision is now made reality and available for viewing on my website and social media.

Whether or not anyone 'likes' it I am happy and my conscience is clear. It's 100% all my own work. My hard work, dedication, vision and creativity. My photograph. With no cheating.

FINAL QUOTE BY ANSAL ADAMS - ONE OF THE GREATEST EXPONENTS OF LANDSCAPE (FILM) PHOTOGRAPHY - himself no stranger to dodging and burning (the equivalent of today's digital processing).

" The negative is the equivalent of the composer's score. The print, however, is the performance "

AFTER 3 FAILED MORNINGS UP BEFORE DAWN I FINALLY GOT THE LIGHT I WANTED AT CASTLERIGG STONE CIRCLE, LAKE DISTRICT.

For more of my landscape work (Peak District, Lake District, Scotland, Wales and Andalusia) please visit my website at http://www.michaelcummins.co.uk - thank you.

Credits:

Words and photographs by Michael Cummins

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