Touching up reality

Enhancing photos and reality
A frozen lake. The Lac de Taillères, Canton of Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

Who spilt the pot of paint?

I’m beginning to wonder about our penchant for embellishing photos. It is so easy to modified them. The one above looks like somebody spilt a giant pot of rainbow paint on it. The colours are so vivid they make my mouth water. Maybe the question should be: why did I choose to alter it? Well, to be honest, in this case I deliberately exaggerated for the article. But it is tempting to re-touch every photo posted on Instagram or elsewhere on social media, if only a little, for added impact.

A smart reality

Of course, the camera never sees what the eye can and smartphones rework photos in the split second before you see them. The other day, a friend and I were snapping the same scene. His Samsung stoked up the colour saturation while my iPhone looked pale in comparison, even if it was truer to the colours the eye could see. Does that make his smartphone better? I was disappointed with my photo till I realised that the vibrant colours that I momentarily envied were an imposition of the phone-maker. They made the shades of grey and the nuances of pale pastels look unjustly inadequate. Every one of those revved up pics presented an enhanced reality that made the world pale in comparison.

Beyond the postcard effect

Should we be condemning people for wanting a more striking picture to share with friends and acquaintances? Surely not. Pictorial one-upmanship is a part of the social media world where every little like counts. But there is a sort of ‘postcard’ effect. When postcards were launched on the market – and even today – people combed the world in search of potential postcards in nature and tried to snap themselves into such scenes. Now armed with their smart phone people are constantly staging and sharing pretty, tinted shots of the world. Just as postcards permanently coloured our vision, so the ‘Instagram’ photo distorts our world-view. Striking images become common-place, and the mundane sinks into a sea of lassitude. Not everyone can grasp the potential magic of a scene and their failure to capture all but the mundane can be conveniently masked by recourse to effects and colorisation.