To Pose or Not To Pose



‘All the world’s a stage’ – As You Like It, William Shakespeare

Every morning, before I get out of bed, I spend 15-20 minutes looking through the news and in particular anything that is happening in the world of photography. 

This week I read a story, which I felt I had to write a post about, to both put my thoughts on the topic out there and to gather your opinions. The story I am referencing is that on March 18th of the $120k award winning HIPA image, which apparently looks to have been staged.

Photo sourced from PetaPixel
Therefore, the discussion is when does manipulation, for the purpose of competition, become an issue. Should it be allowed? 

I am a street / environmental portrait photographer and also a wedding photographer. I am therefore very familiar with candid as well as staging images and I know that if you have someone who you have time with and a suitable environment you obviously have greater control of the final image produced. This doesn’t necessarily mean you capture better images but it does mean you have the control to try and capture something much more in line with what you are looking for. When out on the street I will be honest and say that 95% of the time I am shooting candid photographs however, I have, at times, given nods or even at one point asked someone to repeat a motion because it made a great image. Does it make me less of a photographer? No. More photographers than probably admit do manipulate the street in whichever way they can if it means they can capture what they see / want. Again, there is nothing wrong with this, if it gets the shot do it. The issue with trying to manipulate the street, in my opinion, is that you do not capture the natural movement or mannerisms of people. You capture an image you can connect with more if your subject is not posing and is in a much more natural state. 

The obvious difference in these scenarios is the fact that when I am on the street I am doing it for me and my body of work. I am not entering competitions for large sums of money or to pit my skills against fellow photographers.

When entering competitions you are being challenged with producing an image that is deemed to be better than that of your peers. You are also being challenged to find a story to tell which is deemed to be of a higher quality in both interest and emotion. If you start adding control to these type of competitions then you have an unfair advantage over others. I also believe, especially in this case, it is wrong to stage an image and then declare that it was captured as a natural image and I think this is where the above falls even more so into the category of deception. The photographer who took the image stated that it was an ‘unplanned’ moment. If you shoot an image for a competition it is wrong to stage that image however to then deceive the judges with false claims of its candid nature is even worse. That is because it takes greater skill to nail a candid moment as it often requires quicker reactions and an ability to see and compose an image effectively in a much shorter period of time. To get an image as good as the one above in a candid scenario is a wonderful achievement, to capture it when you have the time to pose, align yourself, set your camera etc. in your own time, not so much. It does not detract from the final image but it does remove an element of satisfaction knowing that this image was taken under controlled conditions.

 This is not the first time that manipulation of images for the purpose of competition has been in the news. In 2016 Nikon Singapore ran a competition which was won by an image which had gone through some digital manipulation with an aeroplane being added in post-production to give a greater finish to the photograph. This image caused outrage throughout the community, especially those who entered and also it was a little embarrassing for the company with a lot of statements being made that the best image their cameras could capture was a photoshopped image.

Photo sourced from PetaPixel
So what do you think? Is it ok to add as much control into a photography competition as possible or is it an advantage you should not have?  This article is purely my opinion and there is no right or wrong answer, if the competition does not dictate that this is not allowed then is it the photographers fault if they try and give themselves a better chance of winning? It is definitely a topic I would love to hear your opinion on.

One thought on “To Pose or Not To Pose

  1. First off, great article and I look forward to reading more in the future. The issue here isn’t that it was staged. It wasn’t a photo journalism competition so the fact it was staged or influenced would have been fine. The problem here is that the photographer is passing this off as something it isn’t. This completely discredits the photo and shows a lack of respect to the photographers intended audience which in my opinion is very wrong. In terms of it being wrong to win the competition though, I don’t know. It sounds like no rules were broken but then that doesn’t mean it was right. It certainly isn’t something I agree with. It all boils down to ethics at the end of the day.

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