The editing we live

I stopped by the Lensbaby booth at Macworld and was talking to a rep there.

He let me mess with his Canon XTi and Lensbaby 2.0. Since I’ve systematically destroyed all my cameras, it has been a long while. When my hands grabbed the camera, it was electric—my hands were made for an SLR, my eyes were made to be behind the viewfinder. I snapped a couple of photos.

Lensbaby 2.0

A lensbaby is a cheap lens that turns your expensive dSLR into a really cheap lomographic camera.

He then asked me a question he had been pestered with that day, “Why don’t you just use photoshop to do the same thing the lensbaby does?”

[My answer after the jump]

Emulation and editing

You can’t get the same shot in photoshop. You can emulate it with lens blurring effects, but it’s not the same. From a physics perspective, it definitely isn’t the same, but I mean from a philosophical one. The manufacturers like to call the lensbaby a “selective focus lens.” And that is what I do, select focus, edit in camera.

You may think, “Well, why not just take a perfect shot with a great lens and then blur in post. Why edit in camera?” But that is a beginner’s thought and why most photographs are unremarkable. That’d be no different than saying, “Why don’t I invent a zillion pixel camera that shoots my world in all directions, continuously, at 10,000 times a second?”

What and just go back and choose the right part of the right shot and just “photoshop it?

Our time is too precious. So we edit.

Editing as a choice

When we choose the lens, we edit perspective. When we adjust the metering, we edit the light. When we frame the shot, we edit other parts out. The instant we press the shutter, we edit the other moments out. When you shoot with a lensbaby, you select on subject and edit the others out.

Watch a beginner with a zoom lens. They try to say this and that with their camera with a shot, pretty soon they have put so much stuff into the shot that they’ve really said nothing at all! The biggest advantage of a prime lens is that it forces you to edit with your feet and perspective. Zoom is the auto-correct of the camera world.

When you use a Lensbaby, it’s a prime-squared. You are not only stuck with a single focal length, you are handicapped by a single focus (and aperture). You have to think, “What am I saying?” because you can only say one thing as it will blur the rest. Maybe you choose to focus on “eye” or maybe you focus on “shoulder” or perhaps “logo.” That is the subject you choose and with a press of the shutter, it turns into a word: “intensity” or “beauty” or “MacWorld.”

And when we really think about it, isn’t that what our eye does when we look at things? I don’t see everything at once—my eye selects a subject.

Think about the photograph when you photograph.

Pointing in both directions

The camera points at you, but it points at me too—as an editor, to choose to photograph you then, in this way, at this moment, inside this environment, and with this light.

When your home is about to burn down, you save the wedding album before you save the cash. Money can be replaced, but that memory can’t. A photograph has a special value and the value is in the edit—not what you put in, but what you left out. Why is this moment, out of all the moments in our life, significant?

As photographers, we are stewards of that significance.

Photography is phun!

My hand touches the camera again. Photography is fun again. The lensbaby brings some of that fun back, selecting a tiny sliver of significance out from the whole canvas of it all.

unknown tree flowers

Cherry blossoms
Mountain View, California

Nikon D70, Lensbaby 2.0
f/2 at 1/2000 second, iso 200, 50mm (75mm)

I need to get my cameras fixed.

I then returned the camera and lensbaby to its owner, who said, “They should hire you to sell these things.” 😀

8 thoughts on “The editing we live

  1. I’d rather spend time taking pictures with the real deal than trying to emulate what the LB does using Photoshop. But some folks are wired that way – always trying, playing experimenting. That’s okay, too. Just not for me.

  2. Hi Terry!

    Thanks for “crediting” me as the rep you spoke with at the LensBaby booth while at the San Francisco MacWorld Expo. And it’s great you cited the question I asked you on here about if the LB lens effects could be replicated using Photoshop. After our speaking with one another briefly, that’s why I asked you that question and to hear what kind of answer you would furnish me. Your response was so intelligent and technically convincing and savvy that I was amazed, and wished you were there earlier to respond to one particular person who was condescending about the fantastic things a LensBaby can achieve. But yes, that same question was posed several times to me during the course of the expo (before and after I met you), and fortunately, most people were sold on my explanation. The result: People bought a LensBaby! YAAAY!

    It was certainly a pleasure meeting you, Terry, and thanks for stopping by the booth to not only show your support for LensBaby with great sincerity, but for showcasing your respective beautiful work using your own LB 2.0.


  3. I completely agree about doing as much as you can in camera (and lens). Photoshop has its place, of course, and I use it a lot, as you know, but the more you get right in your shot upfront, the easier it is to tweak and push your image later. The parallels of sensor=film and Photoshop=darkroom still hold.

    Get your cameras fixed, man.

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