SOOC: The Arguments For And Against

October 16, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

SOOC : The Arguments For And Against

Let’s be frank about this.

It’s perhaps the most obvious division of Photography attitudes online today.

How many of us have been accused of not being true to the original image? Most, I’m sure. I’d like to fire up this debate as my brain has been chewing on it for a while now. Open the forum, and with cool, calm and collected intellectual minds, let’s discuss this like adults.

I’m not intending to attack anybody, any group or anything. For the record, I’m for the Post-Processing camp, for reasons which I will detail later.

SOOC, abbreviation for ‘Straight Out Of Camera” – in the Flickr groups definition:

SOOC images are Pictures As Shot. Manipulated images will be removed. No processing in or out of camera.. No color or contrast adjustments, composites, layers, conversions (to black & white), sharpening, borders, watermarks, straightening - just SOOC. Don't molest the picture. Make sure the EXIF info is on, otherwise the picture will be treated like a drunken suspect.”

Instagram also has #nofilters.

That’s pretty clear?

No editing, no changing the White Balance in camera… wait, what?

Before we get carried away, let’s look at the evidence and schools of thought on the topic.

"I think the problem with this is when people start to hold-fast to it (SOOC) so religiously that it restricts their creativity, and they start to think people who post-process are incapable of getting things right to begin with. Then there’s also the other party that thinks exactly opposite, that every image must be post-processed given the technology available and that people who SOOC are just incapable of post-processing, hence holding on to SOOC.

Looking at the above, I think both parties are just plain ridiculous."

Well said Goldfries



1.       Photojournalism : whereby the truth in an image is paramount to the purpose of taking a photograph. This would serve to prove as a historical record of an event, proof of legal proceeding or discovery.  I know there’s more, but I’m hoping you get the idea…

As the this argument is a lengthy one, I won’t go there now. I am not discounting it as worthy of this discussion, quite the opposite. I (personally) find it completely acceptable of having SOOC methodologies and practices. If you’re still keen to read up on the controversies that have come and gone, have a look at the 2013 Winner of the World Press Photo exhibition. There's many more out there, however this is the most recent example I could find.

2.       Learning: You’ve just started out, it’s all so confusing. One step at a time. Learn how to take the photos, then learn how to edit them, in time. For now, you’re realising how your camera works, how light interacts with your shots and finding out which settings work best to get the optimal image. There is no set time limit for you to learn, everyone does so at their own pace.

So you've got a camera, maybe a single or twin lens kit. Maybe it's a compact camera with manual mode and you want to learn how to be independent of the pre-set modes. It's your "paint by numbers" if you will. Experimentation, interpretation and consideration.

This brave new world of translating the numbers into images. Learning your composition basics, what an fstop is and how it makes a difference to your picture, ISO and White Balance, Contrast and Saturation, Focus modes and exposure times. There is no essential need to step into the sphere of post-processing until you've got a firm grasp on what your camera is doing, and how you can make it do what you want it to. You have to pass the driving test before becoming a formula-one race professional.

You must first learn how to take a great photo in-camera. We all do this, we all have learnt how to take the shots that form a foundation for our later work. Get it right in the field. Get it right on-camera. Take a great photo that's well composed, exposed and considers the functionality of tone, line and shape. Remember, as humans, we are life-long learners. They day you stop learning, is the day that you've kicked the bucket.

3.       Purity / Simplicity: Those who believe a camera is more than capable of taking a great shot without any editing techniques applied. Some, not all, may come from “the film days” (Loosely classified as those who used to shoot with a non-digital camera and developed images in a darkroom with chemicals, performing small miracles to see their final images).

These are usually the groups who will comment on a processed image with such words as "I'd like to see it before you butchered it". They're highly defensive of their work and the 'movement' shall we say. They may be drawn into this either by a fear, inability to appropriately post process or misunderstanding of the techniques applied to an image in post-production. Once again this does not apply to all, but is my experience.

I'm not offended if an image does not need any post production. Good on you. Congrats. 


This section isn't meant to be "Against SOOC" Because us post-processors aren't against it.

We just see a larger potential in an image that has had some adjustments.

It's usually why we shoot RAW.

In doing a little bit of research for this idea, I came across this thought:

"One sentence I see far too often from photographers who post their work online, usually in forums, is “straight out of the camera”. Whenever I see this sentence I know I am about to see some boring, flat images with little or no distinct style or character.

For some reason certain photographers see retouching as an admission of failure. They think that if they didn’t do it in camera, then it doesn’t count. This is nonsense of course, any serious photographer re-touches their images to some degree, whether it’s done in the darkroom or on the computer. This is just part of the photographic process. And while it’s true you should do your best to get as much “right” when you take the shot to minimize what needs to be adjusted later, photographers who never retouch, never develop the necessary skills, and never develop their images to their full potential."

Source: Why Straight Out of Camera is Not a Boast You Should Make

My favourite response to the For Post-processing article is taking an older example and comparing it to the modern.

Dali. Matisse. Van Gogh.

If you do not know those names then you need to get yourself onto Google or Wikipedia, or into a Library and become familiar NOW.

They're the unmistakable hallmarks, godfathers even, of art movements' passed.

Mr Dali was responsible for melting clocks, crutches and other perverse oddities

Mr Matisse, his beautiful gardens, lillies and scenices of the European countryside

Mr Van Gogh cut his ear off and painted Sunflowers.

But what's the point, other than a quick-notes history lesson?

Interpretation of the world, how they translated it, into a new creation.

As photographers, do we not do the same thing? We capture an image, we tweak it and bend it into how we see the world, how we see the scene. Post processing is our paintbrush and pigments. It is us exercising our right to use Artistic Interpretation. We are not out to capture a photograph for the purpose of being accurate to what we actually saw, we are creating Art = Fine Art Photography.

One of my favourite Photography musings-blogs, Petapixel, posted this  Article a little while back. One of the key quotes in finishing, is the following:

"Fast-forward to 2013 and my even more witchcraft-like Nikon DSLR. What does “getting it right in the camera” mean to me? Getting enough right in the camera. It was always this. There was a percentage of that final product — which started out as an image pre-visualized in my head — that was done IN the camera and done OUT of the camera."

What I like, is the idea that it's now a two-step process. Take the image in the camera, get as much as you can right, and finish it off in post. Some may have 95% in camera, 5% in post. Others it may be a 50/50 or a 20/80.

I want to ask you a question that only you can answer.

1. Who is your professional idol. What do they do? Do they discuss the greatness of post-production? Do they shun it? Why / Why not?

2. How many professionals, do you think, (apart from Photojournalists) enter Photo competitions and prizes/awards, with images that are SOOC?

Once you learn the correct techniques of post processing, including how much to use, but more importantly, when and where to use it, the world is your oyster. You'll begin to look at older images with a new perspective. Take new images in anticipation of what you can do it it later. I personally love sitting down at the PC and "playing" or post-processing. It's just as much fun as hunting down the original image to begin with. Indeed there are no steadfast rules for it either. Through play you will learn what works and what doesn't.

I'm not one of those "crazies" who claim that every image HAS to be post-processed. I simply believe that if you do not, you are not doing yourself any favours, but with the caveat that, not every image needs post processing, some a little, some, a lot.

It is the artists choice what he/she does and how much of it. Some say the best processing cannot be noticed.





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