My name has become synonymous with composite images but creative photography isn’t all I do. My first love is wildlife, but I also try my hand at most other genres even if I’m fairly rubbish at them 😉.

Displaying Black Kites

I entered this image in a competition recently and when it won and my name was announced the first question asked was “is it a composite?”. The question would not been asked if the author had been anyone but me. I was a bit miffed and am increasingly frustrated at the insinuation that I can’t take a decent record shot and have to give myself some kind of an advantage to do well outside of the creative genre.

In order to be a good composite photographer, you have to be a good photographer. Full stop. All of the component parts of a composite image still have to be excellent photos. Not only that, but as I explained in this post my composites are clearly fantasy, creative or conceptual images. I would never try to fool anyone that they are record photographs taken as shot.

While it’s not against the rules in an Open competition to replace a sky in a landscape image, or add a bird (or anything else) into a wildlife picture, it’s never something I would do. For me, it is disingenuous to pass a composite shot off as a record shot and makes for a very uneven playing field for photographers who are entering competitions with actual record shots. When I compete in a competition I want to win because my image is the best of its genre, not because I’ve given myself an unfair advantage. Even if that’s technically allowed, which it is in Open categories, it wouldn’t feel authentic to me.

It isn’t only record photographers who are fighting this particular battle. In the composite/creative genre there are out and out cheats. Competition rules invariably state that every component part of your image must be a photograph taken by you, yet I have looked at composite images and known for certain that the author had used a Photoshop rain or snow brush, or that textures in the picture were free clipart off the internet or incorporated from software such as Topaz. When you’ve spent hours actually photographing rain and blending it carefully into your composite it’s very disheartening to know that you are competing against authors less scrupulous.

There are lots of ways in the digital age that photographers can be less than honest with their images and in fairness Judges will never know. It is up to the artist to have integrity and respect not only for themselves but for their fellow photographers. A competition won via slight of hand is a hollow victory and not a triumph anyone can take pride in.

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