Are you a cheating filmmaker or photographer?
As creatives, particularly photographers or filmmakers, we’re often accused of “cheating” for using certain techniques and processes. Everything from using presets and LUTs to removing elements of a scene in Photoshop or After Effects. If you haven’t been accused of cheating yet, don’t worry, you probably will at some point.
YouTuber YCImaging certainly has, and in this video, he talks about three of the things he’s been accused of cheating for when it comes to his filmmaking process. Have you been accused of these? Do you use these techniques yourself?
Colour grading with LUTs
LUTs in the video world are like Lightroom presets to photographers. They’re a one-click way to give your image or footage a certain look. Yes, I think every photographer and filmmaker should learn how to correct and grade their own photos and footage themselves, but if a LUT or preset gives you the look you were going for anyway, why not use them?
This one is probably more common to filmmakers than it is to photographers, although it’s quite common for photographer compositors to use stock images in their work, too. You don’t always have the ability to fly off to the other side of the world to get that clip or photograph of that one castle that would fit really well in your sequence. As long as you’ve purchased a legit license, how is it cheating? It’s exactly why stock footage and photography websites exist.
Using noise reduction with stills isn’t really an issue these days. But using it for video is often frowned upon. Why? I have no idea it, but that seems to be the way of things. I got into denoising my photography years ago with Noise Ninja, back when it was still actually called that. Then, there wasn’t really any good alternative. ISO performance in cameras sucked, so if you wanted clean shots above ISO400, it was all you could really do.
These days, there are much better cameras out there with crazy ISOs that extend up to over 3 million. And for video, too, there are cameras with dual native ISO and very high ISO ranges that still hold decent quality. But why should people be forced to upgrade to the latest kit every year or two when the piece of software they’ve already owned for years can do the job just fine?
But these aren’t the only things for which photographers and filmmakers are accused of cheating. I regularly see accusations of cheating online in forums and Facebook photography & filmmaking groups for various things, including…
Yes, I’ve heard of filmmakers using gimbals being told that they’re “cheating” and that they should learn proper handholding technique or “buy a Steadicam” (which, somehow, isn’t cheating). When filmmakers use a gimbal to create the look of a slider, they’re told to go buy an actual slider and use that instead. Why? What does it matter as long as they get the shot done?
Further to the previous point… “Warp stabiliser’s cheating! You should just get a gimbal and do it properly!”
Oh yeah, apparently using flash is “cheating”, according to some people. You should only use the ambient light, and if your camera isn’t good enough to see in the dark, then you just need a better camera, don’t you? And, apparently, we just shouldn’t shoot outdoors during times when the lighting sucks. We’re not allowed to bring out own.
Compositing for dynamic range
This one is more the photographers than the filmmakers, but this is another one I regularly see people being accused of “cheating” for when they post composited landscapes online. So, they shot three exposures on a tripod and blended them together in Photoshop to create the image they saw that their camera wasn’t capable of making. So what?
Unless you’re shooting something which you’re purporting to be reality (like documentary or photojournalism), then ignore the accusations and just do you. All that matters is the end result. As long as you are happy with how you got there, who cares what other people think about your process?
What photography or filmmaking techniques do you use that you’ve been accused of “cheating” for?
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.