Some people think that any photo post-processing in software alters the reality, because it changes the “truth” recorded by the camera. This article explains why this is not true. In short, what camera records is simply not the “truth”, because a camera sensor is not nearly identical to a human eye. Moreover, unless you shoot in RAW, what camera delivers is not even what the sensor sees: it has already been processed in camera software!
First of all, there are no “true” photographs. How would you define them? Let’s say the “true” photos show exactly what a human sees. But even human vision is variable! Different people see the world in various ways: there is color blindness etc… Thus, we are missing the reference “true” photograph definition at the first place, it does not exist!
Next, the camera “sees” with its sensor, and people – with their eyes. Do you really think that modern camera sensors can compare to human eyes?.. Fortunately, no. Not even nearly. Otherwise we would be in trouble. Have you seen the famous movie The Terminator? That’s what will probably happen when technology approaches the natural perfection. Nowadays a human eye is much more capable than a camera sensor. It adapts to changing lighting conditions faster and better, compensates color shifts better, perceives a much larger dynamic range, etc. A camera sensor does its best to perform similarly, but it cannot compete with the nature.
You took a shot. The sensor collected visual information, as much as it could, and transformed it to digital form. What happens next? If you are shooting in the RAW format, you will get this data as is (more or less), and then process it in software to create a photograph. However, if you shoot in a different format, the camera will process the raw image data internally to generate the photograph. The camera software will try to optimize the data, to make a nicer photo… Just like Photo Sense does! Thus, unless you shoot in RAW, you are already using photo enhancement software inside the camera, if you wish it or not! And unless you have a high-level camera capable of shooting in RAW, you cannot even see what the camera sensor actually sees! All photos the camera gives you have already been optimized in software to look better!
Hence, can we speak about the “true” photograph coming from a camera as a JPEG image? Of course not! The “truth” has been altered twice on this image’s way: first, it was perceived by the sensor in its own way, and second, it was optimized by the in-camera software. Post-processing is often necessary to correct the camera’s mistakes and let photos look realistic. Software post-processing is not only for making photos more vivid, its original goal is to make them realistic!