When is a Photograph No Longer a Photograph?

Chris Gampat Asta's Multiple exposures (6 of 8)ISO 1001-250 sec at f - 8.0

Is the above image a photograph or is it something else? Is it digital art? Is it something created by someone who took loads of photos and layered them on top of one another?

Even so, does that mean that the image is no longer a photograph?

To create this image, what I did was a multiple exposure in camera. Asta was given instructions to do one pose, then another and then another. Using the Canon 5Ds, I layered each exposure on top of one another. The purists, who say that a photograph is a photograph as long as it just came out of the camera, would argue that this is indeed a photo. But if the images were not done in camera and layered on top of one another in Photoshop, they very much would not call the final image a photograph.


The photographers that often have their work in question are conceptual shooters who have a highly complicated and incredible process in the creation of their images. Many are said to be Photoshopped while others put lots of planning and work into organic set design.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer TriggerTrap Flash Adapter review black and white (1 of 1)ISO 2003.0 sec at f - 6.4

But in all honesty, who cares if an image is photoshopped so long as it looks good? An image can still be a photograph if the majority of one image is still in the final photo without much manipulation. If there is 20% of one image and 20% of another until we get to 100% then the image can be considered a composite of some sort and a strong argument can be made for it not being a photograph.

In the photojournalism world, anything beyond adding a bit of contrast, exposure changes or crops (and a bit more) is illegal. But not everything in the photo world is dominated by photojournalism standards. The art world, advertising, commercial, editorial and other genres can be much more experimental and creative.

If the images in the lead photo of this post were taken individually and simply layered on top of one another, then they would easily be considered a photo because 100% of each photo is present in the final rendering. Otherwise, a photo can be considered digital art of some sort.

Technically though, the image could have been achieved in another way by using stroboscopic flash. It would be tough to do, but it surely is possible.

So what does all of this mean? It essentially will help you in pitching and presenting your own portfolio of images. Digital Art and that realm is totally different from photography although there is some overlap. Additionally, you can also learn just how far you can push your creativity before something isn’t called a photo anymore.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.