My goal when I capture an image is to be as “real” about it as possible.  I want my images to stand out on their own, not on how well I can manipulate the image on the computer.

I’ve been noticing that there are apparently two mindsets at work here in the photography world – one in which embraces Photoshop for the editing (and creation) capability and one that does not.

I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be any “post” work done with your images.  It’s more a question of what’s acceptable, to me anyway.  I think that things like cropping, straightening, saturation and highlighting are “normal” and just part of the deal and not much unlike dodging and burning in the darkroom.

What gets me is when items are either added to, or removed from the scene to depict something that was (or was not) present – especially in those images that have as their subject matter the natural world.   I don’t think that has any place in landscape photography!

I think that part of the photographer’s craft is to capture – to the best of your ability –  the image that is presented to you, not to over manipulate the image to look like what you think it should.  In my opinion, the key to a fantastic image should be your ability and skills behind the lens, not your ability to play on the computer.

I like images that look, well, real – and the over manipulated stuff is really starting to turn me off.

For the record, I don’t even know how to use Photoshop and I don’t plan on learning any time soon.  For the time being, at least, I use Picasa – and it does everything I want – straighten, crop, some basic color features, resize and watermark…. and that’s about it!  And it’s damn hard to beat the price.

I’m sure I’ve opened up the proverbial can o’ worms – so let’s hear your thoughts.

~ by Derrick Birdsall on August 19, 2010.

10 Responses to “Photoshop?”

  1. I too lean toward the realistic look, as you noted in your last comment over at my place.

    I will say right off the top that I have no problem with the manipulation of images — photography is a wide and flexible medium that has room for unlimited ways of working, and each individual is free to work however he or she chooses. Some shoot ‘real’, some alter their images heavily, and as far as I’m concerned it’s all valid. I simply respond more to the realistic and ‘straight’ works that I see. Could just be that I was heavily influenced by the ‘straight photography’ school and Group f/64 and others of that time in my younger days. Interesting post. I’m curious to watch and see what kind of response you get.


    • Do you think the term “straight photography” still applies??


      • The term itself has maybe fallen by the wayside, but the philosophy behind it is still as relevant as ever even now, or maybe especially now, in the age of Photoshop. You touched on it with this post.


  2. When I first got serious about photography in Feb I was very intent on getting the shot perfect right in the camera needing little to no post processing. As I’ve grown over the year, I’ve molded my philosophy some to allow me to bring my shots closer to what I remember seeing with my own eyes. I still strive to get the shot right in camera. You can’t correct a bad composition later.

    However I do many of the things you’ve listed as basic tweaks like exposure, crop and contrast adjustments. I will never add anything to the shot like pretty clouds in a dull sky. I’ve tried and tried HDR, but I cannot get it to look good. But like PJ said, photography is art and there is no right or wrong way. I’ve found that initially when you do something different and unusual, people don’t like it, but eventually start to appreciate it.


    • Eric, many thanks for stopping by! I’m with you – HDR looks too much like fantasy land to me than something “real”. Pretty, yes… real… no.


  3. I think those that manipulate their images beyond the normal darkroom tooks often refer to their resulting images as ‘digital art’ (or so they should).

    I tend to lead towards ‘less is more’. I do eliminate digital noise in all my images. I also will make slight levels adjustments, dodge and burn, clone out defects (like specs on flowers, etc.). Have I been more creative at times? Sure. Sometimes I just want to be a bit more artistic and decide to play. However, most often, I kepp things as close as possible as to what I saw.

    I learned this from Wildlife photogs Moose Peterson and famed photog Joe McNally. They refer to post-processing as ‘finishing’ images and instructed us that ALL digital images require finishing to correct for inherent deficiencies found in digital phtography. It was truly a lightbulb moment as, up until that point, I thought any manipulation was ‘cheating’ and was getting frustrated when my images just didn’t look like the pros. Now, my images DO look like the pros.

    It’s all up to the photographer. I like the way I do things. Another may prefer to do a ton of manipulation. I just don’t have that kind of time and prefer to get things as right as I can in camera.


  4. Finishing a shot is a great way to look at it.

    I also hear you about time. I think really that’s my biggest beef with large amounts of manipulation. I would much rather be out shooting then stuck behind a desk.


    • AMEN! As Rockwell says… some folks like to take pictures and others like to play on the computer. I read on some of the forums of guys spending hours on one image and I wonder where they find the time.


  5. I agree with your perspective here, Derrick. Those who like to manipulate their images in Photoshop say that all photography is manipulation. However, this line of reasoning fails to distinguish where the manipulation occurs. At the heart of this debate is whether the photographer has any skill, artistic sense, or talent. Someone who is a genius in Photoshop is just that, but this does not make him or her a genius in photography. When we talk about photography, we are discussing the moment of capture. That is, what is done with the CAMERA to make the art. In classes at the California School of Fine Art, now the San Francisco Art Institute, Minor White emphasized the development of skill and creative aptitude at the moment of seeing rather than in the darkroom. Inherent in the medium of photography is a sense of realism, particularly in landscape photography. Altering images, removing or adding elements goes against the very idea of capturing the “natural” scene. To add to the discussion: Richard Wong’s blog post, “Wildlife Photography Ethics” touches on these issues as does my post, “Man Ray On Art and Originality” which also links to several other blogs that discuss both photographing the same images as others and using Photoshop to alter images and how far to go. Hope this is helpful.


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