To Photoshop or Not To Photoshop, – That is the question!
This is a topic that comes up far too often in my opinion. It’s a debate that has been raging since the dawn of Photoshop. Everyone has their opinion and very happy to share it. Facebook is a great place to find these ongoing discussions on whether photos should be presented as ‘real’ photos and not ‘Photoshopped’.
As I said this debate has been going for a long time now and it doesn’t show any signs of easing off anytime soon. Particularly now since post-production software has improved so much that it has become much more accessible and user-friendly.
I remember hearing someone say that we should go back to the good old days of photography when there were only film camera’s and photos were real and unprocessed. Of course, this is all rubbish as photoshop is really the digital darkroom and all great photographers spent many hours if not days in the darkroom dodging and burning to get their photos looking the best that they could.
At the end of the day, it’s really up to the photographer whether to use Photoshop or any other post-production software and to what extent he or she will use that software. I believe that it all comes down to what the images intended use will be. Is it photojournalism? or is it an artistic view of a beautiful landscape?
Photography is very much an art form and how each individual sees it is a very personal thing. As the photographer, you have to think about how you want your image to be received by the viewer. Are you trying to produce something that is merely trying to extract a smile from the viewer or are you trying to document a real-life event exactly how it was at that moment in time?
As an artist, it is well within your rights to be as free and creative with your image but if you’re trying to document, let’s say a warzone. Then I think you might need to be less creative with your editing and keep it more correctional, only making changes to your image to try to replicate what you saw with your own eyes.
It all comes down to how your print will be used as to how far you might go in a creative sense with your post-production. As a professional photographer, your images might have many uses. As an amateur/hobbyist photographer, your images are most likely for your own enjoyment and there really is no reason to limit how far you might take your creativity.
If your image is to be used by a business to promote a product or a service, you will most likely be required to keep your images as realistic as possible. For example, if you are photographing a hotel or a travel destination, your photos should accurately portray how it looks in real life so that when travellers turn up they are not shocked by how unlike the photos their hotel is.
In real estate photography, it is quite common to replace skies and remove objects that distract from the subject matter which is the property for sale. And as long as you don’t change the actual property, most would agree that it’s fine.
As a landscape photographer, I very much believe that capturing the photo is only 50% of the task and post-production is the other 50%. When I’m out shooting, how the image will be processed is always on my mind. I think of the landscape as my canvas and I am the artist. I do whatever I can to get the best capture possible but always thinking of how I will create my masterpiece later on when I open up my image in Photoshop. Some will think that this is wrong and I should not process my image at all, but in actual fact, it is completely impossible to do this. In order to use a RAW file, you must learn how to process the RAW file in order to be able to use it. Some would say that they don’t use photoshop so therefore their images are real and unprocessed. Again this is impossible to do, as your camera makes many adjustments to your image before turning it into a jpeg image file. Your image is processed without you having any control over the results. At the end of the day, it really is nobody’s business how much or how little processing you do to your image.
We all see photography in our own way, it is and has always been very subjective and what you may think is over ‘photoshopped’ may be under photoshopped to someone else. It’s time for us to get over ourselves and stop pushing our ideas of how an image should look onto other people. Your photo is your photo and nobody has the right to tell you that it should look any different to how you decide it should look. You should be able to do whatever you want without any fear of being attacked for no other reason than having a different taste in photography than somebody else.
So in my final words on this topic, be yourself, shoot for you and don’t listen to what other people say what your photography should be. We are all individuals and that’s what makes us interesting. It would be very boring if every photo of the Grand Canyon looked exactly the same. It’s amazing to go onto Instagram or Facebook and see all of the amazing photos on there.