Photography Vs Photoshop

On July 5, 2012 by Simon Fleming

This is one of the hottest debates you can get into these days in the world of photography… blood is often spilt during even the mildest discussions of this topic. I personally live in the realm of get as much done correctly in camera as is possible. To be more specific, don’t be relying on Photoshop to fix your images. I’m not here to debate what sort of post processing is acceptable or how much skin smoothing is too much. I do have my own opinions on those but they are a whole different can of worms topic, and it really ends up boiling down to your own tastes. Did I just hear the evil HDR Fairy shrieking in the background?

Photoshop is an absolutely amazing piece of software that just keeps on getting more amazing at each version. It caters to the needs of a whole bunch of creatives – not just photographers – and in doing so has all sorts of tools that can be used in ways possibly the designers and engineers at Adobe never dreamed of I’m sure. All of this is great, and I certainly use my fair share of a lot of these features but when I do use them it’s to enhance, to bring out my vision, not to fix sloppy photography.

I’m not going to lie and say I never use Photoshop to get me out of a bind – I have and do. If it’s a case of an avoidable problem when shooting I get really p!$$ed off at myself for not picking up on the problem at camera because 1. I’m now wasting time fixing things that shouldn’t have needed to be fixed and 2. I feel like I’ve let the ‘craft’ side of things down – especially when it’s a silly simple mistake. Granted, there are occasions when some things just aren’t physically possible, or it will actually take longer to sort out an issue whilst shooting versus using Photoshop to help out later – if you have had that thought process whilst shooting that’s a good thing because it means you are still thinking. In those instances you have recognised Photoshop as the right tool for that situation, and are pre-planning it’s part in the process rather than discovering you need it when sitting down a t your computer for the first time.

I find that by not relying on Photoshop as a bucket full of band aids, my photography improves. It’s a bit like when I shot film – I didn’t have the safety net of the screen on the camera to check my exposures or focus, I had to know what I was doing when I was actually doing it.

An interesting exercise I tried recently was to tape over my screen and shoot 36 images (a roll of film equivalent) of a ‘mini self assigned’ exercise. I just shot stuff around the house – some outside stuff with sky in it, my wife, my dog… you get the picture. The results were good but man did it feel weird not being able to check each shot as I took it. Having shot film for a long time, including pro work, I was surprised at how nervous and twitchy I was shooting this way but I guess it just goes to show how quickly you can come to rely on technology to do your job for you. Might have to try the same exercise bringing some lights into the equation, just for laughs.

To sum up, no I’m not going to run around with tape over my camera’s screen. Technology is a wonderful thing, it is a new tool in our tool bag as photographers and it is also an upgrade on existing tools. It is not however a replacement of skills and experience. Use it wisely and your photography can only improve, and the pride you take in your work will increase accordingly. Use it unwisely and you will become sloppy, lazy and end up with results which at best will never be anything more than mediocre – you will probably become an expert in Photoshop though but for all the wrong reasons.


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