Saturday, June 25, 2011

To Photoshop, or not to Photoshop, that is the question...

I am dragging myself slowly through the steps of learning how to use Photoshop at the moment (god bless youtube tutorials!) and, as amazing as it is, I have to ask the question; where do you draw the line?  (Not literally draw the line...)

I mean, photography is about catching a moment in time, unique to that moment and time and place.  Surely by using Photoshop, one is technically ruining the shot that may have taken hours/weeks to plan?  Or even that perfect shot that is caught by being in the right time and place. 
Picture this:
You researched a location and had particular shots in mind.  Then comes the waiting game- you trudge through the weather websites, waiting and waiting for the conditions you require.  Finally, all of the elements fall into place and you rush off to make sure you get as much time as you can shooting.  After a fantastically successful day, you get home and upload your photographs.  Painstakingly, you go through them one by one, scrutinising everything, culling the duds and binning ones that you arent happy with.  There you have it!  Hurray!  You have narrowed them down to the handful that you wanted, but oh, wait a second... what’s that? 

 Oh dear, the horizon is off slightly in that one- so you pop into Photoshop to do this one little teeny weeny edit.
Yes.  Just. This. One. Teeny. Edit.  Mmmmmm...
Two hours later, you find yourself staring at the screen displaying this amazing photograph that looks, well... kind of familiar.  You sigh in sheer contentment at your fabulous artistic skills and go to pour yourself a well deserved glass of wine.  When you return, you take a glance at the screen to admire your work when, BAM, what the HELL is that???  Unnatural colours and tones glare at you with contempt.  Shadows are unnaturally dark and contrast is, well, it’s just ALL over the place.  What happened to the stunning picture you left two minutes ago?
Well ladies and gentlemen, Photoshop brain happened.  I am convinced that there is some sort of a Mrs Doyle (Father Ted) type program running in the background throwing subliminal messages at you the moment you open Photoshop to do a quick and innocent edit. 
"CLICK ON MEEEEE!  GO ON, YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO... GO ON GO ON GO ON GO ON GO ON..." so off you go, clicking and editing up to your eyeballs and the more you change, the more hideous it becomes but you don’t see until, well, hours later.
So, yes.  After two hours of painstakingly clicking and editing and changing and updating, you undo the whole lot and are left with the fabulous photograph that you started with in the first place. (Well, with the horizon straightened)
I know that, used correctly, Photoshop has its place in Photography.  There are stunning effects that you can get etc, but for the minute, I think I will stick to the basics and do as much as I can on my camera. I think, when I do properly use Photoshop, it will either be so subtle that will go unnoticed, or so overused that its  just short of a neon flashing sign.

 I am sure that it is just me and experienced Photoshop people do not run into the problems that I am encountering.  Perhaps it is just ‘teething pains’ as I go through the learning period.  My advice for anyone self-learning Photoshop; When working on a photo, take breaks... take LOTS of breaks and keep going back to the original shot to remind yourself what you intended to edit in the first place. 

Happy snapping!


  1. I dont use any photoshop its a matter of preference really.

    I take saturation out of some photos using iPhoto but thats just my upload manager..

    I use photomatix for HDR but thats just a new thing..

    Do you have Photo shop?? I've a ripped CS5 for mac.. if you need the windows one let me know and i'll try sort it :)

  2. I think that's common in any art form & technology. Because it's so easy to do things now (things that used to take lots of time, specialized equipment, and a conscious choice), it's easy to go crazy with it. I think this is particularly true when you're learning to use it, because you want to try everything out, and it almost fees like you're missing out on some great artistic tool if you don't utilize things. But after doing it over and over again, you come back to the realization that it's exactly that: a tool. It's only as good as the vision it's meant to convey, and if the tool takes over the vision it's gone in the wrong direction.

    ...I don't think you ever become comfortable with knowing when to stop, knowing when to not add more things. It's part of the struggle of creating art. I think artists begin to find their distinct voice through this struggle...

  3. Hey Jen! I'm more of a in-camera kinda guy. I know how to come up with great shot in Photoshop, straighten the line of sight, remove red eye (without people looking like racoons), and dodge and burn my way through some pretty cool effect. But honestly, I just don't have the time to play with Photoshop once I've taken a pic!

    When I'm on site, I'll set the camera up the way I want it (usually bold color, high saturation and crisp focus), then go after the shot I want! I'll probably 200 pics of the same subject from different angles, at different times and then when I get home I'll chose perhaps 3 or 4 shots out of the 200. I'll dump the rest. But, those 3 or 4 shots are the best of the best!

    I do this because I just don't have time for Photoshop editing of the photo. Once it's out of the camera, I'm hard-pressed to perform any other editing.

    But, hey, that's just me! :)


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