Photoshop’s bad rap

January 21st, 2010 in Photography

It seems like every other day Adobe Photoshop is in the news or fodder for a Jay Leno stand-up joke or two.  (i.e. OJ is made to look more evil, some supermodel is made thinner, an actor is made to look younger and on and on)  Photoshop certainly gets a bad rap. But, like many other things in our modern age it’s not the tool that’s the problem but the person using it and their intent.  Sure photographs can be changed, manipulated and be made to deceive; nothing new there.  From the very beginning photographs have been manipulated by the photographer, the tools have just gotten better. Darkroom techniques like dodging and burning, light filtering, and chemistry were all used by early photographers to add contrast, highlight the subject or help the viewer to better see what the photographer was trying to show.  Whether good or bad, photo manipulation is a modern fact of life.  You should assume that every photograph you see has been manipulated in some way.

The use of Photoshop in advertising, lifestyle and glamor magazines, and television is ubiquitous.  Again, you should assume that every single photo has been manipulated.  The problem is when photos that appear in documentary or journalistic uses are manipulated.  Those are the areas that photos should not be changed.  We expect to see the truth.

What about fine art photography? Here again Photoshop is just another tool in the artist palette. My take is that I always try to get the image “right” in the camera. But some things you just can’t change or foresee in the field.  You do your best but there is always a little tweak here or there that can improve the image.  Visit any gallery or art museum; Art is art and anything goes.  My images are simply there to be enjoyed. Many are manipulated in some minor way, others a little more.  What follows is an example; a before and after view of a photo that I “cleaned-up” in Photoshop. I did the best I could in the field, but the wires and light poles were unavoidable.  You be the judge; evil deception or just an improved image?

Before (click for larger image)

AfterAfter (click for larger image)

Remember, “Photoshop doesn’t deceive people, People deceive people”.

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