HDR Porsche - by Jim Harmer

Snore!  I’ve heard it before… people turn up their noses at my photography because I Photoshop my images.  The ignorant remarks lack an understanding that there are extremely few professional photographers who don’t use digital image editing techniques.  If you’re ever faced with these whiners, consider arming yourself with the following arguments.

First, no photograph is realistic.  Was that sunset really that vibrant?  No, the photographer changed the white balance in the camera to make it look more colorful.  Was that lion really 3 feet away from the camera?  No, the photographer used an extremely long lens to make the lion seem close to the camera.  Was that football really frozen in mid-air while making that catch?  No, the photographer used a fast shutter speed to freeze the action.  You get the idea… everything photographers do is about creativity–not reality.

The natural response you will receive from this argument is “Well, those changes are made in the camera, not the computer!”  How do you answer that?  Repeat after me: “So what!”  What difference does it make whether the photographer makes them in the camera (which really IS a computer) or on a desktop?  None, really. What your opponent really means by saying you made the changes in camera instead of the computer is that it takes skill to make them in the camera, but not the computer.  This is a good time to educate your foe about Photoshop.  It takes several years for anyone to really master this program and is arguably just as difficult or more difficult than making in-camera changes.

No one would fault Leonardo da Vinci for making the painting of Mona Lisa more beautiful than she was in reality.  Why then is it such a big deal for a photographer to do the same?  No one would fault a painter for making up a landscape instead of painting an exact replica of a real landscape, but for some reason, people fault landscape photographers for doing the same thing.  A photo frame is a photographer’s canvas.  Put in it whatever you choose.

Obviously, there are some types of photography that should not include image editing.  For example, photojournalism.  The key here is not to deceive the viewer because the photo is a part of a fact-dissemination effort.  In this case, the antidote is transparency.  If a news image is manipulated, the news organization is responsible for reporting the manipulation to viewers.

What do you think?  Comment below and let me know if you think I’m wrong (or right).

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  1. Jenn

    I couldn’t agree with you more! I had this very debate a little while back with an aquaintance, who is very against photoshopping. Your article had basically the same points I made to him, with a tad more detail.

  2. Lizzy

    I believe that if you use Photoshop to manipulate your photo it no longer becomes your photo. Anything you did with the camera is okay because that is something you use to take the picture. But if you change the picture after you take it, it is no longer the picture you took. Painter are able to paint whatever they want because it is what they paint. It is an art just like photography. They can change it as much as they want until they are finished. Photographers are finished after they shoot the pic. No i do agree that Photoshop can be helpful in some cases to get ride of dirt or scars and stuff that makes the picture mot attractive to a person. But in cases of competitions it is not fair for some to use Photoshop and others not to. I do not use Photoshop on my photographs because as i said before it is no loner my picture then. I take some pretty good photography but when you are going up against a computer generated image it isn’t fair. A person can take a horrible picture and turn it into something great on Photoshop. When i can go out a take a great picture but they win with their fake picture because they perfected it on the computer. Actually taking pictures and then changing pictures on the computer should be two different arts.

  3. Ryan

    I agree completely! One thing you didn’t mention in here and I believe that it is an important point to make, is that Photoshop is to digital photography what the dark room was to film photography. In the dark room, you used different fluids and processing methods to adjust the contrast and colours in the image. Which is exactly what photographers do in Photoshop (obviously minus the chemicals). Just like the film camera has been upgraded, so too has the accompanying technology that photographers use after they’ve pushed the shutter release.

    It can therefore be said that Photo-shopping an image is merely the next step in the photography process. Whether you embrace it or ignore it is up the photographer.

    Our eyes are amazing creations that can see such a dynamic range of tonal variations,that makes it is difficult for artificial technology to keep up. Photoshop, just like a camera, is another piece of technology that exists to help photographers close the gap between what our eyes can see and what technology can preserve.

    Just like a painter no longer uses paint and a brush to paint an image, there are now thinners and varnishes etc. (I don’t know much about painting) which a painter uses to enhance their painting. The same can be said for photography. A photographer no longer uses just a camera and film to capture an image.

    The fact of the matter is that Photoshop is here to stay. There will always be those opposed to it and those for it. Fortunately for the photo-shoppers the majority of our ‘global village’ is in favour of Photoshop. They have embraced and welcome the diversity it brings to our photographs.

  4. Robert

    I learned photography from my father and then used it for Law Enforcement. You have to take the best quality photo everytime. Now that I am retired from that I still use very little digital enhancements. It has always been my belief that if a novice photographer can’t tell its a photo by looking at it. It becomes art based on photography.
    You’ll never find an answer to this question. Do what you do and enjoy it. Hope that others also enjoy your work, what more could you want.

  5. Sharad

    Using any program like Photoshop or Lightroom or anything is just about using a better program(than in-camera) for manipulating the data captured by your camera and maybe using more processing power. Because the small in-camera processor has its limitations of processing the captured data which can be overcome by using photoshop.
    So there is nothing to fool anybody of that.

  6. Dave

    ‘Do what you do and enjoy it.’ now that’s got to be the most important thing…

    I’m in two minds on this as I use photoshop everyday for work and there is a mass of things that a good photoshop user can do, if he/she can draw and have a wacom pen another level once again.
    I suppose it depends on if you count the final image as a photo or a digital manipulation / Illustration, and how far you take the shot / editing…

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