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. John

    There’s a fine line between enhancing a photo in photoshop and modifying it so much that it’s no longer a photo. In the example above you’ve done the latter. Sure you can use velvia or some other vivid color film to get that effect, or you can change some camera settings, but nothing is going to make your photo look like a painting straight out of the camera. Fast shutter speed, night shots, high iso, wide open lenses – all of those are artistic things you can do with a camera.

    In post processing minor enhancements are acceptable, what you’ve done above is wrong.

    1. Author
      Jim Harmer

      Thanks for commenting! Let’s get a debate on the topic.

      What about using digital tools to make art is “wrong?” This isn’t a news story. It’s art. Why does it matter how it was created?

      1. Vee

        I personally see nothing wrong with post processing an image.
        Since our eye’s see in 3D, why would we want to view photo’s that are in flat 2D? The camera cannot see the image eactly, as we do, if it did, then there would not be a need for post processing.

        Ever hear the expression, WOW, that picture look’s so “real”? Someone did one great post processing job, or simply tweeked it a little.

        I went to a seminar, and the speaker was one of Ansel Adams former workshop instructors. He told and showed us
        how Ansel Adams, would at times do this, to get exactly what he wanted.

        Photography is a skill/art. Photoshoping is a skill. Just anyone can not sit down to a computer pop in Photoshop, and start doing all of these amazing thngs. It is very complicated, and takes a long time to get the chops to do it.

        If a person want a “real” just walk up to a subject, pull out the camera and shoot it, no post processing of any type, go ahead, and see what is gotten. A flat boring photo.

        We post process simply to make the image’s “pop” and more eye appealing. There is no right, or wrong, simply differences of opinions.

        Bottom line is, everyone is not going to agree, however respecting others opinions is important.

        Some simply tweek, some nothing at all, while some in my opinion, just go a bit overboard, for my taste.

  2. Mihir

    I agree to a lot of what you have written. But we do not live in an ideal world, do we? There are always going to be 2 sides to an argument and this one is just that.

  3. P.N

    Im sorry but i totally agree with John on this one, Photoshopping has gone way too far…
    We may not live in an ideal world hence the reason we shouldn’t even try to sell one, just look at the impact that it has on young girls…
    Modell’s so photoshopped out that they dont even exist in real anymore and those are idol’s of billions of young girls who get’s anorexic cause “she looks so skinny on that ad”..

  4. Author
    Jim Harmer

    Good point, P.N. That can be true for Photoshopping models, but what about landscape photography or other fine art photography? Is that also unethical?

  5. P.N

    I do only adjustments myself like the lab’s used to, i do not modify however what’s on the photo. I think photography is about the moment and if that cant reflect the real thing our memory what we will leave behind will be faked all the way..
    There’s a lot of new ‘art’ that based on photography now like HDR, but i’d more put that into digital art creation than photography. I can tolerate minor changes in a landscape photography but when people push it to extreme … i dont see the point of doing photography anymore in that case.

  6. Author
    Jim Harmer

    Good comment, P.N. That’s a worth-while justification for you to not do extensive Photoshopping.

    Just keep in mind that photography IS art. Some people, like you, might enjoy it to record moments precisely. Other people may enjoy it to create new things and use their imaginations. Neither one is “right”, but I think it’s important to recognize that not all art has to be the same art that you (and others) enjoy.

  7. P.N

    Just giving my opinion :) i dont BOO out HDR’s or any other kind of things (maybe the very extreme doll’s on ad’s i do) … I do appreciate lot of different style for sure, everyones doing what they like to do :)

    1. Author
      Jim Harmer

      Excellent comments, P.N. I think it’s interesting how divergent people’s opinions are on this topic. What kind of photography do you do? Are you a hobbyist or a pro?

  8. P.N

    Im not sure i can define a style for me :) Honestly i hardly consider myself as an artist, i do whatever inspire me to take a picture of. The what i dont do is an easier list to make for me. I dont do any studio.

  9. Shawn Carpenter

    I agree with you that photography is art and every artist has their vision. Some photographers are looking for perfect clean photos while others are looking to manipulate photos to achieve a certain effect. There is every extreme of this out there from the people who do absolutely no manipulation what so ever to the people who manipulate photos so much that they no longer appear to be photos any longer. As far as art is concerned everything is acceptable, there are no limits. The end result is the artists vision.

  10. Eje G

    I don’t mind HDR’s or any other photoshopping tools to create the feeling or great imagery. What I do NOT like is when people try to pass along photos that been “shopped” as the real deal. Be honest about it. Yes this is a HDR, or yes I increased the blacks, contrast, whitebalance and exposure post process (or whatever else was done).

    A picture is about to capture a feeling to catch the mood. Obviously if you can do that without doing any enhancing to the picture the more power to you. The other day I took a picture from my garage opening, it was a gray, cold and raining morning and very depressing. I was so “inspired” all I managed to do was shoot ONE picture. Later when I had time I imported it into Lightroom, picture came out perfect the sense of the mood was right there, grey and dull. Different shades of brown and gray dominated the picture. I added a little black and increased the contrast marginally to make the picture less flat but you felt it even on the original, I almost reset it but decided not to. Viewers felt the mood when they looked at it, one asked me why didn’t I “shop” it for a better mood. Well I didn’t because that WAS the mood.

    On the other side, say my beach visit in Greece last year, I didn’t have a tripod with me, so had to lighten, increase exposure and fix the wb etc to give it the right feel. It was a warm, moon lit night on a deserted beach. Absolutely wonderful and I wanted to bring that out. Even if I had a tripod with me I don’t think I could have captured it without post processing.
    There are three ways I think with photography. Capture it as it is (what most people to with snap and shoot cameras), capture the mood and feeling (“requires” a dSLR for aperture & shutter adjustments to catch the light), then you have the extreme mood/feeling shoots the artistic side where pictures are made into art (often requires serious post processing). Each to his/her own.

  11. JaqStone

    I used to balk at photo-shopped images because I expected photography to represent life. Then I became a photographer and realized that it’s an art form. It’s a personal creative expression and more often than not, focuses on conveying emotions. Enhancements or alterations can help accomplish that. When I look at an image now, it doesn’t matter whether the artwork was completed with a camera alone or with a computer program. All that matters is whether it appeals to me or not.

  12. David Hardman

    I completely agree with the original article. Among your list of unreal pictures that aren’t the result of Photoshopping, you could also have included long exposures, such as those 30+ second exposures that make rippling water look like glass or which make it look like clouds have been sprayed across the sky. Those pictures are very popular, but they certainly aren’t “capturing a moment”!

  13. Edward Wade

    Photography can be divided into photojournalism (which Photoshop needs to be used judiciously) and art. For most of us photography is an art form and for this reason post processing to create a visually pleasing, if not stunning, photo is certainly the goal and all resources – composition, lighting, exposure and post processing are part of the art of photography. If you don’t believe this read Ansel Adams’ books. While he was a master at composition and seeing the light he was also a master in the darkroom. Few would argue his talent as a photographer and as an artist. Whether you use all the resources available in Photoshop or in the dark room the final product is the goal and if this is visually pleasing – that’s success! I can guarantee you that if Ansel were alive today he would be a master of Photoshop.

  14. AlanM

    I’m not keen on HDR but will quite happily remove pylons from landscapes, enhance colour, contrast, brightness etc. Photojournalism should get nothing more than a WB correction and levels adjustment.
    The treatment that advertising agencies apply to models is often way OTT.

  15. Tom

    I don’t do much photoshopping myself, but that is more because I don’t have the time. I also see plenty of photos that have been photoshopped so much that I don’t like them. But then there are plenty of out of the camera photos that I don’t like as well (I certainly delete enough of my own!).

    At the end of the day, just do what you like. You can’t please everyone all the time.

  16. Martin

    I would like to know peoples views on post processing. Personally I do not agree with it at all. In my opinion a camera is a device to record an image of what the human eye sees. If its a dull day thats what the camera records. If you then post process the image and change it to look totally different then its not a true image. I have taken pictures that look flat and uninspiring because thats what my eye saw at the time. I have also taken pictures that look dynamic and have that wow factor because they were taken in ideal weather and light conditions. Without being disrespectful I think the public/ client is being fooled sometimes by photographers that post process their images. The skill to a good picture is the composition & if that can be combined with finding the correct light then the photographer deserves true praise. Non post processed and post processed pictures are like athletes that choose whether or not to use performance enhancing drugs. One is genuine and one is enhanced. I think it would be fair if all photographers declared whether they have post processed or not when submitting pictures for critique so that they can be judged accordingly.

  17. Ali

    I happen to disagree. Our eyes don’t always function the way camera does. Our eyes’ DOF, speed, focal distance and latitude at times yield very different results than the camera’s.
    I agree about judgment factors and that it’s better to declare what has been used
    However, there are times when an artist has no ‘claim’ on his work to be original photo and is only focusing on art. In such instances there’s no point in expecting him to say what processes have been used.

  18. Andrew Miller

    Great article and great debate going on here.

    Personally I love HDR and all that it can bring to a photograph.

    The human eye will always see more than the camera can shoot due to the dynamic range of the human eye and the lack on all camera of a high enough dynamic range.

    One of the posts above suggests using film to pop the colours etc – we do that by vibrance in PS. Same thing just done digitally.

    To the guy who doesn’t do anything but take the photograph consider this. A young bride who has a growth on her nose caused by cancer just before the wedding. She is going in for an op to remove the growth just after the wedding. What would you do? PS the growth out or leave it?

    PS of models should not be allowed except for skin smoothing. No enlargements or reductions of waists, breasts etc. That is getting too much.

    Landscapes NEED to be tweaked to get the best out of them. Dodging and burning a photograph is the same whether it is done digitally or with a bit of card and a wire in the dark room.

    Andrew Miller

  19. Jenni B

    I have to say that I use Photoshop on every one of my images. Most of the time I take a final look at it and ask myself if it looks realistic. If not, I may go back in and alter the spots of the photo that I consider over the top. I agree with Andrew. Photoshop brings out the highlights and let’s you spotlight what you wish in a photo. You could say some people go overboard, but I consider photography art and this is just another way of seeing the world.

  20. Jim Karsh

    I attended the Rocky Mountain School of Photography last summer. In one of our classes in Photoshop we were shown 3 versions of a photograph of Yosemite by Ansel Adams. The first was right out of his camera, the second was overwritten with numerous notations on changes he wanted to make in the darkroom and the third was the final image, and it looked NOTHING like the first one. Even Ansel Adams “cheated” and the lesson I took away from it is that photography is the expression of an artistic vision, from stark reality to the wildest HDR or Topazed fantasy. There’s plenty of room in the world of photography and art for all of it.

  21. Jo Brown

    If you are shooting in raw format you pretty much have to “photoshop” the image – correct? Photoshop is a digital darkroom. Different tools that is all. I agree with others when they say that as long as you are not documenting (ie photojournalist) then have at it.

    Not to be presumptuous, but it is possible that Ansel Adams would have loved Photoshop.

  22. Lens Luther

    For those moaners that always whinge about any form of pp being ‘cheating’, I always fire this little question to them…

    “Do they like music and movies ? If so, I wonder how they would feel listening to their favourite band’s latest track in it’s raw state without any fx, eq, compression, pitch correction etc.

    Or how about watching the latest blockbuster movie in it’s original format without any processing ? It’d be like watching an amateur home movie. ”

    Great site btw. :)

  23. Rick

    Before anyone makes a snap judgement on this, I suggest taking a look at Ansel Adams’ “Monnrise, Hernandez, NM” image- his best selling of all time. The do a google search for the contact print of the original negative and note the differences. How is what Adams did any different than what one can do in Photoshop? It’s all about the artist’s intent. What mood or feeling does he want to convey? Honestly, when I take a photo, capturing reality is about the last thing on my mind.

  24. Angel

    My opinion is whether its photoshopped or SOC, its still art. Not everyone enjoys all forms of art. Photography have many different styles. I dont think it matters what you perfer personally, you will have a fan base and you will have nay sayers.
    I prefer doing natural, maybe minor adjustments, but thats only because I dont know how to create an artistic photo with photoshop. I tried it once and holy cow it looked like an infant got a hold of my camera…I am ignorant to photo manipulation, but I can also admit it.
    I enjoy seeing all styles of art…but I cant create all styles of art.

  25. Mark

    This is an interesting set of comments…

    I don’t mind ‘photoshopped’ images…I have my likes and dislikes on images produced…so saying that I may or may not like HDR photos is not that important. It is all personal preference at the end of the day.

    There are a couple of things I would like to point out. The first thing is that most photographs published in the media today have been ‘processed’ in someway or other…if not via changing colours, brightness, sharpening, cropping, straightening etc…then they have been manipulated to portray something that didn’t exist (e.g. like changing the shape of a model’s face, removing ‘imperfections’ in the skin, removing reflections in a product shot, putting in new backgrounds, selective blurring/softening of the final image etc.). In fact, pick up any magazine off the rack and I would challenge you to find an image that hasn’t been manipulated (I prefer to use this term rather than ‘photoshopped’). Is this right or wrong? To each their own.

    The second thing that I wanted to say…and it is to the ‘purists’ who use film as an example…already some of the comments above have cited Ansel Adam’s photographs as having been manipulated. But a huge amount of film-based photographs were manipulated for publication, distribution and/or sale. Cropping the photos, dodging and burning the prints, double exposing, pushing or pulling the film, even the choice (make/speed) of film to use…you get the point.

    I agree that photojournalism images shouldn’t be manipulated (and in fact famously a couple of years ago a photojournalist was caught out when he amended a photo that showed the results of a bombing raid – he had added extra smoke if memory serves me correctly)…but again, photos are selectively cropped to ‘tell a story’, flipped horizontally…even the process of taking the photo can be done in such a way to portray ‘a’ reality…not necessarily the correct one.

    I have one foot in the camp that photography is an art…and also photography should portray reality. They way I look at it…if the photograph makes me stop and admire it or wonder how it was done…or just stop and say wow…I don’t care how it was produced…I just enjoy it for what it is – someone’s vision that I admire.

    Just my 2 cents worth!

  26. Chris Yarzab

    Excellent article. Technology is advancing and Photoshop is apart of that. I use to scoff at the idea of using Photo editing software until a friend showed me how I could enhance my photos with clarity and vibrancy. We live in a fallen world but that doesn’t mean our pictures have to reflect how bad it is here on earth.

    I’m not interested in limiting the possibilities of my photos because of the “if it’s too loud then you’re too old” crowd are convinced it’s wrong.

  27. Shel

    Didn’t Ansel Adams say “The negative is the score, the print is the performance “?
    I’m constantly in this argument with my girlfriend, as I will show her a photograph she likes, but then her smile falters when I tell her I’ve retouched it slightly in PS. Great site BTW…

  28. Duck

    As an old graphic designer, selling advertising through manipulated images has always been the norm (and one constantly debated over). After all, we are selling the ideal, not the reality. But if you want to get technical, a camera NEVER captures a scene as we see it. Neither film nor sensor has the dynamic range to capture all the detail in both light and shadow areas as our eye does. So by default due to technical limitations, straight out of the camera is a lie. Even in the old ‘film’ days, all professional photos were manipulated, albeit in a darkroom using chemicals and light. Otherwise they would just be amateur snapshots. All Photoshop does is package the tools used in a darkroom into a digital format. However, with technical advancements we have better, more complex tools than 20 or 30 years ago. Photo retouching is photo manipulation, wether it be in a darkroom or in a computer. The means justify the end and that is dictated by final use and that is a very broad field.

  29. Nemo

    Look, we note that you takes short time shooting. Not so long ago, before the digital age, for many photographers it was important to capture the moment, or reflect reality as closely as possible. On the other hand there were also artistic photographers took pictures. Today it is sometimes indistinguishable from photos that reflect the reality of retouched photos, which can have an artistic look, but no photographic value. I think a photographer should make clear its intentions and whether the picture was retoucheded or not. Nor did for so many slides, magnificent. Which you abuse of Photoshop you change the reality when images are sometimes minim.

  30. peter

    Whilst I do agree that each of us have individual ideas on this subject . I am not so sure of the argument.I do agree that anyone should be allowed to manipulate a picture to their own desire for personal or
    even commercial use. I do find it totally disgusting that today’s “photographic society”, not only permits, but actively encourages photographers to utilise photo “enhancing software” in photography competitions ! Is this really a fair and just way to find the “best” photographers ?
    I’m sorry but I, personally think not !!!
    To put this into perspective ………
    “What happens to an athlete using performance enhancing drugs” ?
    Do they win the competition ?
    or do they get disqualified ?
    All photography competitions should be decided upon “photographic skills”….. not “computer editing skills”.
    I often wonder how many of these “competitions” have been awarded to “professional editors” who don’t even “understand” the concept of photography !

    Also (in my opinion) these programs tend to breed many “sloppy” and “lazy” so called “professional photographers” that rely to heavily on usage of the software.

    This certainly is not a significant help to the Industry as a whole but thankfully there are also a great many “professional photographers” that utilise the software appropriately and within proportion.

    Another thing is “photography” is a time relative “art” form ( unlike sculpture, painting etc ). Changing the image (duller, brighter) sometimes takes away the “time factor” thereby taking away the very fabric of what this “art” is to achieve.

    Well that is my “bitch”…
    And just for the record I have never entered a photo “contest” …. so No I am not just a sore loser ….hehe.

  31. Steve

    You can rub on a turd all you want – It’s NEVER going to turn into a diamond. If you’re not making something decent in the camera, then all the post processing in the world isn’t going to save you.

    I suggest people learn how to use their cameras BEFORE they learn how to ruin photos in post processing.

  32. Marius

    I’m just wondering…. Is everybody that are so against enhancing a photo also against women wearing makeup. That is basically the same thing in my book.

  33. Mike

    Ok for a start. Enhancing/changing a photo is not wrong. In the late 1800’s photography in general was considered NOT to be a legitimate art form as any one could buy a camera and take a photo if they had the patience for it.

    Also Ansell Adams in his series of books, shows how one can make an equivalent HDR shot with black and white film in a darkroom. I use both film and digital in my works and can assure you that a HELL of a lot can be done to an image with a little creativity and some black ink thinned out with water.

    If people would just get over the fact that technology has changed the idea of WHAT a photo is then we could all move on happily. This idea of ‘cheating’ in computer was completely wiped out of me when I learned how to ‘cheat’ in a darkroom.

  34. paul (dex)

    I have to say that I’m impressed with how civil (and sometimes funny) the above comments are considering how strong some opinions can be.

    I completely agree with the original article. What’s the definition of reality? How granular are we willing to get about it? What are ‘white lies’, deception, or eloquence? Should there be a law that indicates what’s acceptable in art?

    Visions are like beauty: in the eye of the beholder, sometimes debatable, sometimes controversial – just don’t make them unremarkable. We are simply talking about tools that help us express our unique point of view, of a very specific moment in time, a moment not experienced by anyone else. Am I supposed restrict my ‘reality’ by limiting myself to some tools (camera) and not use others (dark room or Photoshop)?

    When you consider post-processing ‘impure’ you’re basically taking away other options and possibilities. Why would you be so religious about results straight out of the camera? Is that somehow the absolute tool? What makes it so? Its imperfections or limitations created by manufacturers of specific brands? Cameras can generate the same crap as tasteless alterations in Photoshop, just move the camera while shooting at slow speeds, overexpose the shot, or shoot at night with the fastest exposure! But if your aim is produce a pure abstract of a ‘black night’ who am I to say that your work is wrong regardless if I like it or not?!? Same with post-processing – something overdone will probably not be appreciated by most viewers. The ‘beholders’ are the great equalizer

    I’ve seen a couple of comments referring to post processing as drug-enhancements for athletes. Same premise, why wouldn’t you consider post processing as intense training? You need significant knowledge, sensibility, and experience gained over quite some time

    My preference: express yourself the best way you can, with whatever is available to you

  35. Kelly

    I remember when it was argued that a musician was cheating when they used samples of other music to make new music.
    People eventually began to realize it still takes a talented artist to make a good song, even if he/she isn’t striking each note with his/her own fingers.
    Digital manipulation, regardless if it is performed in audio or visual, is all the same as far as artistic ethics go.
    People are just resistant to change. They’ll come around.

  36. Kelly

    Though you must admit, it’s a rich feeling when you pull up a shot to see what needs to be adjusted and you can’t find anything. It doesn’t even need to be cropped.
    You’re like, “That’s right. I’m bad.” 8)

  37. Eric Breault

    Photo manipulation goes as far back as photography does, most people don’t realize that. Some of the worlds most famous photographs and portraits were “airbrushed”. It doesn’t matter weather it comes from a airbrush or a computer. There is such a thing as SOOC photography, it’s a unique style of photography that some people love and I don’t judge them. I don’t have any negative criticism about your style of photography saying that it’s not “good” photography so don’t knock ours. Just open your minds a little people, or better yet buy a copy a Elements and give it a chance.
    And Jim, your wrong, several years? I have been using Photoshop for 15 years and I still haven’t mastered it…how can you, they come out with a new version every few years…lol

  38. Torrey

    Oh I have been here and done that. First there was a cave man and he took a lump of burnt wood and drew a picture of a bison. A short time latter at a cave down the way another caveman while fixing a dinner of berries find his finger stained. Ah he says and takes the berries and draws a picture of a bison. One day the first caveman visit the second who has invited him to see his discover. They enter the cave and the second caveman says “Look at my art.” The second caveman says “thats not art it in berries and bison ain’t that color. Real artist draw in burnt wood.” What I think I am trying to say is that we are all artists and what we give is our emotions and feeling in what we present. “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it” Michelangelo. I take a photo and sometime don’t know why. Something just caught my eye. As I look at the image that is there I try to see what it’s trying to reveal. Sometime its just print me let me live.

    1. Sean

      I just like playing around with the photos and seeing peoples reactions at the end result. Also a good hobby to keep your imagination going and your brain active. :) There is so much to learn in so little time :)

  39. Kelsey Drozd (kelsey erin photography)

    I think it is ok to use photo editing. It can create a piece of art that your camera is simply not able to do. Esp when someone paid you for a product, it is important to deliver something that is quality. Lets face it we all take bad shots occasionally (or a lot haha) if an image can be “saved” with an editing technique then sometimes that is the best option. That being said, I don’t think photoshop should be used as an excuse for not learning how to operate a camera in manual, ESP if you are billing yourself as a professional. You can photoshop all you want but in most cases you can still tell someone who knows good photography from someone who just got a new camera and downloaded some free photoshop actions. Also I think as photographers we should still strive to get a great images right out the camera, ones that don’t need any editing. I think there are some awesome photographers/photo editors out there who create amazing art, but lets face it the photoshop actions are being coming incredibly popular and almost the standard. For my business though I use minimal corrective editing, I do not use photoshop actions (like the vintage look for example). Many of my clients and clients friends and family have commented on how my photos stand out in the crowd because they are different from what so many professionals in my area are doing. there is nothing wrong with photoshop, but there is also nothing wrong with not using it :)

  40. Sarah

    I go by deviantart rules:

    slight touch ups and color/contrast adjustments are still “Photography”. Anything more and you are crossing into “Photo Manipulation”. There’s is nothing more “wrong” or “right” about one or the other. But call a spade a spade. This is why I fully agree that photo manipulated images should be labeled in magazines when it comes to real people the same way a doctored image would have to be reported in photojournalism. Celebrity gossip, trashy as it may be, is still journalism. And it should be following the same rules of transparency. You image above is a photo manipulated, digitally enhanced image. But it is not a “photograph”. Not anymore than the sketch I scan in to CS5 and then spend hours vectoring over as my base is still just a “sketch” when it’s complete.

  41. Michael White

    if you have ever shot a model wearing makeup then the image is not real… but who would ever complain that a woman wears makeup… or gets her hair done, or buys a special outfit for a photoshoot… the photographer creates an image using whatever skills and/or talents he/she has to say something to the audience (or sell something to the audience). it is not intended to “fool” anyone, you are simply using a visual medium to communicate.

  42. Heather Wolf Turner

    Photoshop allows me to make the photo look the way it did in my mind when I shot it. Period. I love it. Love it.

  43. Carole Boyles

    Sounds like the conflict that arrose in the world of painting when impressionism came into being. Imagine today criticising Monet for his style?

  44. Chrisd

    Don’t forget the camera cannot record the same range of tones as the human eye. Some digital manipulation is therefore entirely acceptable to compensate for this. Since the camera is not recording the scene exactly as we see it then the end result of photoshopping may well mean that the image is more realistic looking than it would be otherwise.

  45. MBW

    I have often found that if I can use Photoshop tools to improve any of my images, that it is only other photographers that complain. The clients LOVE it. Everyone likes to look like the best version of themselves. I am not doing photojournalism so I don’t think the need for gritty realism applies. People are smart enough to know the difference between enhancements that improve an image versus complete alteration i.e. models/celebrities that are anorexic and plastic. People know the later is fake. I have MANY clients that request that I make “improvements” with Photoshop. I can take a priceless shot of a child, and even with their perfect baby skin, they can end up with dirt on their face or a runny nose… I can fix that with Photoshop and give the client a lovely image of their child! What is wrong with that? And isn’t this all about opinion anyway? My first comment about it usually being other photogs that are the complainers hits at the core… If I can take an average shot and make it look better post process, then it makes the anti-photoshop guy nervous about losing business. Right?

    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.

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

  50. 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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