The Barefoot Photographer®

a photography blog

Friday, July 18, 2008

Do you Photoshop?

To Photoshop or not to Photoshop – this is my question.  You know every photo needs at least a tweak.  In the days of film – the developer would work with the negatives to get the best (hopefully) print.  When I hear of taking your memory card directly to a source to print a photo – I cringe.  Each photo needs something to make it better than just right off the card.


So you tweak – you adjust contrast a little – we all know contrast can really make a so-so photo pop.  (I hate that term "pop" and I tried to think of something else to say here – but I can't.)  Colors may need a little punching up.  You can adjust the saturation or in a Camera RAW edit you can adjust vibrance and/or saturation.  A couple weeks ago I saw a photo another person had and loved the colors.  He was asked how he got such great color in the photo.  He adjusted the picture style in the menu on the camera and then tweaked that by adjusting the sharpness.  So – of course I had to go in to select a different picture style and set the sharpness, contrast, etc.  The picture style adjustment feature is really interesting.  In the monochrome setting you can choose a filter effect (yellow, orange, red or green).  These features are on my Canon XTi – depending on your digital SLR, your feature set may be different.  Selecting the picture style, to me, is like selecting a certain film.  Some films had certain characteristics to produce a photo that looked a certain way.  (Did I say "had"  oops, they still have it, I guess, but who uses film???)


OK – so using the camera and software to achieve the best color, contrast, sharpness, etc. is completely acceptable to me and many others.  Where I have an issue is the "changing" of a photo.  There is a letter to the editor in the August issue of Popular Photography taking them to task for removing an animal from a photo to make it a more pleasing composition.  When do you take it too far?  That is a question that each photographer needs to answer for himself. 


Have you ever seen a great photo complete with perfect sky – and then you find out the sky was cut and pasted from another photo?  How do you feel about that?  Frankly, I feel cheated.   That is something I would never consider doing – but I know others do it and think nothing of it.  Obviously, it is their choice.


I took a class with a great photographer once – I submitted a photo that I loved.  It did have a flaw.  The flaw was something natural though.  The tip end of a pine branch had one brown needle among the green.  I liked it – it gave the photo credence to me.  Had all of the needles been completely, perfectly green; you have to wonder.  Nothing in nature is completely perfect.  To show the imperfections (to me) is to show legitimacy of the photo.  The critique I received on that photo was that the brown needle in the frame was distracting.  For me – that was very subjective.  I could not have been happy with myself if I removed that brown needle from the photo and I did not find it distracting.  Those are the times you take the critique you get as it is, simply put, one person's opinion. 


I have said this before – and I will say it many times after – I would rather spend my precious time with my camera and not the software.


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