Too Much Reliance On Photoshop

I grew up shooting film and got into the profession when we were shooting black and white film for the papers. There was always the art of the darkroom where pictures were brought to life, but for colour, one had to basically reply on getting it right in camera for colour negative and much more so for slide film.

Compared to Photoshop, the level of change one could bring to a black and white image in a darkroom was miniscule. We now live in a digital age and I have for the most part embraced this age of megapixels and terabytes and given up the days of D76 and Multigrade. However, these are just tools and the importance of the photograph is as has always been; there is a purity and a challenge to get it right in camera and I for one will keep this approach to photography. If we’re talking of any form of photojournalism, then the viewer has to be able to trust the image and its content.
I’ve lectured and made presentations in several venues, including Cambridge University, and judged several competitions as far and wide as the Russian Press Awards to the British Regional Press Awards. The one thing that I’m seeing more and more, as each generation of photographer who joins our ranks of professional image maker, is the total reliance of all things digital and binary, and up to a point, a loss in the purity of getting it right; the art of taking a picture.
My comments aren’t about the aesthetic of composition, the content nor the timing, but the finished product. Photoshopping, to Photoshop, has become a commonly used verb, and alas has also become a commonly used technique to spruce up a picture. I’m not talking about the extreme crimes of removing or adding elements, but of ridiculous use of contrast, saturation, luminance, dodging, burning and masking. I see this more and more.
Recently, three Danish photographers were asked to submit their RAW files to the Picture of the Year competition in Denmark. The judges felt that they could not trust the images they were looking at and wanted to see the original untouched images. I for one applaud this. Photography is about presentation, but most of it is actually in the picture taking part. Its more challenging and is harder, but trust me, its so satisfying when you get it just right.
Give it a try! Set your camera’s to shoot neutrally. Zero adjustment on all things and take the time and care to expose your images properly. Try a hand held incident light meter or learn to use the spot meter properly and choose the manual mode. All digital images, be they scans or digitally taken images need some tweaking; white balance correction (in camera or after the fact), some sharpening and a tweak in luminance using levels or curves. The image should look like what you saw, not what you can imagine!

One response to “Too Much Reliance On Photoshop

  1. This is great! We just talked about something very similar in an audio engineering class I'm taking. I think NLE audio engineers can sometimes get sucked into thinking the same thing "Oh I'll just fix it with an eq or compression in post." Blah. Digital technology is a tool, not a crutch.

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