Photos and shop

So I got a bitchin' camera for Christmas.

Jealous? Well you should be. Mwa ha ha.

I still haven't really figured it all out yet. Apparently - according to the reviews I've read online - this little baby is like a digital SLR camera, without the detachable lenses. And I had been toying with the idea of buying a beginner DSLR for a couple months now, as my little Canon got a grain of sand in its lens (or so we think) in Greece. So My Little Canon is now probably being repaired (cross your fingers the warranty will cover it)... and in the meantime now I have Mini Spy-Camera (all rights reserved to Mongoose :P).

Which brings me to my real point. As part of the casual judging I'm doing for the NWT Blogging Awards, I have been checking out a lot of photo blogs. There's nothing more wonderful than oogling a well-composed photograph... I've become addicted, believe it or not... clicking "next post" for hours on end, oo-ing and ahh-ing at each subsequent photo.

But now I'm feeling disillusioned. Turns out many of the photos I just drool over are doctored in Photoshop. And I'm not sure if I like that.

Granted, Photoshop allows you to take a photo like this and (if you have the skillz) morph it into something quite different. And that's pretty darn cool... but now I have become jaded. Every beautiful photo I see now, I wonder if it's genuine! Am I the only one left who doesn't doctor their photos before posting on the web?

Now don't get me wrong. I can acknowledge that a photograph is just an illustration of a moment in time. To capture that moment, the photographer often takes many different factors into consideration before snapping the shot. Light, composition, focus... all altered to please the eye. It's not "real" even if it looks "unscripted."*

And I'm okay with that.

And its not like I'm a total photo-purist. I crop my photos before I put them on my blog. But maybe it's because I don't know how, but I've never really done any post-production altering on my photos. It's not really my thing. And I feel it takes away from the genuity of the picture.

But that's just IMHO.

*The exception being photos taken by small children when given a disposible camera. But then few of those shots would be widely considered "awe-inspiring" - BUT beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that jazz.

UPDATE: More bloggers have joined the discussion! Who knew one little "musing" entry would spur so much excitement haha. See allmycke's blog, Mongoose's blog, and KC's blog for more discussions on this topic.


Mongoose December 29, 2008 at 2:47 PM  

Haha! Come to the dark side, young Jedi!

Seriously, everyone tried to talk me into an SLR camera and I get way more interesting photos with Spy Camera (which isn't) than they get with their SLRs.

You'll be glad to know (I hope) that almost none of my photos are doctored, except for cropping and some times rotating a degree or two to make them look straight. And when I doctor them it always says in the post "this is doctored". But that being said, if you read the manual for your new camera, you'll notice the camera itself can do an unreal amount of doctoring. Mine can actually substitute one colour for another, apparently. I haven't tried it yet, but it says so in the manual.

I look forward to seeing what you do with your Even More Awesome Camera.

Tina December 29, 2008 at 2:49 PM  

I am anti-photoshop. I don't use it. The most I do is balance the colors in Windows Photo Gallery or crop. :)

Jackie S. Quire December 29, 2008 at 3:03 PM  

Mongoose: What kind of camera DO you have? The colour-swap feature makes me think you have a Canon (aren't I smart?), which BTW is a lot of fun. I've taken some of my favourite shots using that feature (colour-isolate, actually).

And I'm glad to hear your photos are tailor-free! You have taken some very nice outdoorsy shots that I like alot.

I can't wait to try it out "for real." I've been taking photos around my house, but they're nothing much. But the Grand Vacation should lend itself to many a photo-op.

jen December 29, 2008 at 3:37 PM  

haha seriously guys, what do you think happened in film darkrooms? Lots of non "pure" things for sure "dodging and burning for example. There is nothing wrong with photoshop, but I understand your feeling of not knowing what's pure and whats not...however you could still do tons of sneaky "non-pure" things in a film darkroom.

Most photographers use photoshop to fix the levels of their digital image. Unfortunately the digital image hasn't quite yet hit the same abilities (without post production) as film. Most digital images need post production that the similarly exposed film image would not because of colour values or exposure properties. Meanwhile even most film exposures needed post production, whether it be colour adjustment or exposure adjustment.

Anyways your so right, especially on magazines, best rule of thumb is that it's not real. But if you dip a little into photoshop (which I recommend) you might find you can then pick out which photos have been "doctored" and which are "pure".

Also the best thing to do is to realize if your photo is looking flat...it's not your fault, but that most digital images are flat. That's why you'll see every photographer use some kind of post production program.

And Mongoose, maybe your photos would even be that much more interesting if you picked up an SLR. I still suggest when you get the money to consider it. They are amazing. Even if you just try a film SLR, they have an element that no other camera can replicate in the right hands.

I'm so glad your excited about your camera, that's really the best way to take good photos, enthusiasm! So I can expect to see more photos up on the blog? lol

jen December 29, 2008 at 3:46 PM  

Oh and I forgot to mention unless you are shooting in RAW, your camera is adding a bit of post production already to your image...a little saturation...a little levels...lol

Mongoose December 29, 2008 at 3:56 PM  

Canon PowerShot S5 IS.

Tina December 29, 2008 at 4:35 PM  


Meandering Michael December 29, 2008 at 7:22 PM  

On my blog, the only time I use photoshop is when I make my backgrounds. Yes, you can do some amazing things in photoshop, but I have a lot more respect for photographers who can "capture the moment" and leave it looking the way their camera captured it.

Jackie S. Quire December 29, 2008 at 7:29 PM  

MM: Well put. I love a good photo that just strikes me, but all the better if it's not been tweaked in photoshop (not that I really know).

Julie December 29, 2008 at 9:55 PM  

Just because a photographer uses photoshop it doesn't make their photos "less pure". There are people who doctor their photos and then there are people who use photoshop for the necessary reasons. Just like Jen said every digital image is flat, it does not have the same tonal range as film did. All I use photoshop for is levels and contrast, I don't even crop my photos unless I'm going for a panoramic look. So just because I use the program with the name photoshop instead of some other program does that make my images unpure? Does that mean I'm not a photographer that captured the moment? In 3 years of schooling I did a year and a half in the darkroom and a year and a half digital and using photoshop. The tricks/colour correcting we used in the darkroom are the same ones that are in photoshop. Unless we were making up a commercial advertisement which is obviously more on the "doctored" side, but the product itself was photographed in the studio and lighted correctly and later added into the advertisement.

I think a lot of people give photoshop a negative light, yes you can create totally fake images, but at the same time it is also a simple tool used for simple things like colour corrections, just like they do in the photolab when you drop off a roll of film. Even when you send digital prints into a photolab they get some form of auto correction.

I also suggest the upgrade to an SLR like Jen suggested when the time is right. I have my heavy duty point and shoot as well but nothing compares to my SLR. you have so much more creative freedom with an SLR.

Anyways here are some of my photos if you want to check them out. The only "doctored" ones are the commercial shot that I did for school assignments.


Tina December 29, 2008 at 10:57 PM  

I guess I use the term "photoshop" in a different context. When I refer to a picture being "photoshopped" I think of an end result that looks nothing like the original. I am as guilty as the next person for "tweaking" my picture, but I just don't agree with altering a picture so much that it becomes something different and still claiming it is a picture you "took". There is photography and there is art. Both are beautiful, but I want my pictures to remain as pictures, not art. NOT that there is anything wrong with it, I just personally feel it is wrong for someone to doctor a picture so much to make it "perfect" that becomes something completely different.

Julie December 30, 2008 at 7:25 AM  

TIna, I agree. I think it would be ridiculous if someone claimed that they took that photo that was posted of the mountain top with the castle thing on it and said that photo was "as is". As a photographer I just get a little upset at the bad wrap photoshop and photographers that use photoshop get. People assume just because I have photoshop on my computer that is what makes me a good photographer and I find this very insulting and frustrating. I personally have worked very hard over the years to develop skills and learn new camera tricks to get great results, but any talent behind the lens I have is basically dismissed by some people because I use photoshop to colour correct.

For example if you look at my brooklyn bridge shot, everyone assumes that is photoshopped, when the most photoshop it received was levels, cropped to panoramic, and I cloned out a big huge piece of camera dust that was in the sky. Other than that, the photo is as shot. I shot with a tripod on RAW, at f16, for a 30 second exposure. The stars on the lights are due to the long exposure, not a photoshop filter, which was a very nice result to actually achieve without the use of a filter! :) Also the crazy looking sky is all luck! I only got one shot like that, The sun had gone down for the day but because of the long exposure I guess if picked up on a bit of that light over the horizon. Also the city lights reflected an awesome colour that the camera also captured.

I guess I just want to get the point across that just because someone uses photoshop does not mean they are faking their photos. that's all :)

Matthew and Michele December 30, 2008 at 10:03 AM  

I too use Photoshop to clean up my photos. Any photo on my blog has been color corrected and cropped at the very least. Also since it seems I can't hold a camera straight I have to level most of my photos. I see no problem using Photoshop to enhance a photo. If all of you were to join the dark side we could rule the universe.

This is a great debate on this blog post. Enjoyable.

towniebastard December 30, 2008 at 10:40 AM  

Well, I use Aperture, a Mac program, to tweak my photos. I want them to look as good as possible and I have no problem making adjustments to them. And Jen is right, I'm not sure when the days of "pure" photography ever took place.

I don't get into the Photoshop program because it is A. Expensive and B. A complicated program to learn. I wouldn't mind, but I would prefer to do a course on it first. It's also a lot more than I probably need for my photos.

Jackie S. Quire December 30, 2008 at 10:52 AM  

Okay, time for my 3-cents worth!

@Jen: "But if you dip a little into photoshop (which I recommend) you might find you can then pick out which photos have been "doctored" and which are "pure"."
You make a good point. I have dabbled with Photoshop a bit - I did some online journalism in uni and was so confused by the whole process, I just learned what I needed to, and got help with the rest. Obviously not enough to get a feel for its capabilities. And I don't really know if I *will* get more comfortable with the program... because like TB mentioned it's got a heavy price tag, and probably would be paying for a whole range of features I don't need. Maybe they'll come out with a "photoshop-mini" some day!

And I'm hardly a real photo-purist. I upload all my photos to Picasa, crop them until I feel they are well-focussed and then shrink the file size so that they are easily-uploadable to my blog. Sometimes, if it's a really slanty photo I'll straighten it. But that's really rare. I never colour-correct. Though I used to red-eye redux alot (less now that I have better cameras). I see a photo as a way of capturing something I have seen. No, I don't know all the mechanics behind darkroom work, nor do I really understand how to use photoshop or its basic-to-advanced-capabilities, and I had no clue that digital pictures lack the "depth" of film photos!

Here's what I do know:

I love visually interesting photos. I love the "sleepy mountain" photo for its raw beauty, and the "sleepy manor" photo (see original blog post links) for its haunting nature.
But, as Tina said above... I want photo illustrations to be labelled so... just as the photographer/artist did in the sleepy mountain/manor photos.

And Julie, I have seen your photography, and it is simply beautiful. But you are right, I assumed the clouds in the Brooklyn Bridge photo were 'shopped in. Because frankly, it could have been. But I agree with you, just because you have photoshop on your laptop doesn't make you a good photographer. Your vision is what makes you a good photographer, and vision isn't something that can be tweaked with an editing software.

Jackie S. Quire December 30, 2008 at 1:42 PM  

UPDATE: More bloggers have joined the discussion! Who knew one little "musing" entry would spur so much excitement haha. See allmycke's blog and cathy's blog (later in the day) for more discussions on this topic.

Julie December 30, 2008 at 3:09 PM  

towniebastard how do you like Aperture? I don't have it on my mac. We got it on our computers in school when it was first released but then only really did one class on it. We were much more photoshop focused and I found that we didn't get any time to branch off onto other programs. But I would love to try it out for its RAW editing capabilities.

Jaquie, Thank you for your comment on my photography. Honestly with the Brooklyn Bridge shot even my own mother was like "oh did you photoshop in that sky" and it makes me angry, Lol. The colour and tonal balance was pure luck and timing. If you look further into my NYC stuff there is another photo taken later on of the Brooklyn Bridge that does not have the same colour qualities at all. I was so happy with the one result I got, but like I said, it was luck, mixed with a little bit of good composition, correct exposure, and also a wonderful subject! :) My wide angle lens sure helped out a lot too! I studied New York City architecture photography for about 3 months before my trip to get inspired and excited about different building and different angles. I'm planning another trip to NYC in April because there is so much more so se and photograph!

Also your comment about "Photoshop-mini" that would be Photoshop Elements, it has much more basic features and you can pick it up for around $99. It would get you familiar with the basics of Photoshop and then when you are comfortable with that download a one month trial version of the full powerful version :) and if you like that then you can take it from there!

Julie December 30, 2008 at 3:14 PM  

Ps> Also I do not have the photoshop talents to ad a whole new sky in around all those buildings and have it look flawless. But thanks for thinking I have those skills! Lol