Photoshop is, of course, the name of the Adobe graphics editing software that has been around since 1990. The word Photoshop has become synonymous with the manipulation of images and used predominantly as a verb in the English language. In many ways, Photoshop has become a household name because of the negative press surrounding the manipulation of images in the press.
As a parent of girls, it could be said that I am worried about Photoshopped photos in magazines and online and how they influence my daughters. But as a photographer, it saddens me that this immensely powerful software tool is portrayed as a baddy. So I am here to admit that I too, Photoshop my photos.
I Photoshop photographs to improve them. That’s the simplest explanation I can give you. But how far do I go to improve a photograph?
I’ll cover my non-human photography first. By non-human, I mean the photos that don’t have a person as the subject.
Often with landscape seascape photos, I will make adjustments using Adobe Lightroom first. I will adjust things such as white balance, tone, saturation, exposure, noise reduction, the list goes on (and on). But then there are times that I will take my photos to Photoshop for some more advanced editing.
This advance editing usually involved removing things I don’t want in the photograph. Take the examples below:
As you can see from these before and after photos I have removed things from them. With the speedboat photo, I was on a boat myself that had ropes and wires all over the place. It was crowded tourist cruise boat and getting into a position for a “clean” shot was not possible as the speedboat was upon us so quickly. So, I grabbed the best shot I could from the position I had. Even then, on that hot day on the Aegean Sea, I knew I would be photoshopping those ropes out of the shot.
The cliff shot from Saltburn-by-the-Sea is a little different. There was a dog walker down by the shoreline and a canoeist just breaking over the waves. The shot is a seascape, no doubt about that. Having people is these type of photos doesn’t necessarily bother me but in this case, they had to go. My reasoning was that they were a distraction. They were too far away to be part of the photo and they were drawing my eye away from the cliffs.
These photos are created for artistic purposes and are not documentary in any way. This is why I see no reason not to alter them digitally at all.
When it comes to photoshopping people society has very different views of what is acceptable. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will: I never have, nor never will modify the body shape of a person to make them appear thinner than they are.
But, I was a wedding and portrait photographer. Along with Helen we would edit hundreds of client photos and had to take care with what we would “fix”. Common amongst photographing children are food stains and speck on the face and clothes – they would be removed. Spots and blemishes are where lines can be blurred. Often a client might ask for spots to be removed. Spots are temporary, so I never had an issue removing them.
Nowadays it’s mainly portraits of the girls. Spots get zapped, marks and any bruises are gone too.
There were occasions when we had done family group shots that we couldn’t get one photo with everyone looking at the camera. So, with the power of photoshop we would pick the best, the cut the heads of those not looking from other photos and superimpose them on. It usually worked out really well and we had happy clients. For me, this is still within the grounds of allowable Photoshopping.
Documentary photography is different
If you are photographing for documentary purposes then it kind of goes without saying that you shouldn’t be altering those photos. Colour correction is fine, that’s about it. This is an area I don’t work in so I can’t practice what I preach too much in this one.
What are your thoughts on using toold like Photoshop to alter images?