Why Do Photographers Hate Photoshop? (The Followup)
Now that the discussion post on the fight between pro and anti-Photoshop has been up for a little while, let’s see what we’ve gotten back in the comments.
After reading through all 125 comments on Facebook and 100 comments here on Fstoppers here’s where we are:
63% of people were pro-Photoshop
32% of people were anti-Photoshop
2% of people don’t like the Creative Cloud model.
and 3% of people were trolling or missed the point.
The discussions in the comments also brought about a new argument. Apparently, “purists” and film-photographers do not consider digital photography as photography at all:
“Digital is for people that create things in post. Photography is for people that get it right at capture. Problems occur when digital folks mistakenly believe that they are actually photographers.”
This comment touched off its own argument that even I didn’t see coming. It had never occurred to me that people could go as far as to say that people who shoot digitally were not actually photographers. It seems a few others felt the same way, as evident by these responses to that comment:
“This is complete nonsense. What you’re saying is give any graphic designer a camera they take exceptional photos? How about a certified photo finish engineer, can they all take exceptional photos too? Someone can’t just pick up a $40,000 Hasselblad and take award winning photos – a camera is a tool and it still takes a photographer to use it correctly. Photo finishers have been manipulating negatives for decades and decades. A photographer post-processing digital images today is no different than a photographer manipulating images in a darkroom 30 years ago.”
“So there’s no legitimate imagery being digitally produced? Hahaha!”
Shooting digitally or on film has no bearing on whether you are or are not a photographer. However, I won’t go as far as saying just having a camera makes you a photographer. I draw a line between photographers and people with cameras, but that’s an argument for a different time.
Many of the pro-Photoshop points referenced the same analogy that image retouching has always existed, even back in the darkroom. However, hardly any of the anti-photoshop responses reference the darkroom. It’s as if the anti crowd doesn’t want to acknowledge that the darkroom had its own bag of tricks for enhancing what was captured on film.
One great response mentioned Ansel Adams’ “Moonrise Shot”, one of Adams’ most famous landscapes:
“Most every photographer calls their best photograph their “Moonrise shot”, after Ansel Adams’ super-famous landscape shot. When you read Ansel Adams’ notes about what went into creating that image, you find out that a TON of darkroom manipulation went into making the finished product as dramatic as it is. Of course Mr. Adams had great skills in getting things right in-camera, but I believe that were he alive today, he would put this conversation to rest by saying that Photoshop is just another means to creating an expressive and dramatic work of art. I think it’s important, especially in journalism, for photography to be honest in representing the facts, but we all know that photos do not always show only what our eyes see, but they often include distractions that are best left out of the photo in order to tell the story. When you really get down to it, all art is storytelling, and sometime in storytelling you leave out some details and ruminate on or accentuate other details to add more drama and impact to the story. Tools like Photoshop just do visually what any storyteller does in his/her mind when that one was there, so then others can see the story they saw.”
One of my favorite comments came from someone who has experience shooting commercially both digital and on film:
“I am guessing, and I feel a little bit this way as well, that most people who left negative Photoshop comments regarding the Annie Leibovitz’s post mentioned above is the perception that if you are that famous, that well regarded, have a massive budget, a huge team of professionals and have done everything humanly possible to have a successful shoot that you wouldn’t need to heavily retouch the final image. I imagine that if the art director had handed Annie a layout for the Disney movie “Dumbo” and she need to photograph an elephant flying over head, that the expectation to get it right in camera would be much less and that foul cries of retouching wouldn’t be that loud.
“I spent the first 16 years of my commercial photography career shooting film and the last 13 years shooting digital. There isn’t one day during those decades when I wouldn’t tape, staple, cut and paste, hold the camera upside down, over process, under process, shoot at 3:00am or do anything else that wasn’t illegal to get the highest quality for my client.”
This comment interested me because it at proves my original point that you either adapt or fade away. Clearly this commenter has adapted to digital to stay competitive in the business.
Many of the comments also referred to “truth” in imaging and how retouching took away from what was “seen” by the camera. This is a fine argument for why there’s no retouching in Photojournalism, but that isn’t what we’re talking about here. The whole original post centered around Commercial Photography, and lets face it, there’s hardly any truth in commercials and advertising. Commercial Photography is all about perfection, no one wants to buy anything that isn’t perfect.
I can’t count how many times I’ve been given a product to shoot that wasn’t yet ready for the market and therefore not “perfect” for the image. In these cases I’ve always been instructed by those in charge to fix labels, colors, and many other things to better reflect the product that would eventually hit the market. This is just the way it works now… and it’s time to get used to it already. There truly are some things you just can’t get in camera, and retouching, whether in the darkroom or in Photoshop, is what helps us get the results that clients are after.
In the end this post and others like it will not settle any debates on this issue, but it was nice to air it out for once.