Why Do Photographers Hate Photoshop? (The Followup)

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.

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i will wait for the comments

wait until photoshop merges with 3D printing :-)

It's called Zbrush.

Retouching has existed since photography was created. Retouching has lived since painting was the only way to make a portrait. Even movies were printed an exposure down or up to create the look the cinematographer wanted in the finished product. In any craft, retouching, in it's many forms, have existed. It is part of the craft. Some abuse it but since when has that changed? I'm glad to see the bad aspects of such techniques so that I can avoid them and learn.

I think you've hit the nail on the head there, with the word "abuse". Retouching should be subtle and invisible. You see way too many shiny, plastic people (or products) in photographs.

unless that is what the photographer (artist) is going for. there is a time and a place for light retoughing and heavy photo manulipation.

Why should retouching be anything? Why the need to control what other people do with their software?

I have no wish to control. People can do whatever they want. I personally find the "look" in question (perfect plastic people) utterly repulsive, and cannot understand the appeal. I also think that the ubiquitous heavy manipulation of models and portrait photos (particularly in advertising) has very negative effects on people's self-perception, and skews their view of what is "normal" in a dangerous way...

After Adobe's announcement at PSW last week on their "Photoshop Photography Program" (PS CC and Lightroom for $10 a month), they've now made it more attractive from a cost standpoint to own...sorry...rent PS CC. Their program - if you own a prior version of PS (PS CS3 - PS CS6), then you're eligible for this program as long as you keep paying.

Pretty decent and affordable now.

yea i'm sorry. even in weddings, often brides EXPECT that someone will do touch up on their faces for blemish removal. the make-up can't always fix everything. i'd love to hear the sales pitch of the photographer to a bride telling her, "i'm sorry ma'am, but i don't touch up my photos cause it takes away from the 'truth' of the event."

see how many jobs they get.

Seriously. I work for a community magazine that often features teenagers who have won awards. I don't go crazy, but I do touch up their acne, because I really don't think they (or anyone else) is that devoted to the truth of a massive zit that Wednesday. The truth is they won an award and they should feel good about that instead of feeling bad about their skin in the photo.

I use Photoshop to some extent all the time, so I'm not saying don't use it, but for many of the images that are produced today, I wonder why people base them on photography at all. There is so much manipulation of the original photograph that photography seems like the wrong tool for the job entirely. Why not take up painting or 3D rendering and produce the entire image that way if you're going to replace backgrounds, change faces, make a cartoon, etc.? It seems that some people crave the "legitimacy" of a photograph, but then change it so much that it is no longer a photograph, but an artwork.

Sometimes it is an artwork. I enjoy photo manipulations as art. Also, sometimes you take the photo the client asked for and later they want something else. Rather than retake, you change in photoshop. Because you can.

I use photoshop alot. For retouching photographs and other intensive manipulations. Most of the time it's way faster and easier to use photographs and photoshop. Why spend extra time on learning painting and/or 3d programming? Those two take alot more time then taking a picture and manipulating it.

Do they really? If you read Dave Hill's accounts of how he creates his images, I find it hard to believe that it wouldn't be much, much easier to simply hire a great artist and paint the final image, bypassing location shoots, flaky actors, water damage, insurance, accidental drownings, wind blowing over equipment, plus weeks in Photoshop adapting photos that weren't quite right into the final composite...

david tennant's picture

Ansel Adams famously said "The photograph is the score and the print is the performance", or something to that effect.

Randy Curtis jr's picture

If people were just paying for a picture they would hire anyone to take it, if they want your vision and it includes photshop...use it.. They all are just tools to get the job done.

Again this get it right in camera is a statement used by some to in their minds state they are more skilled and trained. Go watch an Amy Dresser tutorial and you will see even the best commercial shooters still retouch their images. Its not about the process, it is about the final product. Trust me, few art buyers or agents care if you get it right or as close to right in camera. My agent doesnt. They just want a polished final product. Leave all that get it right in camera talk to your photo buddies who care, because the real world does not.

So true. I mean, yes, get it as good as you can in camera so you spend less time re-touching, but you're not going to wow a client by saying, "I only spent 5 minutes post process and a lot of people spend 20"

Exactly!!! I tried to get all artsy on my agent and he flat out told me no one cares, they just want their images and on time. If you can get it through post in time, they dont care. He doesnt care about my equipment either.

So many snobby photogs are noticing their work is starting to look less unique and easier to reproduce so they have adopted this in camera religion. Instagram proved that no one cares about the process but simply the results.

We as image makers need to focus on the end results and stop trying to make ourselves feel more superior to others. In camera is great but its not the end all be all. If you dont believe me, go talk to Dave Hill and Jill Greenberg.

Peter Nord's picture

Shot lots of products for which the label hadn't been finished, yet needed to be on the photo. Guess how it got there.

HW Butch Clor's picture

And no one ever did.. cropping, dodge and burn, or sepia toning in the darkroom..


Nor reducing or adding silver to the negative in the lab...

It would be rare for Hollywood to produce a film without extensive special effects. It's expected for summer blockbusters but not documentaries. Likewise, there's a difference between photojournalism, where PS is absolutely banned, and commercial photography where the image is a creative product.

HW Butch Clor's picture

Actually in photojournalism, editing to increase visibility or shot quality is allowable, as is conversion from color to Black and White.

Jerry Ueslmann. If you don't know who he is, look him up.

Amazing artist. He also doesn't find himself to be a photographer, either.

"If it takes you longer than 5-10mins to "process" your photos digitally you didn't get it right in-camera in the first place." ... That's my Rule that I live by - for the record - I started shooting in film almost 30yrs ago, I now shoot both. I have Photoshop, but not for processing shoots, I use it to produce invitations, gift cards, graphics for websites, etc using my images.

Larry Clay's picture

Nice rule for you, but it means absolutely nothing to me. Getting it right in camera means less time in Photoshop but depending on my vision for the photo I could spend hours in Photoshop getting it just right. This is because your vision and purpose are different then mine. The problem with most of these comments is that people think that how they do something is the only right way for everyone. Vive la différence.