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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Previous comments

I do not really understand what "getting it right in camera" means anymore? So If I take a 5D mark III and shoot JPG with a custom setting of adding sharpening, contrast, saturation ect or even heaven forbid shoot in camera HDR then touch it up in camera with some of the creative controls does this mean I am a purist and got it right in camera?
Also what do people argue? Is it what the eye sees or what the camera sees? If I look at an object with a bright window behind it I can see both the object and what is outside with my eyes. If I take a shot of just the object and expose for it the window will be blown out. If expose for the window the object is now a silhouette. If I take a bracket and HDR the images I get much closer to what my eyes can truly see. Of coarse I could light the object to balance the light as well. Its works the same for a scenic image. I can see details in the shadow with my eyes that a camera can not pick up with out bracketing and merging. Or as Adams did zone dodge and burn.

Hi, I am a photographer and I use photoshop. Call me what you want.

I'll call you a wannabe photographer.

Bruce Kaplan's picture

I love Photoshop (and all of the creative plugins too). However, my problem is the time I spend manipulating the images vs. what my clients are willing to pay for the final product. I tend to spend way too much time in Photoshop and no one seems to really understand the real time involved (except other photographers).

So recently, I have changed my pricing structure on my event photography. Now my pricing includes a few simple global adjustments in Lightroom on each image that I deliver. This takes a lot less time. Then, I charge per photo on any Photoshop adjustments as an additional service. I
disclose the whole process up front to my clients with before and after examples. So far it has been working; time will tell is this is really a sound strategy.

May I share a favorite quote from Edward Steichen, whom we probably can agree knew a little bit about pre-digital photography?

“It is rather amusing, this tendency of the wise to regard a print which has been locally manipulated as irrational photography – this tendency which finds an esthetic tone of expression in the word “faked” . . . In fact, every photograph is a fake from start to finish, a purely impersonal, unmanipulated photograph being practically impossible. When all is said, it still remains entirely a matter of degree and ability.”

Edward Steichen, in Camera Work, 1903

You just know that at the dawn of photography there was a group of insecure painters claiming that cameras were for people who couldn't get it right on canvas.

I'm sure of it. And people like Steichen (above), Stieglitz, and so on, were very concerned about elevating themselves above "ordinary" people who were able to buy mass-produced Kodak cameras in the early 1900's. They wanted the world to know they were producing Art.

Use whatever tools inspire you, and don't be concerned with how others express themselves. Be grateful for the opportunity to bring your own uniqueness to the table, and let the creativity of others enrich your life as yours enriches the lives of others. This is how the creative world flows.

Trevor Schneider's picture

I had to put my two cents in here. As a past film shooter that was
forced to move to digital to keep up with market demand I disagree that
digital photographers are not photographers. Film cameras capture light
as it enters the camera and records what it sees on the film. Digital
cameras capture light as it enters the camera.. but here is the
kicker...the sensor records what it thinks it sees! You have a computer
interpreting what sometimes is inaccurate so therefore needs some
adjustment after the fact. If I could, I would still shoot weddings on
film. Customers demands have changed! I wouldn't say those shooting
digital are not photographers. They can pose, give direction, work with
clients and make them happy with what they produce. Film photography is a
fine art, but photography is photography. If you make a living by
instilling worthwhile moments in time, and love that you can do that for
the world. I believe you are a photographer at heart no matter what
tool you use to do it!

I think there are a lot of photographers that are confused about what "getting it right in the camera" means. I means capturing as much of the information from the scene as possible and that is just as true for film as it is for digital. On film, unless you shoot color reversal, or Polaroid, you don't get a completed image out of the camera, someone has to develop it and print it, whether it's you, Walmart or a pro lab. Very few people that did their own printing printed the negative "straight" there was almost always some burning and dodging, and some kind of manipulation of the contrast.

Digital is the same. If you were happy with the 1 hour lab then you're probably happy choosing the profiles that your camera has. If you wanted more than that in the film days, you probably want more than that now as well. Photoshop is not a way to fix what you got wrong in the camera, it's a continuation of the creative process, a way to get what you visualized when you pressed the shutter button. Sometimes your vision was more than what you saw at the time, sometimes it's a way of presenting the scene in a manner that's more "real" than what the camera was able to record. The camera doesn't see the same as we do, sometimes some manipulation is required to reproduce what we saw.

I think there is a certain snobbishness that goes along with the "get it right in the camera" crowd, the same ones that think you have to shoot manual to have full control of your camera or that think you should only have to shoot one image to get it right if you know what you're doing. In the end, it doesn't matter if you used a scene mode, if you did no post processing or if you spent hours to achieve the final product, all that matters is the end result. Not everyone is going to love every piece and that's the way art is. If you're working professionally, all that matters is that your client likes it. If you're selling your work and people are buying, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. If you're shooting for fun, for yourself, all that matters is that you enjoy your work.

This kind of nonsense has always been going on, whether people were arguing that real photographers only used colour reversal or that if you were serious, you only used MF because 35mm was for amateurs.

Tasso Karpouzis's picture

i cannot believe only 2% dislike the creative cloud model.

Andre Goulet's picture

The real problem is that photographers in forums keep thinking that other photographers are their target audience. It's your art. Produce it. Enjoy/sell it. If it's selling and that's your goal, you're doing it right. If it's being enjoyed and that's your goal, you're doing it right.

Soooo..... I guess Ansel Adams wasn't a photographer then, as he would spend hours upon hours in the darkroom forming his image into what he wanted. If you say you only capture truth, chances are you're one of the thousands that got left behind by technology, if you want to create art, embrace post as it is just another tool.

First off...old head photographers can kiss my ass. If I am getting clients who love my work and pay for it...that's all that matters! And I don't shoot on auto.