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“Photoshopped” Or Over Corrected?

Adobe® Photoshop Is An Essential Photographer’s Tool

Recently there was a lot of controversy in the media about “Photoshopped” images after Julia Roberts’s and Christy Turlington’s photos, used in Lancome and Maybelline advertisements, were banned in the U.K. by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).  While I’m not going to get in that debate about the ethics of manipulating images to sell make-up products, the banning was based on the fact that the enhancement of those images exaggerates what the products can actually achieve. I call the photos “over-corrected” not “Photoshopped” as the media played it out.

Adobe Photoshop Nik Software Edited Photo

In this photo of Kayti, I brought the image in Adobe® Photoshop and used a Nik Software Bleach By-pass filter and nothing more.

The problem I have with the whole “make-up” incident is how the media linked “Photoshop” with negativity. Our whole world is exaggerated in many forms, so let’s not confuse the banning of these advertisements with the real purpose of image editing. If we do that, we might as well ban a few more things, for example:

  1. Push-up bras—women love them, men hate them, they are deceptive, need I say more!
  2. Redbull, I love that drink as I’m not a coffee drinker, but I still haven’t grown any wings! Though I must say I still enjoy my social life.
  3. I’ve never seen any men’s cologne or deodorant attract women like flies where you’re fighting them off with an axe. You probably know which name brand product I’m referencing as it’s in the last sentence, no pun intended.
  4. 85-percent of all statistics are all made up. Should we ban statistics?
  5. Does Viagra really give you an erection that will last up to four hours? I don’t know, but I’m sure someday I’ll let you know my thoughts on that one. Personally I think it’s a marketing ploy to make you “think” you can last that long so you’ll buy the product—men that is, and who wouldn’t want that? Right?
  6. Does spinach give you the strength to become the next Popeye? Doubt it! What has Bluto (Brutus) been eating all this time? Chicken?
  7. I’ve worn Nike Air Jordan’s for years and still can’t dunk in an NBA regulation hoop as long as I’m 5-foot 7 ½-inches tall.

The list could go on and on, but then this is a photography blog right? So let’s go back to photography for a minute and talk about “Photoshopped” photos. First, for those that don’t know, Photoshopped is not a slang term for purchasing photos, it simply means a photo was “edited” in post-production, normally while using the world’s leading image editing software, Adobe® Photoshop.

Like I’ve said before in my other photoblog posts, Adobe® Photoshop is a “tool” that no digital photographer can live without today, and like all tools, it can and will be abused by many. Normally that abuse comes inadvertently because the user doesn’t have the skill set to use it properly. Photoshop was not created to over-correct, it was created as the new “darkroom” for photographers. Before digital photography became the norm, photographers corrected their film photography in the darkroom. Photographers are not perfect anymore than people and whether it’s a darkroom for film or Adobe® Photoshop for digital images, photographers use tools just like any other professional to achieve professional results.

A professional photographer’s main goal is to get it right in the camera first, thus reducing their post-production hours. But for anyone to think they can capture an image 100-percent correct, 100-percent of the time, well you might as well be item number eight above—it’s not possible. Some photographers have a better “perfect” rate than others, especially those that have no photo editing skills, but it’s practically impossible to get every image perfect every time and that’s where Adobe® Photoshop is a photographer’s best friend, it’s a tool that helps us perfect what we saw, envisioned and captured. Over-correction and over-manipulation is not a professional photographer’s intent.

For anyone or any organization to ban Photoshopped photos is ludicrous (unless they are photos that violate ethics or misrepresent the facts). That’s like asking a chef to cook a savory meal without pots and pans. Adobe® Photoshop is an essential tool to any photographer to “develop” their final photographs. And while I understand the banning of images that don’t properly represent the facts, like a facial product or someone taking a person’s head and placing it on someone else’s more perfect body, photographers need to protect their rights in image editing. Image manipulation for exaggeration is for illustrators, not photographers.

RAW photo of Kayti

This is the "before" photo of Kayti as it was shot, right out of the camera, sans the copyright notice created in Adobe® Photoshop.

Yes, I tweak my subject’s photos from time to time, it’s a no brainer, there is no such thing as a perfect human being and what my clients want is for me to portray them in their photos of how they want themselves to look. Some want smoother complexions, some want a pound or two of weight reduction, some want a slight breast augmentation—so I give it to them, after all, that’s why they are shooting with me, to see themselves how they want to feel. Though I, like most professional photographers, do our best to get it right in the camera by using the proper lens selection, lighting set-up, pose, composition, correct exposure, etc., it’s not always possible, so we rely on post-production with Adobe® Photoshop, it’s how we use that tool that makes the difference.

Another thing that many, including non-photographers, don’t realize, digital is a totally different capture medium than film. Film always had a natural curvature and was slightly softer than tack sharp, perfectly flat digital camera image sensors. Film was not HD, digital cameras practically are HD if not, high-resolution, greater than film. I’m sure if you asked Julia Roberts or any actor their opinion on HD television, they’d tell you they hate it because it will show imperfections more clear than the old non-HD television sets and cameras.

The human eye is very forgiving and adjusts to our own brain perceptions, but like push-up bras, make-up is a product itself intended for women to “amplify” their beauty when you see them in person, so don’t bash Photoshopped photos, bash “over-correction” or the media’s misuse of the wrong word association in a negative form for something designed to provide a positive impact. Even the media uses special lighting and make-up to help their broadcasters appeal to their audiences. I’m quite sure female media reporters and anchors “pad” things a bit for ratings.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think a product, especially make-up, energy drinks and cologne, should be exaggerated to the consumers, something Adobe® Photoshop is not, it delivers what it was designed to do for professional photographers. In a nutshell, it’s about getting it right in the camera to begin with, and that starts with lighting, light modifiers, the proper lens, aperture setting, the right model, poses, etc., not Adobe® Photoshop. Image editing with Adobe® Photoshop is step two in a professional photographer’s quest in creating that perfect image that showcases the photographer’s skills and talent. It’s a tool like the pots and pans of a culinary chef. (For further reading, see The Pots And Pans Of Photography.

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3 Comments

  1. very well written and well said, you bring up many valid points! I enjoyed the read..

  2. Well said, and I couldn’t agree more!

  3. i found the article informative regarding the perspectives about photoshop and it’s “demonization”. is photoshop a weapon or a tool? perhaps my negative vibe toward photoshop is how it’s exploited by pseudo-photographer: those that grab a camera, lure the client with a promise of pro-grade technique and talent – only to produce “overly corrected” images that aim to replace quality work and effort.

    again, to clarify, i do use photoshop but use it selectively as a tool ,when and where it is warranted. but, because beauty is in the eye of the beholder – photoshop correction (when passed off as organic talent) becomes the boogey-man! we’ll see…. maybe i should write on the matter and put it forth to fellow artists.

    thanks again for sharing your article…it was a good read!

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Welcome to LensDiaries.com (Lens Diaries™), a hybrid photography blog with social flair. The photoblog provides photo tips, photo tutorials and photo diaries by professional photographer, author, writer, speaker and social media consultant, Rolando Gomez.

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