How Much Is Too Much Photoshop ?

Thors Well Sunset – Oregon Coast

For example, some photographers choose to combine multiple exposures together in a process known as HDR. This method captures the whole tonal range of the scene from darkest to light by combining several exposures together. HDR images have become a subject of much controversy over which people have a wide range of opinions.The results vary from beautiful to “over the top”.  Some who lean more toward traditionalism feel that every photographic image should come from a single exposure and that each image should be presented as it was captured by the camera. For me I use a combination of methods that enable me to achieve a final image that tells the story I want to tell. From my perspective there is no right answer to which approach is correct.

For the non professional photographer each is entitled to his own vision and each has the right to present it as he sees fit. What about the professional photographer? Do they have an obligation to present the scene as it is in the camera or are they allowed to have creative freedom when it comes to post processing? These days it is not uncommon for magazines and photo contests to request that images avoid excessive Photoshop and to attach the original image with the final results.

With the advancements of Photoshop, photographers are now creating images that cross the boundaries into “digital art”. In other words the image combines elements from multiple images or doesn’t resemble anything that could be found in nature. The results are often stunning and beautiful, but the image may look more like a painting than a photograph based in realism. Personally speaking, when it relates to selling images the competition is fierce and often publishers will make a decision to choose an image based on a thumbnail. Therefore, the images chosen often look unnatural. You can see evidence of this in magazines, calendars, and even photo contests. There is no arguing that brightly colored and stylized images are popular these days.

If you make a living from photography what are the guidelines when it comes to realism? I don’t have the answers but I know, in an effort to express myself and my artistic vision, that I often push the limits as far as I can. I am grateful to make my living as a photographer. It seems that as photographers become more skilled in the art of digital image developing the debate over the use of new digital image developing techniques versus a more traditional approach to photography will continue.


~ by kevinmcneal on October 17, 2012.

12 Responses to “How Much Is Too Much Photoshop ?”

  1. What a great, great shot Kevin. LOVE the colors in the sky and that crazy natural water feature there is really something else!

    In terms of your discussion here I am a firm believer in supporting people who use what tools they need to produce the vision they are trying to share. The public at large will judge the body of work as a whole in the field and the best stuff will rise to the top. Success is also a highly subjective thing. No matter what, art is definitely in the eye of the beholder and I personally applaud all who have the courage to express themselves regardless of tool or method of creation.

  2. Hard to say if there is any right or wrong here, if you look at photos as a method of communication then they will happily cross over from image to art and back. I guess that wahtever gets the point over best is good

  3. Realism and photography even in the days of the darkroom were two very different things. I believe that it is forgotten how much could be done in a darkroom. One of the reasons for this is that the skill level was much higher than in Photoshop. It would take years to learn how to make a perfect image compared with the speed and efficiency of its modern digital cousin.

    With HDR I don’t believe it is cheating or over editing because it enables a photographer to take a picture beyond the limitations of the camera.
    By this i mean that a camera can only capture tones of light up to 4-8 stops apart whereas a human eye can see up to 12-14 stops. This means as humans our reality has more range of tones than a cameras. If we present what the camera sees reality then we as humans must view a fantasy world.

    I would agree though that there must be limits not to falsely misrepresent through photography. I think aesthetic changes which do not change the overall meaning of the image in its context are fine. For example patching a sky because it compositionally doesn’t work or blurring certain areas to force attention to the subject of the image.

    If the changes are so drastic that they no longer have any resemblance to the original scene then i think this means you have gone too far.

    On the point of competitions wanting both the original image and the edit is because they want to see how skillful you really are. From viewing the original file they can see if you did over manipulate the image due to your lack of skill the the camera.

    In the end my mantra is, if you can do it in the darkroom why not in photoshop.

  4. So many good points raised here Ben. We use HDR to really bring back the tonal contrast that we see we our eyes and that the darkroom is just another tool to bring back the image to how we saw it.

  5. Thank you Arnold for the feedback.There will never be right answer.

  6. True, whatever works I reckon

  7. Thank you for the feedback. Art is in the eye of the beholder for sure. Success as you have stated is subjective.

  8. That’s the way i see many post production tools. the skill in using them is knowing when you have gone to far.

  9. At the end of our run, will we regret that we had not hewn more closely to convention, or that had missed opportunities to touch, move and/or inspire?

  10. Very nicely put Jim. Thank you for the feedback.

  11. I prefer more natural approach to photography. I think it is awesome when using in-camera settings and tricks a photographer can create an outstanding image. Bracketing, multiple exposure pictures, flash gels, and on-lense caps can create enchanting imagery.

  12. I agree. Whenever I can I really try to go for a more natural look as well. Thank you very much for your feedback.

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