Saturday, March 1, 2008

Photoshop Gets a Bum Wrap

This photograph of one of my grandchildren
was taken by an inexpensive camera. In Photoshop™
I was able to burn some of the edges and areas of
the photograph to force the eye to the areas of
importance; that is, the areas the photographer
intended to be the subject of the photo. The
technique is no different than those used in
darkrooms 50 years ago – as a matter of fact,
that’s where the term ‘burning’ comes from.
The old, darkroom masters also used a system
they called ‘dodging’ to lighten areas to draw
the eye to them. Nothing really changes.
It’s just that it’s much easier and faster now.

It still takes a good photographer to get a great photograph!
by Charlie Leck

This past summer I was at a great photography exhibit at our community art center. I was amazed at the quality of the photographs on exhibit, but a friend who wandered over by me was less than enthused. She began a long rant about how she hated Photoshop™, claiming that it made photography too easy for the masses and now “everyone” thought he/she was a good photographer. She thought it was too easy to repair one’s mistakes and “fix up” things that should have been taken care of at the time the photograph was taken. She was a film user, she proudly announced, and she had no intention of going over to digital.Too bad, I thought. You’re missing out on great fun!

She is too nice a lady with whom to argue in such a public setting (we were packed shoulder to shoulder), so I let it go. The comments have hung around in my mind ever since she made them, though, and I need to rebut them. So, I wondered, why not use my blog to do it.

Lately I’ve been watching some video tutorials on blurring, dodging and burning in Photoshop.™ In watching the tutorial I was amazed to discover how “the old time photographers” used these studio techniques in their development laboratories to alter, enhance or improve the photograph from what the camera’s lens had actually taken. Ah, hah! It’s true. That darkroom was where so many of the great photographers, such as Ansel Adams, went to work to correct problems in the film as the camera recorded the photograph. They were master photographers because they knew how to use the tricks that the dark room would allow them to apply. They could enhance or soften contrast. They could burn or blur certain areas to force the eye to focus on more essential elements in the photograph; and they could lighten or brighten still other areas to make them the highlighted elements in a photo. These great photographers also had correction techniques that allowed them to remove evidence of dust that may have been on their lens and they knew how to fix a scratch here and there. If they got unwanted reflections, there were darkroom techniques to alter those problems, too.

Photoshop™ has just made the whole process of photograph enhancement and improvement much easier. Many of the wonderful instructors from whom I’ve taken Photoshop™ or Lightroom™ tutorials are themselves masters of film photography. They explain that taking the photograph is only half the process in producing great film photographs. The other half takes place in the darkroom.

I recently applied some of the burning techniques I’ve been learning to a photograph that someone else sent me – of one of my grandchildren – and I was flabbergasted at the results and the improvement the techniques made. And, they were really very minor adjustments. And also, they were the kind of adjustments that could have been made to film in the darkroom.

Sometimes it’s very difficult to accept change. My friend, that day at the art center, was blown away by the colorfulness, the crispness and the perfection of the photos she was viewing. She shouldn’t think that any old photographer could have done that just because he/she had Photoshop™ available. No, these were great and wonderful photographs, first and foremost, because they had been taken by a wonderful photographer. I see evidence of this all the time. I’m getting to be a master of Photoshop™, but I’m still unable to get the kind of production from my own work that the truly talented, artistic photographers can get.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful story from the heart. Thank you for sharing it. Your sister was special indeed!