Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Photography and Photoshop

Wherever there is digital photography, there will be Photoshop. The two go hand in hand like horse and carriage, to the extent that "to photoshop" has started being used as a verb meaning image editing and manipulation. "Just photoshop it." In the digital age I've been faced with a problem, one that is still ongoing. When you can change every aspect of an image in post-production, how much should you change?

There are the obvious things for me that I do to every image, basic colour correction. But these quickly expand into a myriad of options. If the subject is in the shade, should I adjust skin tones for shade or the sunlight of the background? Or should I use a separate layer for the subject and mask the rest out, effectively creating two different "images" in one?

Let's take an example. Below is a vacation image of someone who was out on a bit of a cloudy day.
With the basic fixes the image brightens up a bit, but it's still a bit dreary.
Using a rough feathered polygonal lasso selection of the subject, I create a new curves adjustment layer and brighten only the subject.
And since we've gone that far why not make the view a bit more colourful with a bluer sea and sky? And perhaps brighten the whites of her eyes to give a bit more presence, oh, and that little bag under the right eye could use some fixing...

It quickly adds up. So how much is enough? When I first started shooting with a point-and-shoot I was adamantly against any sort of post-processing, thinking that it took away from the purity of the image. Now, however, I am of the mindset that post-processing should be used to maximise the full potential of an image. Whether that is just making it look pretty, or fulfilling an artist's vision.

But then again, how much manipulation can be done before an image loses its credibility? Doing all these edits is to be intentionally misleading. The weather on that vacation was not at all that good, the sea wasn't the wonderfully blue as can be seen in the manipulated version. Yet all of this and more is being done every day by professionals and amateurs alike. That model you see on the cover of a magazine probably doesn't have flawless skin, or even as large breasts and perfect thighs as on the picture. But none of that goes through the mind of the average person, who most likely just sees a beautiful woman.

This is the nature of photography. To show only one narrow frame taken out of a larger context, showing you one thing while the reality of the situation might be completely different. A lie disguised as truth.

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