Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Using the powers of Photoshop for good

Over the past two decades, digital editing programs have become an essential tool of every photographer. However, the debate goes on and on over the correct way to use Photoshop. Personally, I believe that in the world of journalism you should only be allowed to adjust levels, adjust contrast and crop -- that's it. Photoshop has saved many an underexposed or overexposed photo, but beyond those adjustments, which could be make when printing a photo with an enlarger, you can't trust the image.

Media outlets in Iran faced worldwide mockery a few years ago when they cloned an extra missile into photographs of missile tests that were distributed to newspapers. Today, China is in the hotseat for an incredibly fake photo of three government workers inspecting a road construction site.

However, outside the world of journalism, the lines of good Photoshop and bad Photoshop begin to blur. I'm not talking about digital art here, which is an entire genre unto itself. I'm talking about blatant misuse of Photoshop. I've had advertisers (*cough* realtors *cough*cough*) request to have their double chins removed or more hair added in photographs. The business model of the Glamour Shots franchise is entirely based upon adding so much blur and glow to portraits that the model's skin is no longer visible. If this is what the client wants, you're stuck. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet when it comes to things like taste or style when it comes down to getting paid for your work. However, if you're choosing to perpetrate this kind of work, you are using Photoshop for evil.

With the proper lighting and poses that are flattering to a person's body type, there is no reason you should have to airbrush all the skin off a model!

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for touching up a pimple or a whispy strand of hair, but if you're attempting advertising or fashion, people should look like people, not glowing aliens -- unless of course you're shooting glowing aliens.

However, when it comes to setting, that's where Photoshop is born to run. I clicked a few photos in Old Town Spring Sunday evening and here is my example of GOOD use of Photoshop.

Original:
L1022184

Edited:
L1022184 edited

Let's go through the changes between photos.

1) There had been no pre-planning to shoot posing with a train car, so the model threw on a vintage hat, but she was wearing a beachy dress. I cropped the skirt out of the photo and switched to black and white to make her clothing seem more in tune with the train theme.

2) As the caboose was a food stand, the entire side of the train was covered in menu items. I cloned away all the printing.

3) There was a chain on that side of the caboose to force patrons to form a line using the stairs on the other side. I cloned away the chain and padlocks.

4) I decided to create some contrast and mystery, I'd add some steam or fog. I did this by drawing a large white box over that side of the photo and then choosing the gaussian blur filter and maxing out the slider. I then drew a smaller grey box and did the same thing.

Obviously the scene is no longer true to life, but it looks lifelike. The only alteration I made to the model was to clone part of her wrist that had been blocked by the chain. To me, this is using Photoshop for good.

What's your opinion?
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