I’ve heard this so many times. I’ve also heard “You cheated” more times than I can count. Where do I hear these phrases you ask? No not on the playground or when I’m playing cards, but when people look at my photos and ask if I use Photoshop.
Frankly, it starts to grate on my nerves sometimes. As if using Photoshop to adjust the exposure, saturation, and sharpness in my photos is cheating. Where do people get this silly attitude from? People tell me occasionally that if I cannot get the shot right in the camera, it’s not real. Real? What does that mean; Real? Everyone (almost) uses digital cameras now. Unless you’re shooting in raw mode, your camera is almost certainly making changes for you and applying edits. The difference is I’m deciding how much of those changes to apply instead of allowing some predefined algorithm written by a programmer somewhere to decide these things for me.
When you use a digital camera producing jpeg (jpg) images, your camera creates an image initially with a lot of data. Then your camera applies contrast, saturation, sharpening, and perhaps some other adjustment to the image. Then it throws away 90% or more of the data initially captured in order to produce a smaller, compressed image; your .jpg file.
I choose not to let my camera do this for me. I start with a raw image that has no adjustments made to it and still contains 14 bits of data as opposed to the 8 bit image cameras spit out when the user shoots in jpg mode. I spend time and exert myself to make my photos all they can be instead of all my camera thinks they should be. I’m much better at it than my camera is. I’m not cheating and it’s completely fair. If I’m willing to put more effort into it, I deserve a better result than someone who wants to simply push the shutter release and be rewarded with a magnificent image.
I’ve been accused of compositing images when I didn’t and shown people composited images without them noticing. I do composite images sometimes. It’s something that I enjoy doing. Why shouldn’t we all do it if we have the skills to do so. I use photography as an art form. I don’t try to make people believe things that aren’t true with doctored images. I just like to create images. Sometimes I create images completely from scratch in Photoshop. I enjoy it. Why shouldn’t I do it?
Digital art can be incredibly satisfying and relaxing whether it’s from images created in a camera, images created in Photoshop or other software, or whatever method one chooses. Art can be satisfying to look at. Generally, I don’t think your audience cares how you make an image if they enjoy looking at it. I prefer using my digital camera most of the time and I really enjoy seeing where I can take my images with editing software. It’s a creative process, not a one snap and it’s over process.
I’ll close with this thought: If you use a digital camera, the process begins when you press the shutter release button. The process ends when you, the photographer, say it’s finished. Be creative, be bold, follow your mind’s eye. Listen less to anything that holds you back and more to your inner creative muse.