To Photoshop or to not Photoshop.
I maybe wrong about a few things, but, if I am not very mistaken,a few countries in the world are seriously looking at forcing advertising that uses image manipulation during the creation process of it’s advertising to carry a warning or a statement to say as such. Our French neighbors seem to be the leading voice here. But I understand that the there is a growing American contingent also. Quite an odd things considering some magazines actually make a whole trade in showing “shocking celeb” photos of people looking normal. So what is going on. I get the feeling this is just people needing to shout about something. It’s like vegans telling us bacon is bad for you every day. Why do we need a warning if we know that photos are manipulated? Is there a problem that I really just am missing. Is the work we produce really that bad harmful.
So what is post production, and what are people so worried about. For a start, people have been “Photoshoping” photos way before Photoshop. It’s just that it was never called Photoshop. Developing, it was called. Skilful developers could do wonders with film. All sorts of amazing things could be done with a few chemicals and practice. The doctoring of images has been going since the very first photograph, the sheer act alone requires the image creator to work to predefine the context, and therefore trying to direct the reaction of the viewer. Images are a media of communication, there is no point in creating something if you have nothing to communicate.
After the capture stage, the refining of the direction that producer wants to direct the viewer is call Post-Production. It is a means to refine the contextual narrative. Even if you don’t edit, touch, change alter your images, you are STILL manipulating and creating contextual direction for the viewer. People who say they don’t agree with post-production just have no idea of what they are talking about in my view. In layman’s terms, Post-Production is what you after the production stage. I find it very hard that people want to put a health warning on this stage of the creation process. One day will they also have to make a warning to say that the lighting used to create shape and tone was created in a studio setting? What about painters? Should Joris Hoefnagel’s painting of King Henry viii also carry a health warning, as this was also in no question an altered versions of the exact truth. What do people want ? If the new Gucci campaign with Anja Rubik has to carry one, I put the reason that most of Rembrandts should too. But then the other side says that, the reason for the conception of the images are different and it is that the Gucci advert is designed to sell and make money etc. I would then say, but many of Rembrandts must of inspired the future fashions and lifestyles regarding body image and such. My point is this, there is nothing new here what so ever. People are educated enough to know that just because it is an image they know that it is not an exact copy of truth. The sheer creation process prevents this. Having health warnings to state the obvious is just dull and obnoxious quite frankly. What next, “this light bulb will glow when in use”.
Within the photographic community, seeing all sides from newbie starters to the top elite. Everyone at some point will use a program at the very heart of this all. Adobe Photoshop was created 24 years ago (1989) and is the industry standard editing manipulation tool today. It gives the user total ability to directly alter the pixels used to create the image. When people refer to airbrushing photos – This is a rough, naïve attempt to explain someone using such program to remove elements such as spots and skin blemishes at a pixel level on an image. The overall result looking like the model or person in the image having perfect skin. Some people want this practice, when carried out to make sure the image carries a warning saying so. But, if the make up artist was to really use and Airbrush to produce such an effect for real, this would be fine and not need to carry any warning at all. One a simple level I guess this is what is being suggested. Over the years Photoshop has got far easier to use and more advanced offering greater access and greater ability to doctor images. The major boom in electronic image manipulation was the introduction of the cheap digital camera. This gave people chance to edit holiday photos and family photographs. The developing stage had gone digital when the cameras went digital too. This meant that now people had far greater access to change the images they were creating as less skill was needed to doctor an image. These days you can take a snap on your phone, edit using a funky app and post on Facebook in a shorter time than it would take you to read this single paragraph. Back years ago, far more time went into the pre-production stages, and less Post was needed as a result. The digital ages has reversed this.
A couple of days ago, an interesting post was placed on my forum. It was questioning how much control could or should be place in the hands of the re-toucher. (Photoshop guy/gal). The power of Photoshop is just incredible today. Many working professionals put so much faith that work can be rescued and polished in Photoshop that the creation of the image is second in importance to the digital enhancement stage. I am not saying this is right, but I am saying that it is done. These days, if you are a working professional, you need to have your editing skills up to scratch or have someone working for you who does. This is not new though. Pre-digital, having a good developer of your film was vital. Lets just remind our-self, that the concept of post-production is to refine the context of the image. Not using all the skills and tools available to you to help your images is just lazy and unprofessional. Choosing to move the stages of the creation process about is whole other thing though. Spending time on make up before a shoot thus not having to correct in Photoshop as an example. This should be encouraged.
G.Sandy is not far wrong I think with this summing up of the different stages.
I think whatever it takes to make the photo all that you want it to be is fair game. personally though and maybe because I am old and brought up with film, there are 3 levels rather than 2.
1. Developing (curves, sharpening, fixing colour castes and white balance)
2. Enhancing (a bit of D&B on the blemishes and maybe some “carving”)
3. Retouching (things that change the actual subject beyond blemishes such as liquify, moving eyebrows etc)
Everyone Develops, everyone enhances, but not everyone retouches. Also as a side note, you really do not need Photoshop for any of these things. Many of these things you can do inside a phone application these days.
Personally, I use Photoshop to style and enhance my photography in a way that in camera is just not practical or achievable. I really do not think that is a problem and should not carry a health warning. Working as re-toucher for other people, it is key to understand what message they are trying to convey to the viewer before starting to enhance that message. 90% of images in the professional arena will have been though all three stages under skillful guidance. This being a way to refine the context of the image to a degree is says just what you need it to.
Many hobbyist photographers really do not need such control over the direction of the images, thus less production is common. Photographers working in a commercial environment will use as many tools to make sure the images created are doing exactly what the client has asked for. Outsourcing images is a very common practice in the professional world. Many Clients working with advertising agencies have their own retouchers who as very familiar with the branding and can shape just the right message from the images created by a freelance photographer.