Monday, 19 December 2011

The Photoshop Debate.

I figured my first proper post on here was likely to be about a latest shoot, but as i'm currently working my way through the photos I took yesterday of Joshua Honeysett (modelmayhem:, so more on that later. Instead, I first want to talk a little bit about something thats been on my mind lately, and certainly is a controversial topic among the photographic genre.

It's no secret that I use photoshop within my work and as a key part of my work, and its something i've never been ashamed to admit to. Just like everyone, I have the things I am happy to do in photoshop, changes I feel I am willing to make that I personally think will enhance the image, and of course, lines I would choose myself not to cross. There's been the big debate about the importance of photoshop for many years now, about its impact on the look of a photograph, about its connotations with image and body perception, and so on. I've always been an avid supporter of saying no to extreme image enhancement and manipulation - changing the shape of a face, making someone thinner, and so on, its not for me. There are things that I personally have no qualms doing to the face of a model, or the scene of an image, and i'm going to go into a little depth about them now and explain my reasonings.

First of all, colour. Colour is an important aspect of my work; in my mind I usually have a very clear and specific idea of how I want the colours to appear, and usually they're not something very reminiscent of real life. I'm okay with this, and I have no issues with enhancing or playing around with the colours in an image to get the desired mood i'm after. Second of all, lighting and contrast. It's not always possible to get the best results on-camera, whether it be poor lighting, bad weather, or just deciding it needs a little extra brightness when you see the image on screen for the first time. I'm also a big fan of darkness, of heavy areas of black, and my personal ideals in this area, at present, aren't something I can perfectly replicate straight onto he camera in most situations. With all of the above, I feel they're minor necessities to my own work - to me, the above are the equivalent of say, adding contrast or using filters in a darkroom. It's meddling with what you already have to get the desired effect. Sure, its great to get exactly what you want on camera immediately, but sometimes, this isn't always the case.

As for the appearance of the model, I have things I will and won't do. I'm happy to enhance what is already there, or bring out more detail in an image if I choose to do so. Dodging into the pupils of the eyes, deepening the definition of wrinkles by burning into them, and so on. To me, enhancing what is already there is again, something I have no issues with. I'm also happy to do a minimal amount of facial retouching on my work, a touchy subject, but again, something I like to think I don't overdo. My personal line is that I only feel comfortable altering things that are temporary or due to circumstance - we all get spots on our worst days for example, they're not permanent, and I find them distracting in an image. Removing, or at least making less prominent, bags under the eyes, editing out a loose eyelash hair or a stray strand of hair working its way across the face...things of circumstance, not permanent facial features. As I said earlier, i'm not happy to change the shape of a face, the weight of a model, and so on. I'm also, for what its worth, far to lazy to do proper and full retouching anyway, so the stuff I do generally keeps to a minimum.

Thats generally as far as I go with photoshop. I don't spend hours on each image, I spend on average around 10-15 mins tops on each image, sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on what i'm trying to achieve. And for what its worth, I enjoy editing. To me, its a crucial process in my work, and at times I enjoy it almost as much as the photo-taking itself. To me, making an image i'm happy with perfectly as I imagine it to look, or wish it to look, is exactly what I love about photography.

Now, some of you may know that I recently started on a BA Photography degree, which for what its worth, I am very much enjoying. I like the freedom and creativity it allows, I like the debate, and the strong variety of work presented by my fellow classmates. I find it inspiring to see how differently people go about their practises, and I find the results are usually pretty amazing. Now, back to that idea of debate; the varying opinions of people on my course is something I do love, but there is something i've started to notice, and it's the reason i'm writing this post in the first place. The simple fact is, a lot of my classmates hate photoshop. Despise it even. They dislike what it stands for, what it creates, and so on. Others are indifferent, and others will use it on occasion. There are a lot of hardcore film fanatics on my course, which is fab, as it is an area I'm hoping to play around with more in the future, but there are a lot of people in love with the idea of 'the perfect image', and the idea of a photo being finished from the moment the shutter is pressed. Which is cool, really. But i've had a little bit of backlash from my use of photoshop. Not so much backlash, in reality thats too strong a word for it, but at least its been a cause for debate, and one of the things people often comment on in my work. Some have told me that they love the way I use photoshop to make colours in my work, others have criticised the way I use things such as dodging and burning to make an image more defined.

It's an odd thing, really. I always presumed people wouldn't have much to say about my images as far as the post-processing is concerned. I didn't think I did anything particularly controversial in my post-processing, but perhaps I was wrong. To give an example, my recent project, 'Do I Know You?', looking at faces, involves a lot of post-processing, as I said earlier, due to wanting to bring out more details. To give a little context, here are some of the images.

'Do I Know You? I' by RavenBlakh Photography
Example number one - the image on the left is the first photo I took for this project, and essentially it's the type of post-processed look I was after; as I said earlier, making colours more prominent and making facial details more defined.
'Do I Know You? II' by RavenBlakh Photography
Example two is another image from this project, but unlike the first image, the vast majority of the facial definition was achieved on camera, by great lighting, a slightly above-the-model angle, and a reflector placed underneath the face and angled upwards to catch the light.

From the 'Strangers' project by Danny Santos
One of a series of street portraits, by Lasse Damgaard
Now, to give further context - these two photographers were my key influences for this project, and my reasons for my choices of post-processing. I love the detail captured in Lasse Damgaard's work, and the overall atmosphere and beauty captured in Danny Santos' images. Both photographers worth checking out if you're not familiar with their works.

My point is, I personally felt that the post-processing I did was necessary to what I wanted to achieve, and something I was happy to do in order to produce the sort of outcome I was after. In the photography world, there seems to be this general snobbery about the use of photoshop on images, and this general attitude that you're a better photographer or even, a more morally-rounded person if the final image we see is exactly what came straight out of the camera. To me, using photoshop is just a extension of the skills many photographers already have; we have a vision and an idea, and photoshop allows us to produce that in our images, just in the same way that film photographers alter contrast, use filters, dodging and burning in their images to produce a desired effect. I personally think it's no different - like darkroom, its just another tool used to produce amazing images. And I am happy to use it in my work. It doesn't make me better or worse than anyone else; it doesn't make me a fake or a fraud because I enhance my images in one way or another after the photos are taken, and I and others certainly don't deserve to be looked down upon in the photographic community because of it. Some things just can't be achieved to perfection in reality, and a little post-processing and editing can really go a long way and make great image sensational.

Thats my two cents anyway. What do you guys think?

Model: Joshua Honeysett, Photo by RavenBlakh Photography.
Now, onto other topics! My shoot yesterday with Joshua was pretty fun; I was glad to finally get out and get shooting again after multiple cancellations over the past number of months meaning that I haven't been taking as many photos as I usually like to. There was no strict idea behind the shoot, just to go out, and take some photos. I've had a bit of an artists slump lately in terms of ideas, so for now i'm going to just keep the creative juices flowing as much as I can by shooting continually and trying to get some ideas in the process that are a bit more than just taking photos of someones face. Anyway, it was a great shoot, and it was nice to get back into the swing of things. Anyway, this is a preview of whats to come! (see left)

Thats all for now folks, i'll post again when I have some more photos :D

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with you! Photoshop to me is a fun and creative process where I leave those last touches of "me". It's about getting out everything you had in mind when you started a certain project. And photoshop isn't as magical as people tend to believe it is. You have to know what you want with an image, nothing is going to do itself.