Not a week goes by that the topic of “Photoshopping” doesn’t come up in one of the photography groups I belong to on Facebook.
No matter how often it’s brought up, or how the comment or question is phrased, there’s no mistaking the negative connotation behind it. “Photoshopping” is bad, or dishonest when it comes to photography.
Some would have you believe that editing or as I prefer, enhancing, your photos is the work of Satan himself. It seems that if you need to perform any enhancements to your photos you’re at best cheating, at worst not a very good photographer in the first place.
“I Never Edit My Photos.”
Leaving the documentary and news photographers out of it (where any photo manipulation is rightly frowned upon), the most common of the “anti-photoshop” photographers are those who “never edit their photos.”
The “I never edit my photos” group predominantly seems to consist of photographers, quite often but not always beginners, who shoot in jpeg (possibly with their camera set to full auto as well), who are perfectly happy with the way their photos look straight out of the camera (SOOC).
However, what these jpeg shooters don’t seem to understand, as they look down their collective noses at those of us who do use image editing software, is that the editing they “never do” was done for them by the camera. There are plenty of saturation adjustments, contrast, and sharpening (to name a few) decisions made for them with each and every picture they take.
Whether it’s the wonderful film simulations in the Fujifilm X-Series cameras, or Canon’s Picture Styles, for those shooting in jpeg, like it or not there’s is plenty of “Photoshopping” going on inside your camera with every press of the shutter.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re happy with your photos just the way the camera sees them, and you’re happy with the editing decisions the camera has mad for you, that’s perfectly okay.
But does that mean those who choose to edit their photos are wrong, or cheating?
Why I Do Edit My Photos.
What the camera sees and what our eyes see are two entirely different things. Especially when it comes to scenes with a lot of dynamic range, like the one above captured in the Pondicherry National Wildlife Refuge in northern New Hampshire.
What you see is how my Fuji X-T2 saw this particular scene. This is a straight out of camera Fuji RAF file, converted to jpeg in Lightroom, with nothing but a quick resize for the web and my watermark added to it.
The problem is that’s far from how my eyes actually saw the very same scene. If I saw it the way the camera did I certainly wouldn’t have bothered taking my camera out of the bag.
Which is where software comes into play, and why I do in fact “edit my photos.”
Here’s what I was able to accomplish in Lightroom with that original RAF file.
The biggest change I made was to give the shadow slider in Lightroom a great big shove to the right. All the way to 100*. Just look at all the detail that was hidden in those dark shadows in the original. This is much closer to how the scene looked and what inspired me to take the picture in the first place.
*Have I mentioned how amazed I am with my Fuji X-Series cameras, and how much detail I’m able to recover from apparently black shadows?
Once done with a few more adjustments in Lightroom, contrast, white balance, etc., it was off to Color Efex Pro 4 for some of my own secret sauce, and here you have it, the final image.
Without the use of image enhancing software, instead of a photo I’m quite happy with I would have sent it on a one way trip to the trash bin.
So yes, I most certainly do
edit enhance my photos.
The short answer is, neither.
If you’re happy with the photos you take and don’t feel the need to invest in or learn how to use image editing software, I’m happy for you.
And if you want to Photoshop the heck out of your photos, that’s fine too.
Where I take issue is when one side, which more often than not (but not always) is the “I never edit my photos” side, has a negative attitude about how the other side chooses to make photographs.
In the hiking community we have a saying, “Hike your own hike” which means you should hike a trail in whatever way makes you happy, not how someone else thinks you should.
So maybe the photography community should adopt a “Photograph your own photograph,” way of making pictures?
As far as I’m concerned, it’s the end result that matters, not how it was achieved. A good photograph is a good photograph, whether or not the photographer chooses to edit or enhance their photos is irrelevant.