Sunday, 10 July 2011

The camera never lies and Photoshop is evil!

So the AMA has said that photoshop is evil. This headline alone has been enough to trigger rants across the internet.

Lots of people have leaped onto the photoshop bashing bandwagon and denounced it with many photographers saying that they don't use photoshop. Others have said that they don't alter their images in any way – presenting them just as they are in camera.
Very laudable you might say. But is there a little bit more to it than that?

One particular photographer who's a member of an online forum I'm on stated proudly that he didn't photoshop his images. A few posts later, and with some people carefully examining some of the work in his portfolio, he admitted that most of his images are actually manipulated, just using a different piece of software.
Not exactly a shining beacon of honesty there.

Presenting the image as it is in camera does demonstrate lots of things but does this show they don't do anything to change the image? Really?
Take a look at this fantastic portrait of Judy Garland.

The light is positioned to minimise the appearance of any flaws, the chin is lifted to elongate the neck and the arms are raised to create a much more slim body shape – all controlled by a great photographer.
Result – an extremely flattering photograph but unmanipulated? That's a matter of opinion.

While we're here, lets look at the origin of the word 're-touching'. Pretty much ever since there have been photographs there has been a very skilled artist with a brush who would literally paint over various parts of the final print to make it as perfect as possible. This combined with all the little tricks in the darkroom such as dodging and burning meant that an awful lot could be done to change the final outcome. The only difference between those days and now is that we have more control and the techniques are more accessible.

So, where do I stand on this issue? Well I agree with the AMA up to a point. They don't actually say that all Photoshop usage is bad. They do say
'The appearance of advertisements with extremely altered models can create unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image – especially among impressionable children and adolescents.' source - AMA new policies

So if that's the problem there is a very simple solution.
If everyone knows that pretty much every picture they see in a magazine has been altered they will see them for what they are – an artistic work (admittedly some of them with questionable artistic merit but still...) not a realistic representation. Much like portraits that were painted of the nobility in the 17th Century they are designed to flatter the subject, not to show them as they actually are.

I have tweaked the figure of my subjects in the past (only in Photoshop, there's a name for people who do that in real life) and will do so again in the future, but only by a small amount.
If a bride has an inconvenient blemish on her wedding day I will still remove it on the computer.
In one person in a group isn't smiling I'm still going to go to a different picture and swap their head from the one where they were.
I don't see anything wrong with that.

So there it is. My camera doesn't lie, but my finished pictures might fib a bit.

And finally if you want to have a look at an opposing viewpoint -

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