Sunday, November 17, 2013

Is "Photoshopping" Cheating?

I've had a number of photographers ask whether or not they really needed to get  a computer program to edit and manipulate their digital images.  These aren’t necessarily beginning photographers, they also include very experienced photographers, but may be new to the digital world.   When I say “yes” without hesitation, and point out that it’s critical to bringing out the best qualities in every photography, I’ll occasional be asked, "yes, but, isn't that cheating?" .  In a word, no, but let me elaborate.

Some of us old-timers have had an opportunity to actually work in the darkroom with negatives, enlargers, chemicals and papers know how difficult it was to get really good quality prints.  Beginners in the darkroom would simply expose their paper, develop it, dry it, call it a day.  The more advanced technicians would perform a great deal of dodging and burning to improve contrast, tonal range, etc... 

A recent article I read ( shows the extent to which those professionals analyzed and planned their darkroom work. You may have heard that Ansel Adams would frequently use a musical analogy to describe the negative as the score and the print as the performance.  If you had any doubts what he meant by that, this article should help clear that up.   There’s nothing wrong with snapping a picture, downloading it, and sending it off to your friends or the local printer…but to get the best result, you need to do more.

In our digital world where the darkroom has long been forgotten by most, a new working environment has replaced it…some call it the lightroom, others call it the digital darkroom.  There are a lot of computer programs on the market that you can use.   I certainly have my favorites and my recommendations, but the main point here is that you should be considering your RAW or JPG as that score, and your computer software work to bring out the very best in the image as your performance.   No chemicals or odors, no standing for hours in the dark.  Today you have a well-lit room, a comfortable chair, a fast computer, and maybe even an adult beverage at your side.

It is never cheating to use the very best tools along with your imagination and creativity in pursuit of creating your artistic expressions.
Do you have an opinion you'd like to share?  If so, I'd like to hear from you

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