Photoshop: Cheating or part of the art?

Johnboy2978

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I am pretty new to the whole photography hobby, but have really enjoyed playing around with it. I have several photos taken by my digital camera with varying degrees of appeal. There are only a handful that I have developed and have hanging on my walls at this point. The primary reason that I have left the majority on my hard drive, and not on display in my home, is that I've touched up many of them with photoshop.

I think that I've always thought that "great" photos were as is, and never saw any manipulation from digital software like Photoshop. Hence, I have many good photos on my harddrive that I never had developed b/c I digitally enhanced the sky, etc. In fact, the ones that I have developed and framed have no digital enhancement, or only something like auto levels. I guess I also saw use of Photoshop or similar software as cheating. From what I have read on this forum, PS seems pretty accepted, so I thought I would make a post here which specifically addresses the use of photoshop or digitally enhancing software.

Is it cheating and/or acceptable to use software to enhance your images, and if you feel it is acceptable, is there an end to that? That is, if you manipulate more than X percent of the image, would you still "claim" it?
 

aeser

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it's still you touching it up right? photoshop is an art in and of itself. it is cool to be able to take flawless photo's without the aid of photoshop, but photoshop is just a tool, it's like painters calling cameras cheating as it doesn't require the mastery of painting needed to recreate a visual scene by hand. things can be photoshopped very well or very badly, ultimately it's up to you to determine if you consider it your legitimate work. to me the ends justify the means with photography, a pleasing image that engages you is a pleasing image that engages you whether it was photoshopped or not. in my mind there is no cheating in art other than stealing other peoples stuff and claiming it as your own.
 
M

MDowdey

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im going to interject here and say that i hope we keep this discussion to a dull roar considering there are many here who feel strongly about both sides of it. that being said.... :::rings bell::: lets get it on...



i love photoshop. i use it all the time. its an enhancer for me.


md
 

Hertz van Rental

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I think this is a relative question (define cheating).
Can an artist be said to be cheating if he doesn't grind his own colours or uses a bigger paintbrush?
Is a writer said to be cheating if he uses a word processor as opposed to a quill pen?
Are chefs cheats if they use a blender rather than a whisk?
You use whatever methods you need to get the image you have in your head.
Being a purist I intervene in my images as little as possible - if I can't make a perfect straight print fom the neg they then I consider it a failure. But that is just me - I don't have a problem with serious manipulation of any kind. What is important is that it is done with skill and sensitivity and the end result is worth it.

Have to admit to liking all things digital more and more. Darkroom work was becoming a pain in the bum :)
 

Nikon Fan

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I'm not a big fan of photoshop. I think that many times people can take images that would have been dull, and turn them into something much better. Not that that's a bad thing, but I prefer my photography to stand on it's own. If there is something wrong with the pic, then I'll go and reshoot, rather than adjust in photoshop. However I do find the things that people do in photoshop such as Digital Matt's castle amazing!!! However I am slowly changing my mind and coming around to it a bit. To the point where if it is something that I could have done in the darkroom, then I think it's more acceptable to photoshop it. Just my personal opinion but the more of people's pics here I see the more I come around to the idea of using it :)
 

Big Mike

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Here is my two cents..

There has been photo manipulation just as long as there has been photography.

One of the greatest & well known photographers, Ansel Adams, understood that darkroom work is just as important as the initial exposure. Would we then say the he cheated because he used his darkroom skills to get the print to look how he wanted?

In our current digital world, we have simply moved our darkroom onto the computer. It may be less appreciated because it's much easier to do/try than actual darkroom work...it seems everybody & their dog is doing it. However, as with traditional darkroom work, there are those who dabble and those who are masters...as Digital Matt will prove.
 

motcon

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truth be told you can do more with photoshop than you can in the darkroom; it does go beyond tonal manipulation.

i once saw a print and asked the photographer to show me the original shot. there were two people in it and a wooden shack. he had:

- changed the color of the girl's hair
- completely removed random graffiti from the side of the shack
- added a beach ball to the image leaving the frame at the ulc
- removed two power lines than ran through the upper left third of the frame
- added some cloud cover to the urc with a ray shining through and on the girl

i'm sure that Hertz van Rental and other darkroom users will concur: ya just can't pull that off in a darkroom.

i don't think the question is whether or not it's 'cheating'. i think the real question is how do you present your work? does one present it as digitally manipulated photography or as a photograph?

as part of an art organization i get to see a lot of work being displayed. as such i decided to try a little experiment; i had the negatives for every print (darkroom generated) available on a light box for everyone to see. there was more interest, more engaging conversation, and more sales at that area than the other photography areas. that, in and of itself, proves nothing, but....

....think about this.

put two photographers side by side at a showing. each has his/her orginal captures available and the resulting prints. one photographer shows little manipulation from original capture to the print, the other shows evident manipulation/cloning/coloring from the original capture to the print. this raises some interesting questions:

- does the typical consumer understand the difference?
- if so, does the typical consumer even care?

i don't have the answers. i do know, however; that if the typical consumer is educated in the way things are done, they will begin to make educated decisions and there will be plenty of interest in both methods.

oh, and one last comment: painters don't call photographers cheaters. a subset of the painters community (impressionists/naturalists/realists) said that it was an improper method of capturing reality and that position lasted all of a year or so. the impressionists/naturalists/realists never really liked anyone, including other painters that delved into expressionism, abstraction, and cubism.

ok ok, another last comment. most certainly do as you desire when it comes to photoshop and the darkroom, but in the future be prepared for a more discerning consumer base, no matter which course you choose.
 

deb

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There seem to be a lot of opinions about what I consider a simple issue.

The craft of photography is about understanding the relationsip between light and the medium used to capture that light. The art of photography is about seeing something and being able to capture your interpretation of what you saw so that others can see it. In essence you are giving an intangible a material existance.

The craft of painting is about understanding the relationships between colors and the art of painting is about using those relationships to let others share your "vision".

Same thing only different.

The craft of digital photography is about capturing pixels that show an image within an acceptable range of error. The art of digital photography is about manipulating that image to meet some aesthetic expectation that you as a photographer might have.

I like realism in photography. I prefer to see a picture that is literal in it's interpretation of the scene. I also prefer to read non-fiction books or at least books based on fact.

Some people are more moved by imagery. The photograph with obvious color adjustments, added effects and even distortion appeals to them. Perhaps they prefer to read science fiction books.

Is one position more or less right than the other or is it just a matter of taste?
 

mygrain

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I think as long as it's your creation it doesn't matter what you use to create it. Some will argue if it's true photography but that's their opinion and issue. As long as you are true to your art the it's not cheating.

Also a large part of painters vs. photographers was from the gallery owners themselves. Most didn't feel that is was true art at the time and that photos were a cop out for talent. A lot of the same issues have erupted in today's galleries. I've read lots of galleries are not accepting digital prints because of the assumption that they aren't as real and true as actual film photos.

As for Adams using photoshop. Hell yeah he would have. He was the king of using the newest and most extreme ways to make his prints a vivid as possible. Why do you think he used large format so much...you have much more control over the image before you take the pic. He was the master of the darkroom manipulation and would have sucked the modern world dry using computers.
 

DocFrankenstein

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You can change the sky with film too. Just cut it out and make 2 exposures.

As long as it looks good in the end, it's all good.
 

photogoddess

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With either film or digital, my goal, is to get my print to look just like the scene that I photographed. This last weekend I took some desert scenes that had some very dramatic lighting. When I downloaded my photos, they seemed very flat - completely unlike the actual scene. With some small curves adjustments and some saturation boost done in PS, the image I looked at on the screen was JUST like what I had seen with my own eyes.

Film and digital only has so much latitude and can not possibly show things just as they were in a lot of cases. Whether you rely on darkroom skills or Photoshop, I feel that these tools are still part of the process of getting your vision onto paper. I do feel that there is a line that you can cross with manipulations that would put your photo into the photo illustration category.
 

Hertz van Rental

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Couldn't do it as such in the darkroom but you had these amazing guys called neg retouchers who could strip apart the three layers in a colour neg, cut bits out, stick things in and put it all back together so you couldn't see the joins. They got paid a fortune. Photoshop does the same thing much cheaper.
And the difference between standard and professional BW film? A gelatine coat on both sides specifically for neg retouching.
Image manipulation of one sort or another has gone on since the start. Professionals see it as part of the tool kit. Check out the work of Henry Peach Robinson.
 

motcon

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Hertz van Rental said:
Couldn't do it as such in the darkroom but you had these amazing guys called neg retouchers who could strip apart the three layers in a colour neg, cut bits out, stick things in and put it all back together so you couldn't see the joins. They got paid a fortune. Photoshop does the same thing much cheaper.

yeah, but everyone knew that's what was happening.
 

Digital Matt

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And everyone knows that it's happening in digital photography too.

I recrate the atmosphere, and the feeling I felt when I took the photograph. No camera can capture that, alone.
 

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