To Photoshop or not


TPF Noob!
Feb 16, 2006
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This photograph that I took last autumn presented a quandary - to Photoshop or not. To read my thoughts on that intruding stick (and my views on removing objects from photographs) go to:

I assume you mean to do this?

I'll remove the link if you want. My take on photoshopping is that if it is to remove a minor irritation, then OK. If it completely changes the structure, appearance or theme of a picture, then I'm not so sure. Would gainsborough or dali have left that branch in a painting? I'm not so sure. Artistic licence was used in paintings long before photography, or digital maniplulation became available. In the past there wasn't a ready solution for photography, now there is.
That's what I mean. However, I think there's a really important point underlying my slightly flippant piece on using Photoshop to excise objects from shots, and it is this. Most people, rightly or wrongly, see photography as different from painting. They assume that a photograph hasn't had objects added or removed, and that what they see is - adjustments by cropping, or to contrast, etc. aside - what the photographer saw. At its worst people are added or removed from shots to change history, as in the recent US and Soviet past. So, without going on at length about this, I think one of two courses should be adopted by photographers. Either a photograph should carry a note to say it has had objects added or removed, or such a thing shouldn't be done. Most reputable photo journalists and publications follow this code anyway, but I would like to see it more widely adopted.

That's just my view, and I readily accept that others will see such strictures as completely unnecessary, particularly where it is screamingly obvious that such manipulation has taken place. Like I say, I have a "traditional" view on this.

I'm not so sure if the general population still think "the camera never lies" though - there has been enough in the popular press about image manipulation & famous people (Kate Winslet & GQ magazine?) for there to be an awareness that it can & does happen.

I know artists have always been allowed the licence to paint "what they see", but why can't photographers use some of this as well? Your original photo bears up well - in fact the branch offers a distraction to the curve of the water. it doesn't need removing, but it can be edited to remove this. It all depends on what you want to do with it really, and your stance is crystal - leave it alone.

if you take a look at my recent "war memorial post" the image of the soldier has had blur added to the background, as my DOF wasn't sufficient to loose the distracting branches. The composition is the same, it is still what I "saw" but allows the viewer to concentrate on the central theme.
Jonathan, you're right, of course. People aren't completely naive about photographic manipulation. But, whilst they know in general that it happens, they only know the specific instance afterwards, and then only if the trick is revealed. I've always thought that "the camera always lies" is, arguably, a better aphorism than "the camera never lies" because of the selective nature of photography. But that's another deep one, and perhaps a discussion for a different time! Thanks for your comments. By the way, I liked your photograph of the war memorial - it's a subject I photograph periodically too. I'm an Olympus user too - I moved from the OM1 to the E300 (via a Fuji S602).

interesting debate, my thoughts are simple.. Photography is a creative process, and the creativity does not stop at the click of a shutter. My intention with photography is to create an image pleasing to the eye, using whatever resourses available to me, within my budget!

Of course there are always the purist who would disagree, and this argument will never end. Your truditional view is very much accepted tb2, admired, and respected., but I personally would not expect you or any one else to find my point of veiw "more widely adopted"... to each his own.
I love that shot, thats all i can say.. I love to see water like that! Amazing! As for photoshopping, not too much is all i can say.. Only to make the photo slightly better, but if it requires too much editing then its not a good photography IMO.
Thanks for your thoughts Raymond and nitefly. On the matter of whether to get rid of the stick, one of the best comments I had was from the guy who said, "Don't bother with Photoshop, just wait, it'll eventually go over the edge"!

Regards, Tony
I think if you are a photojournalist that is taking pictures to record and document events/history, obviously you shouldn't be adding or removing elements. However, if your goal is to simply produce an image that is in some way pleasing then I think removing distracting elements is perfectly acceptable. I can't see holding everyone to the same "no edit" standards. Removing that stick doesn't alter history, it just makes the image more appealing.
I can respect all the opinions given thus far, this is just mine, no one has to agree....
Even the best photographers use Photoshop. There is nothing wrong with it. In digital photography, photoshop is basically the postprocessing of your photo. In film photography it is done in a dark room. If you want to boost the colors or take something out of the photo that is unpleasing, then there is nothing wrong with it at all. I think it is a great photo that could use a boost of contrast and color enhancing. I personally think the stick is interesting and not distracting, but that is my opinion.
I have to use photoshop every day at work and therefore should not be too much of an anti. However, when every other image i see has the edges darkened and the levels pushed to the limit it just gets plain annoying, especially when the exif infor is posted as if it was the deciding factor rather than an hour of post processing. Not that there is anything wrong with post processing, it is just that if it is noticable it stops a nice picture that was a capture of an instant in time from being what it could be and changes it into a rather tacky and cheap calender shot and should in my oppinion be avoided in 90% of the cases that it has been used. A really common example is cheapo sunday gossip fashion magazines where poor brittany has had her thighs narrowed and her freckles removed, even after the lavish helping of makeup applied, by bluring cloning and stretching. The picture loses natural beauty and the changes are more distracting than the value the picture brings, better to leave it out and let the subject do the talking.

'Shop it out! I think it distracts too much. My eyes keep getting drawn to the stick. In your blog you mention that as you look at the picture the stick is one of the last things you see, well, for me it's one of the first things I see.

I think if you're trying to capture a moment in time then fine, leave the stick. But you say in your blog that you are presenting a pleasing image, the juxtaposition between the traditional and the surreal. In this is the case then the stick adds nothing.

However, photography being as subjective as it is, it doesn't really matter if you 'shop it out or not :)

Cool shot BTW, prefer it without the stick :greenpbl:

Keep the stick. Don't give in to all these digital devils.

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