Photoshop drug cheats:)


One of the photographic themes I’ve been thinking about centres on why I take pictures. I have increasingly found myself at odds with the approach purveyed by so many magazines that suggests that, for example, a simple way to improve a picture is to drop in a new sky using photoshop etc. I have thought about what it is I dislike so much about this, given that I have no particular antipathy to this type of image manipulation other than where a picture puports to be representative, and have concluded that I feel that it is often the equivalent of using performance enhancing drugs in athletics, as portrayed by our wonderful british media.

For anyone who is not familiar with the british media view of drugs it quite simply implies that athletes take these substances in order to win without ‘paying thir dues’. There is a clear implication that it is sub-standard athletes who take the drugs in order to beat better, but more honest, athletes. Of course, at the very highest levels this is simply not the case and some of the world’s best natural althletes uses these drugs to further enhance their performance in order to compete with the other best athletes in the world who are also using them. Also, using the drugs allows a higher training load, so they actually work harder. 

However, when it is suggested that a picture would benefit from a more dramatic sky, or the removal of a telegraph pole in the distance, I start to struggle a bit. I have concluded that if my aim was purely to produce art this would be absolutely fine – art is the creation of my mind and craft and doesn’t have to be what was in front of the lens – and if I were an advertising or commercial photographer again it would be necessary. Like the athletes above, it is simply not possible to succeed without following this course (though of course it’s not illegal and won’t get you thrown out of future work!) and so it requires the hours needed to learn to do it well etc. But, I tend to photograph for other reasons, much more about seeing and appreciating the world around me and so I value the connection back to reality – however tenuous (I’m not saying film or digital either offer truth!) –  and so tend to steer away from some of these manipulations for my work. I don’t require my pictures to all be very impressive, because that it isn’t their purpose.

So where have I got to – still thinking, but I really don’t mind if people want to do this. I hope that they will see what they are doing as making a new piece of art from their photographs and not simply wrap it all under the same banner. What about HDR and stitching – both of these techniques can be used to overcome technical limitations in equipment or for artistic purposes. That’s fine too. But I really hope that the excitement of making impressive pictures with the tools doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the world around us.

Finally, Mike Johntson at the Online Photographer posted on a  Danish photojournalist who was not allowed to compete in a competition as a result of his use of ‘excessive photoshopping’ – To me the processing he had done on the images displayed was excessive given the photojournalistic purpose. As art they woudl be fine, or for an advertising campaign, but as journalism not in my view. Any thoughts?



2 Responses to “Photoshop drug cheats:)”

  1. You’re comments about how you value the “connection back to reality” through pictures is something I’ve always felt but only dimly recognized for myself. Thanks for shining a light into a dimly lit corner of my own understanding of me!

    PS: Mike spells his last name “Johnston”, not “Johnson” =)

  2. Edward, thanks. I’ve corrected the spelling of Mike’s name.

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