Photoshop...friend or foe?

OK I have seen a lot of posts on blogs and magazine sites about the evils of Photoshop and its overuse particularly in relation to womans body image. There have been endless debates about magazine covers and the unrealistic interpretation of normal people glamourised beyond belief. For sure this is an issue but it is the ridiculous end of the spectrum and not really what most people do with it.....so ....an explaination of why PS is necessary as well as proper training in how to use it.

Before the digital age in the good old days when we used film, photographers had a large range of Films to use to get the effects that they wanted....and to add to that we used filters on the lenses if a certain look was required. There were films which produced saturated colours with little grain and others which were softer colours with a lot of grain. There were also different colour gamuts and different tonal ranges. When they were processed, you could push or pull the film and even put the film through different chemicals eg slide film processed and printed on paper to get different (high contrast) effects. Then the actual neg could be dodged and burned etc etc. etc

With black and white photography the possibilities were endless....from the films used through to the printing in the darkroom....just about everything could be manipulated if you had the time money and skills. One of the last things I did in the darkroom was use a product called "liquid light" which was a photographic emulsion that you could paint onto paper (in this case it was handmade paper). It was really hit and miss as it had to be done in pitch darkness but it was always fun to end up with usually 1 decent shot at the end of the process.

Enter the first digital cameras....well they were not quite up to standard when they first came out and we all had to compensate with the help of photoshop. PS was brought out as a digital processing engine to replace what the lab was doing before....the difference was that now instead of professional labs processing photos now anyone could and everybody else was learning a new tool, some better than others. However there was basically no choice...if you wanted to do photography professionally you had to learn it (and carry on learning it for the rest of your days)....all of a sudden PS skills were as important as actual shooting skills and professional photography changed forever.

The cameras we use today are not designed to produce life as we see it with our eyes....although some get very close if you have a lot of money to invest...the images have to be processed to produce correct colour and contrast and the lenses are so sharp that I can only equate them to looking in a magnifying hotel bathroom mirror. Every skin pore is visable ...every hair and I can only speak for my own vision but most peoples skin looks fairly soft and glowing to me....a raw picture straight out of camera is a low contrast slightly dull image...and at the least a slight contrast adjustment will be necessary before printing. You have the choice of lowering the clarity or accentuating it which can have the effect of making someone look 5 years younger or 20 years older...these are creative choices the photographer must make. If we want to create a black and white film image then the image has to be tweaked in a number of different ways just to get it to look authentic. Digital naturally has no grain which again creates an unnatural sharpness...and this has to be filtered in through photoshop to get the right look for B & W

In conclusion PS is very very necessary in the professional world....without it you are doing a dis-service to your customers by making them look less than they really do. In the fashion world they have always manipulated images to create whatever look is in vogue and most people are able to distinguish the fantasy of that. Most people are not 6 foot tall and 57 kilos but models usually are!....the extreme photoshopping has been outed on many occasions and PS usually cops the flak rather than the fashion editors who approve the covers? I think this is unfair. Photoshop is a tool and its up for abuse like any other tool but its totally subject to whoevers hands it is in!

I will attach a couple of examples...