Popular culture today seems to have people confused about Photoshop. I remember one time a friend of mine was telling that he knew someone who had a pretty good portfolio of photography- but- he changed his tone of voice and softly said- “…almost all of them were photoshopped.”
So, what on earth do people think Photoshop is? Why is it something to be whispered about behind someone’s back? It’s true that Photoshop has been abused by inexperienced photographers to add terrible filters and ghastly effects to pictures- but that is the minority. It’s a professional tool used by professionals.
Granted, there are plenty examples of bad uses of Photoshop like this, but that’s not even in the realm of what we’re talking about.
Yeah… that looks shopped. Anyway.
Something that people often forget is that Photoshop is a digital darkroom. Since most people probably need a primer on what the darkroom process involves, let’s jump in!
Making a print from film is a very involved process. To make a long story short, it involves a machine called an enlarger to shine light through the negative onto light sensitive paper. There are a lot of decisions involved in creating the print. You choose the aperture of the lens the light shines through, you choose how long the light is exposed, you can choose filters to add contrast, and you can also choose to dodge and burn parts of the photo to lighten and darken aspects, respectively. The paper is then processed in developer chemicals, stop bath, fixer, fixer remover, and then washed.
Some of the most old, classic photos you’ve ever seen by someone like Ansel Adams were prints that were painstakingly printed in the darkroom. They went through many drafts experimenting with the exposure of the print, whether to take away or add contrast, how to best crop the image, whether to dodge or burn an aspect of it, etc. Even in a basic photo class in college I could spend 3 hours making one print, going through sheets and sheets of photo paper just to get it perfect. Not to mention that photographers like Adams also used techniques such as the Zone System, which involves shooting at a certain exposure and then processing the film in a different ratio of chemicals to achieve the desired effect. So, to pretend that great photographers simply snap the photo and then transfer the print verbatim with no post-processing is simply silly. It would be like turning in a rough draft for a final paper.
Simply taking the picture is only half of the process. Turning the negative into a beautiful print is an art in itself. Many casual photographers who shot film in the old days don’t think about it much, because they would simply drop the film off at a store and get prints later. What you have to take into account is that person or machine that made those prints made decisions about the color balance, exposure, and contrast of those prints. Even if it’s a machine set to just do an ‘average’ exposure, ‘average’ is still a decision.
So basically, editing photos is nothing new. It’s been around as long as photography has been around. It isn’t some new fad that came along with the digital age.
That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions. Some photographers like Cartier-Bresson were morally opposed to cropping. Documentary photographers often won’t change anything but exposure to keep the moral integrity of the pictures. Some photographers who shoot positive slide film use photos exactly as they are. Some photographers are so good and choose the settings on their camera so well that they don’t need much post-processing at all- and that’s great! It’s just silly to pretend that taking the time to make the highest quality final product is somehow wrong. To be a professional, at least knowing how to develop prints in Photoshop is a necessary skill.
Alright, personal subjective rant time:
One time someone told me that there exist wedding photographers who don’t even so much as look at the histogram levels of their photos before giving them to the client. That gave me nightmares. It seems to me that at the very least, you should look at the levels and make sure the photo has true white and true black. Maybe I’m old school, or just a perfectionist, but people hire professionals for a reason. To ignore post-processing is irresponsible and in my eyes, somewhat cocky. I’m more than willing to admit that my pictures are not perfect in-camera. If the exposure turns out wrong in a photo shoot, and you have the ability to fix it, what is the point in defiantly not fixing it? Isn’t having the best product possible the goal? What matters more, your own personal pride, or the client loving their image?
Anyway, to wrap up, there is NOTHING WRONG WITH USING PHOTOSHOP! Do you feel liberated now?
theblocko asked: Your brilliant! The explanation of lenses you just posted was perfect for beginners like me :) looking at getting my first DSLR so will be keeping an eye on your blog!
Thanks! I really enjoy helping beginners learn about photography!
I did a side by side comparison to really get a look at the beauty of prime lenses. Prime lenses have a fixed focal length- meaning they can’t zoom in and out. The 50mm prime lens has long been a staple in both film and digital photography. Most digital camera kits come with something like an 18-55mm lens. It’s convenient that you can zoom in and out easily by twisting the lens. The prime lens would require you to “zoom with your feet.”
Despite the convenience of the 18-55mm, many photographers opt for a prime lens such as a 50mm or 85mm, especially in portrait photography. This is because the prime lens has technical and aesthetic capabilities the other does not.
Prime lenses have to be ability to open to an extremely wide aperture- f/1.8, f/1.4, and some even open all the way up to f/1.2. The regular kit lens usually can only open up to f/3.5 or in some cases f/2.8. This gives the prime lens the ability to be “faster” by letting in several more stops of light.
Prime lenses also have a very distinct field of focus that I’ve demonstrated below. As you can see, the 18-55mm lens doesn’t have the ability to ‘blur’ the surrounding area around the focal point as the prime can.
In this first example, we see what happens if you try to imitate the look of the prime lens with the 18-55mm. If you look at the grass and background in particular, you can see how much more remains in focus in the second picture. This is because when the 18-55mm is set at the 50mm focal length, the widest aperture we can achieve is f/5.6. Oftentimes in photography we want the ability to take something like the first picture- with only the subject in focus, while the background fades out and remains out of focus.
In the second example, we see how both lenses look at f/3.5. With the 18-55mm lens, the only way to get the widest aperture is to leave it at the widest angle, 18mm. You can see just how much wider the angle is in that picture. The prime lens however, even at f/3.5, still gives us that quality we want of only the subject in focus.
Another reason many photographers shoot with the prime lens is that is tends to render a much more accurate portrayal of the world around us. For example, a close up picture of someone’s face at 18mm will produce a very distorted version of their face, with the middle part seeming ‘stretched out’. A 35mm, 50mm, or 85mm prime lens is much closer to the way our actual human eye sees the world and gives us the most accurate and oftentimes flattering picture.
You can imagine how in a low light situation especially, the ability to leave the aperture at f/2.8 in a prime lens would be much easier than dealing with a lens that much adjust the aperture each time you zoom in and out.
That being said, if you carry both a prime and a zoom lens, you generally can have all your bases covered. When I shot weddings, I carried an 18-115mm and a 35mm prime lens. The first lens allowed me to zoom in very far when I was lurking around a large ceremony, trying to capture pictures without disturbing the service. It also allowed to me to get very wide angle picture indoors of the reception and dancing area. The prime 35mm allowed me to get flattering pictures of the bride and groom and other guests.
Both types of lenses have their uses, but the prime lens really gives a unique aesthetic quality, and if you haven’t invested in one, I would recommend it.
kandrenos asked a question:
So I typed I wanted to figure out how double exposures worked, I typed into google and guess what? Yours was the first thing! Glad it was because I understand how it works now. But I do have one question, how do you it with a camera? Does the film have to be rewound? (I took a quick look at your archives & I love your work!!!) Keep it up!!!!
Thanks so much! I’m glad you asked that question. You can shoot double exposures three ways
1) With a manual winding camera. Your camera will have to be pretty old school to be fully manual. This is the easiest way, because after you take a picture, the film won’t wind to the next frame until you do it. This means you could take two, three, four, or even theoretically a hundred pictures on top of each other. Though I wouldn’t recommend that.
2) A newer, fancier camera that has a specific double exposure setting. For instance, I have a Nikon N55 film camera that has worked great for me. There’s a little button on top that shows two rectangles overlapping on mine.
3) A mysterious “trick” that can apparently be done to keep cameras from winding, or to even wind it backward apparently. One of my old professors told me this was possible, but I have never gotten it to work. I’m sure if we googled it we may stumble upon the trick.
But wait! There is a bonus way to do double exposures!
4) Laying two negatives on top of each other on a scanner. I have had some success doing this with medium format film. It can only be done with a flatbed film scanner, though. It won’t work with those little boxes that you send film into. I would always recommend a flatbed scanner because it gives you so much more control and flexibility to experiment.
I think oftentimes people are apprehensive about Doing Things.
There exists the majority of people who sit back and observe things, and the minority of people who actually make things. Because these observers are passive bystanders looking from the outside in, they have a tendency to look at things and criticize them haphazardly. They usually say something along the lines of:
"U did a Thing and Thing was not Perfect see here flaw and flaw and u should have done this instead omg u are so lame ew this is so bad stop why"
It’s so easy for people to criticize because very rarely to they put themselves out there to be criticized in return.
You can see this accountability in play here on Youtube especially. People who have no videos of their own on their channel are more likely to comment on someone else’s video and comment “omg u suck ur so ugly this is the worst video of all time go die”.
People who actually make videos themselves and post them publicly are much less likely to go do that because:
1) The person they insulted could simply go to their channel, view their videos, and criticize them in the same way.
2) If you make videos, you understand how difficult it is, how the process works, and the type of effort that goes into it.
Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure there will always be an anonymous wave of random people willing to criticize anything and everything at the drop of a hat.
You just have to decide whether or not you care.
Imagine you were in an art critique. All of the students’ work is up on the wall and you’re taking turns talking about them. You’re likely to heed the opinion of a fellow art student. One who has done the same project themselves and whose work is up on display just like yours is, just as vulnerable to criticism. There’s some weight and some reasoning behind their comments.
But imagine that some random hobo wanders in to your class, looks at your work of art, and says “GOSH that is the worst piece of art I have ever seen. EW. It sucks so bad. OMG never make art again you loser.” and then runs away.
Would you heed their opinion just as much? I doubt it.
This idea isn’t new. In fact, there’s a quote from Theodore Roosevelt in which he addresses the same thing:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
-Theodore Roosevelt, "Man in the Arena" Speech given April 23, 1910
i love doing these
*free shipping until Sunday*
partially solarized fuji instant film negative
triple exposure polaroid; the negative left in the sun and then overnight in the rain
experimenting with bleach on fuji instant film