Hey everybody, Matt Kloskowski here. First off, a big thanks to Scott for letting me write about this, as I’ve been wanting to for a while now. So here’s the question: “Is Photoshop a bad word?”
Personally, for photographers, I think it’s 100% necessary if you want to compete today. Technology has changed everything. The world knows that Photoshop exists. The standards by which photography was judged, even just 10 years ago, don’t hold up against today’s standards. We expect more from a photo.
It All Starts with A Good Photo
Of course you expect a guy that makes a living teaching Photoshop to say this right? Before I get too far into it, let me set the record straight. As a professional photographer, I realize it all starts with a good photo right out of the camera. Like many of you, we spend way too much money on tripods, lenses, lighting, camera bodies, etc… to just accept any photo out of the camera and say “I’ll fix it in Photoshop”. Lighting on a person, for example, is impossible (or really difficult) to fix later. Same holds true for landscape and outdoor photography. You can’t reproduce the light you get from sunrise or sunset. Photoshop can’t make a blurry photo sharp. I totally get it. That said, I think there is a time to fix it in Photoshop (yes, I said “fix it”. Not just to finish, but fixing is perfectly acceptable too).
When to “Fix” It?
I once watched a photographer doing a live demonstration where his photos were showing up on screen as he took them. Well, part of the light was hitting the area behind the subjects and the photographer proceeded to spend the next 10 minutes working through the issues that this brought up. He was very quick to say, “Sure, you could fix this in Photoshop but I prefer to get it right in camera”. Being a Photoshop guy, it wasn’t really the statement that got to me, but it was the way it was said. The tone of that (and several other things he said) led the audience to believe that Photoshop was something you should be ashamed of. It was almost as if Photoshop was a bad word.
If you’re on a shoot, you’ve got your time, your client’s time, your assistant’s time, rental fees and many other factors that favor you moving quickly. As a photographer, you should know that this was a 20 second fix with a brush in Photoshop vs. the collective 40 minutes he wasted (photographer, assistant, and two models). And if you don’t know how to fix it, I think your job is to hire some one who does.
I was watching a video from Jeremy Cowart and he said something that really stuck with me.
“Photoshop has changed the game, and every once in a while, Photoshop is the game”.
I think he nailed it. Photoshop has changed the game. Everyone you photograph knows Photoshop exists and expects you to retouch the photos. Every client you shoot for knows Photoshop exists and expects you to retouch the photos. Even your friends (if you’re a hobbyist photographer) know about Photoshop. If your photos aren’t seeing Photoshop (by you or your retoucher) then I’d have to venture to say you’re not getting noticed today. And take Jeremy’s work for example. Some of what helped build his career would be nearly impossible without Photoshop. It allows us to take a budget consisting of one person standing on white seamless and produce a movie poster that looks like it was shot on a mountain top with smoke machines, a race car, and the most dramatic sky ever seen.
So where does this dislike of Photoshop come from? Personally, I think it comes from not knowing Photoshop. Scott and I talk about this a lot after workshops and seminars. You can pretty much guarantee that when we hear some one criticizing Photoshop, it doesn’t take too long to realize that they don’t know it. Yep, 100% of the time when I ask the person that just said “I don’t like Photoshop” if they know how to use it, they say no. But here’s the thing and the key point I’d like to get across: if you’re a photographer, now it’s your job to know it. You’ve either got to learn it yourself or, if you lack the time/interest and have the budget, then find some one who is good at it to work on your photos for you.
And trust me. Those people are out there. They’re photographers who grew up with a digital camera and computer and have never known anything else. And they’re GOOD! They’re fast, they’re hungry and motivated and they’ll never know “what it was like back the film days” so trying to tell them is like trying to get toothpaste back in the tube. I can vouch for this. I’m 37, so I grew up with film. I didn’t touch my first digital camera until 8 years ago and I know my eyes glaze over every time I hear a “before your time, back in the film days” story :)
The Pros Know This
Whether you realize it or not, the pros already know this. In fact, they’ve known it all along. Even back in the film days there were a whole slew of things that were happening to photos before we saw them. The difference is that back then, those tools (and the time it takes to use them) weren’t easily available to the world so we never really heard about it. Today though, we have Photoshop, Lightroom, and even Photoshop Elements (and lots of books to learn how to use them ;-) ). So for as little as $59, anyone can use these techniques that simply weren’t available just 10-15 years ago. And whether you know it or not, just about every photographer (a general exception would be editorial photographers) you follow is either really good at Photoshop or has a retoucher/assistant that is. Photoshop is indeed being used, whether the photographer talks about it or not.
One More Thing
One last thing. Don’t be ashamed of using Photoshop. If you know it (or you’ve got a good retoucher), then you’ve got one helluva a competitive advantage out there today. A great image is a great image, and it loses nothing if we learn that Photoshop was a big part of it. And remember, anyone that does give you a hard time about it probably isn’t that good at Photoshop. So don’t justify or make excuses when showing your work. If some one asks if Photoshop was used, you simply say, “Of course!”.
So, my question to you still stands: is Photoshop a bad word? Do you long for the days when Photoshop wasn’t around? Or does Photoshop actually make the photography process better for you? If you’re like me, sometimes I love the artistic post-process just as much as taking the photo in the first place. Feel free to chime in with a comment and most of all, thanks for reading. See ya!
– Matt K.