A recent article (Too Much Photoshop) detailing how a winning photo had been disqualified because of too much post-editing made me wonder about my own post philosophy.
In this shot of a modern building, for example, I decided to create a composite and added a plane over the building to add oomph to the picture. I don't feel any compunction about doing this since the intent was not to deceive but to enhance the image.
I suppose for purists, the less retouching the better. And, in some regard, I do agree. There is a part of me that believes in simplicity: If I'm shooting at the right time of day, know that I've held the camera steady and I"ve taken the time to compose properly, I'll do no photoshopping at all save for a smidgen of sharpening. But there's also a part of me that believes in technology and progress and that these tools can and should be used to create a desired look.
Ultimately, it's about intent and motive.
'Twas a time (not even that long ago) when I was blissfully snapping pictures with my cellphone or point and shoot and I didn't even have Photoshop on my computer. I just assumed that the pictures were perfect and I happily posted them on Facebook or uploaded them to Filckr without any editing and everyone seemed to love them.
Like a kid in a playground with no supervision, I just did as I pleased and all was fine...until I happened to look through a huge book of collected photos in the library (the title escapes me at the moment) and I wondered 'Wow, how did they do that, those look better than mine!?!' There were sublime backlit portraits, stunning flora and fauna closeups and immaculate landscapes. I started looking through mine and noticed fuzziness, blotches, uneven lighting and composition...and just a general lack of precision. Mind you, I wasn't saddened, just curious as to how to take my photos up a notch. At that same libary there were a slew of books on shooting technique and gear, retouching and, of course, endless tomes on Photoshop technique: I decided to investigate.
After absorbing everything I read in those books (and in online articles and tutorials) I slowly but steadily changed my shooting habits--it is very hard to give up simplicity! Firstly, I bit the bullet and got a DSLR (there were some nice Canons on sale at Best Buy) and a nice new fast multi-processor laptop then I got Photoshop and warily decided to start shooting in RAW. After my first shooting excursion, I was convinced I had made the right decision.
It kind of boggles my mind that I don't ever take a photograph now without at least looking at it in Photoshop. Invariably, I will at minimum do a crop or adjust levels. In some cases I've gone a little farther and removed birds from skies, erased tree branches that obscured, and, of course, added planes to pictures that I thought could use a little ooomph! I don't feel as if I'm being overbearing or manipulative; I see it as artistic, like Van Gogh deciding upon further reflection to add another sunflower to a painting.
Though sometimes I get misty-eyed thinking about those free snapping days (I'll still take and keep blurry shots with my smartphone for old time's sake) I stand by my decision: It is ok to edit as much as you need to in order to achieve a desired look as long as you're not out to deceive.