I just noticed a really interesting photo/topic over on 500px yesterday. The photo there, made it up to #1 on the site yesterday. My initial thought was WOW! Looks kinda like an illustration but still cool. Then I clicked on it and still thought it was cool, but could see some obvious Photoshop work. No sweat, I’m cool with that. Then I did what nobody should do – I started looking at some of the comments. A few people were upset that there was clear photo manipulation going on here, which by itself is no new argument. I even posted it to my Facebook page yesterday, and because I wrote the post poorly, all of the comments went straight to editing ethics and post processing. And many people were tired of that argument. I agree. It is a tired argument, and I didn’t mean for it to go in that direction so I wanted to re-post this today. In fact, I don’t even want to go there. Obviously, me having some experience in Photoshop and Lightroom, you know what side of the fence I land on. And if you’ve made your way here to my site, the chances are you fall on that side of the fence too so that argument is pointless. We know photographers use Photoshop, and we know they sometimes use Photoshop to dramatically change their images. I’m okay with that. My real question/thought of the day is a little different. See, the people commenting also mentioned that the editing is, well, not-so-great. I have a bit of Photoshop experience and I could definitely see some areas for improvement. But what’s all that mean? Surely the general public would pick up on some of these editing inconsistencies and not like the photo. Well, the photo made it to the #1 spot on 500px’s Popular section. Now, 500px is widely known for having some of the best of the best images, and therefore you’d think the quality of the people favorite-ing and commenting on images is fairly high. Well, just about everyone loved it with the exception of a few people. They weren’t mad because he used Photoshop (which by the way, he even keyworded his photo with “Photoshop” so he wasn’t hiding it). They were more upset that it would make it so high in the ranking with (what they considered) obvious flaws in the post-processing of the image. Me? I’m happy for him. Regardless, the small thumbnail of the image stopped me enough to click on it and look at it more – and apparently it did that for a lot of people.
The Family/Friend Test
I often think about showing off my photography in terms of what would my non-photographer family and friends think. When it comes to this photo, my guess is that if I showed this to a group of them and then showed them my portfolio, they’d pick this photo over any of my portfolio photos. What’s that tell ya? Maybe I just need to get new friends huh? 😉 Or maybe, we sometimes let our technical side get the best of us. I know I’ve been guilty of having the makings of a good photo, but not really taking it further because the light was bad, the sky was bad, maybe it wasn’t sharp enough, etc…
Here’s an example. I took a trip to Paris a few years ago. The weather sucked. It was cold and rainy and I just wasn’t feeling “it” while trying to shoot there. Let alone that it was so cold I didn’t even want to be outside, so it was really hard to be creative. When I came back and looked at my photos, I realized if I wanted to post and print photos from the trip, some big-time-Photoshop work was going to be involved. So I processed the hell out of them. HDR, tonal contrast effects, fake skies, you name it. These photos now live on the walls in my home. I also have many pristine landscapes hanging on my walls – photos that didn’t take a lot of post-processing and are pretty close to being right out of the camera. But those paris photos are hands-down flat out the favorites of anyone that walks in to my house. Interesting huh? I’m not even proud of them. I almost cringe every time some one stops and says how wonderful they are, because I know they sure didn’t start out that way 🙂
Anyway, no real question here other than me just wondering if our technical side gets in the way sometimes. Again, this is not a Photoshop-ethics debate. We already know it’s okay to use Photoshop, so I’m not worried about that. In the case of the photo above, so what if maybe the sky wasn’t selected/replaced perfectly and doesn’t match up with the rest of the photo. He created a photo that people like. If this were a client or he was entering it in to a photo contest, then things may be different. But the rest of the world doesn’t have as critical an eye as we the photographer may have. They don’t know (or care) that I HDR’d the living daylights out of my Paris photos and the skies are fake, etc… They just like the photos.
So the next time some one walks in my house and comments on how much they love my Paris photos, I’ll just smile and say thanks 🙂
BTW… I post a lot of stuff over on my public Facebook page so if you want to Like the page,here’s the link. Thanks! Have a good one!