Hi… I’m Matt… and I LOVE to edit photos.
I love to spend time on the computer in Lightroom and Photoshop, working on creating the image I want from a photo I’ve taken. Sometimes it’s an hour and sometimes it’s many hours. And I love it!
There! I said it! But why?
That first paragraph was written in response to a comment I read when I announced my newest course on Luminosity Masking. Someone had taken the time to write (you know, in that snotty internet way, that’s unfortunately all too popular these days), that they prefer to get it right in the camera, and don’t care to spend any time on their computer, and went on to write how much they hated Photoshop.
Now, I’ve been at this teaching gig for almost 20 years. I started in my late 20’s and… well… do the math 🙂 And I’ve heard that whole “I’d rather get it right in camera” thing, more times than I can count. And way back, years ago, it used to bug me a little. Like someone was trying to take me down a peg, because I used Photoshop. But I’ve totally gotten over it (a long time ago) because I now realize where those comments come from.
Nobody ever says they hate something that they’re good at. Instead, they just say how much they dislike it. They don’t like it… because they’re not good at it… which must mean whatever that action/skill is, is not worth it.
Here’s an analogy. My son comes to the gym with me. And every single time we do bench press he tells me how much he hates it. But he never says that when we jump on a rowing machine and row for 2000 meters. Ya’ know why? Because he beats me, and many of the other people around us (well, sometimes me), when he’s on the rower. But he’s just not good at bench pressing yet.
Once I realized this years ago, I’ve found it holds true in so many areas of life. Ever hear someone who’s awesome at golf say they hate it? How many times do you hear “I hated Math in school!”. My guess is if you could look back to their math grades, they weren’t stellar 🙂
But, I Like To Get It Right In Camera
Back to the whole “I like to get it right in camera thing”. You know why I don’t mind when people say this any more? Because it’s total BS! I now know what they mean by that. How can I be so sure though?
Because NOBODY loves to get it wrong in camera.
Seriously folks. Have you EVER heard any of your photography friends say “I really like to screw up my photo as much as possible in camera. I get enjoyment out of it, and I can’t wait to spend hours fixing dumb things on the computer, that I could have fixed in 10 seconds in camera”. No! People don’t say that. And just because someone actually likes editing on the computer, doesn’t mean they like getting it wrong in camera or are any less of a photographer.
Now, I have to set an audience here. I’m not talking to the professional photographer who is maybe editing a wedding, or event, or photographed a thousand separate kids for school photos. Most of those people, don’t enjoy the computer part of this because, mostly, it’s production work. It’s not art. It’s not creative. Adding keywords really isn’t fun. Organizing really isn’t fun. I once photographed the entire University of South Florida’s sports program (over 300 athletes). They wanted 3 poses of each and I totally screwed up my composition in-camera, not realizing it because I had a little remote in hand when I was shooting and wasn’t looking through the camera all the time. That meant I had to go in and crop over 900 photos individually. That’s “production” work, and not many people are really inspired by it.
But for those of you/us that shoot because you love it, and not for a job (which is most of you reading this), many of us actually like editing on the computer.
We like to get into Lightroom and Photoshop and start “crafting” the photo we want. Brushing, dodging, burning, adding detail, light, accentuating things or adding special effects, textures, playing with Blend modes. We enjoy what I call…
“The Art of the Edit”
That doesn’t mean we don’t love shooting. I don’t know about your world, but in my world there’s room for both. As I write this, I’m getting ready to go out to shoot with a buddy in the morning. And I’m just as excited about getting to edit those photos, as I am going out to shoot. One does not have to cancel out the other.
I know what you’re thinking. Yeah yeah… he teaches photo editing for a living. Of course he has to say editing is good and he likes it. And, well, you’re right in a way! But this didn’t become a job for me before I got good at editing. I got good at editing, and realized how much fun and enjoying it could be that I wanted to share it with other people and help them get good at it.
And those other people are out there. Whether you’re already good, and sometimes afraid to admit that you’ve edited a photo. Or you’re not very good, but wish you were better because you think it would indeed be fun to edit your photos if you felt more comfortable with it.
Ugh!!! NOT Another “Is It Okay to Use Photoshop” Article
If you’re wondering, isn’t this just another “Is it okay to use Photoshop” article, it’s NOT. Definitely not! We already know it’s okay, so PLEASE don’t leave comments about why and when you feel photo editing is okay, and whether or not you think it becomes a photo or “digital art”, and when you feel it’s okay to use Photoshop, blah blah blah. I’m SOOO over that conversion and it’s been done to death. I’m not trying to convince anyone when or why to use Photo Editing tools at all, and if it’s okay.
My main point here is to relieve some of you from the whole “I prefer to get it right in camera” or “I prefer to spend my time out shooting” comments. I know you’re out there and I know that a HUGE number of you like photo editing because I run into you all the time. My goal here is to help maybe, in some little way, try to focus your efforts and put into words what you may have been thinking. To give you some vindication that it’s okay to like what you like, and ok to maybe even do more of it.
And honestly, sometimes we can’t get out shooting as much as we want. Whether it’s because of jobs, weather, physical limitations, etc… So learning new techniques to use on old photos keeps us motivated and keeps us inspired and moving. It’s a way for us to enjoy photography in a different way, other than the physical act of shooting itself. And is that such a bad thing? I never spent much time in the darkroom, but I often hear from people who did. And many of them enjoyed that time, and even miss it in a way. Isn’t this the same thing?
A Personal Story
To wrap this up, let me leave you with a personal story. A few months ago I had done a course that concentrated mostly on using tools in the raw editor (LR, ACR, ON1). And I spent a while working on that course, so most of my photo editing revolved around those tools while I was creating the course. And while there’s plenty we can do with those tools, none of them really offer the intricacies (and time commitment) of what we can do in Photoshop.
But recently, while working on my Luminosity Masking course (the course that spurred this comment that inspired this post), I found that I fell in love with Photoshop all over again. I found myself going through old photos in my library and editing them in a different way. Doing things with areas in the sky I had never done on those photos before.
And I realized something very important (to me at least). Sometimes it’s not always about the end result. If I put my old rendition of the photo side-by-side with the new one, would most people be able to see a difference? Probably not (maybe those with an extremely discerning eye, but those are my least favorite people to share photos with anyway) 🙂 So what I realized was that it’s not always about the end result, but sometimes about the way we get there.
I play golf every once in a while and I’m definitely not shooting my highest scores these days. Owning my own company has definitely taken its toll on that! 🙂 But sometimes, when I play, I have a good game for that specific day. Meaning, maybe I hit a shot I don’t always hit. Maybe I took a chance, and it worked. Maybe I nailed a 20 foot putt. Is it my best game ever? Nope. But I had a good day, and (most importantly) I’m happy with the way I got to that final score.
The older I get, I realize that what life throws at you, and what you consider success, is a moving target. Five years ago, I worked for a company where I traveled all over the place – constantly. It was great… and it was draining at the same time. But, I got to shoot in many places that others dream of. And my photography was much better then, versus right now. Not because I’m a worse photographer today, but because (back then) I was putting myself into great places over and over again. Something that I choose not to do right now because I have more pressing things to take care of at home with my family and business.
What this means for me, is that I have to take the opportunities I get right now, and make the most of them to stay inspired and moving forward. And for me, sometimes that means that it’s not always about the end result of getting to the most amazing location, and making the most incredible photo ever. But sometimes it’s about the process I went through to create that photo.
As the old saying goes, “It’s about the journey, not the destination”
And when it comes to my photography, I’ve realized the journey of the photo capture process itself is sometimes very simple. But sometimes, some of the things I do while editing that photo bring me happiness as well. And years ago, I decided to OWN IT – and not let anyone take away from me, the very fulfilling act of spending my time bringing to life and crafting a photo I have in front of the computer.
My hope for you is that if you’re one of those people too, that you own it. And if you’re one of those people who may not feel they have the skills, but have always wanted to, then at least try it. My latest course dives in to a really fun way to edit and craft your photos in a different (and more detailed way). Maybe that course is for you and maybe it’s not. I just hope you find something to help you improve and give it a try. Perhaps you’ll learn to love the computer part of photography, and maybe you won’t. But at least you’ll have an educated decision about it, rather than being that crotchety person in your camera club that just says “I hate Photoshop, and I prefer to just get it right in camera”.
Oh… and if they do say it, well now you at least know where it comes from 🙂
Let’s Change the Discussion!
I know many of you will still leave comments about why it’s ok to edit, even though that’s not the point I’m trying to get across. My goal isn’t to start yet another article that comes to the defense of photo editing. It was to change the discussion altogether, and help people see that editing isn’t something we “have” to do… it’s something we “want” to do. And maybe, rather than trying to turn some one who is set in their ways (we all know that’s not going to happen) toward something they’re not comfortable with, we can take the approach, “Hey photo-editing-hater-person… you’re missing out! We have a whole other area we love in our photography, and if you gave it a chance, it may open up an even deeper love of photography for you too!”.
Have a great weekend everyone!
NOTE: I invite you to join in on the conversation below, but PLEASE PLEASE don’t make this another comment-fest on when/why it’s okay to edit our photos, and the limits of the camera or the ethics of retouching and all that 🙂 Thanks!