A friend sent me a link to an interesting article, with the message “To Photoshop, or not to Photoshop.” and I agree with the author of the original article, the premise is totally irrelevant. Back in the analogue film days, one might as well have said.

To Darkroom or not to Darkroom

There is not much we do now with Photoshop that wasn’t done in darkrooms of the past. Photoshop arguably makes it easier, and less expensive than chemical and optical processing. I say arguably because good Photoshopping[1] is hard and time consuming, and when you include the cost of a good computer, monitor, graphics tablet, etc it is far from cheap. Back in the day, you could outfit a small darkroom for less than the price of Photoshop[2]by itself.

For some, the process of photography is still the most important thing. “What camera/lens/software did you use?” “How did you make that photo?” and the prevalent “Did you Photoshop that?” The assumption seems to be that if I had that camera, or if I stood where you stood, I could make the same image. If only I had a many-multi-thousand dollar Mac Pro, my photography would grace the pages of all the big magazines. Now of course some people really do enjoy the process, and I have nothing against that, as long as it is recognized for what it is. Some people are car mechanics and some people prefer driving. One is not better than the other, but they are different pursuits.

For me, and my style of “art” photography, the image is the final product. If the image works, it is irrelevant how you got there. Weak execution at any step of the photographic process can lead to a less than great photograph, regardless of the path used. In other words, the final image has to say something, and say so in a cohesive and decisive way. For me, the process is a means to the end.

I had an interesting conversation with an artist friend a while ago about whether I really cared if people did not realize how much work I put into my photography. I think I was a little jealous, because no one questions the skill and work that goes into a painting.

Maybe that is photography’s Achilles heel. Because it is so easy, getting a good image is even harder…

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. I really dislike the term Photoshopping. The correct term would probably be digital manipulation, but that doesn’t have quite the same assumptions that the term Photoshopping does.
  2. As of today (May 5, 2013) Photoshop CS6 is still available for between $600 and $700. The cloud version is just rolling out and will probably end up costing most people more. I remember seeing small enlargers for a couple of hundred, plus a couple of hundred for a lens. various trays and sundries may be another hundred… Of course, like everything photographic you could go up from there to whatever stratospheric heights you like…
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