Photography: Traditional Vs. Photoshop











It doesn’t matter what artistic profession that you are in – Graphic Design, Illustration, Web Design, etc., the majority of us use photos in our work. We will use photography to set a mood, or to tell a story. The saying goes that a picture says a thousand words, and it’s true. For the sake of art, though, are there any boundaries or rules to the way that we should use photography?

Right off the bat, artists for the sake of art say no. We should be able to manipulate photography and create what ever type of imagery that we choose. We should be able to take out images into Photoshop and do whatever we like to them. Photographers should be able to get the basic idea of an image, and we can take it into Photoshop and perfect it. We should be able to paint out any blemishes, fix lighting issues, change colors of eyes, hair, perfect facial features and more. This is fine from a commercial standpoint, where time and money are key factors, but what about the artistic value itself?

Photography purists feel that the image should be perfected as shot, not on the computer or in the lab. They feel as though photography is only considered real photography when someone can capture the right pose, the right lighting, and the perfect moment with the photographic talent, not software. Is this even possible? I can’t imagine trying to create the perfect anything, let alone a photograph. With this argument, it makes photography sound almost impossible. How could someone consistently photograph a subject in the perfect lighting, in the perfect scene, with no blemishes and at the perfect pose? You have so many outside factors to consider, and if you are shooting at a location, it makes it even more difficult. You have to deal with weather and nature and you have to wait for the perfect time of day. Another thing that bothers me about this thinking is where to draw the line. How do you determine what is “Pure photography” and what has been staged? If a photographer uses their own lighting, or their own props, or poses the subject themselves, haven’t they manipulated the scene? What is the difference between posing a person and altering their position inside of Photoshop?

If you go to the extreme on the purist end, then you have to consider the graphic side of the matter. Can something altered to the point that it is no longer recognizable as the original photograph be considered as photography? I would have to say no. It is another form of art. For example, if you choose to photograph a castle, and then take that same castle into Photoshop and make it float and have laser beams coming from the windows, it is no longer photography, it is a fantasy illustration. It may be based off of photography, but a lot of artistic works are these days.

So where do we draw the line? How do we decide what is photography, what is illustration, collage, photo manipulation or something else? Are you a purist? Or do you use all of the tools available  in order to create the best piece of work possible?

  • bart

    IMHO it has all to do with the goal you are trying to achieve. Do you consider your image art, a step in a creative process or is your image a factual registration of a object or an event

    If it is art, well we allowed painters also to use every kind of material, brush, technique to touch our emotions. So why not a photographer that wants to touch us or provoke emotions. I would say go ahead, dive into your toolbox known as Photoshop and pull out everything you need or think you need.

    If you registar a object or event and you want to registar the facts, well that´s another thing. Then I would say stick to the fact and make sure you will show them. No Photoshop allowed.

    And let´s get things straight….even in the traditional days, things were burned, dogged etc. We all know that Ansel Adams used this a lot and I bet that he would be trilled by the modern possibilities….

    Personally I think that the question who should ask yourself what am I shooting …, a creative thing ….or facts ……

  • Trish Gant

    Interesting post.The whole point of trying to get it right in the camera in the first place is to reduce the amount of time sat at the p.c doing retouching and comping. I didn’t become a photographer to lose the use of my legs! More’s the pity that it seems to be happening anyway. I’d say pure photographers are photo-journalists (my heroes in many ways), who are out in the field, stacked up danger-wise and time-wise, who email their shots back to home base. They capture a crucial moment in history or politics or the human condition. It’s fine if it’s honest. In fact, photo-journalism is about trying to be honest so long as the newspaper doesn’t alter things. Even Don McCullin admitted to moving dead bodies about to make the shot stronger but that’s not the same as shooting a packet of biscuits or babies in fluffy nappies for an ad agency. Corporate photography is more about being a machine, churning out stuff that helps to sell a product, then you can do as much retouching as you like.