Photo Tip #25: What's Wrong With Photoshop? Nothing!

Photo Tip #25: What's Wrong With Photoshop?

Even before the word Photoshop became a verb in the English vernacular, the debate stirred about whether using Photoshop was somehow "cheating" or destroyed the integrity of the photograph. To answer this question, let's go back to the days before Photoshop. What did photographers do? Before Photoshop, there was the darkroom - a place filled with odd objects and bottles of strange chemicals; a place where many thought "magic" happened. In those days if you wanted make the sky darker or lighter, you had to wave your hands in the air and do a dance above your print. A skilled darkroom technician was able to do this dance and get the same results over and over again. The bottom line is that it was possible to change a photograph significantly, even combine images from different negatives, without a computer.

Here is a manipulated image by Jerry Uelsmann, a master in the darkroom.Photoshop image classes (view his work at

Even if you didn't personally manipulate your photos to this extreme, your negatives were always manipulated. When we dropped off our film at the lab, someone had to decide which chemistry to use and at which temperature. After the film was processed, it had to be printed to paper and a machine or a person made a decision on the color, contrast and density of your pictures. If you were having your pictures professionally printed, then the lab technician made more decisions. The bottom line is there has always been some level of manipulation.

Take a look at this famous photograph. New York city photo safari Its authenticity has often been debated. There is now proof beyond a reasonable doubt that this is a real photograph and those men were indeed sitting 800 feet above NYC. But this is not to say that there was no manipulation of the picture. If you back away from your monitor and look at the photo again you will notice that there is a glow above and below the men. The question is why? The answer is simple, the background was very blown out and, if printed without any darkroom work, it would be difficult to make out the city behind the men. What makes the photograph stand out is that you can see the city below. If photographed today you would be able to achieve the same affect in Photoshop, but without the glow.

The question when viewing a photograph should not be "Did they use Photoshop?" but rather, "Do I enjoy looking at this photograph? " if the answer is, "No" then walk away. If the answer is "Yes" then enjoy!

Want to learn how to use Photoshop better? NYC Photo Safari offers private Photoshop tutoring .

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