Sunday, June 9, 2013

Learning to Shoot Without Photoshop

I see a common occurrence in emerging photographers, it goes like this. A person enters into photography, usually they start with an inexpensive camera. They discover it is a hobby they really enjoy. Their passion moves it from hobby to obsession. At this point they invest in their hobby, better camera, maybe some lights, and Photoshop. This all seems like a normal progression, and the end result, with time, is an improved end product.

So now you are asking what's wrong with this picture? The step that gets missed is an investment of time, time spent learning fundamentals of good photography. So while the end product may be improved, the photography itself is not. The real reason this is a problem is that photo editing is a destructive process. I will get into that more below, but first I want to point something else out.

What started as a fun hobby with most of a persons time spent taking pictures turns into hours spent at a computer correcting pictures to match the vision in the artists head. The artist sits there going, everything looks muddy, lets correct contrast in curves. The colors aren't quite right, let me adjust color temperature, aw-oh I need to shift tint too. I really wish the light had highlighted this better and fallen off to shadows, let me dodge and burn everything. This area is in to sharp of focus let me add Gaussian Blur, this other area should be in focus, let's see how well we can fool the eye by adding an unsharp mask and increasing edge contrast... All of these are important skills to have, but a person should not be spending their time performing emergency surgery on their photos. Rather they should spend that time shooting and creating great art.

In short the investment in time that gets made is not one of learning photography, but rather one of learning photoshop. This is an important skill set to have, but as I mentioned above, all of these manipulations are destructive. That is you go from having a lot of data for you photo to not having very much. This limits the amount of post manipulation you can do. Photography is always limited by technology, don't start it off with a handicap.

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