Monday, November 10, 2014

Garbage In/Garbage Out

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Yesterday, a fairly well-known photographer said on his page he believes Photoshop is the greatest tool we have as  photographers other than our eyes and our knowledge of light and cameras. A lot of people, he said, feel that PS is an over-used tool and that we should get it right in camera. A statement like that, of course, is like a personal, monogrammed, invitation for me to jump in and comment.

"Getting it right in the camera," I remarked, "doesn't necessarily mean no Photoshop. It means if you choose to process the image with PS, doing so will generally be easier, quicker, and more hassle-free."

The photographer responded with, "I gotta be honest. I don't  understand what 'getting it right in the camera' even means. I Photoshop every single image that I shoot because the images coming out of my camera are only the base of the image, the foundation, they're not the house." Someone else then chimed in with, "What comes out of the camera is not necessarily the vision you had."

I certainly couldn't argue with that other commenter's observation. I've seen plenty of images where, in my mind, it seemed painfully obvious the photographer didn't execute their vision the way he or she envisioned it and then tried to "save it" with a post-production replacement vision. (I don't, of course, think that's how the commenter meant his statement but what the hell. I replaced it with my meaning... sorta like a replacement vision.)

"Getting it right in the camera generally means good exposure, proper color balance, something closer to the final crop rather than further from it, images that are in focus and have the amount of DoF the shooter was looking to produce and more of that stuff." I wrote.  "I don't think any of that is vague, mysterious, confusing, or impractical. They're simply good photography practices." I added.

Regarding vision, I simply said, "If you need to completely alter your vision in post because what you snapped wasn't close to your original vision or didn't come out the way you saw it in your head, you might rethink how you're executing your visions when you're shooting them.  Otherwise, good results (via revamped visions) of poorly executed images are more often happy accidents, require a lot of processing, or both... none of which I personally rely on."

After a bit more online banter, I added, "If you're a shooter who generally gets it right in the camera, there's a point in time when you're not even thinking in terms of getting it right in the camera. It's simply what you do, automatically and consistently."

None of what I said yesterday or what I'm repeating today is intended to down-play the importance of post-processing for many photographers' work. Photoshop and other image processors are certainly important tools in the digital photography age. Wonderful tools! Tools that offer creative opportunities that were once very difficult if not impossible to achieve. But even still, I can't agree that image manipulating tools, combined with a photographer's skills in using them, are *the* most important tools at most photographers' disposals. (Note: I'm referring to photographers, not those who would be better categorized as digital artists. Those folks aren't always one and the same with those of us who are, for the most part if not all parts, photographers.)

In my mind, the most important tools photographers possess are in their kits and in their minds with or without the addition of image altering software.  That's why I believe knowing how to get it right in the camera (and doing so near-automatically) generally trumps your skills and use of Photoshop and the like.

If you're starting out as a photographer or still have a ways to go developing your production skills -- not that any of us don't -- I recommend prioritizing learning how to get things right in the camera as your #1 priority before  investing considerable time and resources into learning how to use Photoshop or any other post-processing software.  When you're then learning and practicing processing your images, you'll be starting out with better images to process. (That sure makes sense to me.) Otherwise, odds are you'll more-often, perhaps too often, be victims of that old adage, "Garbage in/Garbage out."

The pretty girl at the top is Dahlia. It's not a glam pic per se, but more of an art nude I suppose. Snapped it and others of Dahlia at El Mirage Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert a while back. I really like the angles created by her arms and legs and how they produce a bit of symmetry with the diagonal lines of the clouds (or chem-trails or whatever they are) and her shadow, all of which even more accentuated by my very low shooting angle. Yeah. I was lying in the dirt to get that snap. Boy! The things I do for my art! You know, things like lying in the dirt with a beautiful, naked, female model towering over me out in the middle of Nowheresville.

I shot the image with my Canon 5D1 and a Canon 17-40mm f/4 L at a 30mm focal length with all natural light and manual settings of ISO 100, f/8, 125th for those of you who like knowing the tech stuff. 

1 comment:

jim kay said...

I agree with you. We can't let PP be an excuse (or crutch) for poor craftsmanship. I try to get it right in camera and use PSE(lements)as a tool to enhance my capture -- especially sharpening.