Thursday, September 1, 2016

"Yes, It's "Photoshopped. And the problem with that is...?"

The Final Image
I was listening to Youngman Brown's "Your Creative Push" interview with the digital artist, Mike Azevedo recently and something he said made me think of Photoshop's role in fine art photography. Mike shared that he often began a painting in Photoshop and would stop several minutes into it because it just didn't feel right. He might do that four or five times before he felt as if he finally got it and could continue digitally painting his vision. He said the process of "starting over" made him think about what went right and what went wrong. So consequently for the next painting, he could more easily avoid the wrong.
Straight out of the Camera Image 1
Straight out of the Camera Image 2

His description of making several false starts in the process of creating something made me think of a photographer's workflow in Photoshop and the role that Photoshop plays in the creation of a photograph. Unlike Mike Azevedo's paintings, a photograph already exists in a camera. But in no way has it yet been fully developed into what the artist is attempting to create. In this regard, Photoshop (or similar) is essential to the fine art photographer.

Step 1: Chromatic Aberration & Lens Distortion Removed
No one disputes the role of the darkroom in film photography, but yet the use of Photoshop has been so widely perceived as nothing more than a crutch for inexperienced or bad photographers; or worse, a method of willful deception. This perception really comes to light when a photograph is disdainfully described as "Photoshopped". But let's get real about this; currently, there is no camera that can capture a scene as our creative selves see it. For the fine art photographer, the process of creating an image only begins with the camera, it does not end with it.

Step 2: Blending two images, dodging/burning, minor cloning
Once the image is uploaded to the software, the development toward full maturity begins. The non-destructive nature of a RAW image file and Photoshop layers is an amazing thing for a fine art photographer. Unlike a painter that uses hard materials, a photographer's digital photo-editing studio allows an image to live on forever and in various forms at the same time. Mistakes made can be reversed with a touch of a button. Nothing is lost and often, images are duplicated. And nothing is final until the artist says it is.

Step 3: Curves Adjustment
As with Mike Azevedo  description of his work, I too have learned what works and what doesn't work through a great amount of trial and error. The learning never stops and the more skilled I am with Photoshop editing, the more capable I am as an artist. It always starts with a vision, but much work goes into making it happen. While I spend hours and days in the field going back to the same location in attempt to capture its most beautiful characteristics and moods, the work I put into an image at home is what pushes me closer to my artistic vision.

Step 4: Vibrance Adjustment

Step 5: Color Balance Adjustment

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