I recently came across an article about the over use of photoshop in photojournalism and whether or not the modern photographer is relying too much on the tool rather than the skills behind the camera. I believe photoshop, or other programs like it, are a godsend for the modern photographer, but I also have to agree with the writer of that article. More and more I find in news magazines and websites that the pictures shown seem to have a hint of, shall we say, over production to them. Now I’m the first to admit that virtually every picture I’ve taken since I’ve had my DSLR I’ve used photoshop for post processing. For some pictures I’ve done I’ve purposely gone out of the way to over produce the image or give it that “photoshop quality” that’s seen here and there. While in others all I’ve done is simply process the image from raw to whatever file I’m going to use to display the finish product, only adjusting the basic settings to bring out the best the image has to offer.
The writer of the article was expounding on the overuse of photoshop in photojournalism, in which I’m forced to agree. The very nature of photojournalism is to capture a moment in time as it happens then show it to the world, warts and all. Perhaps the best example of this, oddly enough, isn’t in any hard hitting news outlets like Time or Newsweek but in something like Sports Illustrated. The pictures shown in magazines like SI (with the exception of the swimsuit issue) more times than not are displayed exactly as it looked on the field or court of play. At worst maybe lighting was enhanced to show more detail, but for the most part what you see is what you get with sporting pictures, which ultimately is the point of photojournalism. There’s a certain degree of understanding and a standard when it comes to photojournalism. That the picture you’re looking at is raw, real, as is, and not faked or souped up. At least that’s how I’ve always believed photojournalism to be.
Pictures taken artistically, on the other hand, there’s an understanding and leniency behind the use of photoshop. Photoshop can be considered a tool used by the artist for the artistic expression he/she was going for. Which is why I don’t really hold it against artists who may go over board in their use of it. Personally, as much as I love photoshop, it’s rare that I use it to give my photos more of an overly processed look unless I really wanted to, and even then I try to keep it in the boundaries of realism. As for the debate as to whether or not photoshop is being over used in today’s world of photojournalism, I’m sure as time goes by and newer photographers enter that field, feelings and beliefs will change.
With every new generation comes a different perspective. The people who saw photoshop as an abomination to photojournalism or photography in general have given way to people who are more laxed about the idea of sprucing up a photo with a digital program. In time with the advent of more powerful digital tools, cameras and computers, those feelings will change to it being acceptable all around, and the old school believers that photojournalist have a right to present the photo as is will fall to the wayside.
An example of what I believe to be a simple processed picture that I did, and a “photoshop quality” picture that I did are posted below.