'Photoshop' Category

Photoshop and Duct Tape

Photoshop is a wonderful tool that even the great Ansel Adams would have embraced.  But like any tool, it can be used properly or improperly.  With improper use, we run the risk of turning Photoshop into the digital equivalent of duct tape. Sure, duct tape might work, but wouldn’t it look better if it were done properly from the beginning?

Start with a great photo. Photoshop is not an excuse for poor or lazy photography. Get as much straight out of the camera as possible.  Do not rely on the blur tool to create a fake bokeh, learn how to do it by adjusting your aperture. Lighting changes (sources rather than exposure) are particularly difficult to adjust in Photoshop.  Learn photography basics and your camera.

Stay away from making size changes when combining photos. I like to call this “The Anne Geddes Effect”.  Mind you, I have nothing against Ms Geddes. She is a skillful photographer who found a hugely marketable niche.  Unfortunately, many people try to copy her with Photoshop and most do it very badly.  Please keep your butterfly photos and your baby photos separate from each other.  Both are lovely the way they are!

Don’t turn everything into black and white.  Lately I’ve noticed a trend to desaturate every photo in the thought that it makes the photo more dramatic or important.  While certain photos lend themselves to black and white, like some portraits and scenes with high contrast, most should be left with their color in them.  If you do convert a photo, make sure to use all of the Photoshop tools (not just the auto setting) to customize the monochromatic image.

Experiment, but delete it if it’s not up to snuff.  Choose your filters and effects wisely and know when to stop.  Just because they are there doesn’t mean you have to use them.  If it’s not perfect, delete it. Nothing makes a photo look worse than a bad Photoshop job.  Make sure to make your changes to a copy or on another layer so you can return to your original image.

Ansel Adams and Photoshop

Ansel Adams said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it”.  I’ve always loved that quote, especially in the digital age.  There have always been two elements to film photography:  recording the image and developing the photo.   Adams is the most widely known American photographer because he was a master at both. After scouting his location and waiting for the right conditions to “take” the photograph, he would spend days manipulating a negative to “make” the photograph (all the while taking detailed notes so the print could be precisely duplicated).  He used two tools at his disposal, dodging (lightening) and burning (darkening) perhaps better than anyone.

Dodge and Burn are darkroom methods used to either increase or decrease exposure in a print.  With them you can lighten or darken specific areas to improve tonal quality and contrast or to highlight a certain area to make it a focal point.  These tried and true methods were incorporated in the original version of Photoshop in 1990 and remain in the current toolbars of both CS and Elements (and every other editing program out there).  The Dodge tool is represented by a lollipop-type icon and the Burn tool uses a closed hand as its icon.  Unlike other enhancements in Photoshop which manipulate the entire image, these two tools allow precision changes.  If you have never used them, I strongly urge you to give them a try.  There are more settings than some of the easier tools, but don’t let that throw you.  After you bring in an image, make a duplicate layer to work on.  Both tools allow you to select a brush size, the amount of exposure change (start out with a low number) and the affected range (highlights, midtones or shadows).  Experiment with all settings to see how they work. You’ll soon see their value.

Adams did not live to see digital photography or Photoshop, but I think he would have embraced them. While not an excuse to be a lazy photographer (more about that next time), Photoshop’s tools are a mean to an end. That end, of course, is making a better photograph.

The face in the first photo is overexposed, see how the dodge tool improved it.

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