Just Photoshop It!

It’s been Photoshopped! Oh no! Oh yes? What does that mean anyway? Do you just push a couple buttons, and your picture magically becomes a work of art?

With digital photo manipulation software such as Photoshop, we have an opportunity to enhance pictures like never before. Some software, such as picture filters on your phone, has pre-set “looks” to make your pictures look and feel the way you want: enhanced colors, sepia tones and more. All of this has become lumped into the term Photoshopped.

Many people have come to believe that anything can be done to a picture if it could just be Photoshopped. But few realize that skill is required to do a near flawless job of heavy manipulation in Photoshop. They see all the computer generated imagery (CGI) in movies and take it for granted, not realizing that these movies require an army and tens, even hundreds, of millions of dollars to make. And they translate this misconception into the idea that pictures can be changed easily to add new objects, put a face from one picture onto the body from another, or mislead people into believing something happened when it didn’t. This may be true for pictures you only see on your phone because the fine details just aren’t visible in low resolutions. But if you want to have a real impact, or make something look realistic, those fine details make a huge difference.

The picture above, Melt, is made from four of my photographs and lots of my time. I’m not trying to fool anyone into thinking this scene is as I saw it, but I do want people to suspend their disbelief enough to accept the reality that is presented. That is impossible with a few clicks of the mouse. In fact, this picture took me more than 16 hours to create. I’m not saying this to make you appreciate the picture more (pictures should be appreciated on their own merits of how they make you feel, a subject for another blog), but rather to gain an understanding that “Photoshopped” can mean very different things. Photoshop is a photographer’s tool, just as enlargers, cardboard cut-outs for lightening and darkening different areas of pictures, and colored camera filters used to be. It can be used to make a picture brighter, or it can be used to make the sky melt. The former is one or two clicks of the mouse. The latter could be hours of work by someone who has spent years to refine the artistry and skill needed to make it believable.

The term “Photoshopped” should be neither good nor bad. Photoshop is a tool, a really powerful one if you know how to use it.

-Steve Patchin

Author: Steve Patchin

Steve Patchin is an Emmy winning professional photographer and artist living and working is Las Vegas, Nevada. He specializes in photo paintings and photo composites. Steve also owns and operates Patchin Pictures, a video and photography company he started in 1997. He opened his newest venture, Art Bus Coffee, in 2017 to take his art to the public in a new way that bypasses the traditional gallery structure. Steve believes people should buy art because they like it and because they feel some connection to it. It doesn’t matter what you think it may be worth in 15 years or whether an art critic told you why you should like it. What matters is what art means to you.

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