Is it live or is it Photoshop?

Tampa wedding photographyI find myself reading more and more discussions about technical skill vs. Photoshop. There is a certain amount of resentment from photographers who have spent considerable time and effort honing their skills only to see “poor” photographers cutting into their market by fixing their inferior work after-the-fact in Photoshop.

For the most part, this argumant holds very little weight. I’ve seen some incredible Photoshop work (and some truly awful) and I’m as guilty as the next guy of “fixing” an image in RAW because I didn’t have the exposure correct when I shot it. However, I still find myself working constantly to better my skills as a photographer. All the Photoshop skill in the world won’t help you if you simply missed the shot to begin with. The first thing a wedding photographer must learn is how to get the shot and how to capture a moment. Next, it’s lighting and flash use and finally, Photoshop.

Want to see proof of just how un-important Photoshop can be? Log into Facebook and look at the pictures that parents post of their children. You will see hundreds of shots with poor lighting, bad focus and terrible composition. Yet, the comments from friends and family will rave about what a wonderful picture it is. Are these people blind?! Can’t they see that it’s a terrible shot?! No, they don’t see what we see, they see someone they love captured with an expression or look that is indicative of who they are. That’s why they love it. It took me a while to realize that Photoshop can be a great tool but it’s just a tool. First, you have to get the shot and if you get that, everything else is just frosting.

The picture at the top of this post is a good example of what is, for me, an extreme amount of retouching. I’m generally opposed to so much Photoshop that the image might as well be a painting… I feel a certain obligation to record the truth. However, in this shot the doors looked out on a parking lot and someones yard complete with toys and a chain link fence. So, I frosted the glass in Photoshop. The picture is better because of it but it wouldn’t exist at all if I didn’t know how to meter for that light. It wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t brought a tall step-ladder with me to the wedding. You can see more examples of retouched wedding photography on my website,

Don’t sweat the Photoshop junkies. There is a segment of the market that thinks that jagged edges and extreme vignette make for great pictures (and they can certainly enhance a good shot in many cases) but Photoshop will never replace solid technical skill and artistic vision. That being said, you better learn Photoshop because a good photographer who can also use Photoshop effectively is deadly.

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